Small business owners and entrepreneurs often focus on marketing, and rightly so. A strong marketing campaign—especially in the early stages of a new business endeavor—can have make-or-break impact, at least in the short term.
The problem is that too many business owners worry about getting their marketing perfect and obsess over the details in a way that leads to paralysis. Let’s be honest, mediocre marketing is better than no marketing at all, and if you just take a few steps to improve your personal brand you’ll find your marketing naturally ascending to the next level or higher.
Now, before you say, “I don’t have a personal brand, I only have a business brand,” then that’s where you’ve made a giant first mistake. Unless you sell some sort of product that allows you to remain nameless and faceless to your potential customers—because said product is so great or necessary that it sells itself—then you MUST make yourself part of your brand. Personal branding creates a human connection and builds trust with your customers.
Your personal brand is one of the strongest assets in your marketing toolkit, but it’s useless if you don’t put it to work. If you’re struggling to define or refine your personal brand, here are four HUGE steps you can take to make yourself stand out among the crowd.
1. Know Your Business Personality
As discussed in-depth in my post Defining Brand Personality to Boost Online Reputation, you need to take the time to figure our what your public, business-focused personality is going to be. This isn’t theater or fake Greatest Showman stuff, but rather who you are as a business owner and how you’re going to portray yourself and interact with your customers in a way that wins business and keeps them coming back for more.
It doesn’t matter if you’re and introvert, extravert, or ambivert, you’ve got to hone your people skills and learn how to react to and interact with the people who come your way—authentically. To take a deeper dive into this idea, click the link above.
2. Get Consistent with Your Branding
The biggest reason you need to figure out your business personality and make sure it’s authentically you is that your potential (and current) customers are always watching you. No, they’re not stalking you—well, maybe—but they are paying attention. Are you cordial and friendly in person or during customer-centric dealings, yet sarcastic, profane, or snide on your personal social media? Or are you bubbly and high-energy when customers meet you yet a wallflower who avoids conversation when “off the clock?” Your customers will notice and it can have detrimental long-term effects to your brand.
Worse yet is branding that promises either a product or experience that you don’t or can’t deliver. Whether online or in-person, people’s experiences with you need to be consistent. This means you need to think about acting and speaking (typing) circumspectly. Think about how every action you take in public or online in your private life will be viewed by your customers. Again, authenticity is the key here. We’re not out to create a fake persona, but rather a refined version of the real you.
Stay true to who you are but approach life with decorum in mind and present the same presence in private life that you do in public life. Don’t worry about being a people pleaser, just be yourself.
3. Be Intentional with Your Branding
Launching directly from the second step is using your brand with purpose every step of the way. You’ve taken time to discover, refine, and bring consistency to your brand, now it’s time to use it in an intentional manner. Consider this: now that you’ve refined your brand, use that brand to refine how customers perceive and interact with you. This means knowing what your ideal customer looks like, discovering those ideal customers, and being okay with allowing less-than-ideal customers to pass you by.
Though I haven’t brought it up yet, you also need to be consistent with the digital and physical assets related to your brand: your logo, brand colors, brand photography, social media, website, etc. Make sure you’re posting, printing, and mailing assets that consistently reflect your brand image.
4. Leave Perfection Behind
Branding and marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long-term process that you must commit yourself to and understand that you’ll rarely see overnight results. Yes, you may see periodic—dare I say dramatic—surges in profits due to advertised sales or special deals, but your customer base isn’t caught and held by flashy antics or one-time promotions. Most all of you understand this at least at a subconscious level, so remind yourself so you don’t fall into the perfection trap.
Don’t get stuck over-analyzing every move you make, every outfit you wear, or every conversation you have with customers. Just get started marketing yourself and take things one step at a time. Your branding will refine itself over time and your marketing will get stronger and stronger as the seasons roll by.