In this day and age, giving yourself a personal brand that makes you stand out from the rest of the pack entails far more than wearing a snazzy suit. Michael Neaylon explains how to get it right, and the fatal mistakes to avoid.
We all have a personal brand, whether we’re working for others or for ourselves. A personal brand can sometimes be seen as lightweight, but it’s not just about your image, as important as that is.
Personal branding is also about how you manage who you are, how you lead your clients, and how effectively you partner with your associates.
Truly effective personal branding is about how you’re perceived, because all brands exist in the minds of their market. Sounds a little lofty? Let’s get tangible.
Let’s say you’re a real estate agent. You’re judged by your vendors, prospects, and associates on the way you manage the sales process, the value you add to your vendor through expert advice and superior negotiation skills, the integrity you bring to the sale process, and the manner in which you handle expectations.
Add to that the cut and style of your clothes, your promptness (or lack thereof ), your emotional and social intelligence, the car you drive, and your grooming.
Now add to that your online presence: your website and your social media profiles. They all tell a story. The more they align with who you are and the value you bring face-to-face – the more ‘on brand’ your digital channels are – the better they serve you.
If any of these don’t match, however, you’ve just spent a lot of time and effort on putting out mixed messages that could cost you business.
Everything we do and say, display, drive and wear, tweet, blog or video – even the company we keep – impacts our personal brand. That has a direct impact on our bottom line, whether we assess that by the number of sales we make, the influence we wield, or the career milestones we achieve.
Here is the one biggest mistake I see people make with their personal brand:
IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM
Yes, your social media, marketing material, website, personal appearance, character, reputation and style all play a huge part in your personal brand. But is it all about you?
One place I see this in spades with clients is in their marketing copy. Look at yours right now. Is it about your clients and the results you achieve for them? Is it superfluous or does it purposely position you as trusted adviser to your prospects and clients alike?
If your current marketing is all about you and not enough about how you can benefit your clients, there are some simple ways to remedy the situation.
1. KNOW YOUR VALUES AND VISION
The more aligned with these you are, the easier it is to attract your ideal clients. Is it integrity, wealth creation, reliability, or perhaps a combination of all three?
In fact, three is the number I often ask people to give, as one is rarely enough, and any more than three dilutes our impact and focus. Some people say ‘courage, clarity, and integrity’. For others it is ‘joy, responsiveness, and detail’. There are no right or wrong ‘three values’. They must be yours, and must be something you believe in and know you can deliver on.
If you could define your three main values, what would they be?
2. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOUR CLIENTS?
Now that you’re even clearer on what you stand for, this is just the tip of the iceberg, because no matter how clear you are, if those values aren’t ‘valued’ by your clients or colleagues then you’ll be stranded on your own personal branding island.
So picture your ideal client and ask yourself the following questions:
What specifically do they gain from doing business with me?
Is it less stress? More money in their pockets? More time with their family?
Can you be even more specific than that?
The more you know these benefits, the easier it is to capitalise on them in your marketing copy, on your website, and on social media. You can even work them into your business conversations.
It makes you much easier to buy and recommend because people know what they’re getting by doing business with you. Even more than that, they know whether it’s something that matters to them or not. It’s easier to become known as the go-to person in your industry or office, not only for what you do but also for the way in which you do it.
It’s also healthy to remind yourself of these statements as much as you can, because for all of us in sales (whether that’s selling products, services, or an idea), the first sale is often made to ourselves.
3. ASK YOUR CLIENTS OR COLLEAGUES WHY THEY LIKE WORKING WITH YOU
This is vital 360-degree feedback on your brand. You’re often so close to your own work or appearance that you can’t see how you’re being perceived.
Ask your clients why they keep coming back. You can do this casually or formally: over the phone, at the end of a meeting... wherever. The beauty is that the sheer exercise of asking them to do this will also help your clients remind themselves why they keep coming back to you.
You can also reread your referrals and testimonials. There will undoubtedly be words and phrases that keep coming up again and again. Highlight the words that reinforce your brand and, importantly, the benefits it brings to your clients.
4. LEVERAGE SOCIAL MEDIA TO AMPLIFY YOUR BRAND
If you’re not already using social media to leverage your brand, I highly recommend you do so. But, as with any branding, you’re better off going deep into two or three channels than diluting your efforts across multiple networks and not gaining any real traction in any. My personal top three for service professionals are LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
TOP THREE SOCIAL NETWORKS
LinkedIn is a powerful search engine that connects you to a global community of professionals and has ever-increasing functions. One function we’ve begun using more and more in one of our businesses, Presentability, is a private (closed) forum. Just like hosting your own mastermind group can be good for your reputation as a serious player who’s also a seriously good connector, the same impression can be made in an online forum, as long as you give value. If you have a blog, post it to the forum, or simply contribute articles and questions for your audience, further establishing your ‘go-to’ value, with the added benefit of being a connector.
Twitter is more than just about tweeting about the incidental moments in your life, or self-promotion. One of the most underutilised aspects of Twitter is its use for research. By staying focused on who you follow and how ‘on brand’ you are with what you post, you gain much more credibility here too. Always leave enough room for your followers to have an opinion when they retweet (say 10–20 characters). If you’re retweeting an article yourself, have an opinion of your own. That way you strengthen your status as a trusted adviser.
YouTube is owned by Google. That means it’s powered by the most powerful search engine in the world. If you’re not already getting video content up, consider it. As a service professional we want to know about you. Personally, I’m a professional speaker, so for me it’s vital. However, even clients who don’t speak for a living gain so much more traction by allowing people in to see who they are and the passion behind what they do, not to mention their own personal style.
5. STAY ON BRAND WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
Where many people fail to gain momentum in their social media is in failing to have an authentic voice in the channels they choose. If you’re new to social media, then play with it, keeping an eye on who follows you and the impact you have on the market. Follow people in your industry who have many followers or connections, and observe what they do, then infuse those practices with your own style and – most importantly – your own opinions.
Michael Neaylon is a speaker, author, and consultant specialising in sales, marketing, and branding for service professionals who want more business, greater profits, working with more of their better clients. He is the author of True Brand Toolkit: How to Bring in Big Money for Your Small Business and the national president of the National Speakers Association of Australia. For more information, visit http://mcme.com.au/ michael-neaylon.html.