While you’ve encountered hundreds of brands in your lifetime, you likely struggle to define what a brand actually is. Many would say a brand is a logo or symbol. Symbols such as the red Coca-Cola logo or the Mercedes three-pronged star emblem may come to mind. In reality, a brand is much more than a symbol alone.
Your brand is how customers think and feel about your company and how they see themselves in relation to it. Regardless of your industry, personal branding can take your business to the next level. Just because you have a logo, a set of business cards, and an ad in the local paper does not mean you have an established brand.
Your personal brand should be a cohesive, authentic representation of who you are. An effective branding strategy utilizes multiple channels to tell your story in a way that connects with potential customers. When your brand story is authentic and relatable, customers begin developing trust from the first time they encounter it. Aim to build your business on this foundation of trust. Here are a few tips to make sure your branding strategy is reaching its potential.
Consider Your Audience
Before you set out to develop your brand message, you first need to think about whom you’d like to tell it to. In other words, imagine your ideal customer. You’ll want to create a profile for this imaginary customer. What sort of things do they do in their spare time? What is most important to them? Where do they shop? What inspires them? Most importantly, what do they value most?
According to the Harvard Business Review, aligned values are the key to building a relationship with your customers. You may question why brand fanatics camp out in lines for product releases or why certain people are stubbornly loyal to one chain of restaurant. To these people, it makes perfect sense. They connect with the feelings and values they associate with these companies so strongly that they’re willing to go above what’s considered normal behavior just to be a customer.
Think of, and answer, as many of these questions as you possibly can. The more you understand your ideal client and their values, the better you can craft your brand message to meet them where they are. This is a crucial step in developing a brand that connects and inspires loyalty.
Develop Your Brand Online
Your online reputation is just a valuable as word-of-mouth referrals when it comes to building your personal brand. In fact, a reported 84% of people trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. Keeping this in mind, you’ll need to develop a healthy web presence that incorporates social media, content marketing, and a branded personal domain.
Utilize social media marketing to connect with customers on a more personal level. Modern customers will look for your brand on social media. The content on your social profiles is often their first impression of you and your business. Social media marketing varies a great deal from traditional marketing. Where traditional marketing channels, like print, are more one-sided, you should aim to utilize platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat as collaborative channels for conversation. Leverage these two-way channels to post helpful content and start a conversation with your audience.
Purchase a personal web domain. Try to get your full name or company name incorporated into your domain name if it’s available. Your site doesn’t have to do too much to be effective. At a minimum, it should have vital branded information about you and your business, provide a way for customers to sign up and receive email alerts, and display links to external pages, like a blog or videos.
A blog is an extremely effective way to build a personal brand by positioning yourself as a resource for industry knowledge. This is where you’ll post helpful content targeted to your ideal client. Your blog should focus on delivering valuable content only. Think back to when you developed your ideal customer profile. What kind of questions would that customer have that are specific to your field? Create blog posts that answer these questions, and you’ll soon be a recognized expert in your industry.
Leverage Industry Recognition
Leveraging the authority of awards and certifications from industry organizations is a great way to develop your brand. Don’t be shy. Be sure to incorporate these recognitions as part of your branding efforts. These accolades help develop your position as a knowledgeable source in your field. Include any badges and seals for the certifications and awards you’ve earned in your print marketing, social profiles, and website.
Seek out and join industry professional organizations, and consider obtaining any certifications that they offer. Not only can this improve your brand, it will also present opportunities to network with other professionals in your field. Develop benchmarks that will position you for recognition. Of course, recognition alone should never be your only source of incentive, but you should account for how valuable these awards are as you’re planning your branding strategy.
Branding is often misunderstood, but it’s not rocket science. By truly understanding your ideal customer and their values, you’ll know how and where to connect with them. Once you understand your audience and have crafted your story, leverage various channels to spread your message and set yourself apart from the competition. If you put the thought and effort into your personal brand strategy, you’ll convert customers into loyal fans.