Why should anyone choose you? Getting started on personal branding

[Cache – #89]

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting to a group of insurance advisors who sell Sun Life products.  If you work for someone else, your main brand challenge will be similar to that experienced by the advisors:  how do I build my company’s brand and my own brand at the same time?

Perhaps the very first question is:  why build my own brand at all?  Answer:  branding is about expressing how you are different.  And if you’re not different, you’re the same.  And if you’re the same, why would anyone choose you over someone else?

Your employer probably restricts you from undertaking certain branding tactics that a self-employed person would take for granted:  having a website, commissioning your own headshot and photography, designing your own business card and brochure, having your own logo, etcetera.  But note two facts in particular:  One, a brand is not a logo, so these materials do not a brand make.  Two, your brand is what people think of you, and you still have the power to influence people’s thoughts.

Here’s how:

1.Build your own brand foundation
A brand foundation consists of 7 elements that define you.  The point is to articulate what you’re made of, so you can go about living it every day, thereby creating the impressions you want in the minds of those around you.

Do some serious self-reflection, and ask for the opinions of those you trust, as you go about defining your:

Core purpose – why you do what you do
Vision – where you are going, and how you’ll know you’re there
Mission – what you do every day to get there
Position – how you are different
Reason(s) to believe – why anyone should believe your position
Values – what you believe; your principles
Character – your voice; how you act and look

1(a).  Spend extra time and effort on the position and reason to believe. 
These elements are that crucial.  For striking examples, look to Tom Marchese, a real estate agent who works north of Toronto and who’s a Coin client.  He represents Century 21, yet within their brand construct he has brilliantly differentiated himself – not just from Century 21, but from all other real estate agents, period.

Tom is positioned as the seriously disciplined real estate agent, which sounds like a desirable position in the real estate world, considering the extreme importance and considerable complexity of buying and selling houses.  Seems like someone who’s seriously disciplined would be unlikely to let anything fall through the cracks.

Why should we believe this position?  Because Tom is a professional engineer (P.Eng), professional project manager (PMP) and a black belt in karate.  Seems we wouldn’t be going too far out on a limb to conjecture that achieving those credentials took a certain amount of discipline.

Tom’s reasons to believe are intrinsic:  they come from his portfolio of skills.  If your portfolio isn’t quite so robust, you can still develop powerful extrinsic reasons to believe.  If you can’t publicize them on your own web page or brochure, LinkedIn is your saviour.  Most employers are not restricting what their employees can do on LinkedIn – and there is alot you can do there.  Start by:

  • posting client or employer testimonials of your work
  • emphasizing degrees, certifications, diplomas and other credentials
  • noting prestigious clients and prestigious past employers
  • joining Groups related to your industry and sharing your insight and opinions

Beyond LinkedIn, you can develop thought leader status in a number of ways:  for example, by writing articles, blogging, writing a book,  speaking, holding seminars and making yourself available to the media as a subject-matter expert.

LinkedIn is your saviour, so make it your friend and learn all about it.

2.Be consistent.
You have to live with your messaging every day.  So there is a very high probability you’ll get bored of it – and crave a change.  Don’t do it – because everyone you’re trying to communicate with sees or thinks about your messaging on a profoundly less frequent basis, and they are far from boredom.

And never forget this maxim:  “Just when you’re getting bored of your brand, other people are just starting to notice it.”

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