I live across the street from a high school.
Make no doubt about it; there are some negatives living so close 2,500 teenagers. You hear a lot of squealing tires and you’re constantly picking up fast-food wrappers that blow into your yard.
But there’s a positive as well – I like hearing the marching band practice each evening. It starts in early August and continues throughout the high school football season. When I hear that marching band, it means autumn just around the corner. That’s my favorite time of year.
September is also an ideal time to assess your personal brand status and make plans to grow and strengthen the image people have of you. Why is September so important? Well, ever since you were a kid, September marked the beginning of new academic year. As a professional, it’s the start of a very busy four months. Now is your chance to make sure 2021 ends up as a success for you.
Make no mistake…You ARE a brand. You’re a business of one, a business unto yourself. Every successful business makes annual marketing goals. As a “personal business,” so too must you. So too must all of us.
To protect and advance your personal brand, here are 11 items to remember:
Focus externally – Be active and involved outside your home or office. Show up at networking events. Go out of your way to talk to people when you are in public venues. Remember that many big clients only come from relationship-building. Make it a goal to attend a certain number of events per month even in the COVID era.
Sell Yourself – Because you are a “business” of one, you need to sell yourself the way businesses sell themselves. Read up on marketing and sales techniques. Remember that a good sales rep always has prospects moving through each part of his or her pipeline at all times. In other words, you should be always meeting new people, strengthening relationships with existing acquaintances and holding serious professional conversations (deal-making, so to speak) with people you know well.
Find the Fascinating – You need an “area of self-marketing expertise,” something about your business or career that is fascinating to people outside your profession. Feature this when you are networking or using social media.
Focus on results when networking – Determine what is most interesting about your career and your line of work and then exploit it. I call it your “area of self marketing expertise.” That’s what you talk about when you meet new people, not the mundane, technical details that will cause a lay person’s eyes to glaze.
Build a “Google trail” – If you haven’t searched your name lately, see what’s out there. I guarantee that people are Googling you on a regular basis. A prospective client will probably Google you to know who he or she is dealing with before meeting with you. That’s why a Google trail is so important. If nothing or very little pops up when someone Googles you, there’s a problem – they’ll assume you don’t have much going on. Therefore, Google your own name on a regular basis. If you’re not very visible on line, deliberately get your name out there to build an online presence.
Get serious about social media – Be honest…Is your online brand inadequate? Social media are now to people what the Yellow Pages were to businesses 25 years ago – THE place where future clients and prospective employers find out about you. Don’t just have a presence on social media. Make sure you post material that is interesting and not just inane personal stuff. Use social media to strengthen your reputation by building on your area of self-marketing expertise. Social meeting is not just for fun; it’s a useful business tool.
Use Your Real Name – In order to build your personal brand awareness, use your real name when reviewing products on websites, making comments at the end of articles and posting comments on discussion forums. Just make sure the things you write help your personal brand as opposed to harming it.
Engage the Media – Volunteer your expertise to media outlets in your industry as well as your local market. Make a point to meet members of your local and industry media and build friendly relationships with them.
Refresh your value statement – Does your 20-second intro speech need updating? You need to be able to say what you do quickly, clearly and in a way that captures a person’s interest. A useful elevator speech also conveys how a person could benefit from what you do.
Ask probing questions – Don’t just chit-chat and make small talk during networking conversations. Ask some questions designed to uncover the critical information that leads to new opportunities.
Listen to your clients and colleagues – When we get too busy, it’s easy to start making assumptions. Those assumptions can cause you to lose opportunities. Instead, ask the important questions and truly listen to the responses. Don’t just go through the motions. Let the other person’s words sink in and make an impression on your brain.
By the way, never let up. When things are good, don’t let complacency stop you from perpetually marketing yourself. When things are going poorly, don’t let discouragement be an excuse for apathy.
Remember, marketing yourself is never about ego; it’s just marketing. In a loud and crowded world, hard work and talent are no longer enough. You need to make sure key audiences know about your abilities and accomplishments.