My Personal Branding Breakfast Club

I had the pleasure of spending an entire day recently at a local coffee shop due to a power outage at my office.   As you may have guessed, the mere thought of being without Internet access was completely unacceptable.  The plan was so to sit, peck away on the laptop, drink coffee and soak up the atmosphere.  It was my idea of turning lemons into lemonade.

The store was packed as there was a certain buzz in the air as people scrambled for their position in line to order their beverage du jour.  I always find it amusing to hear people order their favorite rendition of a caffeine beverage as if they are bilingual.  The ego and pride that comes with it is freaking hilarious.  I notice upon my arrival a core group of “regulars” sitting in the corner who always seem to be there regardless of the time of day.  It is interesting what you begin to recognize when forced to change your frame of reference.

For some odd and unknown reason, I decide to jump in the pool with them and swim some laps so that I too may gain a deeper appreciation of this eclectic group of coffee aficionados.   I inquire as to why they are so happy.  Is the coffee that good?  Why this place?  Why each other etc…  I hear such things as its menu, location, its culture and the sense of community they feel with one another.   I was certainly not surprised to hear it but I was struck at how emotionally attached they were to each other, the store, and the mention of the word “community”.   This sense of community was especially intriguing to me as it developed organically with the coffee shop serving as its host.

It was certainly a great day and a reminder of the symbiotic connection between brand and community.  It is no accident that the coffee shop created an environment conducive to making connections easy.   Are you creating an environment (professionally or personally) that is also conducive to people wanting to associate and mingle with you?  Secret Sauce: Your clients do not desire to buy stuff but rather join stuff. 

I learned a great lesson that day and one that I will not forget- Uncommon insight often comes from uncommon placesIn a world where the present is often an unreliable guide to the future, success depends less on planning for what is next and more on experimenting with what could come next.

It is about progress not perfection!

Personal Branding Secret Sauce

I am so very lucky.  I have the opportunity to travel the country and speak about personal branding to a variety of people from various teams, groups and organizations.  It is a topic that I am passionate about and one that I can speak about based on my journey as well as others.

Invariably, one of the first questions asked during my presentations this past year was by someone looking for the “secret sauce” to enhancing their personal brand.   What is that one thing that he/she can do to elevate their personal brand over the next 12 months?  The endless search for a key ingredient that will provide instant clarity, purpose and results is all that they need.  I only wish it were that easy as if a personal brand was a piece of software that could be downloaded, installed and run with just a few keystrokes.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there is no “secret sauce”.  If your mission is to find the plug and play solution for a bulletproof personal brand then I suggest you stop reading this post right now.  It is a grind and one that requires work, commitment, passion and courage to live on the edge sometimes.  It is a bit like standing in a dark and unfamiliar room unable to find a light switch.  It is both scary and an adventure all at the same time.  That said,  I will serve as your cruise director for your maiden voyage in 2012 as you work on developing You Inc. across these choppy seas.  Welcome to the Good Ship lollipop!

Now that I have stuck my finger in your Cheerios and have your attention, let us discuss what you can do in 2012.:

  1. First, make sure you are extremely comfortable in your own skin and are able to articulate what you do, how and why.  Take some time to really think about this one, especially the “why you” piece.  Ideally, you should be to describe your personal value proposition in a tweet (140 characters).  Longer than that and most people are bored and will begin to tune you out.
  2. Second, people no longer have an interest in buying things but do have an interest in joining things.  Are you building a community that offers real value to people?  You must bring others with you. If not, get a clue or do something else.
  3. Third, I learned this one from fellow speaker, Scott Stratten, who shared with me one of the reasons for his meteoric rise in the social media universe.  “Awesome spreads” is what he told me whether it be blog posts, videos, workshops, tweets, website giveaways etc… If you can create an authentic experience that pulls the Band-Aid off a few wounds, people will stand up and notice.  Sit on the sidelines and regurgitate the same rhetoric as everyone else and you too can bite down on a sandwich filled with heartache, frustration and mediocrity.

Developing an authentic personal brand is not easy but it is possible!  All good things must end and so must this week’s post but I do look forward to another trip together.  In the interimspend less time selling and more time creating memories in the minds of your followers, teammates and customers.  Your mission is to be different, talk different, ask different questions and be more prepared than anyone else in your space to create VALUE.

Personal Branding & Corporate Branding: Same Concepts Apply

Approximately 15 years ago, Tom Peters wrote “The Brand Called You” in Fast Company.  At the time, it seemed an odd concept of sorts in connecting the term “brand” with an individual.  Looking back, his seminal work ignited a conversation that is quite pervasive today — as personal branding is one of the hottest topics in the digital age.

In this era of ubiquitous social media, everyone has a personal brand whether they acknowledge it or not. One does not have a choice of having or not having a personal brand. It includes both one’s personal and professional reputations. Are you skeptical? Go ahead and search your name in Google and see what comes up.

At that very moment, a judgment is being made about your personal brand. Like traditional corporate and product branding, you now have a choice in whether you wish to influence how the market views you, your experience, core competencies etc…Do you stand out? Are you memorable?  What makes you different?

Mark Twain said it best, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” If your success depends on connecting with others and building strong value-add relationships, then personal branding is not optional, but rather an absolute must for your long-term survival.

So, what is your personal brand?


Personal Branding is Not Optional

I had the opportunity this past week to speak to a group of entrepreneurs about personal branding.  As you might imagine, I was delighted to share my experience and its significance with the large crowd.  Much like a prizefighter, I was warming up back stage, as I was getting ready to deliver a knock out talk to a packed room.

Shortly after I began, an older man in the back of the room raised his hand with a question.  He asked, “Is this personal branding stuff nothing more than me just setting up a Facebook page and doing some of the Twitter stuff?”  I could not help but laugh to myself at the timing of his question.  It occurred to me at that moment that the direction that I was about to head with my talk would have been a complete disaster.  Why?  I assumed that this group had a reasonable grasp on what personal branding was and were more so looking for some specific ways to leverage their brands to drive more exposure, attention and differentiation in the marketplace.  I had planned to discuss and highlight all the great tools now available do build a bulletproof brand.   I was fortunate to get that question early in my talk as I was about to take these folks on a road trip along an unpaved highway.

The majority of the group had no real concept of what personal branding was or why they should pay attention.   It became even more apparent that there were quite a few folks who very skeptical about personal branding and its relevance for them.  They showed up for one reason and that was to see and hear whether personal branding was nothing more than smoke and mirrors.  That being the case, I guess I was David Copperfield for the day expected to dazzle people with one trick after another.  Nothing against Mr. Copperfield but I was never a big fan of pulling rabbits from my hat.  Instead, I did something a tad bit more provocative.  I announced to the room that 50% of them would be out of business or barely in business if they continued to ignore personal branding.  At this point, an eerie  silence took over the room and I noticed that I now had everyone’s attention.    I scrapped the slides, left the podium and went out into the audience to talk about the realities of the digital marketplace.  It ended up being a great experience for me and the audience based on the feedback that I received after the talk.

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  In my rush to tell the how and what related to personal branding, I almost forget to highlight the “why”, “why me” and “why right now”:   Context is indeed king and without it, people are often not moved to act or listen.  The idea of maintaining one’s personal brand may be obvious to some, but certainly not everyone.  We still have some work to do.

It is about progress not perfection!

Personal Branding Is Not A Hobby

Building your personal brand is not easy.  Beyond all the hype and success stories that you read and hear about, it is a grind.  I often compare it to trying to find a light switch in a dark room that is unfamiliar to you.  It will certainly make you second-guess yourself as you often wonder if you will ever see the finish line.  Imagine for a second running a marathon where the finish line keeps moving farther and farther away.  I think you get the point.

In this economy, it is especially brutal that to be wildly successful, your skill-set/mind-set must include a bit of Seth Godin, Donald Trump, Dr. Phil, Luke Skywalker and Conan the Barbarian in order to move things forward.  The competition for customers and market share is intense.  Keep in mind; you still have to stay abreast of your image, product/service line, your industry while also managing your emotions as they bounce back and forth between joy, bewilderment and exhaustion.  Updating your blog, making connections on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter is the easy part of the process.  Aim, shoot and reload!

Your ability to differentiate your brand on a consistent basis is a delicate balance of both art and science.  Heading due north in your dinghy without a compass will certainly play games with your psyche.  Bertha Calloway said it best, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”  I suspect Bertha never saw the movie, “The Perfect Storm.”

The tricky part of building your personal brand in the “new now” is also applying everything that you learned in that webinar/workshop six months ago, while at the same time figuring how to actually add value to your clients right now with your new found knowledge.   Now comes the part where you have to marry some inspiration with some perspiration.   Put the work gloves right now.

I have compiled a collection of tactics that helped me and others stand out in the crowd. These tips for success are industry agnostic and have helped many stay focused in these uncertain times.  If you are looking for a plug and play solution without any effort then stop right here and do something else.  Building your personal brand is not a hobby!  The great ones never want easy, just possible!

What is it that you do exactly…?

You must be clear about your value proposition and be able to articulate it clearly and concisely… Sell the “big picture,” not every feature known to man about you and your product or service.  It is not necessary to venture into the weeds during the initial conversation. You are not a landscaper.

Easy Does It

Make working with you painless. Clients will avoid you if doing business with you is too cumbersome.  Most clients have enough issues already so they certainly do not want to inherit any from you. As important, spend $15.00 and purchase Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.  It will provide a nice framework for keeping you on the yellow brick road.

Have the Proper Perspective

Things are never as bad as they seem (nor as perfect). Keep grinding, smiling and prospecting! We all have bad days so avoid the urge to panic and begin second-guessing your ability to be successful. Have someone you can call, email or text to remind you that you are capable, things happen and tomorrow is a new day.

How to Win Friends, Influence People and Build Your Brand

The great ones make a memorable first impression and they always wear well over time. Why? Their concern for customers is real, and it goes deeper than a transaction. Clients come to value them as much and sometimes more than the actual products or services they purchased. Tell the truth, follow up and be genuinely as concerned as they are about their goals and objectives.

Do Take Things Personally

Most people have a job while very few have a career.  The “rock stars” are passionate about what they do and it borders on an obsession. They eat, sleep, and drink conversations about their work, their clients, that meeting, this week, next month, that new prospect, this new  tool etc… They never know enough, and never work hard enough. They can always do more and will never be out-worked. They do not see rejection and internal resistance as a roadblock but rather a challenge.

Wake up, Dress up and Show up

Every day is the most important day of your week. Go to work and avoid the unnecessary distractions that will kill your productivity.  Stay focused on building your brand continuously (what makes you different), and your network.

It is by no means easy but nothing great ever is. Stay focused on creating an authentic experience and you too can differentiate yourself amongst all the other poor souls waiting for their phones to ring

It is about progress not perfection!

Personal Brand Equity

I spent the better part of an afternoon recently having a conversation with someone on my Southwest flight back from the East Coast.  Like many of us who travel frequently, I was bored, restless and looking for something to occupy my time.  Keep in mind, the battery in my Kindle was dead and I was looking around aimlessly for some sort of intellectual stimulation.

I introduced myself to the woman sitting one seat over from me who kept trying to make eye contact and initiate a conversation.   I tried like the dickens to avoid it at first but I caved in and allowed her in my world.  I am a sucker for persistence.  That said, I was also really, really bored!  I soon found out just how eager she was to tell me everything about her company, her current position, her skill-set(s), accomplishments and long-term aspirations.  She went on and on about her entire career to include what she did, why she did it etc…  I did not mind it so much but as she continued to talk, it dawned on me that she never once asked me about ME.  I could not help but think of the famous quote by Mark Twain, “Most conversations are monologues in the presence of witnesses”.  I now know what he meant.

In this case, I soon realized that I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without a life vest.  A man can only doggie paddle for so long.  I was polite and continued to listen to her ramble about every nuance in her career over the past 22 years.  Fortunately, the airline attendant began to serve beverages 25 minutes into the flight, which allowed me a break from this verbal onslaught.  A diet coke never tasted so good.  As things settled down, she stopped taking out of sheer exhaustion or maybe because I refrained from making eye contact anymore.  Talk about awkward!!  This encounter was a lesson of sorts for me in that it reminded me of just how quickly someone can enhance or damage their personal brand in just minutes.  I was genuinely interested in her story until it became obvious that we were playing a game of tennis and she was the only one allowed to serve.  Do you think I might have an interest in accepting her LinkedIn invite?

Here are a few things that are an absolute must for building personal brand equity:

  • Genuine interest in people- Make a memorable first impression because without that, you will lose most people at hello.
  • Treat everyone you meet with respect and connect before you inspect– Make them feel important and take some time to learn their interests, hobbies and their past.  You may never have an opportunity like the one you do at that moment to connect with someone and make an impact.
  • Your mission is to understand– Ask insightful questions, listen, learn, and seek to understand their motive(s), reasoning, attitude and frame of reference.
  • You are constantly in training so that you may help others– Knowledge is power if coupled with action!  Every day is another opportunity for you to get better and help others too.

It is about progress not perfection!