Some of the most well-known and celebrated names in American business aren’t even businesses. They’re people: Kenneth Cole. Kim Kardashian. Oprah. These people have virtually nothing in common except for the fact that their names have become synonymous with distinctive brands. The stories of their lives have formed the core of their brand messaging.
Powerful personal brands aren’t created overnight. They require compelling tales, relatable charisma, and products or content that people want. But there’s some magic involved, as well—otherwise professional marketers would have personal branding down to a science already (they don’t). Still, there’s no sense waiting around for lightning to strike! By following a few simple guidelines, you can begin the process of turning your name into a bankable brand. Just make sure that you’re prepared for everything that comes with it!
- Your lifestyle and your product are one and the same. Nobody buys Tommy Hilfiger’s clothes because they want to look like Tommy Hilfiger. They buy Hilfiger’s clothes in order to get a taste of the lifestyle that Hilfiger has turned into a brand. It’s the same with Oprah, or the Kardashians. Oprah doesn’t have the magic touch that makes a good book great, and Kim doesn’t have the talent to make cheap lingerie more alluring. They sell lots of books and clothes because books and clothes are not the product. Oprah’s lifestyle is the product. Kim Kardashian’s lifestyle is the product. The books and the clothes are just a taste.
- Become the go-to expert in your industry. The online world makes it easier than ever for entrepreneurs to market themselves to a wide audience, but consumers are very discerning about who they trust. The best way to increase your visibility and your credibility is to become the top expert in your industry. After all, it’s no secret that those who specialize in something get more business and can charge a higher price. If you are unique or can do something the average person in your industry can’t do, you can charge a higher price. You don’t have to be the best in the world—start by becoming the recognized expert in your zip code and work your way up from there. You’ll increase your net worth as you build a good reputation for top-quality work.
- Be Authentic. There’s no sense faking it! If you’d rather be someone else, try acting. If you want to build your personal brand, you have to be yourself. People value authenticity when making purchasing decisions; putting on airs or playing a character will quickly signal to them that you are a liar and that you can’t be trusted. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive to be your idealized self or a happier, more successful version of you, but it does mean that there must be a core of truth and authenticity to your words and deeds. Otherwise, you’ll be dismissed as a faker or a try-hard.
- Be persistently consistent and consistently persistent. In today’s fast-paced, interconnected world, people are bombarded with messages and stories all day and all night long. Increasingly, it can be more difficult to stand out than ever before. Luckily, you don’t always have to. To cut through the noise, be consistent with your message. Decide on a brand style, including colors, logo, tag line, and mission—then stick to it. Keep your standards up always. Try various marketing methods to see which ones pull in traffic and conversions the best. Look at where your competitors are spending their money, then decide if you should do likewise. If you’re consistent every time and everywhere your target audience encounters you, your message will get through eventually and you will make an impression.
- Get out there and show up. You want real, effective engagement? Get out of the house. Nobody ever built a successful personal brand by sitting around and saying (or typing) incredible words of wisdom. People need action! Whether it’s in your online community or your local one, get out there, engage, and give back. Sponsor a local girl scout troop or charity race. Volunteer to serve on boards, or make donations to your favorite local non-profit organizations. Show your face! The more people get to know you and trust you (and recognize you!), the more likely they are to try or to recommend your products or services. 80 percent of success is showing up, so do it!