Like everything else about you, your personal brand is unique. Honing your brand is about taking control of your image and fine-tuning it to reflect who you are, where you have been and where you are going. It should give others an honest impression your values, beliefs, talents and ideas.
Dave Kerpen, CEO and founder of Likeable Local, has been building his brand since his college days, during which he earned recognition for his unique sales strategies. He gained further media attention in 2006 for his “sponsored wedding.”
Kerpen and his bride, Carrie, used their love for each other, their passion for baseball and their knack for sales and marketing to coax companies into subsidizing their $100,000 wedding, which followed a Brooklyn Cyclones game. Some of the companies included Entenmann’s, 1-800-Flowers and Smirnoff. Their wedding cemented their relationship, launched their careers and certainly put their personal brands into overdrive.
Read on to learn some of Kerpen’s top personal-branding secrets on how to create a personal and professional identity and build buzz around yourself.
1. Brand for a competitive advantage.
As Kerpen says, jobs will come and go, but your personal brand is forever. According to him, personal branding helps you develop a strong persona and gives you a competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace.
“Focus first and foremost on your personal brand and purpose,” Kerpen explained. “Then figure out what to sell or develop to meet that purpose and brand.”
2. Define who you are through a mission statement.
The best personal brands build the description that others will associate with you. Start building your brand by composing a mission statement to help people quickly understand your core values and beliefs.
“If your mission statement is longer than the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer, think about shortening it,” Kerpen wrote in a LinkedIn post. “If the gist of it fits on a bumper sticker, even better. For example, Zappos’: ‘Delivering Happiness.’”
3. Explain how your past fits into your present.
None of us will end up where we began. Over time, your career and interests may go down many paths. Part of defining yourself is explaining your evolution by developing your narrative.
Your branding narrative, as Kerpen describes it, is a brief statement that explains your overall progression in your career, interests and life. The key is to focus on how your prior experience brings value to who you are now.
Your narrative should always be consistent with your past, but also explain how your experiences have created your specific and dynamic set of talents.
4. Create a signature style.
Another way to quite literally stand out from the crowd is to develop a signature style, Kerpen said. This can be something as simple as always wearing a certain color or wearing a certain accessory. Anything that grabs attention will work, such as a scarf, watch, hat or bracelet.
For Kerpen, it’s all about the color orange. He owns dozens of pairs of orange shoes, and wears something orange every day. His ode to orange paid off when it helped him get an introduction to Dave McClure, a founding partner of 500 Startups, at a networking event. A few weeks later, 500 Startups became a key investor in Kerpen’s startup, Likeable Local.
“Were my orange shoes the reason I secured an investment? Of course not,” Kerpen said. “But they were the reason I got into a conversation in the first place.”
5. Leave an impression with an “elevator pitch.”
As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, once famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” The goal with any personal brand is to leave a strong first impression, and one of the best ways you can do that is during a face-to-face meeting.
When networking in person, one simple way to create a great first impression is to develop a compelling elevator pitch, which is a brief verbal statement that conveys who you are. While authenticity is important, the statement should also be memorable and punchy.
6. Own your name online.
You absolutely need to have your own website. If at all possible, you should own your own domain name, or a version of your name that people will remember. Owning your own name online allows you to keep control of your reputation and image.
Your website can start off simple and expand over time. Your site should include a professional, smiling picture of yourself and be a place where you can post your content. It should allow people to learn more about you and give them a way to get in touch with you. Check out Kerpen’s website to see how the master does it.
7. The power of word of mouth.
When you consider how to market yourself, don’t forget the power of word of mouth, which is one of the best ways to get people to remember you.
Kerpen learned to harness this power when he was in college and worked as a vendor at various sporting venues in Boston. His job was to peddle the worst-selling item, Crunch ’n Munch, which nobody wanted to buy. He sold just six boxes and made only $15 his first night.
To boost his sales, he created a song-and-dance shtick that made people notice him. Before long he was known as the “Crunch ’n Munch Guy.”
“I ended up making over $1,000 a night and being featured on ESPN's SportsCenter and Monday Night Football,” Kerpen said. “I learned that you can create a brand for yourself and have it spread through word of mouth. It helped me build two companies and write and sell three successful books.”
8. Distribute knowledge through content marketing.
Creating and sharing content gives potential customers a window into your thoughts, opinions and ideas. It also offers a great way to showcase your creative side. The first step is coming up with an effective content strategy, but it doesn’t need to be a complicated plan.
First, make a list of your target goals:
- What do you hope to achieve through your content?
- Who is your audience?
- How do you want to be perceived?
Then consider what content, topics and ideas would best accomplish each target goal. Finally, brainstorm avenues and channels through which you can distribute and market your content. It could be through a blog on your personal website, through social media like LinkedIn or Facebook or a combination of these.
9. Build relationships with influencers.
Influencer marketing is all the rage right now, and it should be another important facet in bolstering your personal brand. The first step to building a relationship with an influencer is to provide value for that person. Following and commenting on their blogs or posts will earn their appreciation and trust.
“The best way to get help from influencers is to connect with them, share their content, retweet them, reshare them on LinkedIn,” Kerpen said. “And then, when you’ve started to build a relationship, ask for their help in a specific way and make it as easy as possible.”
10. Don’t over-promote yourself.
One of the biggest pitfalls people fall into is over-promoting themselves. “Focusing too much on selling yourself, or selling anything for that matter, will be a major turnoff,” Kerpen explained. Instead of trying to get your message out, try shutting up and listening for a while.
Ask questions and take the time to really hear the answers. People will always notice if you are really listening to them or are just waiting to respond with your own spiel.