What people say about you and/or your business behind your back is your brand. If it aligns with what you wish to project and communicate, congratulations. If there are any disconnects between what you say and they say, that is your branding work.
By definition, branding is the practice of creating an identity that distinguishes a product, service or business from others. With a rapidly changing economy and labor market demanding more free-lancers and independent contractors, the demand for greater human adaptability and the entrepreneurial spirit has never been greater. Enter the era of "personal branding. "
As this marketing practice is increasingly adopted by individuals, micro businesses, and startups, it is wise to remember that branding is part of an all over strategy with the intention of giving yourself the edge in increasingly competitive markets. It's all about your name, what it stands for, what it promises and how you deliver on your promise. Bottom-line: You are a brand. Anyone at anytime can Google your name and get a good glimpse of who you are.
Personal branding is about managing your name — even if you don’t own a business — in a world of misinformation, disinformation, and semi-permanent Google records. Going on a date? Chances are that your “blind” date has Googled your name. Going to a job interview? Ditto.
– Tim Ferriss
Remember, like with established brands, personal branding is a process. It's developed over time. Here are 4 key must knows for you in this marketing practice:
Make sure you and/or your enterprise truly represents the traits and values that you identify with. For example, if one of the traits your brand identifies with is courtesy be courteous. This means you and everything and everyone associated with it, from the receptionist all the way up to the CEO, needs to live your brand.
One of the keys to creating a successful brand image is to separate yourself from your competition. You will need to know how consumers or customers see your competition. You need to recognize how your competitors differentiate themselves from others. Also, you should know your competitor's strengths and weaknesses. Whether you are competing for a job or new customers, you can benefit from knowing this information by learning from their weaknesses, and what your brand can offer to fill the voids.
Speaking of voids, once you know your competition's weaknesses you can begin to focus on your or your businesses strengths. Perform a target market analysis, learn from it, and use it to your advantage. When you understand what strengths are important to your target audiences, you can think about ways to successfully market these and involve them in your branding campaign.
Learn more about the customer. Often, they are individuals who identify with our values and brand traits because they are a lot like us. Rev. Dr. Shelley D. Best, the creator of the Soulpreneurship course, which teaches faith and other mission-driven leaders how to do "good work in the world with begging for change," calls them our Avatars. Knowing your Avatar, the profile of the person you wish to reach and engage with your brand is a crucial step to marketing yourself and what you have to offer. What are their needs and how and where do the fulfill them? What are their lifestyles, mindsets, and attitudes. Knowing and working with these personality traits are key to building strategies that will lead to your personal and business marketing success.
(Janet Davenport, a former marketing and public relations executive, has developed and led successful branding strategies for many good causes over the span of her 30 -year communications and consulting career.)