No one will dispute having a strong corporate brand is an important part of your marketing mix. Where some people get stumped is when the brand is themselves, especially if they're not a celebrity. Creating and nurturing your own brand helps you stand out from the crowd and the practice has some unexpected benefits.  

For those who take the time to plot out their marketing plans at the beginning of the year, it would serve you well to take into account your own brand, especially if you're a solopreneur or someone whose business relies heavily on you leading it.

You may also want to consider that businesses large and small are trying to figure out how to make those connections. Among the many lessons the American Marketing Association's webinars have been stressing for this year is the need to make marketing more human again. Among the key takeaways from the webinar, and something to remember as you're going through this exercise, is how to share stories that resonate with your customer or prospective client at every touchpoint.

We can no longer coast on just throwing generic messages out there and hoping they stick. In 2018, our brand outreach has to be customer-centric in order to be effective.

Building an effective brand requires you to keep one thing in mind: your customer or client.

Here are four ways to start building your brand today:

1. Know who you are trying to reach.

Before you start anything, consider your audience. Who are you trying to reach? What matters most to them? Get to know their social identity and how they present themselves. Follow their work on their social media platforms of choice. Beyond LinkedIn, consider following them on Twitter or Facebook, if they have a presence there.

Since my business is me, I regularly take time out of my day to consider who I'm trying to reach whenever I craft an email newsletter. The time spent never goes to waste because it's rare for me to send out an email and not receive a response from someone who received it.

2. Tell a story.

Once you've identified your audience, or target market in marketing parlance, consider how you can meet the needs of your audience through storytelling. How is what you're doing today of possible interest to your audience? Are there projects you're working on that might help them in some way?

Make sure what you're putting out there is consistent with what you want people to think about when they see or hear from you. Don't forget visuals and make sure they all tie together, too. Splashy graphics aren't important. People like to connect with people so if you can include pictures of yourself and it makes sense, do it.

Not everyone loves to blog, but that might be a medium to consider if you want to manage the image you're presenting. Another option is writing an article on a platform like LinkedIn or Medium. Again, the idea being you're going to be consistent and sharing content that is valuable to your audience.

3. Build your tribe.

If blogging regularly or coming up with content that is original and interesting to your audience is too time-consuming and not a productive use of your time, considering working as part of a larger team. Who among your friends and colleagues can you lean on to help you build your brand and you return the favor by helping them, too?

You don't need to constantly create new content to share. Consider curating content from your friends and colleagues. Share their work and ask them to share yours. If you share an audience, you're not only providing a benefit to your audience and building your brand, but you're helping others in the process.

In addition to a tribe, share great projects or articles you find in your normal course of work. Again, the goal is to develop and nurture your brand. The more you show your audience that you care about the topics that are important to them and sharing things that would be of interest, the stronger your brand becomes.

4. Be authentic and consistent.

This might go without saying but building a brand won't happen if you're forcing it or trying to connect with others when it appears forced. It also pays if you're consistent since you'll be reinforcing your message every time your audience sees your name. You'll be seen as someone who knows what she's talking about and cares about issues that are important to them.

Building your brand does take time and nurturing it is a task that will never end, as long as you want people to remember who you are. If doesn't need to be hard, though, and pays off in the short and long-term.

Published on: Apr 25, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.