As an entrepreneur, I try to be upbeat and optimistic, but let’s face it… It is UGLY out there! If you’re a solo professional or a small business, it is down right scary! As the worldwide economic roller coaster ride continues, consumer confidence continues to decline. That means our customers and prospects – the folks who (we hope) buy products or services from you and me – are getting a whole lot more cautious and conservative about how they spend their hard-earned and quickly disappearing cash!
Consumers are freaked-out, confused, uncertain – perhaps even panicked. And that means that they are thinking long and hard before they reach for that credit card or click the “buy” button online. That’s why it’s more important than ever to have a breakthrough brand! If you’ve got a strong, well-defined brand identity, you have a much better chance of not only surviving, but thriving, in a down economy.
In uncertain, tumultuous times, people stick with what they know. They want the familiar, the predictable, the reliable – They want the safe choice. More than ever, consumers want to buy from a “brand” name. Someone they know, like and trust. Someone they can count on. Someone who stands for something. Better yet, someone who shares their values.
A personal brand is the foundation of building the trust and credibility that a consumer demands. It’s your connection to your customer. It’s much more than a slogan or a tagline – it’s your promise. Deliver consistently on that promise and you’re on your way to developing a strong brand.
If you ever hope to achieve that glorious and coveted “brand loyalty” – the kind that weathers economic storms – then you must first create a brand that is unique, memorable and remarkable. Your personal brand must be authentic and relevant. It has to “speak” directly to your target market. Most of all, your brand has to be true to you.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a mega-corporation with an ad agency, million-dollar media buys, or an office full of brand managers to build a breakthrough brand. You can compete with the big guys and level the playing field with a little creativity and some simple Web 2.0 technology. In fact, with the tools and resources of the Internet at your fingertips, there’s never been a better time to build your personal brand…
How to develop a strong personal brand identity
While the Internet has made it a whole lot simpler for us so-called “little guys” to compete, that doesn’t get you off the hook for creating the basic, standard credibility-builders. These are all the pieces that make up the framework of your brand: Your name; your logo; your business cards; your website; your e-mail signature; your photo; your tag line. These are all part of the branding process, but they are not your brand.
Your brand is who you are, who you serve, what you do, and what you stand for. Everything else must fit into that structure. Don’t get hung up on your slogan or your logo. Unless your logo has achieved icon status like Nike or Apple, no one is ever going to buy anything based on just a logo. Consumers are much more likely to part with their money if they understand who you are and what you stand for. As “Book Yourself Solid” author Michael Port says, “People buy based on what they value.” If your customers share your values and your world view, you’re on your way to the blissful state of brand loyalty.
In order to develop a strong personal brand identity, you have to first decide how YOU want to be known in your market. If you don’t proactively and intentionally create your own brand, someone else will do it for you – and that is never a good thing! You want to control your own destiny, right? So, what do you want to be known for? What kind of image do you want to portray? Advertising types would call this your “unique selling proposition.” It’s how you differentiate yourself from everyone else and stand out from the competition.
Again, borrowing the language of the Book Yourself Solid system, “a personal brand will help clearly and consistently define, express, and communicate who you are, whom you serve, and why you have chosen to dedicate your life and work to serving your target market.”
As a Book Yourself Solid Certified Coach, I use Michael Port’s proven and powerful method for helping solo professionals develop their personal brand. That process has two components: Your “who and do what” statement and your “why you do it” statement. As Michael points out: “Successful people find their style, build a brand based on it, and boldly express themselves through that brand. It’s powerful and it makes you memorable.”