In today’s digital world, succeeding as an entrepreneur means building a visible, impactful social brand. A personal brand is defined as attaching monetary value to a person as opposed to a business, service or product. When an entrepreneur’s personal brand is adequately developed, it spells true thought leadership. Compound that with social media marketing, and that personal brand becomes influential.
So, what can you do to brand yourself like an influential leader? Here are five personal branding tips that have proven prosperous for every serious business builder.
1. Define your focus.
Too many entrepreneurs I’ve encountered lack focus, which as we know is the exact trait you must hone if daring to dream of business ownership. For example, if you are forming a startup -- whether it’s the next best line of tech fashion, the newest and greatest app on the market, “the next Facebook,” a standout hipster bakery or the newest solution to collaborative office space -- and want to extend that into cups, mugs, toys, magazines, etc. . . . don’t. To succeed as an entrepreneur and as a personal brand, the first task is defining exactly what it is you are going to focus on building. Then, you answer every what, why, how and when in relation to it.
The same goes for the individual who is building that business, and that is where the personal brand comes in. When a personal brand is well developed to support strengthening a company’s brand awareness or to reach specific professional goals, it has been well thought through in terms of where the focus will be. As an example, many entrepreneurs come to personal branding as a question mark because they have split skills and areas of focus. Should they focus in on their expertise in one industry or the other? Should they focus on specific knowledge in one industry area or build education and influence in another? Before you can get your personal brand working for you, you need to define your focus.
2. Think hard about your personal brand position and then own it.
The focus sets the tone for you to start thinking about your market position as a brand. This means that whatever you commit to as a company, you need to commit to in your own focus as a leader. This is done so that when you lead and take position on content and commentary around your expertise, it supports what your company represents.
One of my favorite examples is Richard Branson, because the man really and truly is the brand of Virgin. What does Virgin represent? To me, freedom, exploration, luxury, entertainment and risk-taking. And who is Sir Branson if not the embodiment of all those? On LinkedIn and other avenues, he writes about his path, why he always believed in taking risks and going to the edge to test opportunities for expansion, risk, and success. He thinks differently. His company and its divisions (Virgin Airlines, Virgin Entertainment, Virgin Tech, Virgin Travel) function differently in how they strive for unparalleled customer service, and always trying to break barriers to new frontiers. When you see Branson, he is generally out traveling, with his customers and employyes, and leading innovation. He owns his brand position and has built an empire around his vision and, you guessed it, his personal brand. Oh, and if you care to view his Forbes profile, be sure to check his education, in case you needed more proof the man is all about breaking barriers.
3. Learn to delegate.
One of the things you must do to become a personal brand of influence and truly flourish, is learn to delegate. This is more than just time management. Delegation as an entrepreneur means first finding the right resources, and then allowing them to do their job. To make it big as a personal brand, you neither try to do everything, nor be a micro manager. Delegating requires the build and delivery of a system. The system needs to work for you and your business.
Imagine you are about to get on stage to deliver a speech or get on a panel. You come to find that none of the prep work has been done, you are in front of a crowd you know nothing about, your website is down, you have a client waiting for you in your office because no one rescheduled his or her visit, and so on and so forth. Once you commit to being a personal brand of influence, you need to be prepared to go 100 percent for immediate media interviews, speeches, panel opportunities, meetings with new investors and all things in between.
4. Know, understand, love and commit to your personal brand style.
Although the way you dress and present yourself are important facets to branding, there is so much more to it -- primarily how you communicate. This means what language you communicate in, what you can and can’t get away with in terms of your intended audience (humor, fact-driven, intellectual, conversational, etc.). Once defined, your style will become your brand. Think of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and their peers. How do they dress and communicate? On a social level, where do they "hang out," so to speak? Then apply these questions inward: Who do you speak to? What should they expect? Where is your comfort level, and where do you need to expand?
5. Have a marketing plan for your personal brand.
You may think that a marketing plan is intended for a business, however a strategic marketing plan for a personal brand means all the difference when it comes to driving results, not wasting precious time and becoming the thought leader you are investing in as a personal brand.
A marketing plan for a personal brand is all about uncovering your specific strengths, focus, areas of concentration for content -- whether originally created or shared -- and making a commitment to be proactive on creating, monitoring and managing all that it entails. This means having a focus on reaching your personal brand goals and a way to achieve them and measure their success.
As essentially a one-day planning session, think about and answer:
1. Where will you market your personal brand? Online, offline or both? What channels, if applicable?
2. Who is your audience and where do they hang out online? For this, I would strongly suggest making a detailed user profile. Do you target B2B, B2C or both? Age range? Income? Education level? School type? Work history? What type of content do they consume the most? Whom do they patronize and why? What do they spend on related products and services?
This one is critical, as a personal brand is all about creating a connection with your audience, whether one-to-one or one-to-many, so you need to understand who you want to build a relationship with and why.
3. What is your marketing budget for your personal brand? What is your intended revenue stream? Does it directly tie into your existing business? New business? The more you can closely define your expected revenues and expenses ties to this brand, the more realistic your entrepreneurial success becomes.
4. How, where and when will you become a thought leader and/or influencer in your industry? This is the crux of personal branding for entrepreneurs. It is about knowing the field in which you possess the most experience, information, and passion. How will you penetrate influence through the development and delivery of thought leadership pieces? What will they look like? A comment? A blog post? An article? An ebook? A video? A PR stunt? How often will you contribute and where? Start by making a list of places to which you want to contribute. Know this by researching where your audience is, and what matters to them.
To help start you off, I have created a personal branding checklist which you can download. If you found this useful, let me know. What are you doing to drive influence through your personal brand today? What has worked? What hasn’t? How can I help? Looking forward to your questions, comments and insight.