Chapter OneWHY BRAND YOURSELF?
Developing a strong personal brand can be the key to rising above the competition. It serves as shorthand to convey your skill set and stylewhether you're a coordinator looking beyond your current job responsibilities or a midlevel network executive aiming for the presidency. Branding gives you an exceptionally effective way to broadcast who you are to your target market quickly and efficiently.
Rick Haskins, Multichannel News
You know the names. Tiger. Oprah. Trump. Schwab. Madonna. They're among the few elite celebrities who can be instantly identified by a single set of syllables. More to the point, their names bring to mind an overpowering set of qualitiespositive and negativefor almost anyone who hears them. That's the very definition of a worldclass Personal Brand. You're not in that class; you probably don't have aspirations to be world-famous and have your picture in the supermarket tabloids. But you can be like these celebrities in one important way: you can have a public persona that stands for something clear, powerful, and compelling in the minds of the people you come into contact with.
WHAT IS A PERSONAL BRAND?
A clear, powerful, compelling public imagethat's the very definition of a Personal Brand. There's a lot of talk about corporate and personal brands these days, and as a result, there's a great deal of confusion. When you hear about Nike or Anheuser-Busch spending $30 million on a brand-development campaign, it can be easy to concludeincorrectlythat this branding stuff isn't for you. So let's cut through the clutter and talk about the three things that a Personal Brand is.
First of all, your Personal Brand is you, enhanced and expressed using polished, well-crafted communication methods. It is designed to convey two vital pieces of information to your target market:
1. Who you are as a person
2. What you specialize in doing
Your Personal Brand is the mental picture your prospects get when they think about you. It represents your values, your personality, your expertise, and the qualities that make you unique among your competitors. That's why it's so important to remain authentic to yourself as you create your brand. People want to work with you, not with some slick marketing creation.
Second, a Personal Brand is a promise. It tells prospects what they can expect when they deal with you. It's an implied covenant between a service provider and a client that makes the client believe, "Every time I see this person, I will receive a certain quality of service and care." You see this all the time with consumer product companies such as Apple Inc. Apple's customers are among the most fiercely loyal in the world; they hang on every new product release and line up for blocks to get new gadgets like the iPhone. They expect a certain set of valuable qualities from Apple: beautiful design, intuitive functionality, and innovative features. That's Apple's brand promise, and as long as the company continues to deliver on that promise, its brand will remain strong.
A Personal Brand creates expectations in the minds of others of what they'll get when they work with you. If you can figure out what your target market values and create a brand that promises to deliver that value again and again, prospects will beat down your door and burn up your phone lines. The catch: you've got to deliver on that promise 100 percent of the time. More on that later in the book.
A great example of a Personal Brand promise is Charles Schwab. Once upon a time, he was a lone financial professional, but now he's CEO of one of the world's largest discount brokerage houses. But his Personal Brand still carries a powerful promise: when we invest through his company, we'll be treated as if we're wealthy.
Finally a Personal Brand is a relationship that wields influence over prospects and clients. The attributes of your brand will determine how much influence you have. For example, if your best friend the carpenter tells you that you need to stop smoking and lose weight, you're probably going to scoff, but if your personal physician tells you the same thing, you're going to take it more seriously. The attributes of the relationship give the physician more authority in his or her area of specialization. In this book, you're going to learn how to create a brand that will help you build a relationship with your clients that casts you as a key influencer. This will help you reach three important goals:
1. Attract more new clients more easily
2. Increase your prices or fees to increase your income
3. Create client delight and generate a steady flow of referrals
WHAT A PERSONAL BRAND DOES
Linguist and anthropologist Gregory Bateson said, "The processes of perception are inaccessible; only the products are conscious and, of course, it is the products that are necessary." Personal Branding is all about perceptionhow other people perceive you. Try asking yourself this question: who is the "you" that people know? Sure, people who have become your clients or patients know you as a person, but what about the majority who've never worked with you? Do they know you, or do they know a perception of you constructed from ads in the telephone directory, maybe your name on a sign, and a newspaper ad or two, plus maybe some hearsay?
It's an interesting thing to ponder, isn't it? The "you" who's working in your office every day is not the same "you" that other people perceive before they have a personal, one-to-one relationship with you. That "you" is a perception made up of a hundred randomly assembled parts over which you have very little control.
Personal Branding is about taking control of how other people perceive you before they come into direct contact with you. Believe it or not, you already have a Personal Brand. People already have a perception of you, even if it's "just another accountant" or "that lawyer over on State Street." That's a brand you've built accidentally without even being aware of it. But here and now, you're going to start taking conscious control of that process and taking control of public perception.
Doing so will allow you to achieve three goals that are critical to making more money and building the lifestyle you want:
1. Making people see that you're different. Specializationthe perception that you're a specialist in an area of business that's valuable to your audienceis the most important part of a successful Personal Brand.
2. Helping people see you as being "like them." We all want to work with people we like, people who "get us," who we feel share our values, and who are real and authentic. Your brand helps people relate to you on a personal level.
3. Getting prospects in the door. We live in a society that's saturated in sales and marketing, and we've come to be resentful of it. According to USA Today, consumers see an average of 3,500 to 5,000 marketing messages on a typical day. Our sales resistance is skyhigh. You only have to look at the incredible popularity of the Do Not Call list to see that Americans hate to be sold to. So how do you get people into your office where you can use your charm and sales skills to turn them into clients? Your Personal Brand gives them a comfort level so that they'll prequalify themselves and make the appointment.
FEWER CLIENTS, BETTER CLIENTS
A great Personal Brand is your ticket to get off the treadmill of selling, spending money on marketing tools that don't work, and constantly chasing after every potential client who comes within striking distance. To return to politics for a second, one of the keys in political campaign strategy is said to be "define yourself before your opponent can define you." If you don't get your message out fast and firm, your opponent may call you a "flip-flopper," and you'll find yourself playing defense when you should be on offense.
By defining yourself in the minds of your prospects instead of letting them define you, your brand attracts new business to your door, so you spend less time doing business development and more time servicing clients. But a great brand does something else that's just as vital: it improves the quality of your clients. Let's say you're a CPA who specializes in tax preparation for other professionalsdoctors, lawyers, and the like. If your only means of bringing in new business is a Yellow Pages ad, a few bus bench ads, and some cold calling, what type of new clients are you likely to attract? Clients who shop based primarily on price. You're going to get mostly people who are looking for the cheapest tax preparation service they can get, but who are going to want quality as well. So you're likely to end up with a bunch of demanding new clients who eat up your time and bring you minimal income ... and some of them will probably complain about your fees anyway.
When you have a Personal Brand that positions you as a specialist and communicates who you are and what you stand for, you're going to attract a different type of client. If your branding materials (brochures, ads, signage, and so on) are polished and expensive-looking, you're automatically going to chase away some of the price-centric looky-loos. Instead, you're more likely to get calls from professionals who think, "He's like me; he's among the elite in his profession. I'd like to work with him." These will be people who will see your work not as a commodity but as a valuable expert service. They'll pay more for what you can offer, and because of that, you'll be able to turn away a lot of the budget business. The right brand leads to fewer but more lucrative clients, fewer hours worked, more money earned per hour, and a less stressful, more enjoyable business.
Who in his or her right mind wouldn't want that?
EVERYTHING IS BRANDING
In Chapters 2 and 3, we're going to talk in greater detail about how Personal Branding works and what kind of bottom-line results it can deliver for your business. But before we go on, I've got to make a critical point about branding and what it means for your future:
Once you create a Personal Brand, there's no turning back.
Sounds harsh, doesn't it? Well, business can be harsh. The fact is, once you establish and launch a brand, you're committed. Everything you do in your professional lifeand even some of the things you do publicly in your personal lifeaffects your Personal Brand. You see, every brand is kind of like a ship under sail, constantly in a state of equilibrium between the force of the wind that moves it forward and that same force that wants to tear out the masts and sink the ship. Make the wrong decision at the helm or misread the weather and you're calling Mayday and breaking out the life rafts.
A Personal Brand also exists in a delicate equilibrium between the promise you make to your market and your daily actions. Once you've established your brand, everything you do will either confirm that promise or contradict it. If your brand pledges an incredible customer service experience, you've got to deliver that experience at least 90 percent of the time. Every time you fail, you dent your brand slightly. Enough failuresenough contradictions of your promiseand you'll wreck your brand. People will start to assume that your promise is a lie and that you're a phony. Then you're sunk. Mayday.
That's why once you create a Personal Brand, everything you do is branding. What do I mean by everything? Consider this list:
What you drive
What you wear
Where you dine
What charities you give to
Where you attend church
How clean the exterior of your building is
How your home looks
How you shake hands
I could go on for a while. It seems ridiculous, doesn't it? What does your choice of restaurant have to do with the public perception of you as a lawyer? Well, what if you've branded yourself as a champion advocate for the Latino community, but you never, ever eat in the authentic taquerias in your neighborhood? Mightn't the locals think your talk about being a Latino champion is hot air? It's not rational, but consumers aren't rational. We make buying decisions based on emotion just as much as on intellect.
When you commit to creating a Personal Brand, you're really committed. That's why it's so essential that your brand reflect who you really arewhat you care about, what you enjoy, and how you live. If it's not authentically you, you won't be able to support it in the long run.
PERSONAL BRANDING TRUTHS
We're almost ready to move on to look at the components that make a Personal Brand get results in the marketplace, but before we do, I want to share some hard, cold truths about branding that you need to know. There are plenty of misconceptions about Personal Branding, and if you're going to become a branding expert, you need the facts. So, without further ado:
1. Branding takes time. A smart brander can put the elements of a great brand in place, but it's going to grow at its own pace. Brands are about trust, and trust comes with time. You can't manufacture it. Oprah Winfrey is a perfect example of growing a brand over time with exposure, sincerity, and accomplishment. She spent years acting, doing her talk show, and working to help other women before she became a world-famous media mogul. Even the best Personal Branding campaigns take six months to a year to show measurable results. It's important to temper your expectations, because if you think you're going to get a flood of new business in a week, you're going to get discouraged and give up too soon.
2. Brands grow organically. The best Personal Brands develop at the grassroots level, in the community, based on relationships and the person behind the brand staying consistent and on message. With the help of judicious PR and consistent public exposure, people start to perceive that you're someone they can trust and relate to. You can't force a Personal Brand down someone's throat in this skeptical age; they'll spit it back in your face. You have to plant your brand, tend it, and let it grow.
3. Brands are not rational. Imagine the meeting when ad agency Wieden+Kennedy pitched the slogan "Just do it" to Nike. The tagline had nothing to do with shoes, but it's become a classic. Why? Because branding is about emotion. People will not choose to work with you because you went to the best dental college or because you offer the widest range of investment advisory services. They'll choose you because you "feel" right. You must account for the irrational nature of decision making when you build your brand.
4. Brands demand absolute commitment. David Bach, whom you met earlier in a personal brand case study, says that he built his brand primarily by staying on the road constantly pitching his "finish rich" message and by publishing nine books in nine years. Most great brands are built through sheer persistence and repetition. There's no magic bullet, just a lot of work and smart decision making.
5. Branding always has an effect. You hear a lot these days about how branding doesn't work. Nonsense. Branding always works. The thing is, it can work for you or against you. But it always has an effect. A strong, appealing Personal Brand will enhance your business and increase your profits; an artificial or poorly supported brand will waste your money and harm your business. Branding always works. The question is, how will it work for you?
Chapter TwoHOW PERSONAL BRANDING WORKS
A Personal Brand is a positive expectation, a promise to your market. It is the preferred position in your client's mind. A personal brand owns the equity stake, the mindshare on which no one else can compete.
Joe Heller, president, Heller International
You went to college. You may have earned a graduate degree, or even a doctorate. Congratulations. You pride yourself on having a strong intellect, being driven by reason and analysis, being a researcher and a person who makes decisions based on the data. You're not prone to hazy thinking or tear-jerky responses. Then you go shopping for a new car, and what do you do when you get into the showroom?
You sit in the driver's seat and inhale. You sink into the leather seats and count the cup holders. You listen to how the doors sound when they close. A solid clunk? Must be a good car. But wait, where's your sheaf of notes about fuel economy, safety and rollover ratings, reliability, and resale value? Whoops, you must have left them on your desk.
Bryan Eisenberg, cofounder of the marketing consulting firm Future Now and author of Call to Action, makes the issue crystal clear when he writes, "People rationalize buying decisions based on facts, but they make buying decisions based on feelings." That's true even for the most educated, scientific, and rational people in society, even if we may not want to admit it. We're driven by our emotions to buy the things that satisfy a visceral need for something shiny, for power, for cool design, or to feel sexy. That's what I call the "I want" factor. We let the "I want" guide us to our purchase, and then we let what I call the "I should" factor kick in. That's the rationalizing side that uses facts and figures to justify the buying decision that we've already made based on our gut.
So when you stroll through the showroom at the auto dealership, you might convince yourself that you're shopping for the best balance of ride, gas mileage, reliability ratings, features, and cargo space. But in reality, you're probably looking for the car that feels the coolest and most fun to drive. The Cadillac Escalade, the beast of an SUV that resurrected the moribund Cadillac brand when it came on the market in 1999, is a perfect example of this phenomenon. In 2006, Escalade sales were skyrocketing even though average national gasoline prices for that same year went up as much as 34 percent. So why were people snapping up this huge, gas-guzzling SUV when gas prices were off the charts? Because the car was cool. Rappers drove them. Shaquille O'Neal drove one. They were plush and macho and came with sound systems that caused brain hemorrhages. The desire to buy a "'Slade" had nothing to do with logic or fuel economy. It was all about "I want."