Personal branding is essential if you want to succeed in life. Why? Because you need to win people’s attention to succeed and personal branding is the way to get it. Authors need to win the attention of potential readers to sell their books, freelancers need to win the attention of potential clients to get new projects, and employees need to win the attention of their bosses and clients to advance in their career. Since we now live in the age of attention deficit, you need a way to stand out in the crowd and personal branding is the way to do that.
What is a brand? In essence, a brand is a promise of the value people will receive when they use a product. So, your personal brand is a promise of the value people will receive when they come to you. A promise gives certainty, and it makes people come again and again.
You’d better start building your personal brand before it’s too late. Since it takes a long time to build a strong brand, the best time to start is now.
Here are ten immutable laws of personal branding to help you get started:
1. Find your unique value proposition
What is the value you can offer that can’t be offered by anyone else? The answer to this question is the foundation of your personal branding effort. While it might not be easy to find the answer, the time you spend on it is well worth it. I wrote detail tips about it in Career Tips: How to Find Your (Potential) Unique Value Proposition.
2. Have a word or phrase to associate your name with
The goal of your personal branding effort is to own a word or phrase in the mind of your prospects that is not owned by anyone else. You want people to instantly remember you when they hear the word or phrase. For example, what is in your mind when you hear the word “search”? I bet the answer is Google. Or what is in your mind when you hear the phrase “word processor”? For most people the answer is Microsoft Word. You need to have such word or phrase in your prospects’ mind.
3. Develop a strong message
Your message is the center of your personal branding effort. In essence, the role of the message is to give your prospects a strong reason to come to you. Why should they come to you and not somebody else? What value will they get by coming to you? It is the role of your message to convince them. Your unique value proposition (law #1) and chosen word or phrase (law #2) are your raw materials to build the message.
One good way to create a strong message is creating your one-liner. A one-liner is a statement of your vision in ten words or less. It allows people to quickly grasp the kind of value you offer.
4. Identify your prospects
Don’t waste your time and energy trying to reach the wrong people; you can’t please everybody. So find the kind of people who would need the value you offer. To help you do this, there is a concept in marketing called segmentation. It divides a market into distinct subsets which behave in the same way or have similar needs. One of those subsets will then be selected as the target market. While it’s not necessary to create complex segmentation, at least you should have a clear idea about the kind of people you want to reach.
5. Maximize your visibility
A strong message won’t do you any good if it doesn’t reach the right people. That is why visibility is very important. You should spend a lot of time to maximize your visibility if you want your brand to be recognized. While there are many ways to do it, here are some ideas:
- Create a blog
In the age where more and more people goes online, there is a good chance that you can reach your prospects through a blog. Creating a blog is relatively cheap and the potential audience is worldwide.
- Write articles
Writing articles in your local newspapers or trade magazines is always a good way to establish your reputation as an expert.
- Speak at seminars
Speaking at seminars also helps you to have the “expert” label put on you. Since it’s usually difficult to get speaking engagement when you are relatively unknown, you may want to use the other ideas first to establish your brand.
The bottom line is you should reach out constantly.
6. Repeat your message
As stated in law #2, your goal is to own a word or phrase in the mind of your prospects. The only way to do so is by repeating your message again and again. Only by repetition can you prevent your brand from being lost in someone’s mental attic. Even Coca-Cola, which has one of the strongest brands in the world, still spends huge amount of money in advertising. It clearly shows how important repetition is.
7. Prove your worth
While the way you sell yourself is important, the content is also important. It’s useless to have many people come to you if they find that the value you offer doesn’t meet their standard. They won’t come again, or, even worse, they will tell their friends not to come to you. So be sure to deliver on your promises. Whenever possible, go the extra mile. I know this is easier said than done, but it will give your brand an edge. Tom Peters called it The Pursuit of WOW!
8. Be persistent
It takes time to build your personal brand; maybe more than you expected. So it’s important to be persistent. Prepare for a marathon, not a sprint, and you won’t run out of gas in the middle of your journey. As long as you believe in your message, you have a great chance to succeed. Just don’t expect an instant success.
9. Be consistent
While repeating your message can strengthen your brand, broadcasting inconsistent message is one of the fastest ways to weaken it. If yesterday you said that you are an “A” but today you say that you are a “B”, then who are you actually? People will be confused, and it won’t do you any good. Being consistent is not easy, especially in the long term, but this is how you can get strong position in people’s mind.
10. Leverage your existing network
One of the best ways to strengthen your brand is through word of mouth. Word of mouth works because people trust the recommendations from someone they know, and therefore they are more likely to also trust your brand. One way to create word of mouth is leveraging the people who already know you – your existing network. Build good relationships with them so that they become your supporters and even your evangelists.
Photo by fabbuki