Each day, small business owners fail to maximize the most valuable asset they have: themselves. They invest hours creating marketing copy that touts the benefits of their products. They spend a small fortune on a website. They plunk down thousands on ingredients, supplies, labels and everything else. While those things are important, none of them will ensure that your products stand out in the crowd. Why? Because you're not the only one with great products, websites and marketing copy.
But you are the only business with Y-O-U! That's right, you are your businesses's most valuable asset because you are the only thing you have that no one else has. Before I knew exactly what business I would be in, I began to define, nurture and share my personal brand. You should do the same no matter where you are on your business journey. Here are five specific actions you can take to build your personal brand:
Tell people who you are. Create a short phrase that summarizes who you are and what you do. Maggie Hanus calls herself “The Soap Bartender.” Lisa Rodgers calls herself “The Guinea Chick.” Jamila White calls herself “The E-Commerce Diva.” Jamie Oliver made his mark by calling himself “The Naked Chef.” I am the “Chief Executive Indie.”
Each name is memorable and easy to remember in association with the person and the business. People hearing it over and over again begin to associate it with you. It defines you and makes it easier for people to remember who you are and what you do.
Use the power of your smile. Put your photograph everywhere it makes sense to have it. The avatar at your social networks should not be your baby or your dog or the flowers your husband gave you for your anniversary yesterday. It should be your smiling face looking tidy and professional. The picture should be clear, bright and crisp. (See the photo accompanying this post.) It should say, “Hi! I want to do business with you. How can I help?”
Your smile is your visual hand shake. You are the only one with that exact signature. Use it to your advantage.
Develop relationships with and promote others. Display your connections with people you can count on to make you look your best, and vice versa. Snap pictures of yourself with influential people in your industry and share them at your blog, FaceBook Page, on Flickr and elsewhere so people can see you in action. Interview your esteemed colleagues for your blog. Share the depth of your connections in circles that matter to your customers and clients. This is one of the most effective ways to establish yourself as a “go to” person when it comes to the types of products you offer.
I've heard it said that you can get to know a person simply by getting to know the people they are connected to. This is true. Who you hang out with defines and shapes who you are, inside and out.
Introduce yourself with confidence. Get used to saying, “My name is Donna Maria Coles Johnson, and I help small business owners use technology and the Internet to create relationships and make more money.” In that sentence, swap out my name and what I do for your name and what you do. Make it short and clear. And most importantly, make it authoritative. First impressions count. What you say about yourself, and how you say it, matters.
When you speak confidently about yourself and what you do, your personal brand and your business are strengthened, and your opportunities in life increase exponentially.
Use all of your assets. In a television interview years ago, David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D. FAAFP, FACPM, FACP, America's 10th Assistant Secretary for Health and its 16th Surgeon General of the United States, was asked why he wore his surgeon general's uniform everywhere he went, when most of his predecessors wore it mainly on formal occasions. Dr. Satcher replied that he could only maximize his influence as a policy maker if he was backed by the full weight and impact of his office, and that included his uniform with all of it decorations and stripes.
I believe this is true. If by virtue of your accomplishments, you have earned certain degrees or awards, use them to your advantage.
Humility is critical, but it does not require you to hide your light under a bushel.
Question: How do you refine and strengthen your personal brand?