In 2015, consumers generally distrust big brands. Whether it's right or wrong, that's the way it is. The average consumer feels like they're exploited and uncared for--just a number. That's why personal branding has become one of the most successful and effective business strategies for modern entrepreneurs. After all, people prefer to connect with people rather than corporate logos.
As an entrepreneur, have you given personal branding a shot, or are you failing to harness the power of this profitable marketing strategy? While you ultimately have to make business decisions based on your own gut-feelings, this is one area where you don't want to mess up. Pursue personal branding and you won't regret it.
6 Tips for Effective Personal Branding
Whether it's personal or corporate branding, you have to start with a plan of action. Otherwise you'll end up with a muddled strategy and no clear direction. When looking at personal branding, here are some tips to get you pointed the right way:
You absolutely must have a clear and identifiable value proposition to work with. Every decision you make regarding your brand will ultimately run through this simple statement. As such, it should be both detailed and concise. Detailed in the sense that you don't want to ignore anything you bring to the table and concise in terms of being able to fit it into a few sentences.
"Your personal value proposition (PVP) is at the heart of your career strategy, Bill Barnett writes for the Harvard Business Review. "It's why to hire you, not someone else." While most people know that, the question Barnett (and others) poses is how do you develop a powerful value proposition?
Strangely enough, you may not want to start with yourself. It may actually be advantageous to first identify your target market. This will allow you to identify which of your strengths are most relevant for that market. How do your strengths resonate with your target market? That's the question you'll want to ask when connecting the dots between you and your target.
This may very well be the most time-consuming step in the entire personal branding process, but you can't cut any corners here. A faulty value proposition will lead the rest of your efforts astray.
Once you've polished and finalized your value proposition, it becomes time to turn your focus towards auditing, molding, and updating your online presence so that it properly reflects who you are and what you offer. Generally speaking, most entrepreneurs will focus on their social profiles and their website.
When it comes to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other social networking sites where you've established profiles, you need to aim for consistency. Everything from images to descriptions needs to align with your ultimate goal of selling your value proposition to your target market. The exact strategy you take will depend on your specific goals, but consistency is non-negotiable. Nothing ruins branding like a lack of congruency.
As for your website, it may be wise to consult with a web designer or branding expert to develop a color scheme and layout that best exemplifies your value proposition. Without even reading any site copy, visitors should have a pretty good idea of what you offer. While you may be able to do this on your own, it's worth allocating some of your budget towards securing a professional designer. Your website is one of the pillars of your branding strategy and you can't afford to mess up here.
In the beginning, every personal brand starts out as a small fish in the proverbial big sea. This can be extremely frustrating, especially when you know you have the skills and knowledge to compete with the "big fish." Well, the quickest way to rise from obscurity in the digital age is to associate your personal brand with more powerful brands.
If you've worked with big clients in the past or have content published on reputable sites, don't be afraid to include badges and links to those brands. Any time you can tap into a brand that's already established trust with a large market, you should take advantage of it.
Just because digital branding is the most effective and far reaching form of marketing and advertising doesn't mean it's the only method. You can't forget about offline branding. This is especially true if you're targeting a specific location or geographical market.
If part of your value proposition claims that you care about serving others, prove it! Find a couple of local causes that you believe in and give back to the community. On top of genuinely helping those around you, this gives you a chance to associate yourself with positive initiatives (ultimately enhancing your trustworthiness).
Content marketing is one of the most important aspects of personal branding. It gives you a chance to voice your opinions and showcase your knowledge. Start with your own personal website blog. Contribute to this blog on a regular basis by developing unique and informative content that addresses relevant issues in your industry. Next, share this content on your social networking profiles (in addition to curating and sharing content from other reliable sources).
After establishing a name for yourself as an effective conveyor of ideas, begin pitching article ideas to major sites and online publications. If you're able to become a regular contributor to frequently read sites, you can yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Additionally, it provides some pretty good backlinks to your website (enhancing SEO efforts).
Ultimately, you have to stick with it. Once you commit to a personal branding strategy, there's no backing out. Everything you say, write, and do must be consistent. The worst thing you can do is try to back out and change your value proposition after it's already been identified. In addition to confusing your target market, it also shows that you're unreliable. Stick with it and good things will happen.
Never Easy, Always Rewarding
Regardless of your personality, experiences, and ambitions, personal branding is never easy. It takes lots of time and hard work to establish your name as reliable and trustworthy. However, an interesting thing happens once you reach a certain point. You'll eventually find that your customers begin doing the heavy lifting for you. They'll start to identify with your message and go along with your branding. From here, it snowballs and the rewards will make your efforts worthwhile. Along the way, use the tips discussed in this article to maximize your time, money, and resources.