Have you started investing in your personal brand? Thought of how you can stand out from the crowd?
If you haven’t, it is high time for you to do so now.
Building your personal brand isn’t just about becoming an entrepreneur, celebrity, politician, or influencer. It is about becoming more effective in whatever you do in the digital and social age.
Let me explain why.
The Human-to-Human (H2H) Era
The most significant change in the digital social age is the re-introduction of humanity back into the marketplace.
Pundits have labelled this the H2H (Human-to-Human) phenomenon. Instead of B2C (Business to Consumer) or B2B (Business to Business), marketing is increasingly a one-to-one interaction. It is a relationship forged between two or more human beings, empowered by ubiquitous social networks and mobile connectivity.
HubSpot describes the growth in H2H marketing beautifully here:
With humans so attached to their technological counterparts, businesses must find ways to reconnect with consumers on each device and each social platform they use, but in a way that enables those consumers to actually feel connected to the business on a more human level than was previously ever required.
As opposed to the Industrial Era where big businesses cast a shadow on their audience with power, authority, and demanded respect, the Human Era urges businesses to be a peer instead of a superior. Only by individualizing an audience and building authentic connections will a business thrive in the Human Era.
Indeed, we are now moving closer to how our ancient ancestors used to conduct business back in the village squares of old.
These days, marketing is less of a bulk transaction between businesses and customers, mediated by mass media channels.
Instead, we are moving towards greater person-to-person transactions, mediated by instant messaging and social channels.
Given a choice, we prefer to deal with a warm human being than a faceless and impersonal company. Heart-to-heart (another H2H) engagement is preferred over cold wallet-to-cash-register exchanges.
Why Brand You Matters
While features, benefits, value, convenience, and service still matters, it is the personal touch which tilts the balance between a successful sale and a walking customer.
Put another way, it is how much they like, trust, and believe in YOU which makes the difference. Yes, YOU are now the product and brand which your customers are buying.
Before you roll your eyes, consider these factors.
Firstly, individual influencers are increasingly becoming the arbiters of taste in food, fashion, travel, and other lifestyle products and services. In fact, some renowned social influencers on Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and Facebook have even greater followings than media channels.
Secondly, people trust experts and “people like us” a lot more than the heads of corporations and spokespersons. This shift in the trust landscape will only grow as individual influencers rise in prominence (see Edelman’s Trust Barometer for 2014 for the full story).
Thirdly, with consumers becoming social, people are interacting with each other like never before. They are updating their statuses, instagramming, liking, commenting, tweeting, and sharing their experiences with products and services on a daily basis.
Finally, a brand is now the sum total of all social interactions as opposed to possessing a slick and immaculate visual identity. Brands can no longer hide behind their steel, brick and glass facades. They need to be out there mingling with the crowd and showing their human face.
Creating Brand You
With the above in mind, the real sale isn’t between a retailer and a consumer, or a manufacturer and a distributor. Rather, it is between another individual and you.
To succeed in the new social marketplace, you need to see how you can be “productised”.
Consider ways for you to build, develop and nurture your personal brand. Evaluate yourself critically just as you would a potential product or service that you intend to buy.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How would a potential customer view my public persona? What would they think if they stumble across my Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, YouTube videos, or tweets?
- Am I consistent in how I project and present myself across both online and offline platforms? In other words, am I authentic, honest, and transparent?
- How can I build my influence? Are there communities where I can engage actively in? Perhaps I can start a blog to share useful knowledge in my area of expertise, participate in a specific interest group, or forward helpful links to my friends and followers.
- Are there ways for me to differentiate myself as a personal brand? What are my unique selling points? Put it another way, why should people care about me?
- What is the best way for me to contribute and give? How can I engender greater trust and likability in my personal brand?
- If I am pegged with a dollar value, how much would I be worth? If the price tag is very low (gulp!), how can I increase my value such that you’d be willing to pay more for what I’m worth.
Wear Your Customers’ Shoes
The key thing here is to place yourself in the shoes of your potential customer and how he or she would view you.
How would they perceive you based on how you look, what you do, what you say, and how you make the offer?
More importantly, how would you make yourself so valuable so helpful and so much a part of their lives that they see you as part of their circle.
Once you have gained their trust, likes and acceptance, selling your actual product or service may be a piece of cake.
Having said the above, it is important that the real product or service which you’re marketing isn’t a dog. Proffering a subpar product or service will not only kill the sale but destroy your hard earned credibility and reputation. Nothing is more disastrous than losing the respect and trust which you have painstakingly built over the years.
Do you agree that we are now all products and brands? I’d love to hear your views.
PS – Do also check out this brilliant article on The Brand Called You by Fast Company. Definitely worth reading!