Most business owners today understand the importance of building a strong and memorable brand for their company or product, but how important is it to build a brand for yourself as a sole proprietor? Is it truly necessary to have a strong personal brand in order to run a successful startup or small business?
Not always, and it depends on the type of business you’re discussing. A distinctive and compelling personal brand, on the other hand, can be an important asset if you’re seeking a competitive advantage in a crowded market—and a method to break through to the next level in sales and profitability.
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What exactly is personal branding?
Personal branding, in technical terms, is an intentional and thoughtful effort to shape the public opinion of an individual by positioning and promoting them as credible authorities or influencers in their field.
Steve Strauss, a small business author and USA Today writer, defines personal branding as “your name, reputation, value, personality, knowledge, distinctiveness, and promise, all rolled into one” in his book Your Small Business Boom.
As a business owner, consciously developing your personal brand will help you to tell your story the way you want it to be told, establish yourself as an expert and thought leader in your area, and engage with your consumers and clients in ways that go beyond your products and services.
There are numerous well-known instances of successful entrepreneur “brands.” Consider Richard Branson, Gary Vaynerchuck (aka “Gary Vee”), and even Bethenny Frankel, the “Real Housewives” star turned Skinnygirl mogul. However, examples can be found even at a lower profile or local level.
For example, your city is likely to have at least one regionally recognized “celebrity chef” restaurateur or retail shop owner whose popularity and exposure in the community or on social media aids in the growth of their business.
What is the return on investment for personal branding in your company? Here are some things to think about.
Of course, not every sort of business sees the same return on investment from personal branding. Personal branding has generally worked best for “service firms where you and the businesses are one and the same (e.g., lawyers, writers, marketers, etc.),” according to Strauss.
There are exceptions to this rule, and a lot depends on who you’re trying to reach. For example, beauty, fashion, and retail firms whose owners/founders build a popular and engaging presence on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, positioning them as tastemakers and trendsetters, may undoubtedly ignite sales for their products through personal branding.
Keep in mind, however, that personal branding costs time and money that, in many situations, would be better spent running your business rather than enhancing your personal image.
For example, if your company is in the electrical contracting business, will being notably, personally well-known in that field shift the needle with consumers (i.e., homeowners or commercial facility managers)?
Getting Started with Personal Branding: A Step-by-Step Guide
Where should you begin if you’ve concluded that personal branding is a good investment of your time and resources? The basic steps are as follows. Obviously, the following is only a basic outline for personal branding, and each stage requires much more information.
You’ll probably want to seek advice from pros in design, branding, and public relations, but this is a fantastic place to start.
1) Choose a Specialty.
Be specific and limited in your approach. Examine your strengths and distinguishing characteristics. Maintain your position in that lane. Also, make sure you’ve focused on something that people genuinely desire and can sell.
For example, if you’re beginning a public relations agency, what is one unique way you handle client work? Based on your expertise as a former journalist, there may be a concentration on news-oriented narrative and media relations.
White Barn Home’s Kim Berry, a home decor store specializing in “contemporary rustic, farmhouse chic” furnishings frequently made from reclaimed barn wood with a Western design, is an excellent illustration of this targeted approach. Kim, who owns and operates the business with her daughter, Kylie, maintains a strong presence for her shop on Instagram and Pinterest, posting photos of her horses, riding, and personal Western-styled home, as well as her own personal messages. Kim and Kylie are featured on the home page of her website since their faces are a real asset for the company.
People come to the business to ask for her personal advice on how to incorporate rustic features into a modern home because their particular style is so well-known.
2) Make Sure Your Business and Personal Branding Assets Represent Your Skill and Focus.
The most obvious place to begin is with your own website. Is your personal brand’s aesthetic and beliefs reflected on the site? Is there enough room for your face and voice? As a founder, you should have a reasonably detailed and individualized bio on your website, as well as a photo.
However, you might want to think about being more proactive in incorporating your personal story (and face) into your brand across your website and social media accounts.
Contributing to the company blog and/or link to your personal Linkedin or Medium profile as a vehicle for providing content relevant to your point of view and the sector are also options.
It’s also a good moment to evaluate your brand’s existing market position, which goes beyond your current website.
The simplest method to do this is to simply Google it like we all do when we want to learn more about someone. What is the first thing to appear? Is it your personal Facebook page or your professional Linkedin profile? Are one or both of these up to date (and reflect your current personal brand)? Are the photos that appear under the images tab the ones you want potential customers or clients to see? Do you come up at all, or is someone else with a similar name dominating the search results?
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When it comes to LinkedIn, make sure your profile is at the very least up to date. Take a close look at the message the recommendations are sending, as well as the kind of stuff you’re sharing, enjoying, and commenting on. To guarantee that your LinkedIn profile draws the correct type of attention, at the very least, invest in a professional photo, a captivating title, and a professionally worded summary.
Do the same thing with Twitter. Are you also active and up to date there? It’s usually a good idea to use the same or a similar professional photo you use on LinkedIn for Twitter, and make sure your Twitter bio tells your story and your tweets are consistent.
You can pin a noteworthy piece of material so that it appears first when people visit your profile (rather than your random tweet about “The Bachelor”).
If it’s appropriate for your business, conduct a similar investigation on Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest, if you’ve been posting consistently there. It could be time to make new profile pages to separate less acceptable stuff for friends and family from more brand-relevant content.
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3) Produce Material That is Relevant to Your Target Market.
When it comes to personal branding, establishing (and/or enhancing) your existing web presence is just the beginning.
You’ll also need to create original material that reinforces your market position and distinct point of view. This might include writing and posting relevant articles, blog posts, Linkedin updates, talks, and even podcasts and books. If you want to be a thought leader in your field, you’ll need to be proactive about letting others know about your viewpoint.
Following industry trends and posting or sharing information with comments on various social media networks, as well as following and communicating with other industry influencers in that field, maybe done for very little money.
Taking it to the next level, on the other hand, can result in a better return on investment. This includes writing (or having ghostwritten) opinion pieces and guest posts for magazines and blogs, as well as giving presentations at industry conferences… as well as maybe authoring a book or producing a podcast on the subject.
Pay attention to the nuances and visual depiction of your business while creating this content (for example, slides for an industry-speaking engagement). To ensure consistency for your audiences, map any documents you post back to your company’s brand identity.
4) Use Social Media and Conventional Media to Amplify That Information and Engage With Your Audience.
It’s one thing to generate and even post engaging and informative content on your own platforms. However, if you want to get the most out of your content, you should aim for engagement and interaction. That entails paying attention to online and social media comments and engaging with your audience, as well as looking for opportunities to appear on or in media coverage as a subject matter expert.
Yes, we’re talking about public relations; either hiring a professional to pitch your narrative and skills to media outlets and offer you as an expert source or guest, or cutting out the time to go it alone.
5) Develop And Stick to a Strategy.
When it comes to personal branding, having a good strategy—and sticking to it—is a crucial and sometimes ignored component of success. Whatever media and platforms you pick, whatever content you create and distribute, do so with purpose.
You should keep an eye on how all of these efforts fit into your company’s vision and strategy. It might not be worth your attention if you can’t see a clear relationship.