Welcome to our daily post today on Branding.
SAY OF THE DAY
“Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless.” – Mary Kay Ash
Why Entrepreneurs Need to Create Their Own Brands
At some point in your career, someone has probably talked to you about how to brand yourself, how personal branding is this incredibly important thing that everyone is doing these days, how, if you’ve built a business and are trying to grow, it’s not something you can ignore.
Or is it? Personal branding, just like regular branding, is something that’s often completely out of your control. If you’re trying to brand yourself as something you’re not, it’s very difficult, if not impossible. And, when you’re already running a business and busy with the day-to-day grind, when you’re associated heavily with the business you run, it often can seem like a waste of time to focus on personal branding.
But personal branding isn’t just about getting a logo, a business card, and a fancy email header – it’s about who you are, what you do, how you do it, and the business that you run, and it can be a valuable tool to generate new leads and to close sales. Jeff Bezos famously said that your brand is “What people say about you when you’re not in the room,” meaning that, for all your intentions, for all the work and effort you put into trying to brand yourself as a particular thing, what ends up mattering most is what people think about you.
And that’s based largely on your actions, what you’ve done with your business, and what you say. There’s not a whole lot you can do to change that. You are who you are, you’re not likely to change any time soon, and you can’t take back or reverse what you’ve said or done in the past.
Ask any politician, and they will happily tell you that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot brand yourself as something different from what you are. Now, that being said, you certainly can build a personal brand that is true to who you are, and that’s generally what most business owners do.
But what many fail to realize is that the personal brand is necessary in the first place – they often think that, because they own a business and have spent a great deal of time and money building it into a brand that they don’t have to worry about branding themselves. And that’s just not the case. One major reason you need to brand yourself is to help grow your business. If your business is not well known, if it’s not a household name, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to introduce yourself as the CEO of XYZ Corp. One of the greatest ways to get in front of new clients and introduce them to you and your business is through speaking events and live workshops or presentations, but your 5 years as CEO of XYZ Corp might not be enough to get you in the door.
However, if you position yourself as, say, a talented WordPress developer, designer, and writer who has been in the WordPress world since day one and who has worked in web design and development for 20 years (and who also happens to be the founder and CEO of XYZ Corp), then you might be more likely to secure these gigs.
Having a personal brand matters, too, when large potential clients are researching you, and the way you brand yourself can play a large role in closing a sale. They don’t care that you’re just the CEO of XYZ Corp, which they may or may not know very well, but they care more that you, personally, know what you’re doing, have experience, and can handle the project for them, whatever it happens to be.
The same is true in the B2C arena. As a business grows and begins to make strategic partnerships, along with larger and larger deals with larger and larger clients, they will naturally look to the CEO and ask “Can this person handle what we’re needing? Who are they? What is their background?” You need to have an answer to that question. If there’s anything true in life, it’s this – things always change. I’m not in any way implying that your business is going to fail; there are many other reasons that someone would stop running a business.
For instance, you might sell off your business and start consulting. You might turn over your business to a partner, a spouse, a board of directors, or a former employee and start a new business. You might take a much smaller role for a period of time – you never know how it might go down. But, through all of that, the business brand that you’re associated with is going to change, sometimes markedly. Businesses do fail, but plenty of wildly successful titans of industry have struggled through the failure of a business (or two, or three) only to come out stronger than ever before.
While their fortunes and their personal brands were tied to the companies that failed, that was momentary, and they went on to show that they were not their company (and their company was not them). These reasons and more are why it’s so critical for you, as a business owner, to brand yourself – your business and your employment status may change drastically over time, but you will change a lot less.
Setting aside the business you’ve built and its success or failure, people are interested in your skills, and those skills need to be articulated clearly and effectively to potential business partners, investors, and clients, regardless of your current standing as president or CEO.
To brand yourself effectively, you have to do the same things you would do for a business brand. You need a logo, a color scheme, a website, professional social media profiles – the collateral that outwardly displays a brand. You’ll also need a tagline, some content that describes who you are and what you do. Depending on your business and what you want to do with that in the future, you may need to remove certain pieces of collateral, like the website, or keep content light and supportive of your company and current role, or even just focus exclusively on the design portion of your personal brand and a simple tagline. If you’re not sure exactly how to position yourself, if it’s hard for you to separate yourself from your business, a brand persona template may be just what you need to get started, to dig into your personality and pull out who you are, what you stand for, and how that translates into the personal brand that you present to the world.