Building a good reputation and personal brand doesn't happen overnight. People like Seth Godin, Brian Solis, and Neil Patel didn't suddenly find themselves on the minds of marketers worldwide by accident. Their brands were built through career achievements, interview after interview, one blog post at a time, tweet by tweet.

Any entrepreneur will tell you (at least the successful ones) that success comes from hard work and persistence. Building a personal brand is no different. Your reputation is your most valuable asset, and it can be the one thing that gives you a serious competitive advantage in business.

Here are 5 strategies you should employ for launching your personal brand from nothing.

1. Know your audience

Just like any business trying to build a brand, you need to know who your audience is above all else. You shouldn't take a single step in branding and outreach until you know how the product relates to the audience, what they want from it, and how it relates to their problems.

In this case, you're the product.

Research your audience and the industry in which you're aligning your personal brand so you understand what they're looking for. Without having a strong grasp on the needs of your audience, you'll find it nearly impossible to grow a focused personal brand.

According to the 2014 Census, it's estimated that there are more than 240 million adults in the United States, working in a huge variety of core industries. It's critical to recognize that you can't be all things to all people.

For example: Don't settle with being a talking head in the startup space. Get specific to your audience. Are you focusing on tech startups? Does your knowledge relate to a specific area within startups like raising capital or marketing?

Align your knowledge and your brand with the people who can benefit most, then research those people to find out what they want from you.

2. Be consistent and recognizable

Your personal brand should develop around your core strengths, your skill, and your experience. Decision makers are no different than social consumers and they're more apt to do business with you based on the overall experience you're selling as opposed to how you complete tasks.

And that experience should be consistent.

When you buy your favorite clothing brand, you know what to expect when you put it on. You know how the apparel fits and how it wears on you. In the same vein, your audience should know what to expect from you. That should stay consistent every time they engage with you.

3. Know your niche

With traditional branding and marketing, products are distributed across geographic regions. You're very much the product in this case, but you're also just one person. This is why it's important to know your niche.

You can't be everywhere, and you can't necessarily operate in every vertical within a specific industry. You need to identify your sphere of influence and stick with it.

If you visit my site, you'll see that I'm all about growth hacking through marketing, but I don't spread myself across every channel. While I sometimes get into business operations and growth strategy, I'm typically rooted firmly in content marketing.

Your sphere may be influenced by industry or knowledge as much as geographic region. Whatever the case, research who needs you and where they spend their time. Focus there. Don't spread yourself too thin.

If you spread out too much from your core focus, it will be harder to connect with everyone, there will be more work involved, and with far less reward. Know the niche that gives you the greatest return from the most focused effort.

4. Manage your reputation as much as you build it

Warren Buffett has been widely quoted as saying "It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."

Creating a strategy for building your personal brand is critical, especially when you start with nothing. Managing that reputation is equally as important, and it starts right away.

Reputation management isn't about putting out fires. It has a lot to do with being proactive as you consider the implications of your actions and the content you share.

Not every member of your audience is going to agree with what you have to say in your content marketing, or in the interviews you do. You need to be prepared with a strategy for how to address that pushback before it comes up.

Along the same lines, you have to be conscious of what your social media activity says about your personal brand. Everything you say and do is a reflection of your character, morals, and what you stand for. Your reputation is a huge part of your personal brand, so shape and manage it in a way that makes it easy to share your vision and experience with your audience.

5. Communicate your brand effectively

The web gives you tremendous opportunity to create, market, and manage your personal brand. You're able to maintain a great deal of control over what people see when they look for your online, what they know about you, and your opinions on various topics.

The most successful individuals leveraging their personal brand online know how to use different channels to create the best "curb appeal" when it comes to search and social. They position content in a way that makes their social profiles, Q&As, interviews, articles, and videos dominate search.

For example, they may use a personally branded website as an online hub for their information, including their biography, contact info, blog, case studies, and even speaker profiles.

Beyond branding yourself with a website, leverage authoritative publishers to share your ideas. This aligns your brand with trusted brands when people search for you. A search for my name in Google shows my site and social profiles, as well as the publications I write for, including Inc, Search Engine Journal, and more.

Social channels are an important part of communicating your personal brand. I mentioned how mine show in search, including my Twitter and LinkedIn. Not only are those connection points for my audience, but they also give people an insight into my activity as well as my accomplishments. I also use them to promote my content and engage my audience every day.

Like any business, you need to develop a content and branding strategy that defines what channels you'll use to communicate your brand. Don't just pick randomly; choose the channels where your audience is most likely to be found and build on those.

What has been your most successful strategy for growing your personal brand? Share in the comments:

Published on: May 31, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.