A fatal blow for most small business owners is their staunch aversion to exposing themselves as part of their brand. These types, usually running more or less a one man show, feel comfortable behind their brand rather than in front of it. Despite how much you try to pull them out from behind, they’re just not ready to have the spotlight on them.
Newsflash: You ARE your brand.
Today’s consumer is primed to want to know the people behind the company – especially if your business is dealing directly with customers (B2C) more so than other businesses (B2B). Yet what it really comes down to is an old-fashioned sense of privacy and propriety that makes these types shy away from being attention mongers.
And that’s where you’re wrong.
It’s not about attention mongering. Stepping out as the face of your brand is about recognizing the direction of business and people’s expectation of both transparency and familiarity. They want to know you and they want to do business with you.
However, coming out as the face of your brand can be a tricky thing. You’ve got to be careful not to over share socially, to be always conscientious of your message – and you’ve got to develop a sensitive understanding of how to brand yourself as an individual.
The best beginner’s advice comes from Shama Hyder in a Forbes article titled “7 Things You Can Do To Build An Awesome Personal Brand.” Hyder advises newbies to consider the following questions when starting to build their own brand:
- What do you wish for people to associate with you when they think of your name?
- Is there a certain subject matter in which you want to be perceived as an expert or are there general qualities you want linked to your brand?
She also encourages people to find ways to produce value. This is important. In order for you to have an authentic voice, you need to offer something of value. My personal take on this is that “value” isn’t necessarily in the product or services you’re selling but the image, idea, or feeling you create to get people to look at your product or service. It can be videos, a compelling blog, a great Instagram page, or a series of weekly talks, podcasts, you name it. So I’d had a third point to Shama’s two points above:
- What do people get when they come to you vs. your competitor?
If you’re not really sure how to answer that question, then consider taking the “Your Professional Reinvention Self-Assessment” questionnaire provided by branding expert and author of Reinventing You, Dorie Clark. Clark is recommended by Hyder in the Forbes post as a means to help people “define their story,” and really the narrative of you is just as important as any other story out there.
Once you’ve got a strong brand identity and are well on your way to branding strategy, a down-the-road inevitability involves being open to changes. Just as people change, brands change too. Every 5 or so years, you should review your brand for aesthetic changes. Ask whether you’re photo is no longer a reflection of you. Or perhaps your site design scheme and marketing materials are looking a little dated. Even if you’re completely happy with all three, consider that your messaging may have changed over the years and might need a little readjustment. Whatever it is, be willing to make a conscious decision to move forward.
To pull from a stellar infographic by PR guru Matt Prince, who can also be credited for the title of this post, “Today, companies are becoming a lot more like individuals, and individuals are becoming a lot more like companies. In the words of the great philosopher Jay Z: ‘I’m not a business man, I’m a business, man.’”
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