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Your Personal Brand Can Futureproof Your Business (Also, know that an over-reliance on your company brand may be stunting your growth)

By Manam Iqbal

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

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It is so easy to fall prey to the allure of a company brand, to create elaborate brand guides and tone-of-voice documents, to follow them through to the letter, only to see the messages falling flat.

Don't get me wrong. There's no denying its importance as a virtual touchpoint for a business. But since we live our lives online, we have taken our natural tendencies and psychology to online interaction.

From this perspective, it's easy to see why personal brands have become all the rage in this day and age. People like to work with people they like and trust. Don't take it from me. Check out this example from Hanna Larsson, who's built a six-figure business on the back of her personal brand alone.

And she is not alone. She is one of the many who've built highly profitable personal brands alongside their full-time corporate careers, or as an extension of their businesses.

So, if you are running a business and aren't building a personal brand, how much are you leaving on the table in money and opportunity?

Probably a lot.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE AN AUDIENCE?

The world of work is changing rapidly. Every week, we hear stories about massive layoffs in tech, burned-out employees, and micromanagement, and in this day and age of internet accessibility and possibilities, it's hard not to think of it as unnecessary.

There's only one problem. Not enough professionals realize the importance of investing in their personal brands early in their careers. They only see its true significance when they are stuck in a rut, suddenly find themselves without a job, or want to change companies or careers.

You inevitably need connections to do any of these things, and it becomes infinitely easier if you have a personal brand and professional connections. Unlike a company brand, a personal brand isn't a static thing for which you must adhere to set brand guidelines. It's ever-evolving (like you), and if done right, it can help you develop a cult following of people who see you fail, succeed, win, and lose, and who help out when you're setting up a new venture, expanding an existing one, or exiting a business or company, and looking for new opportunities.

Justin Welsh has done an incredible job with his personal brand. Before he started building it, he was a superstar employee who helped take two companies past a $1 billion valuation, raising over $300 million in venture capital. However, within a few years, he was severely burned out, and unable to continue his intensely stressful work routine. He did something desperate next. He quit without a plan B. He then started writing on LinkedIn on a whim. That little habit led to a one-person business that now pulls $1.3 million per year.

Not so shabby, right?

His writing was what personally intrigued me to start showing up more often. And it has made all the difference. But here's the thing; you don't need to aim nearly as high as Justin. But this sure gives you an idea of the potential of building a personal brand.

Related: How To Keep Your Personal Brand Visible (By Understanding What Makes It Invisible)

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR COMPANIES?

Personal branding was once the forte of senior leaders in a company. The general idea was that if we are building a company brand, we don't need 5,000 people sharing the same thing. Today, corporates are realizing the true power of employee branding to augment the company's reputation.

Studies confirm that employees' personal brands directly correlate with how stakeholders view and engage with organizations. Only 33% of buyers trust company brands, but trust levels increase to a staggering 90% for product recommendations from people they know.

The sooner companies understand that their employees can have a far greater impact on the business than their official titles, the better they'll do. As per official data from LinkedIn, content posted by employees is seen as 3x more trustworthy and authentic with a click-through rate 2x those of brand accounts.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

The baby boomers grew up in a world without the internet. The path to success was straightforward- study hard, get a good job, work a solid 9-5, and "the man" will take care of the rest. And it worked for the most part- until it didn't. By the time millennials entered the working world, the dynamics were changing rapidly.

In terms of new business, the barriers to entry for new players have never been lower. There is an increase in shared spaces (the meltdown of the corporate), the rise of the highly profitable solopreneur, growing competition from countries with qualified but cost-effective workforces, and remote work- all of which are helping smaller players gain access to markets that were considered unattainable before. The power dynamics have changed, and now many, not a select few, hold power at their fingertips as we look online for everything.

People are documenting everything on socials. What they eat, where they go, who they hang out with. All of these cultural, social, and economic shifts affect you, and this brings us to the question of having choices. We all have a personal brand whether we like it or not. The question is, will we hold the reins and direct it- or will we let others control the narrative and direction of our lives?

Related: Why Personal Branding Needs To Be Profitable (Besides Being Attractive

Manam Iqbal is a LinkedIn thought leadership expert on a mission to help 100,000 leaders find their voice online. She writes regularly at @manamiqbal, and demystifies personal branding for the uninitiated.
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