Ten Points to Branding Yourself: An Essential Part of the Marketing Strategy for the Entrepreneur
What is Branding for Yourself?
Branding yourself does not need to be some mysterious, mystical activity that takes years to master, because whether intentional or not, you make an impression each time you meet and interact with someone or someone observes you. This interaction can be face to face or it can be in cyberspace. Either way, as human beings, we continually receive information about our surroundings and those in it; we send cues and others are receive and react to those cues - positively or negatively. When you are deliberate about the way you would like for others to perceive you and to perceive your business, large or small, you are branding yourself.
Entrepreneurial marketing is all about human relationship building and the way your products or services align with your potential customers. In short, entrepreneurial marketing is an important element of branding yourself, projecting the way you want your clients (or employer and coworkers) to view you.
What image are you projecting when your clients view your business and you. In other words, how are you branding yourself?
A capable, positive image that will either further your business prospects or further your endeavors at work, form the components of your desirable brand. After all, very few willingly do business with someone who is slovenly and does not seem to be able to take care of themselves, let alone be responsible for executing a successful project.
Image and branding are close kin to style. When we think of style, we think of the superficial - the clothes you wear, the way you decorate your home or the attitude you assume. When you consider your personal brand, the superficial has its place (think logo), but you go beyond the superficial and move into the realm of the core of who you are, what your values are. It is an amalgamation of the way you move through space and time - building trust, forming relationships, building your business.
The Way to Branding Yourself
Do you think you have established a brand for yourself? Have you given any serious thought to what you project when someone meets you, when someone does business with you? Does your personal brand align with the brand you established for your business?
Like it or not, you brand yourself all the time, if only by default. But having a brand by default is not preferable nor does it necessarily enhance or advance your business. You should take control of your personal brand. Celebrities realize the importance of a personal brand. They promote that brand (themselves) all the time. Are you and your business any less important?
If you haven't firmly established your brand, there are a few elements that should consistently ring true when considering your image, your personal brand. Most of the elements are usually found within your principles and core means of operating. Look to your vision and your mission statement. Do they contain words like superior, timely, caring and other superlatives that point to you and your business as the one that will get the job done and be a cut above? The concepts should not be foreign to you and can go a long way in establishing you as someone others will repeatedly want to do business with and will recommend to their colleagues .
A few of the attributes that you should incorporate into your brand are listed here. More than likely, you are already branding yourself and displaying many of these qualities. Keep in mind that branding yourself is just one aspect of your business and successful entrepreneurial marketing.
- Reliability. This is at the core of establishing your personal brand. Prospective customer want to know that if you commit to an action or deliverable, there will be results. You establish your credibility when you deliver. When speaking with prospective clients, they are trying to ascertain how reliable you are going to be. That is one reason they may want references - to check your reliability.
- Take action. Don't be known as an extra or a sideline dweller. They are rarely noticed as anyone other than place holders or fillers. Be in the mix; be known for taking action. Unless you are the cheerleader(and they take lots of action), get out on the field.
- Stand on your convictions. Don't be brash about your beliefs, but don't shy away from expressing them when it's appropriate. This is part of possessing integrity... and backbone. A word of caution, however, don't introduce or discuss religion or politics with your prospective clients. Rather, stand on your convictions when it comes to your expertise in business. If you know that the concept your client wants to adopt will fly in the face of all that you have learned over the years, be sure to let your client know. It may prevent a costly mistake and eliminate the risk of you taking the blame. You will inevitably hear "why didn't you tell me? You're supposed to be the expert!"
- Be timely. Arrive at your appointments 15 minutes early. One of my staff was known for being 15 minutes early. I appreciated that, since I could count on the meeting starting on time. Seeing my reactions, soon the rest of the staff wouldn't just be on time (or, in a few cases, late), they would arrive early. If the appointment is a phone conference, webinar or computer conference, be a few minutes early dialing in. Don't leave your prospective customer waiting. This is a demonstration of your respect for your colleague's or client's schedule. It also prevents you arriving at your appointment disheveled and harried, surefire image busters.
- Exude confidence. I'm not telling you to be cocky or arrogant, but you should not be afraid to demonstrate that you believe in who you are; you have a solid belief in your abilities and capabilities. Your colleagues who also have confidence in themselves will appreciate your confidence and will have more faith in your services and products. (Conversely, anyone that is insecure may mistake your confidence for arrogance and feel very intimidated.) Which leads to...
- Know your audience, client, or employer. For some, this is as natural as breathing. They are very good at picking up subtle cues. For the rest of us, it is a skill we must develop. Did your client arrive on time? Then they probably value timeliness. Were they neatly dressed or was their office neat and tidy? They probably value organization. You get the picture. Be observant. Once you know your client, convert that to putting them at ease. People like to work with those they feel comfortable with.
- "Deliver the goods," but don't oversell the goods. You've heard it before, be known for under promising and, subsequently, delivering the sun, moon and the stars. Don't just turn over the report, be early. Put the work in a binder, using the good paper and colorful tabs to separate the sections. Make an extra copy or two at no cost to your client. They will remember.
- Dress the part. You should develop your own signature style for your image and for your business. Make yourself/your business memorable. Dress is an easy way to show your style and be memorable. It should, however, fit your business. If you are an accountant, a more businesslike dress is appropriate, usually suit and tie at a formal meeting. Certainly not a muscle shirt and jeans. If you are a tattoo artist, why not dress in all one color, such as black, to represent a blank "canvass." Choose an item that will stand out. The former mayor of Atlanta wears a signature flower on her lapel. A huge flower - always. In the same city, a Councilwoman is never seen unless she is wearing a well tailored power suit and heels. (Never mind that she was very petite, hence the heels and was more than likely wearing an off the rack suit. She had them altered to fit as if they were tailor made.) Adopt a signature piece to your outfit.
- Do sweat the small stuff. Write thank you notes, always followup with a phone call to new individuals not just an email. Ask their permission before adding them to your subscription list. Send birthday cards to your friends, family and prospective clients. Find a way to keep in constant touch with prospective clients for reasons other than business. The internet gives a myriad of ways for that to happen. Explore them. You will be rewarded with a growing business.
- Most of all, be consistent. When you are consistent, people will trust that you can "deliver the goods." They will automatically think "She's done it before, she can do it again!"
Set Yourself Apart
Don't be afraid to set yourself apart. Get noticed; this will help you grow your business or improve your status with your employer. You can be as subtle with your approaches as you feel you should be, but be deliberate as you include branding yourself as part of your entrepreneurial marketing strategy. It's as applicable to freelance writers who are earning their living with their words as it is to the tattoo artist with his paints and needle. It's applicable to the small business that is just starting out or one that is well into the tenth year. It applies to the CEO of the corporation and it applies to the receptionist at the front desk. Whoever you are, you make an impression wherever you go, in whatever you do. It's part of branding yourself, even though you may have only been unwittingly branding yourself up to this point. Make the impression you create count as part of your memorable, positive, personal brand.
Writers, photographers, musicians and artists are often entrepreneurs who would like their work recognized and sold.
Have you ever given any thought to branding yourself?
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