Your brand helps set you apart from the competition

In today’s global market, it is critical to stand apart from the crowd.

You are no longer competing on a local stage, your organization now competes in the global economy.

How do you stand out from the thousands or millions of similar organizations around the world?

As an entrepreneur, I try to be upbeat and optimistic, but let’s face it… It is UGLY out there! If you’re a solo professional or a small business, it is down right scary! As the worldwide economic roller coaster ride continues, consumer confidence continues to decline. That means our customers and prospects – the folks who (we hope) buy products or services from you and me – are getting a whole lot more cautious and conservative about how they spend their hard-earned and quickly disappearing cash!

Consumers are freaked-out, confused, uncertain – perhaps even panicked. And that means that they are thinking long and hard before they reach for that credit card or click the “buy” button online. That’s why it’s more important than ever to have a breakthrough brand! If you’ve got a strong, well-defined brand identity, you have a much better chance of not only surviving, but thriving, in a down economy.

In uncertain, tumultuous times, people stick with what they know. They want the familiar, the predictable, the reliable – They want the safe choice. More than ever, consumers want to buy from a “brand” name. Someone they know, like and trust. Someone they can count on. Someone who stands for something. Better yet, someone who shares their values.

A personal brand is the foundation of building the trust and credibility that a consumer demands. It’s your connection to your customer. It’s much more than a slogan or a tagline – it’s your promise. Deliver consistently on that promise and you’re on your way to developing a strong brand.

If you ever hope to achieve that glorious and coveted “brand loyalty” – the kind that weathers economic storms – then you must first create a brand that is unique, memorable and remarkable. Your personal brand must be authentic and relevant. It has to “speak” directly to your target market. Most of all, your brand has to be true to you.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a mega-corporation with an ad agency, million-dollar media buys, or an office full of brand managers to build a breakthrough brand. You can compete with the big guys and level the playing field with a little creativity and some simple Web 2.0 technology. In fact, with the tools and resources of the Internet at your fingertips, there’s never been a better time to build your personal brand…

How to develop a strong personal brand identity

While the Internet has made it a whole lot simpler for us so-called “little guys” to compete, that doesn’t get you off the hook for creating the basic, standard credibility-builders. These are all the pieces that make up the framework of your brand: Your name; your logo; your business cards; your website; your e-mail signature; your photo; your tag line. These are all part of the branding process, but they are not your brand.

Your brand is who you are, who you serve, what you do, and what you stand for. Everything else must fit into that structure. Don’t get hung up on your slogan or your logo. Unless your logo has achieved icon status like Nike or Apple, no one is ever going to buy anything based on just a logo. Consumers are much more likely to part with their money if they understand who you are and what you stand for. As “Book Yourself Solid” author Michael Port says, “People buy based on what they value.” If your customers share your values and your world view, you’re on your way to the blissful state of brand loyalty.

In order to develop a strong personal brand identity, you have to first decide how YOU want to be known in your market. If you don’t proactively and intentionally create your own brand, someone else will do it for you – and that is never a good thing! You want to control your own destiny, right? So, what do you want to be known for? What kind of image do you want to portray? Advertising types would call this your “unique selling proposition.” It’s how you differentiate yourself from everyone else and stand out from the competition.

Again, borrowing the language of the Book Yourself Solid system, “a personal brand will help clearly and consistently define, express, and communicate who you are, whom you serve, and why you have chosen to dedicate your life and work to serving your target market.”

As a Book Yourself Solid Certified Coach, I use Michael Port’s proven and powerful method for helping solo professionals develop their personal brand. That process has two components: Your “who and do what” statement and your “why you do it” statement. As Michael points out: “Successful people find their style, build a brand based on it, and boldly express themselves through that brand. It’s powerful and it makes you memorable.”

Does your personal brand meet the Six C's?

When you’ve created your Who and Do What and Why You Do It statements, and started to further develop your brand using Web 2.0 resources like online video and social media, you’ll be well on your way to having a solid, breakthrough brand.

No matter what the economy throws at you, you’ll be well-positioned to weather the storm. But just to be sure, let’s put your brand to the test. Does your personal brand meet the six C’s of branding? Before you re-launch your website or order new business cards touting your brand, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does your brand reflect your CORE values?
  2. Does your brand CONNECT with your target market?
  3. Is your branding CONSISTENT in all areas?
  4. Is your brand CLEAR and not confusing?
  5. Will your brand CAPTIVATE your customers?
  6. Is your brand COMPELLING enough to move your customers?

These six C’s will help ensure that your personal brand is unique, memorable and authentic. That’s the kind of distinction you need to become your target market’s “go-to” source in good times and bad.

Your 'Who and Do What' Statement

Developing your “Who and Do What” statement will clearly define who you help and what you help them do. The “who” is your target market’ and the “what” is the primary benefit they get from you. One way to create your phrase is to start with “I help (who) do (what).” For example, my who and do what is: “I help first-time entrepreneurs build their brands so that they can get booked solid.”

Your 'Why You Do It' Statement

Your “Why You Do It” is the reason you do what you do. It’s what you stand for. It’s why you get out of bed every morning. It’s personal – and it’s vitally important because it is how your ideal clients will “connect” with you. Those who resonate with your “why” will be attracted to you and inclined to work with you. That’s the power of your why, so it should not be taken lightly! My why I do it is because “I stand for your brand!” In other words, I help solo professionals and newbies take charge of their own destinies. (Amazing what a strong brand can do for you!)

How to use Web 2.0 tools to build your personal brand

Once you’ve got your Who and Do What and Why You Do It statements, you’re ready to further expand and promote your brand. Obviously, there are dozens of ways to promote your brand, but the quickest, easiest and least expensive is online. Because the Internet has leveled the playing field and made it possible for solo professionals to play with the big boys, I like to focus on using Web 2.0 tools and technologies to extend our brands.

When I refer to the much-ballyhooed and often-misunderstood world of Web 2.0, I’m really talking about interactive and creative uses of web technology such as online video and social media. In fact, these tools are not even as technical as you might imagine. Best of all, online video and social media are fast, powerful and (mostly) free. Resources like YouTube, UStream, Facebook and Twitter can potentially turn you into a brand name almost overnight.

Online Video

Video is an extremely powerful marketing and branding weapon, because video creates a personal connection. The intimate nature of video allows people to see and hear you, providing you with an opportunity to develop your online personality and become more familiar with your potential clients. As you create and deliver your content via video, you are increasing your trust and credibility, as well. This becomes even more important in a challenging economy, as consumers strongly to prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust.

Online video is an excellent branding tool, allowing you to expand your presence and broadcast to a worldwide audience, 24/7. Be sure to sign up for a free account at, if you haven’t already! Once you put your video on the web by uploading it to YouTube or Blip it can be shared on your own website or blog, or on your Facebook page. Make your video clever enough to be passed on, and there’s no limit to the exposure you can enjoy. Another benefit: Video improves your search engine rankings!

Social Media

Aside from the magic of video, social networking sites like Facebook and micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter make extending your brand fast and easy – maybe too easy. One cautionary note: Just because you can set up a Facebook profile in minutes, doesn’t mean you should jump into social networking willy-nilly. Remember, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like are all part of your public face to the world. Be sure that your presence on these sites is well thought out and in line with the brand you are building.

That being said, social networking can be an amazing strategy for increasing your online presence. Facebook and Twitter, my personal favorites, can help you become better known quickly and efficiently. Facebook helps you connect with like-minded individuals, join groups, share updates and stay current, while Twitter allows you to stay in touch with your connections by way of brief (140 characters or less) updates throughout the day. These online communities are yet another venue for you to shine, share and shape your brand.

You can add value to these communities – and build your social currency – by sharing relevant news, information, tips, links or contacts. However, blatant pitching and hawking your wares is generally frowned upon. Once you’ve built some credibility and goodwill, then you can invite people to your teleseminars or promote your products – just use your discretion and don’t be obnoxious!