Ok, let’s start with a simple question. What is a personal brand?
According to Joseph Liu from Forbes.com “personal branding is a way of establishing and consistently reinforcing who you are and what you stand for in your career and life.” Put simply, it is a reflection of your values and personality.
How is this different from a business brand?
For John Williams from Entreprenuer.com ‘your [business] brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors.’ In this way, a business has its own distinct qualities and values, separate from the individuals working within it. A business brand can be expressed through logos, advertising, social media, staff, product design, service delivery and so on.
But there is not always an obvious distinction between a personal brand and a business brand. While large corporations often exemplify the personality of their founders (think Steve Jobs from Apple) there is also a natural connection to small business owners. To the client or consumer, there is often little separation between who you are as a person and the business, service or product you deliver.
So what does this mean for me?
Well, think about yourself as a consumer. When you start searching (particularly online), you will find many providers offering the product or service you need. But how do you make your initial choice, and why do you continue to go back to a particular company?
For Michael Stelzner at socialmediaexaminer.com, it is about connection. “People don’t do business with companies. They do business with people they like. We have relationships based on trust and mutual connections. There’s just something about a connection with a human being that creates a level of endearment and customer loyalty beyond any relationship a company could ever reach.”
This is why personal branding is so important for small business owners.
When the line between your personal brand and your business brand is blurred, it can be this personal connection that sets you apart.
How do I use my personal brand to create meaningful business connections?
Be authentic. It is much easier to maintain a brand that actually reflects your personal and professional identity. Understand your skills, your passions, your values – and live them.
Know what you do. Accept that you can’t be everything to everyone. Be honest about what you offer, who your audience is, and what they need. You will create meaningful content if you focus your messaging directly on your target audience.
Tell Your Story. Many experts believe that storytelling is the most credible way to connect with an online audience, but remember to keep a distinction between your personal and your professional lives. Consider having separate personal and business social media accounts to avoid controversy.
Get Social. We all know the importance of maintaining an online business presence, but don’t neglect traditional forms of connection such as networking, referrals, volunteering and product bundling.
Become an Expert. Most people find it hard to think of themselves as an expert, but if you have been working in your industry for many years, then you probably are! You may consider professional speaking, training or mentoring to share your knowledge with others.