How do people in your business network know you exist? Are you visible? And, if you run a business, is your company as visible as you would like it to be within your particular arena? If you are visible are you getting the results you want or has business slowed to a crawl?
Could it be perhaps that something in your business, without your realisation, is beginning to slip out of your control? Could it be about your branding? And I'm not talking about your product packaging or your company logo, what I'm talking about here is you and your people's living brand, which is the way your business is being differentiated through your teams and what your marketplace is saying to everyone about your business and the people in it.
A brand is not a name, a product or a service, not even a logo. It is how your business is perceived in your field, and is simply a mixture of peoples' perceptions. It is a collection of emotional reactions to what you have to offer, both tangible and intangible, which can develop the overall value and influence of your business. It is all about brand experience and customer satisfaction. Are your people showing your marketplace exactly what you all stand for and doing it in a consistent, proactive and likeable way that brings the clients back time and again? This broadcasting of the business ethos, has to be in line through your people.
What I am talking about here has two defined sectors. The first one is about you, the individual who is reading this, and the second is about your company. Both need to grasp the concept of a personal or a ‘living' brand, albeit now almost a generic term in business, it still isn't being embraced in the way it needs to be. I've been consulting in this part of personal and career growth for over 8 years now, and it is unfortunate to see how many companies are still being misrepresented by their people.
From an individual standpoint a great personal brand can lead to career acceleration, a powerful reputation and a perception of a consistent promise of value. From the corporate point of view personal branding allows their people to be given an opportunity to take full responsibility for their jobs and results, and be given the chance to be not just a cog in a machine but a clearly valued member of staff no matter at what level they are working. They are also brand ambassadors who at every ‘touch point' with their clients will be perceived as the business. However, any member of staff who delivers a poor experience to their client at any time will be representing their company in a bad light, not just themselves. Can you remember the last time you had unsatisfactory service from a large company and how you told your circle of friends and associates? People buy people from an emotional standpoint and it is a fact that people will always remember bad experiences for far longer than any good interaction they have. What is the mismatch that could be happening between your company ethos and your people's representation and what is it costing you? It could be significant.
The way you develop your personal ‘living' brand is as vitally important as the goods and assets you are trying to market, it is important to understand how crucial not only your own living brand is, but also the living brand of your people, as, after all, they are your ambassadors and they constitute your ‘profit and loss'. The ‘loss' part of it being the part you should be addressing if there are any doubts in your mind about the match between what you want your company to broadcast and what is actually being perceived about you and your people in your arena.
Make sure you are truly understanding the way your business is being perceived through your people's brand.
If you think your people might not be consistently influencing others about your business in the best manner possible, then you need to pay attention to what is going awry. Their misunderstanding of what you want to showcase can be doing irreparable harm to your business, and stop it taking off.
Are you giving your marketplace the right reasons to buy? Imagine your customer is walking up and down outside a shop window, and you and your team are sitting on the shelf in the window alongside all your competitors, all of you are ‘for sale'. You all have the same experience, charge about the same, can do efficiently what you're being asked to do, so why would your business, in particular, be bought? What is different about your business? Will your ‘people brand' stand out as remarkable, consistent and trustworthy with a promise of value that is always kept? What promises are you making and are you keeping them? E.g. Bentley equates with high quality and prosperity, Disney with entertainment. What is your USP? People will also choose to work with people they like, why would they work with people they don't respect and whose integrity they doubt? What is differentiating your business from the rest? May I suggest it is always your people brand!
Are you ‘selling' your people brand alongside their human characteristics - humour, warmth, understanding, and doing this alongside all your company marketing efforts and PR? Your brand has to be seen as a mixture of character and reputation to those that buy into your company, they are buying what they see, what they like and they are buying into your people's brand because they trust it.
Now, personal branding is a tool, but it has to be an authentic one, as an inauthentic person, product, service or business will be quickly found out. Smaller companies may not have the budget to dive headlong into a marketing and branding campaign, and your logo alone certainly isn't a sure fire way of making you successful. What will work is positioning your business and your people's brand in such a way that it is quickly recognised as ‘doing what it says on the tin'. If a business is recognised as being the expert in its field, and likeable that's when people will choose to work with you.
So how to go about developing the brands of your people? The components of a great individual personal brand include the following:
•An ability to develop great interpersonal skills;
•Knowing how to build good relationships and a powerful network, on and offline;
•Consistently looking ‘business ready' (whatever the corporate dress-code);
•Being comfortable and able to build rapport when entertaining at whatever level;
•Being aware of the direction of their own brand, to keep it on track, frequently revisited, and how to keep it authentic and consistent at all times;
•Being aware that through utilising all these talents they will grow their reputation alongside the reputation of their company, and fast-track their careers.
What will happen to your business if your people understand what it means to have a recognised and remarkable personal brand?
•They will make a positive and effective first impression with both their teams and their clients
•They will be perceived as professional and capable with a great moral compass
•By understanding the importance of soft skills they will be able to interact with and sell to clients and influence their own teams for better results.
•Your people will be known as having a ‘real world', professional and proactive manner.
•They will be able to communicate easily at all levels with confidence, and will attract communication from others who respect their standing.
•New graduate intakes particularly will know from Day 1 of their induction what is expected from them when the company personal brand policy is explained, rather than winging their first few months and making unnecessary gaffes.
•And bottom lines will be improved as meetings are shorter through developing trust and positive decisions are taken sooner.
During the following 4 articles I will define the different talents that make up a great personal brand and show what is needed to be considered by everyone when thinking about developing their own brand through a strategic, but emphatically authentic, strategy.
Here's a question for you. If someone knows of your business, but can't remember your name, what do they type into Google to find you? Whatever they write, THAT' what matters. That's what they're looking for. Build up and position your business with character and warmth around that phrase - that phrase will demonstrate your personal, your living brand.
About Tessa Hood
Tessa Hood is a Reputation Management Consultant and Creator of the 'Living Brand’ Philosophy.