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Personal Brand: The Marketing of You

by Eileen Parzek

If you are in business, you have undoubtedly heard about branding; in fact, it seems like “branding” is all the rage right now. Branding a business - figuring out what makes it unique and special, and creating a visible, repetitive presentation of it - is one of the cornerstones of Business Marketing 101.

But have you heard about "personal branding?" This is when you think of yourself, an individual, in similar terms. What do people think of, when they think of you? It is a concept that is particularly relevant to solo entrepreneurs and micro business owners. As such, the brand you develop becomes about you, as much as it does about your business. You ARE your business, after all.

So, what do you want to be known for? Are you super-fast at what you do, delivering your projects on time and under budget? Maybe you have the reputation as relentless in pursuit of your client's best interests. You might be sharp as a tack, and known for your ability to zero in on problems and solve them. Whatever it is, this can be the start of your personal brand. This isn't the time to be shy - if you can't puff up with pride about what you are REALLY about, at least ask your best clients what THEY know you for.

Now think about what you stand for as an entrepreneur. What is your vision of your place in the world, and what does your life's work mean to you? This will become another consideration in your personal brand.

Your personality is another aspect of personal brand. Many times, entrepreneurs are hesitant to let their authentic selves "out" in the business world. They think they have to have a mask on, to appear a certain way to be professional. From the perspective of branding, this might actually be a big mistake. Some of the most unique, special, and memorable aspects of who you are as entrepreneurs make the best personal brand identities. Think about it: why did you start a business, if not to express what you truly are good at doing? It is certainly worth considering. Let yourself out of the box!

These are the first steps to determining what your personal brand is. The second aspect is your personal appearance, and communication style. Yes, even your style of dress, the environment your clients see you in, and the way you answer the phone can be part of your personal brand. What is important that it be consistent and reflect the vision and mission of your business.

Once you know what your personal brand is or will be, its time to think about where and how you can let the world know. You need to begin repeating that message everywhere you go.

Many small business owners state that referral business and word of mouth is their primary source of business. This is GREAT - it means that you have made an impression on someone and they thought to talk you up when right opportunity arose. Personal branding simply means that you have deliberately built a message that your network of contacts can spread for you.

You need to consistently package and present what you are about, and then begin getting the word out about your business. This can mean looking for speaking or teaching opportunities, writing articles, calling your local community news channel to let them know you exist. Every opportunity for visibility is a chance to highlight your unique personal style of doing business.

Maybe you already have developed a personal brand - either consciously or quite by accident. What can you do as your business grows, to nurture it? For one thing, remember that a brand means a consistent experience - every aspect of your business needs to be what your clients have come to expect from you. Getting too busy to return calls within a reasonable time, when they have come to expect a quick response, can damage your personal brand. Any shift in the experience and you risk their loyalty.

One of the greatest challenges a solo entrepreneur can face is that as personal brand grows, and business swells, it becomes harder to provide the same levels of personal service - in fact, you might begin to hire and suddenly that personal touch with YOU is lost to your clients. Before you even enter that quicksand zone, sit down and think carefully about what your personal brand and that of your company, is. Write down the elements of your personal brand, share it with your employees, and construct a mission and vision that makes it the core of your business. That hard earned personal brand can transition to a corporate brand if you let it.

Personal branding, done right means that as your network grows and your reputation remains strong, your business will snow ball - every person who encounters your stellar service becomes an evangelist for your business. You will find yourself competing less for business because the trust is already there. The kinds of clients you get will be increasingly ideal for you. As your personal brand develops, because the passion you show for what you do will be evident, you will naturally attract the right clients. For example, if you work with animals, and your quirky, upbeat personality shines through in all your marketing, you will attract the kinds of animal owners who appreciate that. Likewise, people who are stuffy and uptight about their pet's care will steer clear around you, saving you all sorts of grief.

Even if you simply concentrate on branding your business, and do not think about it in personal terms, all of these considerations remain relevant. Branding is very often what sets apart a successful, visible business from those that struggle to be seen and remembered.

Web statistics are a valuable tool in the arsenal of online marketing. Every day that your site is online, with a host that offers a good statistics package, you are gathering valuable information that you can use to strategize your online marketing. Don’t miss the opportunity to tap into this pool of knowledge about your web site.

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Eileen 'Turtle' Parzek is a veteran marketing designer and online communications consultant who has been working from home and virtually since 1995. Her business, SOHO It Goes! specializes in providing technology driven design, marketing and communication services to small businesses and organizations.

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