One of the first things I learnt about marketing when I went to a B school some 15 years back is “Learn to Market Yourself”. So, how do you Market Yourself? What is it that you do or what is that one thing or rather a few things which make you stand apart? What is the Brand “Me” or "personal branding" and what do I stand for? Let’s just try and answer a few of these questions here.
We have heard of “Branding” so many times in our lives and we know how iconic brands have some unique value proposition and it is what makes the product unique or say superior to others. Sometimes the Brand made a name so big for itself, so synonymous to the product itself that people started calling the product or service by the brand name itself. Some of the most iconic Brands did that and we pay the price for the association with the brand. Even management gurus, CEO and individuals made themselves a brand. The brand of these individuals became so strong that we started associating the individual to those virtues they stand for and started identifying them with what they did in their professional lives.
Then people and organizations hire these icons and legendary CEOs and celebrities to market their products and services.
So, many of you will say I am not a brand and why would anyone associate with me. Do I as an Individual need to Market myself? Do I really need to make myself a brand since I am an entrepreneur or since I am a regular employee at an organization. Isn’t it only for celebrities or those products and services or organizations. Let’s debate this with reasoning. Where are organizations or individuals who are iconic brands or brands in their own rights always a brand?
The answer is no, they simply started their journey and over a period of time found their calling and got associated with a subject or a topic or an area of expertise. So, what did they do right? Is that they marketed themselves well by way of advertising?
Now let’s find out how does one make a Brand of herself or himself. What are those things that make you unique and stand out. The one unique differentiator that makes the brand stand apart is what we need to find in ourselves. Let’s say you are a product called say “Tim”. Tim has some common features and some unique. These unique things about him are the key differentiators and are the set of core values those that define Tim. Now people know Tim and so does Tim’s business associates. Tim is a venture capitalist. People who know him are already aware of his capabilities are likely to use his services or seek his advice driven by the virtue of the capabilities he brings forth to the table or invest in his venture. But people who do not know Tim, what about them! How will they associate to Tim and his work. Let’s answer this in a step by step approach:
The first basic question then we need to answer is — “What you are”?
When someone uses you for what you are, they are basically trusting the brand “you” because of what you are capable of doing. Isn’t it then the reason that you got your first assignment or the first few of them because of the employer being able to see a certain virtue in you which is not available in others. All this due to your unique identity and the associations people make with you. So, we answered the question what you are? Then I am sure that as an entrepreneur or consultant or venture capitalist or even as an individual you need to clearly define what you are just like brands do, by answering the simple question — “I am a ………who can do …………..which helps organizations or individuals achieve …………..”. This is called the Positioning statement.
Sample: For [your target market] who [target market need], [your brand name] provides [main benefit that differentiates your offering from competitors] because [reason why target market should believe your differentiation statement.]
What is the next question -what do you stand for or what is the core value you stand for?
Just like organizations define their values, mission & vision statement. I think the same applies to you as an individual. So define that value you stand for and the vision you have for yourself in short term and long term. Since it's a tough one to crack, my suggestion would be to start slow, start by setting yourself a short term vision statement and then make the long term over time.
In one of the leadership series I attended last year, we were made to draw who you think you are today and who you think you want to be later say 5 years down the line. This made me realize that it was easier to do it that way. I drew myself as a bird today — which meant I have to explore places and go higher up in the skies and want to achieve more. Say 10 years later I would want to be a Tree, because I want to serve the society, join hands with social institutions and do some amount of philanthropic work when I grow older and even provide marketing consulting services in the long run.
Make the right set of associations -
The next step would be to start associating yourself with the right groups or become a member with the right bodies so that you are starting to associate yourself with the right group of people online. Participate in forums which bring together like minded people. After all birds of the same feather flock together.
Define where your audience lies and where you want to be seen -
Make yourself visible at the right place and to the right set of audience. This can be connected with the point above since you are now a member of a certain group or association you will be able to soon find out where your audience is going, following who and why. Find out these things and start ensuring you are seen at such forums and talk on such platforms. Maybe do IVM Podcasts or write or may participate as a keynote speaker.
The next step would be to: “Be Yourself” -
When I say being true to yourself I mean do not copy anyone’s style and keep the signals you send out consistent with your brand image that you are trying to build. Just like organizations seek to be consistent in what they want to be known for. As an individual be consistent. do not try to emulate someone else.
Next one is “I am my own best friend” -
Be your top most well wisher. Think what is best for you. At every step, self evaluate and ask the question and re-valuate the options you have.
Be seen and heard -
Be seen and heard and take people to someplace where you think they can know real you. Make your own website and if you can’t have one, then use places like Medium and Linkedin or Quora etc.
Building Personal Brand is not an a journey that one can cover overnight. It’s a transformation and is an ever-evolving process, one that of periodic self-assessment, answering the questions of -who you really are, showcasing what you can do. Keep the goal of communicating your value in your mind. At the end of the day, it’s about taking the time out for yourself just like self-love, expand your network horizons every day little by little. Try ensuring that your actions align with your values & vision that you have for yourself. And finally, don’t forget the art of communicating your true-self to others such that their perception of you aligns with who you really are.
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