When we talk about brand, we tend to think of businesses. We think of the big brand companies such as Coca Cola, Macdonalds, Nike and Apple. However, as a SME (small medium enterprise), building your business brand starts with you. You ARE your business. Your business IS you!
Building your business brand is therefore also about building your personal brand. As your business grows, however, you can start to develop a distinction between the two. The main difference is that when you sell your business, the business brand is passed on to the buyer, but your personal brand stays with you.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, put this very succinctly when he said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Whether you like it or not, your brand IS your reputation!
At its core, your business brand promise should define your entire business – it should define HOW you do business. Let’s look at two of those big brands. Apple’s brand promise is two-sided – their guarantee to create products based on seeing the world a little differently, and their promise to inspire their customers to do the same. Nike’s brand promise goes further than just their famous tag line “Just do it”. Their brand promise is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” and they go on to say that if you have a body, you’re an athlete!
BUSINESS BRAND OR PERSONAL BRAND
We all start out by wanting to build a business brand. We want to be able to sell the business someday. And most of all, we want to “hide”. We can’t do that if it’s a personal brand.
So we start by spending all our time trying to build a business brand. Let’s come back to the tried and tested marketing strategy that works EVERY TIME. People buy from those they know, like and trust. They cannot know, like and trust you unless they first know who YOU are. Therefore, even though we have a business, we can no longer try to hide behind “the business”. Kevin Stimpson said, “Having a personal brand is important for an entrepreneur because now more than ever, it’s important for CEOs and founders of companies/brands to come out to the forefront and connect with their audiences. People connect with people.”
Therefore, building your business brand is also about building your personal brand at the same time. Building your personal brand is about developing that persona around your name that says who you are. You must be proactive about how you perceived in the marketplace or others will do it for you! If you think that doesn’t happen, just look at the headlines in some popular magazines. I feel sorry particularly for those targeted by the paparazzi.
HOW DID OTHERS BUILT THEIR PERSONAL BRAND
When you look at what people project on social media, you THINK you know who they are. But often it’s not what it seems. Goldie Hawn rose to fame playing a dumb blonde. The persona she projected is that she is only a bubble-headed blonde. Don’t let that fool you. Goldie Hawn has a tested IQ of 140+ and is a card carrying member of Mensa. Marilyn Monroe was reputed to have an IQ of 168 (although that is not confirmed). Kim Kardashian has chosen to project a “wild, sexual” persona to the world but one of her posts claims that she is really quite “conservative” in the home. I will leave it to you to decide who is the real Kim Kardashian.
Even royalty has realised the value of a good brand name. Why else would the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attempt to trademark the name Sussex Royal (only to be prevented from doing so by the Royal Family).
CAN YOU SEPARATE YOUR PRIVATE LIFE FROM YOUR BUSINESS OR PERSONAL BRAND?
For those who have been fiercely protective of their privacy, if building a personal brand is not your cup of tea, you may want to reconsider your desire to become an influencer. You can to some extent “hide” but expect there to be an interest in your private life. The bigger your brand, the more people want to know about you. Look at public behaviour. I would suggest that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has as many followers as they do because people believe that it will give them access direct, authentic and real information about royalty.
Remember – people buy from those they “know, like and trust”.
Take it back to the “good old days” when business was done face to face. Business, especially for the Chinese, was often done over a meal where we get to know each other better. The bigger the deal, the more “touches” or meals were shared prior to closing the deal. You may even invite some of them to your home for a meal with your family. Business has not really changed. The medium might have changed – but the message remains the same. With most business now being done over the internet, how do we get to “know” the other person? You can only do that by sharing the same sort of information you would share over a meal with the other person. Selective sharing would appear to be the answer. However, you would need to be careful about what is shared – scam merchants are ready and willing to grab whatever information they can glean off the web and use it to scam you.
Think about it. When you have a meal with someone, you actually get to see what sort of food they like (so all those photos of the different dishes serve a purpose after all!), you find out a bit about their family, where the live and what they do. You also possibly even found out what their political and religious beliefs are. And given that most people cannot put up a front for long periods of time, you start to get a glimpse of their character and who they are when no one is looking.
Even on social media, people are looking to see the “real” you.
WHAT DOES GOOGLE SAY ABOUT YOU OR YOUR BUSINESS?
Have you ever googled yourself? A survey conducted on behalf of BrandYourself.com showed that nearly 50% of adults who did that didn’t like the results they saw! We live in a world where your online reputation can be your strongest asset or your biggest liability. 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more with 65% saying that online search gives the most trusted source of information about people and companies! I certainly found this to be true when I operated my Bed & Breakfast business. Businesses today live and die on its online reviews.
When I decided to finish up the Bed and Breakfast business, I closed every single account I had opened in that business name … or so I thought. 8 years later I am STILL getting phone calls from people wanting to book into my Bed & Breakfast. Websites I had never heard of had grabbed my information and posted my details. Trying to remove that digital footprint has been almost impossible. I stopped trying after the second year – I had good reviews and there was nothing to hide. The information on my Bed and Breakfast merely served to confirm to my current customers that I am who I said I am.
Whether you like it or not, the web knows everything and the web NEVER forgets. If you have ever posted anything on the internet including commenting on someone else’s social media account, you can be found simply by typing your name into a search engine. What was cute and funny at a party where you got a little drunk at 18 years old is not so cute and funny when you’re wanting to project yourself as professional and ethical. Don’t think that your potential customers or employers won’t check you out online first. They will and they do!
Can you ever delete your online regrets? The answer is – with difficulty! Is the answer therefore to just not have a digital presence at all? Not at all. People now expect you to be visible on line. A business without a website is often perceived as just a “hobby”, not a real business. In fact, some banks will not even lend you any money unless you have a website, or as a minimum, a Facebook Page. We’re now at the stage where people don’t trust you if you don’t have an online presence!
WHAT’S THEORETICALLY OFF-LIMITS IN BUILDING YOUR BRAND
Today’s politically correct society dictates that we are not to discuss religion, politics or sex. However, there are those who build their brand and reputation on challenging the norm of what can or cannot be discussed in public. Those are the ones who often get labelled as activists, racists, trouble makers, etc – and they pick up a following precisely because of their stance on certain issues.
Martin Iles of the Australian Christian Lobby has built a reputation with his video show “The Truth of It”. Elizabeth Johnston known as Activist Mommy has a slogan that says “Not on my watch”.
BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS BRAND
If you have never ever attempted to brand your business, make a start. Too many businesses are so busy just trying to make a living that they do not spend any time on this. However, if you want to get out of the Feast and Famine cycle that plagues so many businesses, then you must start on this.
There are just 5 steps to building your business brand. Don’t expect to do this overnight though. Building a brand takes time.
- KNOW WHAT IS THE PURPOSE BEHIND YOUR BUSINESS BRAND
Go back to the example from Nike and Apple. Their messaging on their brand is very clear. What is your message? What problem does your business solve? Most important, why would the customer care about your business? Why does your business exist? “To make a profit” is not the answer. Making a profit is just the result.
The bottom line is – What is the WHY behind your business?
People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. WHAT you do is simply proof of your beliefs. People buy from businesses that believe what they believe.
- KNOW WHO YOU WANT TO SERVE
When you’re building your business brand, it’s not about being able to serve everybody. You can never please all the people all the time. You’ll go crazy if you try. WHO are you wanting to serve? You must tailor your message to that audience. It’s tempting to say that “everyone” need your products or services. It is incredibly difficult to target message when you say that.
The way you talk to an elderly gentleman will be different to the way you talk to a young child. It is only when you narrow it down that you can create a brand identity that they can understand and relate to.
- KNOW WHAT YOUR COMPETITORS ARE DOING
You need to know what your competitors are doing. Then work out how you can be DIFFERENT. How do you convince a customer to buy from you rather than your competitor? How do you stand out in this noisy world? What messages do your competitors send out? How do they market their business? What is the quality of the competitors products or services? You need to know all that if you’re going to differentiate yourself and tell your potential customers why you’re special.
- KNOW WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT YOU
Think about WHY people would buy your products and focus on the qualities and benefits that makes your brand unique. What can they buy from you that they cannot buy from another business?
Why would I want to do business with you? What makes you so special? For example, why do you go to a particular restaurant? For me, it’s about the service I get. For example, in Perth, I have 2 Chinese restaurants really close to my home. One is more expensive than the other; both the food are equally tasty. I frequent the more expensive one because the owner greets me like a long-lost friend each time I go there; the other doesn’t appear to care whether I buy from them or not. It’s never about the price! It is the most important thing you must do if you are to be successful in business.
What brand voice do you want your business to project? Make sure that aligns with your target market. This is really important when it comes to blogging and vlogging. Your followers will expect you to say and project things a certain way. If you don’t, you will soon lose your followers.
- CREATE YOUR BRAND LOGO AND TAGLINE
This is often the first thing that people do when they’re creating a brand. It really should be the last. How can you have your visuals done unless you have first gone through the first 4 steps listed above? The brand style guide should include things such as the logo size, colors, font type and size, type of photos used, etc. If you need help, use a professional designer. The designer can also develop your brand guidelines to ensure that there is consistency of use.
BUILDING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Have I convinced you that you must also build your personal brand at the same time as you build your business brand? Whether you like it or not, when a potential customer checks out your business, the first thing they do is to also see WHO is behind the business and then they google to see what they can find out about you.
If you’re anything like me, I will not do business with any business where there is absolutely no information on their website about the people behind the business. I want to know that if there is a problem, there is a human I can reach out to. I will not do business with a faceless company. So you may as well give in! Like I said, you cannot hide!
Building your personal brand is about becoming a thought leader. It’s about becoming an influencer in your chosen field. It is something that you must continuously work on because it affirms to everyone that you are who you say you are. You see, no one can take your personal brand away from you. AND even if you change career, it’s still YOUR brand. You can use it to promote any other business you choose to do. Nothing shapes the opportunities you attract more than the personal brand that you project.
How do you go about building a personal brand? There are also just 5 steps to doing this – and all of them can be done from the safe confines of your home office. Having to build your brand during a global lock-down is one thing you can do!
- YOUR ONLINE FOOTPRINT
The same apply to your personal footprint. Google yourself. Find out what information is “out there”. If it’s information that you don’t want people to see, the very first step is to clean up your online footprint. Zdnet wrote an excellent detailed step by step guide on how to reduce your digital footprint online. The aim is not to completely remove your online presence off the face of this earth. The aim of this exercise is to remove the information that is no longer congruent with who you are today and the personal brand you wish to project. Bear in mind, this is another one of those projects that can take a little while to do! As I said before, I have STILL not been able to clean up my Bed & Breakfast business information completely – and that was 8 years ago!
- CLAIM YOUR PLATFORM
Decide on the platform you wish to use. If it’s a website, then you need to buy up your name as your domain name. Now, even if you don’t want to set up a website, buy up your domain name anyway. If it’s on social media, go and claim your URL now. You may not be ready to use it, but don’t wait till you are or you will find it almost impossible to get it. One of the things I’ve done for my kids and grandkids is I have bought up their names for them as a “gift”. When you think of it as their virtual real estate … it’s a very small price to protect their “property”. Do you know that some names are really expensive to buy?
- CLAIM YOUR TITLE
Become THE person the world goes to for your chosen field … Well, maybe not the world, but at least in your chosen marketplace. Learn everything you need to know about your chosen field. You want to OWN that space.
In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill said that knowledge is only power when it is specialised and organised. I would go one step further and say that it must also be shared – in other words, teach it. It is not enough for you to know it. I recall being told ages ago that if you can’t teach it, you don’t really know it. By logical extension of that argument, I would therefore have to say that unless I can teach it, how can I say I really KNOW it? And if I don’t really KNOW it, then I definitely cannot be said to have the necessary specialised knowledge! Nobel winner Richard Feynman understood this and created the Feynman Technigue for learning.
- EMBRACE THE EULOGY STRATEGY
How do I want to be remembered? I never even used to think about what I want to be known for or what values I want to represent. Today, I know what my priorities are. Will I be missed? Will someone want to pick up my legacy and continue to carry that message out to the world? Or will people say “Good riddance! The world is a better place with her!”. Unless you want to be known as a, say, John Maxwell copycat, you have to find your own style. Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. Use your own particular style and your own unique qualities to attract the customers you want. Create new footprints in the sand. Who knows what legacy you can leave behind. You could become the next Zig Ziglar or the next Jim Rohn.
- DECIDE ON YOUR PERSONA
Decide what you want your personal persona to look like. Why are people attracted to me (when it comes to doing business)? Why do some people enjoy working with me and others can’t stand me? Let’s face it, we’re never going to please everyone. Winston Churchill said “You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something, sometime in your life.” What do the people I love to work with want me to do for them? Understanding all these will help you to figure out what your personal brand looks like. For me, that translated into this whacky character that my daughter drew for me. It encompasses so much of who I am.
I made a decision I was not going to pretend to be who I’m not.
We all have many faces that others see. For example, I have amassed a whole regime of work titles that define who I am. I have been a CEO, CFO, a COO, migration agent, a company auditor, a tax agent and a financial planner. In all these things, I am basically an entrepreneur who has been fortunate to have received great training as an accountant. Business is in my blood and always will be. I still get excited any time I get a whiff of a business opportunity – whether for myself or for one of my clients. I now put those base skills to good use as a business coach and mentor.
And despite my telling you all these things, you STILL do not really KNOW who I am, do you? We all tend to hide our real self behind a façade because we fear what people might think of us if they really know us. In the end, I figured I would just tell people who I am than have them make it up. Then they can choose whether they wish to work with me or not. I will never please everyone and I don’t intend to try.
Whether its your business brand or your personal brand, just make sure that your messaging is consistent. This messaging cuts across everything you do – the language you use, the colours and fonts on your website and social media platforms must all shout YOU to anybody who checks you out. Having a style guide is essential to maintaining that consistency. Integrate your brand into every aspect of your business and your public life. Stay true to your brand building. Don’t constantly change it – or your customers will get terribly confused.
Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. It can take months. Built right, your efforts will result in establishing long term relationships with your customers, leading to increased sales and more referrals for your business. Remember, no one will know your brand better than you. Now is not the time to be shy about spreading the word. Be your brand’s best advocate!