When Your Personal Brand is Your Business Brand

Posted Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Allen Slade

The essence of your personal brand is simple: When you walk through the door, who shows up for the other people in the room? As a jobseeker, your personal brand captures the service you are offering to an employer.  As a leader, your personal brand is the influence you exercise in driving innovation and growth.

How about entrepreneurs? As the boss, you aren’t a jobseeker trying to nail the interview or an emerging leader trying to get people to start following you. Entrepreneurs are busy with operations, finance and market development, so “personal branding” may seem like a waste of time.

Wrong. Personal branding is vital to entrepreneurial success. When you are an entrepreneur, you are your business. When you market your business, especially in the early years, you are marketing yourself. In many ways, your personal brand is your business brand.

At one of my recent personal branding seminars, a twenty-something woman shared her passion and unique business model. However, she was outfitted and groomed for comfort rather than marketing, undermining her great ideas.

So, who shows up for your prospects when you walk in the room? Do you project the traits necessary to win their business? Here are some hints on developing your personal and business brand.

Be authentic. Make sure your personal brand is completely compatible with the real you. And make sure your business fits you as well. Being authentic ensures you (and your business) will avoid false advertising. If your brand promises what you can actually deliver, you and your customers will prosper.

Project an integrated image. This is Branding 101. Once you have specified your desired brand, review every part of your public image to make sure it is consisted with your brand. Review everything: marketing strategy, service offerings, elevator pitch, brochures, website, blogs, business cards, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, Twitter profile and tweets.

Test and adjust your brand. Get feedback as you roll out your brand. You want to test an ejection seat before you need it. So test your brand privately before you go public with it. Early on, test your brand with yourself. Adjust your public materials to fit your brand statement, and adjust your brand statement to fit your previously successful public materials. Next, run your proposed brand by your circle of trusted advisors. Hand out business cards to friends and family. Practice your elevator pitch. Ask people what they think. Then, do a small scale public unveiling. Pilot test your newly articulated brand with both prospects and trusted current customers. Get their feedback and continue to adjust until you hit a sweet spot – a brand that is personally authentic and offers compelling benefits to your customers.

At the branding seminar, I offered one more piece of advice:

Dress (slightly) better than your customers. I recommend that you dress one half step better than your customers. If they wear business casual, you iron your khakis and polo. If they wear a blazer, you add a tie. If they have a skirt, you were a dress or suit.

The twenty-something entrepreneur caught the personal brand bug. She emailed the next week about changes she was making in her brand image. “I’m trying to dress more professionally these days.  Sounds simple, but for me, it’s really hard.  Especially the whole ‘make-up’ thing!”

While you may not struggle with make-up as part of your personal brand, you will struggle. Your brand is the essence of who you are and the value you add to the people around you. Getting it right requires time, energy, thought and feedback. And, when it clicks, you and your business will succeed.

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