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Personal Brand Building as an Entrepreneur: More Than Marketing

Amie Parnaby
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personal brand

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Whether you’re an entrepreneur with a world-beating idea or a small startup just branching out with your business, you are a busy person. Who has time among all the business building and brand marketing to build a personal brand too? Aside from the time aspect, many business owners still feel that building a personal brand is like building a personality cult. People should be more interested in the product or service the business provides than the people behind it.  

This is far from the truth. If you think of some of the biggest brands in the world right now, can you put a face or personality to the name? 

  • Microsoft?
  • Tesla?
  • Apple?
  • Berkshire Hathaway?
  • VaynerX (that one’s easy if you frequent LinkedIn)
  • Virgin?
  • Facebook?

You probably know all of these people because they have a personal brand alongside their brand identity. You might not always agree with their politics, beliefs or values, but you know them, and you know their product. That’s not to say you need a personal brand to become the next big thing but having a personal brand in conjunction with a brand identity has some incredible benefits.

Why is Your Personal Brand Almost as Important as Brand Identity?

It’s all very well having a clearly defined brand identity, but sometimes that’s all it is. It’s all about the brand and the product. Where’s the story behind the company? Who am I dealing with when I choose you over another similar company? What do you bring to the table above anyone else? You can approach some of these questions with your brand mission statement, but there’s always the human element missing.

Personal branding brings humanity and humility back into the mix and makes a brand infinitely more attractive when we know a person is at its heart. However, building your complementary personal brand doesn’t just have a customer focus. There are some hardcore business-based reasons for building your public profile too.

Trust, Authenticity, and Credibility

Trust is the bedrock of your business. If you are not trustworthy, it’s difficult for people to do business with you; people want to trust that your product will solve their problem or enhance their lives. The benefit of the personal brand is that you are a person with real feelings and values. It isn’t easy to trust an entity created to tell you what you want to hear. Personal investment, expertise and belief in your product will sell more than any well-placed ad. It will place you as a thought leader and authority in your industry niche. Authenticity will do the same. 

Trust and authenticity lead to credibility, and credibility is crucial for your future endeavours. Investors are more likely to invest in a person than a business model. If you have a personal brand that screams your credibility, both customers and investors are more likely to believe in you and your product. It’s just good business.

“If people like you, they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

– Zig Ziglar, Author, salesman, and motivational speaker.

Network Connections Growth

If you want to make it easier for people to find you, understand your motivations and values, and trust your company, you need a personal brand that lets people do that. If you look at Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Sir Richard Branson, they all have more social media followers than their respective business pages. People are drawn to people rather than things.

“Networking that matters is helping people achieve their goals.”

Seth Godin, Author and Marketing Hall of Fame.

Exposure in the Media

A person is far more interesting than a business. Media outlets can talk about a great new business as much as they like, but it will just look and sound like a straight marketing plug. However, if you can talk about the “man (or woman) behind the curtain”, there’s a lot more to it. You can open a discussion, relay advice, and yes, talk about your amazing company and it’s products.

Whether you like it or not, journalists and TV agents cover more people than they do companies. Your personal brand will make it easier to reach out and make the connections you need to get media exposure for your business.

Attract Clients 

When you position yourself correctly as an industry expert or a thought leader in your niche, it attracts clients. More people do an internet search for solutions, services or products before looking at what they actually want. If you have a product that is the solution they are looking for and are out there talking about it and yourself, they will find you. Moreover, it is easier and more credible for them to refer you to others from that position of authority.

“Personal Branding is all about your unique promise of value and what you bring to the table. It’s (also) about getting your potential clients to choose you as the only solution to their problem.”

Dr Sarah David

Differentiation – Stand out

What is it about your company and your products that make you stand out against your competitors? In a saturated market, quality and service can fluctuate quickly and mostly even out as competitive business intelligence usually does. However, your business has you. You are the defining feature of your company, and your personal brand is the key to getting your message out there. Your motivations and passions will speak to your clients and customers in a way that a business social media account can’t.

“As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges you will face will be building your brand. The ultimate goal is to set your company and your brand apart from the crowd.” 

Ryan Holmes, Founder and CEO of Hootsuite

Personal and Professional Platform for the Future

Very few businesses stay the same forever because people and demographics change over time, and adaptation is the way to ensure your business survives – much like the human race. You may expand your business into new niches or even start multiple new companies along your entrepreneurial journey. However, if you take your personal brand with you for the rest of your career, you have a foundation of trust and credibility that will lead people to trust your business expansions or new ventures. Customers will more likely transfer across your different brands, and investors are more likely to put money into a venture when you already have established credibility.

“With so much content and so many small businesses popping up online, a brand that connects to a person’s face is much easier to trust faster. It takes less time and effort to build a relationship with a personal brand as compared to a business brand.”

Pia Silva, Badass Your Brand

Personal Connection

I’ll reiterate that people connect with people. Some want to know your politics, values and causes you believe in. They might like to learn from your experiences. It could be all of the above. The point is that they want to hear from the person, not the marketing machine. They want your relatable stories, they want your drives, and they want discourse. By putting yourself out there, advocating for your brand with your expertise, belief, and ideals, you create a human target for people to connect with in a way they can’t with a company. You are the protagonist in your own story, and people relate to stories far more than they do facts and numbers.

“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.”

Seth Godin, Author and Marketing Hall of Fame

How to Build a Personal Brand and Grow Your Business

Now you know why a personal brand is so vital to helping you build and expand your business, we ought to get into some technicalities on how to do it. 

Define Yourself (outside of your business)

Who are you? You have to define who you are, your values, and the ethos you work by before you can start creating your personal brand. The trick is that you have to align your public persona with your company’s ethos and mission. If your company’s primary clientele are hardcore, right-wing traditionalists, you might not want to create a liberal, progressive, and disruptive personal brand or vice versa. However, if you are building a company and a product from your passions, it’s unlikely that you’ll have wildly opposing values to those of your clients.

Think about your “story”. Who are you? What motivates you? Which causes are important to you? How do they align with your brand identity? 

“It’s important to build a personal brand because it’s the only thing you’re going to have. Your reputation online and in the new business world is pretty much the game, so you’ve got to be a good person. You can’t hide anything, and more importantly, you’ve got to be out there at some level.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia (among others)

What is your starting point?

This is an excellent question. What is already out there to define your public persona? Is your current online footprint something you can build upon or something you would rather erase? Well, erasing your online footprint could be problematic, but you can enhance what’s already there. If there is something in your former posts that doesn’t align with your current thinking or contradicts what you want your personal brand to say, you can address it. 

“We all have personal brands, and most of us have already left a digital footprint, whether we like it or not.”

Amy Jo Martin, CEO of Digital Royalty

Make a Plan

Like any other asset, your personal brand is supposed to complement your business venture. It doesn’t need to align precisely with the way your business operates, that would be counterintuitive, but you want to have common touchpoints. You can’t ensure you have a personal brand that enhances your business without creating a plan. You have defined yourself and your values, and you know your starting point. Use those two to create a blueprint for how you will craft your personal brand into the future.

“If you form a strategy without doing the research, your brand will barely float – and at the speed industries move at today, brands sink fast.”

Ryan Holmes, Founder and CEO of Hootsuite

Use Social Media Properly

Choose your platforms wisely and appropriately. You don’t have to post the same things on all the platforms you use; be selective. Choose the right platform for the media you produce. Highly visual industries need to focus on getting a significant following and engagement on platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, and maybe even YouTube. Alternately, long-form articles, white papers, and technical writing do better on LinkedIn and Twitter, where people are more likely to engage in conversation.

Who are you targeting, and what are your tools? If you are talking about professional issues, you would probably want to be on LinkedIn, connecting with like-minded entrepreneurial peers (clients find you here too). If you’re going to talk about your business’s human side, the people in your company, or even a cause that’s important to you personally, Twitter might be the ideal platform. Showcasing products or positive service outcomes is perfect for Instagram. Facebook is a good aggregator of all three of the others while also managing to engage with people who only have maybe one or two social accounts.

Make sure you add some of your personal brand in your posts. Potential clients, investors, and partners want to know where you stand on important issues.

“Proper social media use highlights your strengths that may not shine through in an interview or application and gives the world a broader view of who you are. Use it wisely.”

Amy Jo Martin, CEO of Digital Royalty

Connect With Your Audience

Choose your target audience; who are they? The old saying about not being able to please everyone all the time is always valid here. You will never appeal to everyone, even within your target demographic, so don’t even try. 

The best course of action is defining your ideal clients; these are the people who will benefit most from what your business offers, pay for it, and refer their friends to you. So what do they look like? You know your target demographics; how do you get them interested in you?

From your target of your ideal clients, you can work outwards from there. Don’t waste time, effort, and authenticity on trying to appeal to people far outside of your target clients. You will fail.

Do you know who else should be in your target audience? Other leaders in your industry. Reach out and establish a connection. When you form a network of contacts within your industry, it’s a community, even when they’re your competitors. You can discuss issues within the industry and how you tackle corporate social responsibility (a hot topic these days).

“If you try to resonate with everyone, you will resonate with no one.”

John Lee Dumas, Entrepreneurs on Fire

Get Others to Promote You

The whole thing about growing your network is that you get to access numerous people, from customers and clients to peers and even mentors. And the trick is to get them to do some of your promotion for you. No one likes someone who talks about themselves all the time like a human billboard; it’s a turn off for collaborators and clients. Engage with clients over recommendations and reviews, discuss collaboration efforts with other entrepreneurs, or simply ask for a mutual endorsement from a peer.

“Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Increase Your Presence & Engagement

Join the conversation. Don’t just post and sit back. Engage with other posters, comments and people. Content is King, and engagement is Queen. Relevant content on your platforms is crucial, and that content comes from the heart and soul of you. When you post content, engage with the people who talk back – even if they disagree.

It’s not just about social media. Spread your brand beyond the #hashtag and find new outlets. Some examples could be guest slots on webinars or podcasts, guest articles in magazines or posts on someone else’s blog. You could volunteer to talk at a local conference or even a school about your industry or entrepreneurship in general.

If no one is asking you, you do the asking.

“Be Bold, and Original. Tell ’em something that they don’t know.”

Melinda Emmerson, “SmallBizLady,”

Personal Brand & Brand Identity: Two sides of the coin

Your company’s brand identity is about your brand and what it does for your customers. Your personal brand is the sparkle you bring to the company, now and into the future. No one said that you need a personality cult to do it right. You just need to engage with your peers, your clients, and your customers, let them see who you are and why they want to do business with you.

Stand up and be your own brand ambassador. Stand out with your story, engagement, emotional commitment to your clients, motivation, determination, expertise, and everything else you can pour into your business to give the customers what they need from your product.

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