An entrepreneur is a visionary, a risk taker, and has immense passion for their business idea. But that does not automatically mean that every entrepreneur is a marketer or publicity expert.
Can you learn to lead with successful personal branding and a business brand? The good news is that yes, you can.
The challenge however is to search for meaningful advice from the millions of conflicting and confusing messages available online. In this article we will touch up on the fundamentals of brand and personal branding.
Let us start with the core fundamental of your vision, your business, and your legacy.
“The difference I am making to the world” – it is your personal legacy. As an entrepreneur you are building a profitable commercial venture around this legacy.
“Who I am and what I believe in” – gives a set of statements that are known as your values and attitudes.
Your entrepreneurial venture is built around these values; which serve as vision, mission and objectives.
The business brand: The basics of what, why and how
What is a brand?
The brand is not just about your logo or designs; while these are a key part of your branding, your brand is far more than the looks. Your brand is about a feeling your customer’s experience; it is about how your company, products or services are ‘seen’ by your customer’s and stakeholder’s and about your reputation.
Why do you need a brand?
To cut through the vast online world and attract the people you want to attract i.e. customers, media, investors, partners and all other stakeholders. Building and managing a brand helps you stand out and continue to bring your customers to you as ‘their first choice’.
The advantages of a strong brand:
• You will attract all the right people with much less effort
• People are creating ties with your brand; they will choose you over competitors and become repeat customers.
• Your loyal customers tell others about their good experiences and bring more credibility to your brand.
• Your trusted customers become your brand ambassadors i.e. they are on your team, and actively engage with your brand or refer others.
• Your brand wins the trust of your market and your reputation is enhanced.
Identify your brand values
As you know, your branding is much more than just a cool logo or a well-placed advertisement. Building a brand is definitely a process that works over a period of time but with consistent efforts and clear direction, you can build one.
The first steps for creating a brand start with finding your unique business and brand values. This requires you to do some exploration around your business, your vision and your beliefs. You may also need to truly and sincerely engage with your market and listen to them.
• What is one thing that only you have?
• Why should anyone use your service?
• Why is it any different from anybody else in the market with a similar service?
• When people think of your brand, what are the first few traits that immediately come to mind?
• What are the traits, qualities, or memories you WANT your customers to have when they think of your brand?
• Is your strength your design or value for money or technology?
• What extras are you offering? (something that benefits your customers over and above everyone e.g. innovation or safety or convenience).
Translating your values to create your brand
Once you have identified the strengths and brand values, it is time to build a brand that reflects these values and the emotions associated with the values. Your messages; be it words, visuals, design and experiences; need to convey these attributes and do it consistently across all your channels and platforms.
The key elements for a successful and consistent brand strategy are:
• Your business name
• The names of your products or services • Business logo
• The visual components of your business e.g. colors, fonts, images and icons
• The written word about your company, products and all messages • Visual branding • Your marketing channels • Your company website
• Your marketing messages
• Online and offline sales and marketing templates
Personal branding; let us simplify
Whether you are an established entrepreneur or making the transition from a corporate career to a start-up, you already have a presence online and in your immediate surroundings. E.g. your LinkedIn profile has connections, recommendations and ratings of all the connections who have known you. Offline, you may be a member of a business chambers where you are consistently viewed and oftentimes identified for your qualities or characteristics. A vast number of audiences are creating an opinion about you, from ALL of your past actions and the information available about you, from references and referrals.
Creating a personal brand as an entrepreneur is a conscious and thoughtfully created plan to use all your existing presence, connections and credibility and take it to the desired level of being seen as a visionary in your field; through a variety of tools like messages, images, actions and activities.
As an entrepreneur, you are also the face of your company, and a strong personal brand connects you, and eventually your business brand, with your stakeholders. Elements of personal branding
• A well defined and clear objective
• Your audience, who they are and where they are
• The unique value proposition i.e. what is that special thing about you that sets you apart
• Your tools of conveying your messages
• Your authentic and consistent messages; from the look and feel of your words, to how you are seen to your online and offline behavior
• Your brand message is built around your values, your identity, who you are and why you are the number one resource that people should come to.
To explore it more, try answering the following questions so you can have more clarity:
• What do I want to be known for?
What are the characteristics I want associated with my brand?
– What is the legacy I want to build?
– What are the key messages and learning I want to share with my audience?
Attributes of a sustainable personal branding
Your personal branding is not about what you project or creating a narrative following someone else’s footsteps. It is all about being who you are, what you truly believe in and how well you live your values; and your beliefs about community, service or excellence on 24×7 basis.
• Consistency and Commitment
• Values and characteristics
• Your story and your daily actions
Action plan to create a memorable personal brand:
• Be where your audience is
Obvious but still needs to be said. Your audience may be at several places so you could identify one or two platforms where your ‘most profitable audience’ is. Social media platforms, business networking, events and conferences are some of the best platforms for you to look at.
• Be easy to ‘discover’
This means having the basics of online SEO, social media and keywords marketing built in your plan. And to have a strong, consistent, and accurate online presence through a website or professional platforms like LinkedIn, so people can search for you by name or when they search for an expert in your field, your name appears in their search.
• Aim for ‘being found’ by your audience
Your next level aim needs to be to be found by your audience. This is possible with consistent efforts over a period of time. Being in the right places, creating engaging content, using the power of online, and social media and being generous with time and expertise; all of the above will help you to reach this stage.
• Right platforms for success
You need the right set of mediums that give you an easy and flexible way to put across your expertise and thought leadership in your niche. One needs to plan a careful mix of outlets such as your owned, borrowed and public platforms.
• Owned platforms are a blog or regular columns and writings on your own website.
• Public platforms are sector or industry specific events and opportunities where you can speak as an expert.
• Borrowed platforms include social media and publishing platforms of collaborators.
• Earned media such as magazines and newspapers are the most credible of all and require a planned approach.
Social media is an amazing, diverse and easy tool for building a personal brand online. It allows you to connect with a larger audience and capture a captive audience based on their interests and needs. That said, you need to remember that managing multiple pages will require effort and time so please allocate the necessary resources.
The winning content strategy for personal branding is built on; authenticity, offering value and knowledge exchange.
• The content is not about ‘selling yourself’ but about being a source that make people want to connect with you.
• Your content must be about – how you can help others, using your expertise, experience and skill set.
• It’s about connecting with people, and making their lives easier by solving a situation, by seeing their perspective or enhancing their life.
• When you think content, think about the value you are giving to your fans and followers.
• Be generous to share, express your authority and give value.
• In order to start building a personal brand, you need to be seen, as often as possible and by as many right people as possible.
• One of the most credible ways to do is to share what you know; your expertise in the chosen area/field of your passion, experience and business.
Personal branding tips from our panel of experts
“Personal branding has become critical for entrepreneurs and executives growing their companies. Sharing thought leadership, taking a stand and sharing opinions, and being consistently visible will open doors for the opportunities of tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and let the world know who you are.” – Suzanne Huber, Principal Consultant at Suzanne Huber Inc.
Suzanne Huber Inc accelerates growth, while building enduring relationships in the process. https://suzannehuber.com/
“It is important that you know that all that we achieve through our personal branding will eventually have a positive impact on the marketing efforts and growth of our business. So don’t forget to include your personal branding as part of your business’ marketing strategy. You will be surprised how your network, reputation and word-of-mouth can be your most valuable allies.” – Leonor de Paramo, Founder of BIZU Strategy, a specialist consultancy for SME’s. Also a Consultant and Specialist in Strategy and Business Management
“Let’s address a hot topic: Which is best to prioritize – branding your business or personal branding? My recommendation is to focus on helping people connect the dots between you and your business. This is based on the fact you are the face of the business. Also, people do business with people.” – Maiko Sakai is a niche Specialist for Creative Entrepreneurs and the creator of What’s Your *Impact Creation* Archetype as an Entrepreneur