Branding Made Personal: 3 Steps to Building a Stellar Personal Brand

Entrepreneurs get so wrapped up in creating their company's brand that they forget they've got a personal brand of their own to uphold. Here are three components to keep in mind.

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By Karen Tiber Leland

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every business owner knows their company needs a unique combination of message, name, reputation and look that positions them as a brand. But it's also critical for entrepreneurs to have a personal brand, which is built from the talents, commitment and energy you bring to the table.

A robust personal brand is not simply a great elevator speech, snappy clothing and a social media presence. It's a way to give your business a competitive advantage.

Here are three key components to a strong personal brand and how to develop them:

1. A powerful physical presence. This includes anything a potential customer can actually lay eyes on from how you dress to your marketing collateral -- business cards, brochures and your website.

For example, I had a dentist who specialized in a particular cosmetic procedure call me for a marketing consultation. He was perplexed as to why another dentist out of the area was getting a larger share of his local market.

"I'm just as qualified and experienced, and 90 minutes closer," he complained to me. "I don't get it." After one look at his website, I understood. His online presence was, in a word, shabby. His website was dated and hard to navigate. When I pointed this out to him, his reply was telling: "No one really cares about that. It's not worth spending the money to make it fancy."

Of all the branding and marketing mistakes I see entrepreneurs make, not having an up-to-date, modern, well-branded, easy-to-navigate website is one of the biggest.

Does the physical aspect of your personal brand -- your website in particular -- match the quality of who you are and the work you do?

2. A strong intellectual appeal. Beyond looking sharp, clear messaging is a key starting point to building your personal brand. Most entrepreneurs settle for a simple elevator speech when it comes to messaging. While this is an important element of your brand, it's not the whole story. Think through the following:

  • What are the services or proprietary processes you offer that set you apart from your competitors?
  • What is your unique branding proposition, not in terms of what you do, but how you do what you do?
  • What unique opinions, points of view and even language do you use that sets you apart?

Often, it only takes a small tweak to get the intellectual expression of a brand on track. For example, I have one client who billed herself as a media coach. Clients hired her to media train them but resisted buying additional media strategy services from her. By simply reworking the language she used to describe her services to reflect both media coaching and strategy consulting, she instantly saw results and closed $25,000 worth of new business within a two-week period.

3. A lasting impact. In essence, this is where you speak to your clients' hearts. In my experience working with entrepreneurs, it's also the most overlooked aspect of personal brand.

When you think back on what your past and current clients say about you, what is their experience of how you have affected them? What words and phrases have they used?

Ask yourself: In what ways can I go beyond simply providing a service or product to enlivening my clients' lives? Integrate this lasting impact into your marketing message.

Karen Tiber Leland

Author and President of Sterling Marketing Group

Karen Leland is the founder of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps entrepreneurs and executives build stronger personal, team and business brands. She is also the best-selling author of The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand.

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