The importance of personal branding in business
29/05/2019 , Knowledge
We recently held the first workshop of the Building Business Leaders of the Future program, in conjunction with the Aston Business School, sponsored by Agile One.
Attended by our first cohort of Ethnic Minority Businesses (EMBs), the workshop focused on personal branding. The workshop was delivered by industry professionals and was designed to give entrepreneurs and SMEs a clear understanding of how they can develop their brand to improve their business.
Branding is essential to any business organisation. It provides a narrative for current, potential and future consumers. But a brand is not just a logo — it’s much more than that. Branding is intrinsically connected with an organisation’s reputation.
We are all familiar with major brands and our consumer habits are shaped by how we relate to those brands through the power of association. We don’t just buy a product — we also buy into the reputation and story behind the brand.
As consumers, we are loyal because we have an emotional connection to our favourite brands. The most successful brands live in our heads. An obvious recent example is the many people who queue in the early hours of the morning to buy the latest Apple handset.
Once that connection is established, getting those consumers to switch to different mobile phone brands would be very hard, barring some ‘apocalyptic event’ or a grave misjudgement on Apple’s part.
Large organisations are able to spend a lot of resources on the right segmentation, the right channels, the right digital, the right communications, the right, etc, etc. (Pardon the jargon and the overuse of the word ‘right’!) But entrepreneurs and SMEs have limited resources.
So what can you do to create an appealing brand?
Here are some of the big takeaways from the Building Businesses of the Future workshop on branding.
Brand value proposition
To make a brand attractive, your offer has to have appeal. A value proposition tells potential clients how what you do makes their lives better, and why they should do business with you rather than your competitors.
But for a value proposition to be appealing, you need to make the benefits clear from the outset. A lot of businesses fail to highlight their value proposition properly because they assume that clients already understand their offer. Other businesses use meaningless slogans that confuse rather than explain.
To make sure consumers clearly understand the brand and value proposition, entrepreneurs need to show:
- The firm’s guiding principle — what it stands for.
- What is central, enduring and distinctive about the firm?
- The basis for forming a community of brand stakeholders.
- A set of associations that drive affinity with the firm’s brand.
- The firm’s brand platform and positioning.
Building a successful brand — the essentials
Creating a successful brand is not easy. It takes a lot of work to make your brand stand out. By that, I don’t mean just having the biggest and brightest logo. As mentioned above, a brand is much more than that.
A successful brand can transform a market or be a barrier to market for competitors. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, achieving brand recognition in your field is important for the future of your business.
As many experts point out, the most successful brands also perform well financially, meaning your brand reputation can put more money in your pocket.
But what are the key ingredients of a successful brand?
- Integrity — Staying true to your principles and being transparent with your clients and customers. There should be an overlap between the public and the private. (Practice what you preach.)
- Visibility — The brand has to be visible to your target market. The power of social media and technology offers many inexpensive ways to do this. The current fragmented media landscape offers an opportunity to do more with less. A strong visible brand gives you a face and a voice in a busy marketplace.
- Credibility — A successful brand is built on a reputation for delivering. Client or consumer trust is created by being consistent with your offering.
- Emotional appeal — This is key to creating a close partnership with the consumer that moves beyond the transactional nature of doing business (though that’s important, too). Instinct and emotion lead people to make choices, so delivering a brand experience that achieves an emotional response is essential.
You are the brand
Most entrepreneurs are the faces of their own companies. In fact, they often are the company, as it is their ideas, passion and hard work that drive the business forward.
The business is an extension of the person behind it. Think of the intrinsic connection between Virgin and Sir Richard Branson. Would Virgin be the same organization without him? The answer is no because the company reflects what is unique about him.
So, it is important for entrepreneurs to build a unique personal brand. You can do this by being:
- Distinctive — What is it about you that truly stands out?
- Authentic — What is the indisputable, genuine you? What is at your core?
- Sharing — What is it about you that makes people gravitate towards you?
- Enduring — How long can these characteristics endure?
Your personal branding needs to fit with how the business represents itself and what it stands for. Ultimately, this means that you are the business and the business is you.
What’s more, for a personal brand to be successful, it needs to have:
- Future relevance — Your business should aim to be relevant in the future, not just the present
- Excitement — People should be curious about you and what you are doing.
- Community — People should want to get involved and be part of it.
- Co-creation — A brand is not fixed; it develops and grows. Work with others to keep re-creating your brand.