Personal branding sounds like something that Instagram influencers, TED talk speakers, and corporate CEOs need to worry about—not small business owners.
Maybe it’s because small business owners spend so much time developing the brand of the business itself—creating marketing materials, communicating with customers “as” the business on social media, etc.—that they don’t see how their brand could or should be different or separate.
The truth is personal branding is a powerful tool for raising not just your own fortunes, but the fortunes of your business. That goes for any major pivots or changes your business makes, or if you decide to open a different venture at some point.
Let’s explore why your personal brand matters to the success of your business, and how you can build a brand that's all your own.
How your personal brand affects your small business
Small business owners are intimately tied to their businesses—but just as no one is “just” their profession, you aren't only your business.
That’s a good thing. You have a chance to build a brand that transcends being the owner of a single entity, and become known as an expert, a thought leader, an industry player in your field. Most importantly, you can build a brand as a real human being that people want to know, trust, learn from—and yes, buy from.
Here are three reasons why creating a brand separate from your business is, in fact, good for your business:
Builds another channel for people to discover your business
When you become known as an expert on a certain topic or in a certain field, you build additional channels that users, readers, and leads can stumble upon that eventually lead back to your business.
A quick example: I once looked up how to clean a cast iron skillet. My search brought me to Brad Leone, one of the biggest personalities on the Bon Appétit YouTube channel.
I started watching more of Brad’s videos—his personality, knowledge, and humor in the kitchen drew me in. I didn’t associate him specifically with the Bon Appétit brand at first.
But today, I’m an avid watcher and reader of all of Bon Appétit’s content. I’m familiar with nearly every chef on the channel. And when Bon Appétit suggests a recipe, product, or other pieces of content to me, I’m much more likely to consider and consume it as a result.
I knew what Bon Appétit was before I “met” Brad. But it wasn’t until I encountered his personal brand that I dove into the larger company’s offerings and became a consumer. People searching for experts, advice, and help in a field may come across you and your brand before they do your business.
Establishes you as authoritative in your space
Sometimes, we ask consumers to “take a chance” on our product or service without providing them with proof that they’ll be happy with their purchase. Sure, there are free trials and free return policies, but creating a personal brand where you demonstrate your expertise is another way to demonstrate your value.
Whether you’re appearing in webinars, YouTube videos, blog posts, podcasts, or any other form of media, you’re not only building a brand but showing people that you're more than a salesperson. You’re not hawking a product—you’re an actual expert in this space. That means buying from you is buying from someone who knows the value of solving a particular problem or filling a particular void.
You’ll rarely sell a product or service that no one else is selling. If you’re able to differentiate yourself by creating a brand that resonates in the field, you’ll be a step ahead of those who are only letting their business do the talking.
Creates networking opportunities
Those who create powerful brands also create opportunities to meet new people in their field.
This isn’t just about building the number of connections you have on LinkedIn or the number of followers you have on Instagram. Connecting with a larger number of people means you’ll meet potential new hires, consultants, and people you can learn from and talk to about the challenges your business faces.
Through your brand, you may receive invitations to events or to appear on other properties (such as the websites or social media channels of related brands). You’ll get messages and questions from new fans. You’ll have more and stronger connections with people in your field and beyond.
When it comes time to build your team, or pivot into a new area, you’ll be glad that you can draw from a larger pool of people who already know and respect your work.
Gail, we are so thrilled to read your review! We are cheering you on and hope that in 2020, you're able to keep going, keep serving, and keep growing. pic.twitter.com/7bqFMRBhEP— Keap (@KeapGrowing) February 23, 2020
How to build a personal brand
There’s not one way to build a personal brand. The kind of brand you build will depend on what kind of business you run. Are you someone who can speak to the B2B community, or will you be more consumer-focused? Do you have more insights into selling a service online, or are you a brick-and-mortar guru?
This article on personal branding tips will help you identify effective, general ways to build a personal brand that resonates. The broad strokes include:
- Define your brand: Identify the words, phrases, values, skills, and moods you want to be associated with your brand
- Create a platform: Don’t just rely on social media, but create a personal website where you have full control over how people consume your story
- Tell your story: Marketing is about storytelling. Go behind-the-scenes on yourself and don’t be afraid to be human
- Be consistent: A brand is not about being many things to many people. Stay on brand in all of your interactions across all platforms
The bottom line
Small business owners have so much on their plate, there’s no way that “work on personal branding” makes it on the daily to-do list.
And while building and maintaining a personal brand is important, no one will tell you that it’s more important than making sure you have enough money to cover payroll, or that your sales funnel is capturing enough potential leads.
That being said, building a strong personal brand is how you help grow your business from a solo venture into something more substantial, long-lasting, and impactful. Your personal brand will outlast the brand of any business—so put as much time and effort into your story as the story of your current venture. It will pay dividends now and in the long run.