4 Ways Personal Branding 10x's the Success of Your Small Business
Do you have an intentional personal brand, if so, are you maximizing it's benefits?
Too often people get stuck in the idea that a personal brand is only personal. That a personal brand lends all its rewards to the individual and is a purely selfish endeavor. This makes the aggressively humble among us shy away from it because they can’t shake the idea that it isn't really about the business, but about the ego.
In reality, as a founder, your personal brand and your business are much more closely interwoven than you might realize, especially if you are in a service-based business. If your business is defined by your personal expertise, process, or connections, your personal brand is critical to the success of your business.
What is a personal brand?
Before we dive deeper into why a powerful personal brand is your greatest asset as a founder, let me first explain what I mean by the term in the first place. Your personal brand is how people know you, the words or ideas they associate with you, their perception of you. It’s essentially your reputation.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Your personal brand has so many layers to its importance, but sometimes it’s hard to know what all those layers are. This is why I wrote a whole article about how to understand its role and importance in your career.
How does a personal brand affect your business?
The business world has changed dramatically in the last decade, becoming more personal and more nuanced. While there will always be retail behemoths like Amazon, Walmart, and Target, we’ve seen a massive rise in small businesses. People have increasingly started to choose small providers based on the super-specific type of products they sell, the quality of the materials, or their support for the founder. The same is true for software companies, consulting firms, agencies, and every other type of business in existence.
People are no longer making consumption decisions solely based on which provider is the biggest or most well-known. They’re increasingly buying clothes because of who made them, how they’re made, or the conditions for their workers. They’re buying software because of customer experience or an alignment of company values – not just because of price.
This means that buyers require a new kind of information to educate them on their buying journey. They don’t just want product specifications, a list of features, and a price.
They want to know from whom they are buying.
This is where your personal brand can become a powerful resource in growing your business. Like it or not, your buyers are evaluating your product or service partly based on their perception of you as a person. Yes, this undoubtedly includes your expertise and ability to deliver results, but it also is more than that. It includes your values, what you stand for, your perspective on the industry, and how you show up as a leader.
What are the unique advantages of personal branding?
There are a number of ways your personal brand can unlock a unique advantage in growing your business. In truth, there are too many to list. Every personal brand is unique. You build your own relationships with your community, create your own reputation, and open your own doors of opportunity. Although, there are a few common categories of advantages.
Before we dive into the categories of advantages I want to be clear this takes time. Building your personal brand is playing the long game. There likely will not be quick and easy wins, but if you are consistent, momentum will build and you will be astounded by how things change for you.
1. Your personal brand can differentiate your business from its competition
This is particularly true when you run a relatively small business, your status as a founder has an outsize impact on the trust of your prospects and customers. They know that you run the show, shape the strategy, and are in charge of the results your employees deliver. In that case, prospects will look to you and what they know about you to evaluate your business as a whole.
Your personal brand can, and should, represent what your business stands for. How do you do things differently? What is unique about how you serve your customers?
More decision-makers and consumers are making buying decisions based on the experience they have with a company.
And guess what?
That experience begins with the first time they interact with your brand – often a post on social media, a blog, or a video. You have a powerful opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your ideal customer, making them say to themselves, “Who is that? I need to learn more about them.”
Every post you make, talk you give, or piece of content you put into the world is an opportunity to explain what makes you different from everyone else in your industry. Instant differentiation.
Some of you are going to think, “Well, I wouldn’t want to alienate potential customers by being too provocative or taking too strong a stand. Better to stay out of the fray and appeal to a broader audience.”
If you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.
If you refuse to truly define what you stand for, you miss a golden opportunity to make it clear to your perfect prospect that you care for them. If you’re going to do this work, decide on who you are truly on a mission to serve and what makes you different from the many other choices they have out there- and then, shout it from the proverbial rooftops!
2. People buy transformations, not products or services
You’ve probably heard that in marketing copy you want to talk about benefits, not features. This is absolutely true, but I take it a step further. People don’t buy products or services. They buy transformations.
They aren’t buying a product management tool because it makes it easier to stay on top of their activities and tasks. They buy the tool because it transforms them from a disorganized and frazzled worker into a polished, productive, get-sh*t-done kind of leader.
Your personal brand is the perfect environment for you to share the kinds of transformations you help your customers achieve. It’s where you can tell the stories of your customers and the process through which you take them. It’s also where you can share the narrative of your personal transformation.
As entrepreneurs, we are often selling products or services we designed and created to solve problems we had or we sell products or services we have spent years or decades researching, refining, and optimizing to solve problems that we have been obsessed with for much of our career.
The stories of these transformations – our customers’ and our own – are inspiring to our ideal customers. They light a spark of hope in the eyes of our prospects. You are helping them see possibility and potential where perhaps recently they’ve only seen frustration.
Yes, these stories can all be told on your website, but when they come from you, they have a different, deeper meaning and power. When they are told in your voice and your words, these stories seem less like marketing and more like the why behind what you do. That is compelling.
3. Your personal brand increases the number of people that know, like, and trust you
Not only do your stories of transformation feel more powerful when they come from you personally, but they also have the power to reach a much wider audience. Both the data and my experience prove this over and over again.
People don’t follow corporate brands on social media the way they used to. Instead, we follow the leaders of those brands. We follow Elon Musk, not Tesla. Jeff Bezos, not Amazon. Sarah Blakely, not Spanx. The list goes on. I could say we’re at the height of the cult of personality, but I don’t see any signs of this slowing down.
This trend means it is vastly easier to build a powerful personal brand than an influential company brand. Iif your business will likely always stay small, your personal brand will probably always be more powerful than your company brand, especially if you’re in the service business.
Think of it this way. Go check your LinkedIn account. Even if you haven’t applied a lot of intention to grow your connections on LinkedIn, my guess is that you have somewhere between 5-10x the number of personal connections compared to company followers. Choosing not to maximize the impact that your personal profile can have on your business is simply choosing not to leverage one of the most effective methods of building brand awareness.
Not only can your personal brand entice people to take a closer look at your company and your products or services, but it can also build valuable credibility in the eyes of your potential customers. If they see that you are well respected by your peers, sharing comments and support with other thought leaders they know, like, and respect, they will feel an instant affinity to you and your brand.
Keep in mind, your personal brand isn’t just about shouting into the void that is social media. When done right, it is designed to build relationships with the people who can have an impact on your life and business. It fosters a connection between you and other leaders in your industry. People who can become strategic partners, allies, and, yes, even clients.
When you have a smart strategy for building a personal brand that connects with your ideal customers, educates them on the value you provide to people just like them, and encourages them to take action and begin talking with you, growing your business is just easier. Period.
4. Your personal brand opens doors of opportunity - speaking gigs, books, licensing deals, partnerships, etc.
Intentionally building your personal brand is a process that builds momentum over time. It starts off small and maybe even a little arduous, but as you get consistent in your efforts and start to build meaningful relationships, make important connections, and become increasingly well known in your industry, opportunities for further growth will arise without warning.
This is when you will start to have events reach out to you regarding speaking gigs, podcast hosts about interviews, and marketers about webinars, guest blogs, and other thought leadership opportunities. You’ll start to see a consistent stream of unexpected offers elevating your status as a thought leader. As your personal brand builds, others will want to leverage the strength of your brand for their own purposes. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s how we all grow and evolve together.
A podcast host will want to interview you because they’ve enjoyed your other content, but also because they want exposure to your audience. You can leverage them in a similar way. Everyone wins.
As you begin building your personal brand it’s wise to have a vision for the kinds of opportunities you would like to receive, but you must also know that these kinds of offers and chances are perks and not the ultimate point.
Put yourself out there. Give first. Opportunity and promise will follow.
If you want to learn how you can unapologetically build a powerful personal brand that grows your business, get my simple 5 step guide to show you how.