Each one of us is born different. With a different face, body, personality and way of thinking. The self-help and life coaching industry has become a 10 billion dollar empire today on the strength of just one messaging at its core: our uniqueness. And how we can – and should! – leverage that uniqueness to advantage in our day-to-day lives.
Marketing — which is basically a communication marketplace that’s not a whole lot different from the noisy bazaar of real life – has exactly the same messaging at its center, from which all social campaigns, media advertisements and other promotional drives emanate.
It’s called `branding’.
As a small or medium-sized business owner, you want to try putting your company in the spotlight, and leverage every unique way it can improve lives and solve customers’ problems.
You also want to `humanize’ this branding effort. Add flesh and blood, and a feeling heart to the business, so there’s an invisible cord of empathy that ties your products to your customers.
But if trying to put a human face on an inventory of factory-produced products is the sole focus of your branding strategy, then maybe you’re missing something incredibly alive, incredibly unique, and incredibly important that will nurture and nourish every customer relationship you will ever build.
Your personal branding.
As a business owner, you almost owe it to your company to let it shine a little bit brighter in the reflected glory of your personality, your passion, and your reason to be in the business in the first place.
Personal branding is not is not just for industry leaders, successful entrepreneurs and billionaires. It’s equally applicable for anyone whose livelihood depends on interaction with people. A lot of people shy away from this idea because they deeply doubt their worthiness to step under the spotlight.
Unlike Harry a.k.a Harpreet Singh, the India-born owner of the 7-Eleven store that’s probably a block away from your home. Harpreet Singh immigrated to the United States from a small village in India with no education, no sophistication, but with a big dream: to own a small business.
His convenience store is probably no different from all the others in your neighborhood – the same Slurpys, the same hotdogs on dried-out buns, the same fried chicken wings cooked in last week’s rancid cooking oil. The same point-of-purchase discount posters, advertising deals on quick-meal combos and Pall Mall cigarettes.
So why is it that you like going to Harry’s 7-Eleven store more than any others?
Because Harry is….Harry. His English is broken and unintelligible, but he has a smile for you every time you step into his shop. He probably knows your name and what convenience items you usually come to his store to buy. His accent is thick and you don’t understand all that he says, but he says it with such warmth and such enthusiasm that you feel he is your friend. Your heart expands with good feeling when he refuses to take money for the coffee you bought because it’s the last dregs in his pot. And you always chuckle when he sees you off with his pet phrase: “Thank you for loitering.”
Harry is not one of those stereotypical Indians who are leading the digital industry in United States today. He is not Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft or Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. He is not even Neil Patel, the uncrowned king of the digital marketing space. But he is Harry. And he has a unique personal brand that he is not embarrassed to share with his customers to make them keep coming back to his store every day. And they love him for it.
Here’s a snapshot of how you can begin a personal branding campaign for yourself that will soon become a bedrock of your business marketing efforts if you do it right:
IT ALL BEGINS WITH THE BEST PROFILE PICTURES
• Don’t cut your image out of a group photo. Get a portfolio done by a professional instead. Pose like a leader, looking deeply and directly into the camera, with your head held high. Spread your shoulders too. Body language transmits a lot of subliminal messages and leaders typically know how to physically occupy a lot of space. Raise your eyebrows a tad (another leadership quality). And smile. Nothing suggests trust, and openness to communication than a big, authentic smile.
Get a lot of pictures done, and do a few wardrobe changes so you have a ready portfolio of several image options to suitably use in different publicity channels.
ADD A VISUAL MARKER TO YOUR PRESENCE
• Create a logo or label for yourself, with your name and maybe a catchline. Use this like a sticker on everything piece of content you put out. Humans are wired to recall pictorial representation more than words, and soon they will start associating you with your personal branding sticker before they even read a word of what you’ve written. And think of it as a seal of authority.
KNOW WHO YOU ARE FIRST, BEFORE YOU TELL OTHERS
• Spend some time pondering this. Write down a list of things that motivate you to get out of bed each morning, ideas that keep you inspired all day and beliefs that fire up your goals and actions. Now distill all that information into a short, elevator bio and longer one. Not only can you share them, as needed, with the world at large, they’re also reminders to keep you authentically and determinedly on the path to success you have breadcrumbed for yourself.
BE SPECIAL AT ONE THING
• Don’t dilute your personal branding efforts by straddling many subjects at once. Choose what you are best at and just shine in that. Over time, your name will get associated so intrinsically with that particular field that you can emerge as a figure of authority, attracting a targeted following, speaking engagements, guesting opportunities – and what’s more, you will get deeper and deeper into that subject and build valuable knowledge and experience without getting distracted.
NOURISH THE PERSONALITY YOU HAVE – DON’T TRY TO CHANGE IT
• Personal branding is — personal. You cannot go imitating other people you look up to and become a bargain basement, stitched-up version of the all many things you admire in all of them. No matter who you are, there isn’t another one like you, and if you dare to present your personality as is, trust me, we will all like you.
IDENTIFY YOUR EMOTIONAL APPEAL
• Appeal is a very subjective thing. If it wasn’t, then everybody would be a fan of just Tom Cruise and be done with it. There’s takers for all sorts of personalities in whatever field you may be in, and staying consistent with that one, true personality is one of the biggest pieces of the personal branding puzzle. Don’t ape others. Be yourself, so you can go on being it for a long, long time.
DON’T DROP OUT OF SIGHT
• Being consistent with your appearance and postings on social media communicate to your growing readership/viewership base that you’re dependable, serious, and always there for them. In an odd way, your predictability in this will make them feel safe enough to believe you, follow you, and subconsciously value your messaging more. In turn, this will attract more and more followers to your platform: organically, via SEO and via word-of-mouth.
STEP CONSCIOUSLY OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
• Try different things. Appear on camera or go live with podcasts without worrying about consequences. Accept speaking engagements. Do small gigs to get used to the experience, so you’re ready to show your true, authentic personality on a much grander scale at a later date with minimum hesitation.
As writer and editor, Nabanita (Nita) has worn many hats. She started her career as a magazine journalist – and launched and edited India’s largest-selling weekend magazine (`Brunch’) before moving to the United States in 2007. She has also written travel books (for the award-winning `To Asia With Love’ series) and countless columns and articles for newspapers and magazines in the United Kingdom, United States and Asia. She has been working in digital content marketing for over 10 years now with a relentless curiosity about what drives and motivates people when they’re interacting in the online space.