When I say “branding”, what is the first thing that pops into your head? It’s probably some mega company like Coke, Apple or Nike. Undoubtedly, these companies have brands that permeate most layers of our society today. It’s difficult to find someone that doesn’t know who these companies are and what they stand for. Their brands are represented in everything they do, from their packaging and logos, to the way their employees feel when they show up to the office. But how does branding work for us little guys like the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker? How do they capitalize on branding to grow their businesses. The answer…..Personal Branding.
It’s obviously important for both large and small companies to maintain strong corporate brands, but that can be a challenge for micro businesses that are primarily growing through word or mouth and referrals. We don’t have a team of marketing specialists and branding experts, and definitely not the funds to take out a huge Super Bowl Ad. The majority of small business professionals on a limited budget attempt to mimic the branding techniques of the mega companies. A lucky few have a franchised company that does the bulk of the branding for them. Unfortunately, the majority of people in either of these situations miss one important fact in small business today. People do business with people, not businesses. So, most of their branding efforts go unnoticed since they are focused on corporate branding and not personal branding.
In the word of mouth arena, there are hundreds of different factors that play into your personal brand. What you wear, how you answer the phone and the company you surround yourself with are just a few of those factors. However, in business networking, the most important aspect of personal branding is answering the question, “What makes you different than your competition?”
I have asked this question of hundreds of professionals, and you normally get a shallow and meaningless cliche, like “I just want to help people.”, “I’m less expensive.”, or “I have better customer service.” While these phrases may be the first thing that comes to mind, they don’t set you apart from your competition in any way! Why? Because your competition is saying the same thing. Whether you believe it to be true or not, the majority of your prospective clients don’t know the difference. So, these shallow responses really do nothing to help your brand. Instead, personal branding for small businesses requires us to dig a bit deeper and ultimately answer the question, “Why do I do what I do?”
Most of us hate doing this, because we often discover some deep, dark repressed memory from our childhoods that we have have spent years trying to avoid. But this is the key to finding our story that really sets us apart from our competition. Think about it for a minute. You could have chosen any career, a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker. Most of them are no longer around today, because they failed to answer this question and set themselves apart. So take a minute and think about it; why are you really doing what you are doing? If you answer this question, you will then have the key to branding your small business.
Once you have this key to personal branding, the rest is easy. You can build everything else around that one key differentiating idea. You company logo, tagline and corporate branding will all naturally fall into place. The best part about this method, is that it is fast and fairly easy as long as you commit to the idea. Learn from the past mistakes made by the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, and instead, give it a try! You will soon hear your networking contacts using your story and your personal branding as tools to introduce you to more referral relationships than you thought possible!