Monday, February 8, 2010

Creating Your Own Brand

What can help you stand out as you're promoting your product, service, cause, book, or issue? Brand consultant and author Martin Lindstrom (Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy) recently explained how to create a personal brand on The Today Show. His goal was to help jobhunters, but it got me thinking about how it might apply to my situation as a small business owner, and, in turn, how it might help the authors, business owners, and nonprofit leaders I try to help through this blog. During the interview, he was talking about defining an individual's brand, but his advice can apply to companies and organizations, too.

Here are this five tips:
  1. Define who you are and aren't. I think this is the hardest for most people because it requires focus. It forces us to ask, "What do I want to be known for?" Then ask, "What am I probably known for right now?" I am somebody who does her best in any given situation. When I turn in a writing assignment, it's as good as I can make it. When I teach a publicity workshop, you're getting everything I can possibly offer in the timeframe allotted. But who is this important to -- me, or my clients? I should find out. More importantly, though: Who are you?
  2. Become well-known for one thing. Again, it's about focus. You can't be all things to all people, so learn what's most important to your target customer and decide if that's what you can deliver.
  3. Create an air of mystery. In the publicity business, you can do this by consistently delivering top quality results and not yakking the whole time about how you did it. When I was doing PR work for clients, they used to ask me where I kept my fairydust. Now that I share my "secrets" through workshops, it's a little harder to be mysterious.... But how can you do this in your own business? I think that concept of being good at what you do but not talking about how hard or how easy it is makes for a good first step.
  4. Create a signature look. My "signature look" is not wearing sweatpants to the supermarket so I should probably spend a little time on this one. Lindstrom's signature look is black clothes -- an approach shared by actor/singer Mandy Patinkin, who once commented that he always wears a black t-shirt and pants when he performs because he doesn't have to worry about what matches. Your signature look should align with client or customer expectations.
  5. Leave a personal mark behind. What can you leave with people that helps them remember you after you're gone? If you use a business card, it should be atypical -- something that stands out and is relevant to your personal brand. For some it could be good advice, for others, it might be a free sample. Be creative with this one.
Going through this process -- addressing these five points -- is an interesting exercise. I don't have all the answers for myself yet, but I will soon, because I think Lindstrom's advice is solid and relevant to my business. Have you done something like this already? What was the result?

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