Wednesday 10 August 2016

Why Your Personal Brand Matters!

Written by Robyn T. Braley

The people who matter to your career and business growth have an opinion about you. Whether you are the CEO of a large corporation, a student, warehouse worker, teacher, online marketer, pest control technician, truck driver, welder, farmer, salesperson or bootstrapper, what they think matters and will influence your success or failure.

Each of us has a brand. For those who own a business, your company brand will usually be closely aligned with your personal brand, particularly in the early years. It only makes sense that the business will take on the personality of the founder. But, the two brands will still have differences.

Defining your personal brand requires authenticity and transparency. Begin by asking pointed questions that require thoughtful and honest answers. 

  1. What am I best known for?
  2. What do others think I am known for?
  3. What do I want others to know me for?
  4. What do I need to change to reshape their opinion?

The answers will help you identify the basic elements of your personal brand. You will find positives to build on, and negatives that need some work. Building your brand is a life-long process that requires periodic self-checks.

In writing the Brandit Bootstrapping series, I assume you are starting your business with few or zero resources. That is, you have few resources other than your personal arsenal of skills and abilities. You are it! The beginning and the end. It's all up to YOU!

Understanding You Personal Brand

My definition of a brand is simply this; a brand is what others think it is. Full stop! 

What do you think of a piece of cheese? A car? A pair of shoes? A fine wine? What you think of those items determine whether you will buy them. The definition is never more relevant than when it is applied to your personal brand.

If clients associated you with an animal, what would they pick? A lion? A rat? An Eagle? A butterfly?

Building your personal brand begins before you start building your company brand. As the company grows, the brand of your company will evolve out of your personal brand. As they grow, the two may take different paths.

For the record, I intentionally use the word PERSONAL rather than CAREER. Why? In the age of social media, your career and your personal lives intersect and blend.

The wild and crazy guy shown doing wild and crazy things on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube may not be the person your client will feel confident they can trust handling their multi-million dollar account. So, before you click send count to 5 and think "career."

Personal Equity

If you want your startup business to succeed, you must have a clear understanding of your personal equity. That doesn’t mean you have all the answers. I've accomplished things I never would have thought possible when I cofounded Unimark. However, I knew I had the basic skills package and a passion for helping others with their branding.

Honesty requires that your self-assessment recognizes your attributes as they are today, not as you wish them to be, or what you feel they will become. What I’m saying is, be yourself. You have a personal style and approach to life and your profession that is unique and has brought you this far.

You might say a strong personal brand is like a perfectly tailored suit. It fits! You look into a full length mirror, and think you look good. That makes you feel good and gives you the confidence that only comes through being comfortable living in your own skin. 

If you try to be someone you aren’t, others will soon sense your lack of transparency and authenticity. Being authentic and transparent leads to a growing self-confidence and belief in your abilities.

In high school, a fellow student named Denis was enamored with two men; Winston Churchill and a local pastor. Every day he wore a suit and Churchillian bowler hat in a student culture where jeans and a golf shirt were the norm.  

Adding to the picture, the pastor had a prosthetic leg and limped slightly because of it. He also carried an old fashioned brief case. As I'm sure you've already guessed, Denis carried his schoolwork in a similar briefcase and walked with a limp for effect.

To suggest Denis was considered odd is an understatement. The point is, he was neither Winston, the pastor or Denis. We didn’t know who he was and most days he didn’t either. As a consequence, he found it difficult to establish meaningful relationships with other students.

Why Relationships Matter

When starting a business, success depends on receiving various levels of help from others. You reach out hoping they will reach back.

Arlene Dickenson is a highly successful Canadian businesswoman who started an advertising agency with few resources. Under her leadership, it grew into one of the top firms in Canada.

But, her personal brand extends far beyond that of her business. While her personal brand grew out of her company, there are many who hold 'the Arlene brand' in high esteem while knowing little about the success of her company or even her association with it. 

They know her as a broadcast personality, author, speaker, investor, mentor, small business champion or a philanthropist. She comes across as a person who cares and has a passion for what she does.

She credits relationships for her success. In a recent blog post she stated, “You simply can’t build a business alone. Believe me, I speak from experience. You need other people to make it work. All kinds of other people.”

“So how can you make that happen,” she continues? “I believe it means getting out there and developing relationships with the people who can help you achieve your objectives.”


Relationship Basics
At its most basic, to succeed in business, you must shape what others think of you. As they begin to feel they know you, they will begin to like you. Liking leads to trust in what you say and do.

Trust is the foundation of business relationships. Once trust has been established, the door is open for engagement which leads to some form of transaction. 

Transactions take Different Forms

  • You earned the right to make a project proposal
  • You sold your product or service
  • You formed an alliance with someone who does things you can’t
  • You got the loan
  • You traded services for a car
  • You convinced a supplier to bill net 60 rather than net 30 to help with cash flow
  • You persuaded a colleague with complimentary skills to collaborate
  • You are given high level business advice for a low level cost.

Brand Analysis

Fully understanding what others think of you begins when you know what you think of yourself.

At some point, you’ve probably done a self-audit in high school, college or a leadership development seminar. It may have been called self-evaluation, self-analysis or personal assessment. 

What words describe who you are?


What words describe your weaknesses?

Miss deadlines
Late for meetings

Value Package

Regardless of how highly potential clients and collaborative partners regard you, they must also feel you will add value to their business success. In its simplest form, a successful relationship must provide win-win benefits for both parties.

In my grandson's imagination, this is a huge earth hauling tractor. In my mind, it is a toy dump truck. We agree that it is a truck, but have different ideas about its' value and what it can do. 

What value do you offer? I have clients who value my availability. Because Unimark has provided services for many years, they know they can count on our same day response when they have a problem. They know we understand the nuances of their market and will work hard to find a solution.  

For others, my value added benefit is my network. I dabble in politics, am a Rotarian, speak at business conferences and network vigorously. And, I like people and am not shy about striking up conversations with anyone, anywhere at anytime. I meet interesting people.

Clearly identifying your value package is the stepping stone to building value-based relationships.

§  Skills
§  Abilities
§  Relevant knowledge
§  Inspiration
§  Problem solving ability
§  Demonstrated hunger for learning
§  Attention-to-detail
§  Network
§  Community involvement

Target Marketing

You would never begin marketing a business before gaining a clear and concise understanding of it products and services. You must determine who potential customers are, and why what you offer will matter to them. Sometimes clients view overall product quality as secondary to intrinsic values offered by the seller like customer care.

1.    Who are your potential customers?
2.    What benefit do you offer them?
3.    How will that solve their problems?
4.    What makes you different from your competitors?

Putting a Price on It

The real and perceived value you offer will determine how much money you can charge for your services. For example, the corporate lawyer working in the executive suite and the fork lift driver working in the warehouse are paid two vastly different dollar amounts for an hour’s work.

However, the company can’t survive without either job being fulfilled. They are simply valued differently.

Years ago many sales reps sold radio advertising by walking into a client’s office and declaring, “My station is number one. How do you like me so far?”

What they failed to realize was that being number one had no value if the client’s customers didn’t listen to that station. Having 500,000 weekly listeners mattered little if they listened to the station with only 50,000. Today, sophisticated analytics has brought a whole new science to media buying and how pricing is evaluated. 

Testimonials - Just Ask Them

How do you find out what clients, suppliers, and others think of you? Ask them. Ask for a testimonial. You will also be able to use it as a marketing tool.

If you have a relationship that goes beyond the client-supplier one, you can ask more pointed questions. If you have a mentor, which I strongly advise you to think about, ask them. Be prepared for answers that may not all be what you want to hear. 

Many years ago, I taught High School Drama. My classes were overflowing due to the popularity of my program.

One day my Principal, Brian Target, pulled me aside in the staff room and had a blunt conversation with me. He started by mentioning my strengths, then added that my Achilles heel was procrastination. I put off doing things that I didn't like such as budgets and marking. I was usually one of the last to submit my work.

I was embarrassed and somewhat hurt. I wasn't used to hearing that kind of criticism. But it was true and Brian cared enough about me to speak the truth because he also saw my potential

It didn't matter how successful I was in the kids eyes. In the world of reporting and administration, details matter. I had to do better. I took it to heart and learned from it! 

I chose to be better, not bitter. You can make a world of difference in your branding journey by exchanging an 'e' and an 'i'. It may be easier not to make any change at all and choose to be a sour Sammy or Simone. Changing for the better is part of personal brand building and growth.

Your Opinion Matters

Please share your comments. What have I missed in explaining personal branding? What caused you to think differently?  

Robyn T. Braley is a writer, speaker and occasional media guest. He is the President of UniMark Creative which does website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. He speaks at business conferences and also blogs about branding. 


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