Why Personal Branding is Crucial for Entrepreneurs – Brand vs. Branding

personal-brand-1I can’t stress enough how important personal branding is for entrepreneurs. You may not realize it, but each one of us is a brand. Type your name into any search engine and the results will show you exactly what your online brand is. Did you make a conscious effort to create and promote your brand? Does it accurately represent you? Is it targeted towards a specific audience?

 

Although the words brand and branding are often used synonymously or confused with each other, they are separate and unique.

What exactly is a brand? A brand is your unique identifier, your market identity. It represents you in the marketplace – who you are, what you do, your reputation, trustworthiness, and the quality of your product or service. Your brand is how your customers perceive you and how they feel when they do business with you.

Sir Richard Branson is the perfect example of a personal brand. Although he’s the founder of the Virgin properties – Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Records among others, Sir Richard Branson’s personal brand is the most powerful of all. People want to do business with the Virgin properties because of Sir Richard Branson. The personal brand drives the corporate brand.

Personal branding has become increasingly important. People trust people, not corporations. They want to do business with people, not corporations. Your personal brand is your differentiator. It creates an emotional connection between you and your customer. Ultimately, it defines the value of your business. In order to stay competitive in today’s marketplace, you must have a strong personal brand.

Branding is the active process that shapes your brand. It requires a strategy and targets your core audience. Branding can include the name of your company, logo, other visual assets, website, communications and media.

 

Entrepreneurs who are more influential pay more attention to their brand rather than just their branding. As an entrepreneur, how can you build your brand? Ask yourself:

  • Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you offer? How are you perceived by others? How do you want to be perceived by others? Be authentic. Your brand should be reflective of who you are.
  • What do you do? What product or service do you offer? What is your value proposition? What differentiates you from your competition?
  • Why does it matter? Define your purpose. This will give you great direction.

 

Evaluate your brand. Your brand should tell people who you are, what you offer and differentiate you from your competition. Is your brand reaching your target audience? Are they responding positively? Are you delivering on your brand promise? If not, it’s time to reassess and make changes.

 

Is your personal brand and branding effort working for you? Want more advice on brands and branding, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

 


How Valuable is Marketing to Your Business?

Marketing blogAs a business advisor, when I meet with business owners we discuss a multitude of business-related issues, most of which fall into these four categories all of which have a direct impact on your bottom line: operations, finance, human resources and marketing. In this blog, I’m going to focus on the fourth category: marketing.

Marketing is about communication. Your business could conceive of the most innovative and useful product/service, but what good is all of that effort if nobody knows anything about your product/service or your brand? Having a good product/service is no longer enough to sustain a successful business. You need to communicate that you have a good product/service, what makes it a good product/service, the benefits that your product/service will provide potential customers, and what makes your product/service different from or better than what your competitors are offering.

Simply put, whether B2B or B2C, people are unlikely to just walk into your business and give you their hard-earned money if they don’t know who you are or what you’re selling in a marketplace defined by endless choice. Marketing is an absolute necessity for any business, small or large, because it answers the three most important questions that customers have about an unfamiliar brand: “Who are you? What do you do? How are you different?” When you make an effort to answer these questions effectively, your business will reap the benefits. Effective, value-added marketing heightens brand awareness and trust, allows you to reach your target audience and boost your customer base, and increases your bottom line.

Marketing is necessary, but I assure you that it isn’t easy. Too many inexperienced businesses make the mistake of treating marketing like medicine – only to be used when something goes wrong. Only when a product isn’t selling or revenue is dwindling do these businesses decide to consider marketing as a last-ditch effort.

Successful businesses treat marketing like food – regular, sustained, and practiced consistently. In other words, successful businesses never stop marketing. In doing so, these businesses ensure that they are always in communication with and attuned to the needs of their customers.

We have established that marketing is an essential business function, but what about the cost? Maintaining consistent communication with your audience certainly isn’t free. How much money should you invest in marketing in your business?

To make money, you need to spend money. There are a number of factors that influence how much your business should invest in marketing, such as the age and size of your business, and the level of competition in your market.

The most common strategy that businesses use to determine marketing budgets is by taking gross or projected revenue and allocating a certain percentage towards marketing. Though the exact percentages vary, newer, less established businesses benefit from an increased allocation of gross or projected revenue towards marketing (10%+). New and emerging brands need to invest a greater percentage of revenue in marketing early on in order to increase brand awareness and market share. On the other hand, established brands can generally allocate a lower percentage of revenue towards marketing (5%+).

Make sure you have a strong brand story, one that clearly differentiates your brand from your competition by clearly identifying who you are, and the value and benefit your services or products provide to your customers. Marketing gives your brand a “human touch”. Like a good friend, customers are more likely to connect and do business with a brand they feel they know and can trust. In this way, effective marketing has a direct impact on your bottom line.

Marketing has the potential to take your business to a level of success that cannot be achieved by idling and waiting for your prospective customers to find you.

How much importance is placed on marketing in your business? Are you spending the appropriate amount on your marketing efforts?


What Kind of Networker are You?

Are-you-a-great-networker

My last blog focused on the importance of business networking as a tool that can be used to build your business’ brand and expand your professional contacts. Finding your fit and incorporating networking into your business plan and regular schedule can greatly increase the benefits of taking part in different networking functions and platforms.

Your next step is to uncover what kind of personality you adopt when in a networking situation. Do you make the first move? Are you a card collector? Find out what your networking style is from the descriptions below.

The Observer: You often hang back in networking situations and soak up what is going on around you. You prefer one-on-one conversations, so you often engage in conversations with individuals who are seated at your table. Your professional network is small, but you are close with each individual contact. Try to find networking situations where one-on-one conversation is encouraged and focus on making solid connections with those you speak too. It’s about quality over quantity, after all. Make sure that you commit to following up with connections made.

The Reactor: You are open to making as many connections as possible, but you prefer to be approached rather than make the first move yourself. You prefer to look for some kind of connection or association with someone rather than completely cold contact. You also like to follow-up with someone about specific questions or information rather than a general or vague follow-up. Because of these tendencies, don’t worry about bothering potential contacts, because your subtle approach and specific questions do not come on too strong.

The Socializer: As a socializer, you are looking to make a friend in any situation. You are good with faces and names but not as strategic in understanding how you can create mutually beneficial business connections. Because of your social, friendly, nature, adopting more systematic follow-up after networking events will complement your strengths and make networking worth your while.

Initiator: You are an active networker, but take a balanced approach to forming professional connections with people. You seek diverse networking opportunities that fit your style and include others in conversation. You are an excellent relationship builder in that you seek to understand others’ perspective and unique selling point and contribute useful information to conversations. As an initiator, you understand the difference between selling and helping and seek to make long-term relationships with others.

Director: A director is strategic and methodical about networking. You are very present in a variety of networking circles and your name pops up a lot in different settings. Make sure that your networking efforts are focused and you approach networking as a means to relationship build versus solely trying to expand your network. When you make people feel valued, they are more willing to engage with you and your message!

Every networking personality has unique strengths – which category do you fall under? Which personality do you prefer interacting with? I look forward to your thoughts below.