In today’s fast-paced, interconnected world, whether you realise it or not, you have a personal brand, separate to the company you run or work for. You need to make sure it’s cultivated into something of your choosing, before it gets defined by those around you instead…
Gone are the days of being able to hide behind a strong corporate logo or successful product range because the world of marketing has fundamentally changed – and consequently, the ways in which people interact and shop have followed suit. According to www.ceohangout.com, most people head to the web when looking for products and services, generating up to 77% of all social media discussions with their requests for advice and information. Of this, 92% of them only trust recommendations from individuals (even people they don’t know) over a company – and go on to share these endorsements 24 times more frequently. This means that if you have a strong personal brand and are perceived as a credible source, your individual recommendations receive 561% more marketing reach than those of your company. Ultimately, the respect people have for your personal brand has more clout and listening power than anything else.
Far more than a buzzword
This makes personal branding, especially online, more powerful than ever before. It’s far more than the buzzword it became in 2006 when Times Magazine named ‘You’ as Person of the Year. It’s what gives you credibility, makes you stand out, allows you to charge a premium and ultimately, convert leads into sales.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon has been famously quoted as saying that your brand is ‘what people are saying about you when you are not in the room’; and marketer Tim Leberecht points out that, thanks to hyper connectivity, the room is now always open for conversation.
If your name is continuously coming up through online searches and social media channels and you do not take control of it, you will miss out on being able to own what you stand for and how influence your network. Focusing on your brand pushes you to think about what you stand for and where you want to be, in terms of positioning in people’s minds. So then, what is it that makes you unique and different?
“Ultimately, the respect people have for your personal brand has more clout and listening power than anything else.”
Keep it authentic
The way in which you nurture your brand must be authentic. We are seeing two major shifts in the world from a personal branding perspective at the moment – a huge increase in online impact, where you are evaluated every moment of every day, based on what you post; as well as a lot of buzz around disruption and innovation. In this world of constant change, where technological boundaries are continuously being pushed, it’s crucial not to get confused between disruption and maintaining a solid, personal brand – the bedrock of your success.’
Messing with your brand confuses people about what you stand for and what makes you different. Stability equates to consistency for people and that’s what they like to trust. It’s not about conveying an image you think people want to see but rather, consistently showcasing the values, attributes and characteristics that you want to be known for.
However, this does not mean your personal brand can stand still – where disruption becomes relevant is in continuously keeping your skillset updated and having a thorough grasp of the changes and opportunities in your industry. Stephen Covey summed this up so well when he said that you need to begin with the end in mind. His book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ lists this as ‘habit number 2’ and says that ‘if you don’t make a conscious effort to visualise who you are and what you want in life, then you empower others to shape you by default.’
Clearly, the most important part of your personal brand is taking control and while there is no single path to success, Tom Peters, who wrote about ‘A Brand Called You’ on
www.fastcompany.com, suggests that the only right way to do this is to simply start now.
Remember that it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression – a very short moment to make a lasting impact. It’s very difficult to change perceptions once they have been created but if you are prepared and can control the moment through a positive encounter, you put yourself at an advantage. In most business situations, you only get one chance to market yourself and one of the best ways to take advantage of this is to give people a reason to trust and value you. Achieve this and you will not only secure long-term advocacy but also higher conversion rates, bigger transactions, shorter sales cycles, better retention and stronger referrals – now that is personal branding done right, online and all the way to the bank.
This article first appeared in the June/July issue of Your Business Magazine. Read the rest of the free issue online or download to enjoy later!
Donna Rachelson is the author of three books: Play to Win: What Women can learn from Men in Business; Branding & Marketing YOU and Branding & Marketing YOU Through Teams and founder of Branding & Marketing YOU. She is also currently Group CEO at Seed Academy, a training and incubation ecosystem for entrepreneurs.