When you’re an entrepreneur and owner of a small business, building your personal brand is part of marketing and business development. You may be asking – what IS a “personal brand”? And why does it matter to you and your business?
Simple: Your personal brand is the image you present to the world. Cultivating a strong personal brand means that your customers will recognize you and associate you with your company in a positive way.
Building a personal brand may sound foreign. However, at its core, it’s nothing more than basic marketing and public relations. Knowing how to create and cultivate the right personal brand can set you apart from the competition and grow your customer base. It’s important to give thought to how you want your personal brand to represent your business and the steps you’re going to take to build and harness that brand power.
Here are our ideas and tips on how to start building your personal brand from the ground-up.
1. Define Your Brand
The first step in building your brand is to define what it is. You want to build both a brand profile and a brand character. This can help you both promote your company and stand out in a saturated market.
You’ll need to answer some fundamental questions to give this inquiry direction:
- Which industry are you in?
- Which areas do you want to expand into?
- What your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What products and services does your company offer?
- Who’s your customer base?
- Who’s your competition?
The answers to these questions can help you define your personal brand and your goals.
2. Be True To Yourself
What is your company’s purpose? You want your personal brand to be in line with this overarching ideology. Consider the character behind your business and why you decided to start it. This can inform and shape your own personal brand.
Your business is a reflection of your values, goals, and mores. You may have started your business as a passion project or to fulfill a better life, or to finally pursue a line of work you love. Your personal brand should reflect your reasons for starting your business.
Your personal brand should reflect what’s true and authentic about you, and by extension, your business. Stay true to your mission statement and build your values and goals into every aspect of your business.
3. Strive For Honesty, ALWAYS
Don’t try to be something or someone you’re not when you’re building your personal brand. Cultivate an image that’s true to you and your business – don’t try to be something you’re not.
If you’re trustworthy and forthright, then your customers will respond to that and it will build trust. If you’re not, they will sense that, too. Maintain integrity when building your personal brand, and it will pay off with loyal patrons.
4. Social Media = Instant Branding
Social media is a necessary component of building your brand. It’s a great way to reach a wide audience and get them interested and engaged in what you’re doing.
Do your social media profiles reflect your best side? Are they professional? Do they present your company in the best light? Is your brand consistent across all social media channels?
Once you’ve established a social media presence, you’ll need to continually monitor it and engage with the users who reach out to you.
If budget permits, consider investing in professional photography for headshots or a professional editor to polish your profiles. Think of social media as snapshot branding for potential customers and put your best foot forward.
Note that this applies not just to your business accounts, but also to your personal accounts. They’re linked, and you’re the face of your business. Make sure your customers won’t find anything they don’t like if they stumble across your personal profiles.
5. Keep Good Company
You’ve probably heard the expression, “You’re only as good as the company you keep.” This is true on a personal level as well as a business level. Associate with those who make you look better.
Your brand may be bolstered by your association with other favorable brands. Do you have a relationship with a group that can boost your own image? This can also apply to a strong alumni network or a business organization that you’re a part of. Leverage the power of a “good” connection and it will boost the image of your own brand.
As you make those connections, spread the word! Post about them on your social media accounts and website so that your potential customers get the message.
6. Speaking Engagements Spread The Word
Speaking engagements are a great way to build authority and trust, and each successful speaking engagement can open the door to another one.
Speaking at conferences or offering to teach at courses or seminars in your industry is an effective way to spread the word about your personal brand and your company. It’s also really good for your communication skills!
Check out your local radio stations and favorite podcasts and offer to give an interview on a topic that’s important to your business. That’s great publicity and a good way to get your name out there.
7. Publications And Press Matter
Just as speaking engagements spread your name and personal brand, having your name and that of your company in print earns you followers and brand recognition. While social media is a brand-building powerhouse, traditional media still has its place.
It can take work to find the best publications to match your goals, but keeping your eyes and ears open for each opportunity. Try to build connections in the industry and with media publications so that you can spread the word through print PR.
8. The Power Of A Professional Website
Your website is a vital part of building your brand. A professional website is not only a way to communicate important information to your audience and potential customers, it can help you build a name for yourself and your company online.
You can use your name and your company name to boost SEO search results, which can help with marketing and sales. Buying your brand name or the name of your company ensures that you’re the only one who can use it.
To maximize the brand-building power of your website, you need to spend time on the site. You can’t just create a website and then leave it floating unattended out in cyberspace. Update it regularly with news and important information. If you have the time, a blog is also a terrific way to build that personal brand – you have a chance to use your creative voice and really engage your target audience.
9. Monitor Your Online Reputation
In order to know how your customers perceive you, you need to monitor how your brand and your company appear online. That means keeping tabs on your website and your social media presence, but also on review sites where customers talk about you.
Pros recommend regular Google searches for your name and that of your company to keep tabs on what’s out on the Internet. Take a look at Yelp, Google’s reviews, and other relevant sites to hear what people are saying about you. If there are reviews that are abusive or false, you can ask the site to take them down. In any case, it’s a great way to learn what people like (or don’t) about your business.
While positive reviews are great, negative reviews give you a good opportunity to engage with your customers and show them that you care about their experience and their business. Respond to their concerns, offer refunds or coupons, or apologize sincerely if something went wrong. The users who complained will be happy that you’re trying to make things right and other users will be impressed by your commitment and honesty.
Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of fighting with people online. When someone badmouths your hard work, it can be tempting to fire back. However, that’s just going to make you and your company look petty – even if you’re completely right! Always keep your responses professional and courteous.
The Bottom Line
Creating and growing a personal brand is a process, just like growing a company. You can start with smaller steps with the goal of increasing the reach of your personal brand as your company matures. Your branding goals will evolve as you and your company do, so be flexible and don’t shy away from adjusting your strategies when necessary. Your personal brand is a reflection of who you are as an entrepreneur – make sure to put your best foot forward!