Every business has a brand, whether we like it or not. For example, a hospital in our town merged with another firm two years ago. Sadly, their brand in the community has become “rundown, second rate hospital with unhappy workers.” The hospital didn’t choose that negative brand; they earned it—and now they’re stuck with it.
I notice many businesses around town work hard to create a friendly, upbeat brand for themselves—often based on the business owner’s personality and strengths.
You may be thinking, “Sure, it’s easy to brand yourself when you can hire marketing experts and have lots of money to spend.” That isn’t necessarily true. Even if you’re a one-person business, you WILL have a brand. Your challenge is to mold that brand into something positive. Maria Ross is a brand strategist, speaker, and author who specializes in helping small businesses grow and thrive. She says,
“Small organizations waste so much time and money on ‘random acts of marketing’ that get them nowhere, so more budget is not the answer. It’s about creating a clear brand strategy to target the right people with the right message at the right time. “
If you’re interested in building a brand with ten easy steps , I highly recommend the new, updated edition of Maria’s classic book: Branding Basics for Small Business. Midwest Book Review says, “This book is a wise and recommended read, not to be missed by any small business.” Here’s a link to the Amazon page: http://dld.bz/dmEPC
People have brands. Think about your favorite celebrities and how they branded themselves, with help from PR agencies and the media. Think of all those politicians who work so hard to brand themselves.
Your brand is what comes to mind when people think about you. Consider a few folks you know: In your life there may be a “grandmother who bakes cookies and crochets pot holders for the church yard sale,” or “overweight guy who watches TV a lot.” You get the picture. We humans love to categorize things, and that’s exactly what we do with other people. Personal branding is a normal, instinctive part of human society.
Personal branding means identifying and communicating what makes you unique and compelling to the world. If you want to sell yourself as a business owner, promote your artistic endeavors, or advance in the workplace as an employee, then think about your brand.
Perhaps the grandmother I mentioned above makes the world’s best cookies. Those pot holders become part of the brand when she opens a catering business. As for the overweight guy who watches TV a lot, what if he decides to change his image and become a fitness trainer, complete with before-and-after videos? Remember Jared Fogle, the Subway guy who lost 94 pounds eating their food? When the Subway brand needs a boost, Jared is still there after 15 years.
If your passion is embodied in a creative talent, such as writing, performing, or art, you definitely need a brand. Are you the serious literary type, quirky and avant-garde, outdoorsy, or romantic and free spirited? Lady Gaga or Bill O’Reilly?
These questions will help you focus:
- What makes you unique? How are you different from the people around you? What’s unusual about your work, experience, and personality?
- What do you have to offer the world? This is not the time to be humble. You DO have a lot to offer. I guarantee it. Keep in mind that even your flaws can be a positive part of the brand. Look at Governor Chris Christie with his outspoken attitude and overweight physique. He incorporated those things into his brand.
- What are your ultimate goals? What do you want people to say about you?
- You do have a target market, and this is the time to define it. Who do you want to notice your talents?
- How can you begin communicating your brand? (Think about your personal appearance, your office, business cards, the look of your web page and blog, how you relate to people, and basically everything you do.)
Personal branding is not manipulative, in case that’s what you’re thinking. Branding is an integral part of society and always has been, since the first men and women walked the earth. Finding your personal brand will give you more control and power over your own life, your clients, your job, the projects you work on, and how you approach your art.
What do YOU think?