In the past, businesses were separate from the people that founded or ran them. Their names may have been known, but the business was separate from the personality. But now professional branding for entrepreneurs has never been so important.
Today, especially in the startup world, personal brand and business have never been more intertwined. Just look at Mark Zuckerburg, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs – these people are intimately entwined with their business.
These days, a power connection is made and therefore: Like the person – like the brand…
Maybe its the power of social media, our love of celebrity gossip or deep-rooted need for human connection. Whatever it is, growing your professional brand alongside your business is an important part of modern entrepreneurship.
Here’s a step by step guide on professional branding for entrepreneurs. Get it right and you’ll boost your business by attracting the right customers to you!
BTW, I know that it works. Putting in hard work for by creating content has resulted in the many business opportunities and clients – some that would have never found me any other way!
Step 1: Build a brand by working out what makes you, you.
This will become the bedrock of building your professional brand. So take it slowly! First of all, you’ll need to find out where you currently sit.
This is not about building a brand or crafting a persona that will make you stand out – that is not sustainable or authentic to you. Here’s we’ll be finding out exactly what makes you memorable for all the good reasons.
What is your current professional brand?
The easiest way to find out where you currently sit in terms of your own professional brand is to ask others how they would describe you to other people. I call this the “professional brand stocktake”.
I asked a range of people about how they would describe me and they said that I was “funny”, “rude” and “A good communicator”. Clearly, the rude aspect was something that I needed to be aware of as it’s something that I may not want to be known as – especially as I am starting to grow a business and need to build confidence in my customers. The “funny” aspect, however, was something that I could potentially use as my secret weapon in my professional branding!
If you don’t like the feedback that comes back to you do have a chance to evolve your personal brand away from negative perceptions. Consider this the first step in your professional development.
Another easy way to check where you currently sit is to check your online presence. If you google/bing/duckduckgo your name what does the search result return? Is it current and provide potential customers with an overview of who you are and what you do?
Don’t worry, we’ll be creating a personal website to control this aspect in a little bit.
Building your professional brand
Ask yourself these important questions and write down the answers:
- What skills do you have? This will help you identify what skills you can actually sell to your customers. The mission after identifying these is to then position yourself as an expert in these areas. Don’t worry, we will talk about this later.
- What are your passions/hobbies? It is far easier to grow a brand on your passions. Growing a brand will require you to produce content and a lot of it. Enjoying the process will make you much more likely to do the nonglamorous parts of growing a brand – like content creation.
- What are your core business values that you are immovable on? Setting this will mean that your authenticity and credibility will never come into question as you are building your brand. For example, I am immovable on honesty and remaining ethical in all my business transactions. I will forgo short term wins if it doesn’t benefit my customers in the long run.
The next important aspects are to actually think about the abstract concept of your brand:
- What do you want your brand to be known for? What do you want to be an expert in? The more complex or broad your expertise, the longer you will have to nurture your brand with your audience. My suggestion will be to choose one thing and not try to make it too complicated.
- What message do you want to convey in all of your content? You’ll probably not stick to this and neither should you. But having an idea of what most of your content should be about will become your guiding star on those days where you have no idea what you are going to talk about.
- Your brand personality – how do you want others to feel about your brand? Setting your tone will be a mix of your own personality and what your audience will feel comfortable with. Don’t go with a super irreverent and comedy based voice if you are a high-end brand or service. If however, you offer entertainment your brand voice will need to be entertaining. In one word you want “congruency”.
Step 2: Define your audience
Knowing who you are talking to will help you tailor your message and brand to your customer!
But don’t worry if you don’t know who your audience is. I started by openly sharing my skills and knowledge and seeing who was drawn to it. This is a time-consuming process but if you don’t know exactly who your audience is, it’s a great way to find it out!
These are the most important demographic info that you want to collect or think about as you are defining your audience:
- Where they live
- Level of education
- Hobbies and amount of free time
- Their biggest problems that you could help them solve.
- Where do they hang out and where can you find them?
I encourage you to go much further and give this person a name and think about what you’d buy them for birthdays, and Chrismas’s – really. The more that you can know this audience the better prepared you’ll be!
Step 3: What will you offer?
This is a huge question and something that can take a while to craft and perfect. A lot of businesses fail because of this so-called, business – market fit.
You could offer something that you THINK people want only to find out that you are the only one that wants it!
This is how to create an offer your audience, and potential customers, will love:
The first step to creating an irresistible offer is to position yourself as a specialist and not a generalist. Promise your potential clients a very specific outcome, and design a specialized offer to help them achieve it!
Finding an overlap between the skills that you have and the problems that you can solve for your customers is where the true magic happens! Once again, don’t get too stressed about not finding it right away. Some of this will be trial and error.
If you fail to create an irresistible offer just try again with a different offer – you’ve found something that doesn’t work. Also a very valuable bit of data!
Once you feel like you have created an irresistible offer, you need to be able to articulate it clearly to your audience. Here are the questions that you need to be able to answer to make your audience take you seriously.
- What do you do? Your answer to this question is your value proposition.
- What is the value that you provide to your clients in exchange for charging them?
- How do you do it? Give your process, product, or service a unique name. When you give it a unique name, it immediately stands out from any competing offers that promise the same result.
Step 4: Get a personal website
Setting up a website allows you to create a part of the internet where you can have full control over your personal and professional brand!
It has never been easier to set up your own website and I have launched my own personal sites in an afternoon with a cup of tea in hand!
BTW, a load of people will tell you that you can set up a website in an afternoon, which is true BUT is not the full story. To search engine optimize, make it awesome and fill it with useful content that attracts customers is very time-consuming. However, little by little is the way forward!
Here is a list of services that I use and recommend for launching your website:
- SiteGround – Great hosting and single click.
- WordPress – The trusted way to manage your website.
- Divi – WordPress theme with drag and drop builder.
- Google Analytics – look to see how your website is performing
- Google Search Console – check your search engine optimization and appearance in search results.
Your website should contain these pages at least:
- A blog – aim for 30 search engine optimized articles as soon as you can
- An optimized landing page with a clear call to action! Check out these examples for inspiration.
- An about page – don’t be afraid to share your story – be authentic and talk about how you managed to build the skills that can help your customers. Try to get them to think “Oh, this person is just like me!”
- Contact page – Obviously.
- Products and services.
These pages are good enough to get started and we can optimize them later as you see the traffic to your site building.
Step 5: Design a content strategy
It is no coincidence that the top marketers are producing a tonne of content! If you have already done your homework with the steps this far your concern shouldn’t be with the topic of the content because you know your audience’s problems and how you can fix them!
Instead, you should work out what sort of content you want to produce and how often you should produce it!
Here’s a list of the sorts of content you can consider creating. You can choose a selection from the list below too. Don;t feel like you have to only create one type of content!
- Text / articles – great if you enjoy writing and consider yourself a bit of a wordsmith!
- Videos – Love the camera and editing? This type can be time-consuming but it’s a really great way to connect with, and grow, an audience.
- Podcasts – I love podcasts and if you have a load of people in your niche to speak to it’s a great option for you!
- Webinars – Like teaching? The internet can now allow you to reach a load of people really easily. All you need is a fast internet connection and something to teach your audience!
- Online courses – Like webinars, you can easily turn what you know into a small course that people could pay for.
- PDF guides, checklists, worksheets.
- Infographics – arty? This one is for you. Data visualization is huge at the moment. Chuck in a little animation and you’ll have some really compelling content to share!
Once you have the content you need somewhere to share it! Consider these avenues:
- Your own blog/website – The best way if you have long-form SEO optimized posts to share with your audience.
- Podcast services – SoundCloud, anchor.fm, libsyn.
- YouTube – always cross post social media videos to youtube in private mode. It can then act as your own repository of videos that you create. Even though I am mainly active on LinkedIn, the videos I create end up on Youtube – I can then embed them into posts.
- Other blogs and online publications – ask for guest posts on other blogs.
- Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)
- Quora/Reddit – forum sites are a great place if your content answers very specific questions.
With all of this content you should focus on quality & consistency. But my biggest advice for people starting out in the professional branding world is don;t let perfection get in the way of progress! Put out your content even if it not perfect. You’ll learn a lot from producing regularly.
Step 6: Have a visibility strategy
If you’ve got this far, congratulations! You are well on your way to crafting a stellar professional brand to support your start up! Now it is time to get noticed!
Your regular content strategy will go a long way and will build up momentum – just give it a little bit of time! In the short term, you can give your professional brand a little boost by getting out into the real world. Get yourself noticed! There are a few ways to do that!
- Guest blog posts
- Podcast Guest appearances
- Volunteer your time at a local event that your customers are likely to attend.
It’s a gross expression but… anyway you can pimp yourself out is an opportunity to grow that professional brand!
Step 7: Set Up Google Alerts Around Your Name And Keywords Related To Your Brand
If there’s an online activity that you can be involved in, make sure you are part of the conversation!
Set up a google alert for your name, company and any keywords that you want to be associated with.
Remember that in all of these interactions you are going to want to be as helpful as possible. Hold back the temptation to sell your start up business or even talk about it at length. People are fed up being sold to and you don’t want to be part of that noise.
Authentic, relentlessly helpful is the way to go!
Step 8: Go do it! No excuses…
Let’s just lay this out in plain language for you. Growing a professional brand is tough!
It takes time, energy (both mental and physical) and sometimes, you are going to ask your self “why bother?”.
Like most valuable things in life, it takes a lot of effort but the returns are worth it. Allow your audience to get to know you. Invite them into your life and give them a behind the scenes view of what you are up to.
In no time at all you’ll have an audience that knows, likes and trusts you…it’ll just take time!
Professional branding for entrepreneurs is tough! If you need help, feel free to get in contact at any time!