Personal Brand Building – You are the Brand

The Internet not only allows us to launch a business, it allows us to create and build a personal brand.  A brand has always been associated with a product in the past and that has not changed.  Now you are the product and your personal brand will help you build awareness that can lead to revenue across a family of services or businesses.  Building a brand takes time and effort.  In this class, we will take the first steps in creating our brand.  After the first steps, we will set ourselves on a course to continue to build our empire.

This class focus is marketing and how to use the Internet to solve common marketing problems.  If you have not had much experience with marketing in the past, this may seem a bit overwhelming.  However, there is a lot of common sense to the steps described here that will allow you to apply them without worrying about marketing theory.

 

What are the problems we want to solve by taking this class?:

  1. Where do I start with building my personal brand?
  2. Who should I tell about my product first?
  3. How do use social networks to build a brand?
  4. What tasks do I need to perform to increase brand awareness?
  5. How do I maintain my personal brand?
  6. When does building a personal brand pay off?

What we will cover:

  1. Setting Your Goals
  2. Researching Your Approach
  3. Building Awareness – The First Step
  4. Following Through
  5. The Crush It Cycle

Class Goal: Student will have a plan for brand building and a personal page on a social site.


 

Defining Your Personal Brand

The first step in creating a personal brand is defining it.  Our ultimate goal is to have everyone in the world know about our brand.  Thus, what would you want everyone in the world to know about you?  You have created a product or service idea (maybe several) and that is where you start.  If your product is content based, like a blog, then you would want everyone to know what your content focus is and where to access it.  In a simplified form you want everyone to know that you provide content about coffee (for example) and your web address.

A brand is more than what I do and where to find me.  Therefore, we will want to go further into details about our message.  Using the coffee example above, what distinguishes your content from other sources of coffee information?  You are unique so what do you bring to the table that no one else does?  If you just answered nothing, then smack yourself in the head and try again.  You are unique.  Therefore, you have a combination of traits and experiences no one else does.  Now it is time to lean into what makes you unique.  For example, if you want to write reviews about coffee then that is your hook.  No one else will have the same reviews that you have.

Consider Your Brand

Before we continue, take several minutes and ruminate on details about your personal brand.  Don’t just think about it lightly, get deep into what you want to present to others.  Consider your approach to building your product.  We started our product based on solving a problem.  Thus, now we can distinguish ourselves by focusing on the issue we are addressing and our approach.

At “Develpreneur” we chose the problem of training better developers and potential solutions.  There are others that provide training; we focus on application.  We also have our unique experiences that have led us to create the classes and content in the unique way that we have.


 

Setting Goals

Now that we have defined our personal brand, it is time to set some goals.  Marketing goals in my non-marketing mind are about reach.  Thus, your goals are based on how many people you are reaching and how you are reaching them.  A membership site is driven by members, but social sites may have friends, followers, or some other measure of popularity.  We will add visitors to our site to these measures.  Now we have a few different ways to set goals.

I will provide a sample set of targets, but before that, it is worth talking about Internet numbers.  There are billions of people out on the Internet so it might seem that a number like ten or even one hundred is small.  In the grand scheme of things it is, but you have to start somewhere.  If you only have ten visitors to your site in the first week, don’t get discouraged.  Adjust your plans and try again.  The numbers are not what they seem.

An Internet site with millions of visitors is our stretch goal, but what do we need to get the ball rolling?  I will add one more measure, to summarize the ones mentioned so far, sales.  If you are selling a product, then the sales number is the only one that matters.

Sample Goals

We are starting from scratch.  Thus, we will start with small and achievable goals.  I like to look at goals on a monthly basis.  A month is a good time frame.  Shorter periods are too granular for me.  However, I get those monthly goals by starting with a year, moving to quarters, and then down to each month.  Here is a set of milestones for a first month, feel free to adjust to your personal approach.

First Month Goals
  1. Product Sales: 1
  2. Registered Members: 5
  3. Site visitors:100

These may seem small, but they are manageable.  The five registered members can come from close friends and requires a minimal time investment.  Now that we have some goals, the next question is, how do I achieve them?  We will dive into that next.


 

Building Awareness and Creating Buzz

In the last section, we set some goals for our site.  Now we need to look at actions that can achieve those milestones.  It may help to know that this is where a lot of businesses fail.  A great product or service is not going to equate to success.  People will only become customers if the following criteria are met:

  1. They have to know the product exists
  2. Trust must exist between seller and customer
  3. The customer likes the seller

Item three can be argued as there are cases where a product purchase is mandated or otherwise required.  However, the best customer is the one that has the power to mandate or require others to make a purchase.  Our focus, for now, will be item one.  We will be looking at how to tell people about your business.

Start Close To Home

The first step is to tell the first group of people.  Start with a list of ten to maybe fifty names of people that you think will want your product or service.   This list of initial contacts is going to be friends, family, and close associates.  Thus, these are people that are likely to buy anything from you just because you are the seller.

If you don’t have contact information for someone on the list, get the information either directly or from a website or business card.  This list will be your first target group.  They should know you already in some capacity and have a reason to buy.

Review the list and think about the best way to appeal to each person.  Several approaches will be apparent, but you should be able to find a few common traits.  For example, when we built a list to tell about develpreneur.com, we found one of the common characteristics was a desire to better themselves.  The common trait may be an exact fit with the problem your product solves.  In any case, select a few traits of your service to focus on.

The Introduction

Build a flyer or document to introduce your company to your initial list.  Make sure it addresses the features you selected as the focus.  This first communication will be to inform.  You might even avoid a link to purchase the product.  Just send this to get people talking about the product.  We will sell later.  Ask only for a reply or sign-up for further information.  We want to start building our community.

Send out the introduction to all the members of the list.  Don’t forget to add something about your appreciation if those on the short list would share the information with others that might be interested.  Our goal in this step is to tell people about our product in a way that will get them excited and talking about it to others.

This is a perfect time to introduce something for free.  It might be a blog article, white paper, or anything else that will have value to the list members.  If you have a quick-fix way to handle the problem you solve, this is a good time to offer that simple, yet inferior, solution.  If your solution has several steps, then provide a step or two for those that reply or register.  Get them started down the path to a solution and then ask for more data or even a purchase before providing the complete service.

First Impressions

Your initial list is your testing ground for how to get people excited about your product.  Once you have gotten some good feedback from them, it is time to move to a larger audience.  The best way to get to a big audience quickly (and cheaply) is through social networking sites.  We looked at work/project sites and found that our site profile was essential to gaining business.  General purpose social sites are no different.

The first step in using a social site is registration.  Register for Facebook if you have not done so already.  We will use that for our examples in this section.  Once registered take a look at your profile as if you were someone else.  Most sites provide a link or button to view your profile as others see it.  Your goal in setting up your profile is to convey a sense of professionalism, but also reasons to trust you as an expert in your field.

Creating a professional profile may seem like a daunting task.  However, we will start with what you have and work on the gaps in the days ahead.  The content is similar to a resume so make sure you point to any tasks or experience you have that adds confidence about you.  You can set titles, hobbies, activities, and even your greeting to all point to you as someone who is a go-to resource in your field.

Developer Example

Let’s take your skills in the class as an example.  You can point to your website and blog, that you created, as some of your interest and experience.  You can list taking this course and several of the classes as experience.  Noting that you did this as a paid course shows your commitment to making yourself better as well as investing in yourself.  When you invest in yourself it makes it easier for others to do the same.  Add to all of this a mention about hobbies such as: updating my website, blogging about your favorite topic, keeping up to date on technology, and looking for ways to expand your knowledge about your chosen subject.  Trust me, this starts looking good as you fill out this content.

Clean House

Do a review of your site and profile pages.  The pages started with your ideas and goals, but now it is time to build a brand.  The review is to ensure that it all looks professional and clearly states what you want your brand to be.  In your review focus on the following aspects:

  • Spelling: Make sure there are no spelling mistakes, those are the easiest way to look unprofessional
  • Grammar: Just like spelling, correct grammar is an important part of looking professional.
  • Validate Links: Your customers and your partners expect simple things like links to be valid and up-to-date.  Check each link and ensure that it goes where you want it to.
  • Flow/Message: Read through all of your content.  The content should flow for the reader, and it should impart the tone and message you want for your brand.  If you struggle with an appropriate flow and style, then read and listen to businesses that you feel have a similar message.  When in doubt, ask a few friends what they get out of your content.

This sort of review comes easier to some people and is difficult for others.  Therefore, you might want to use tools like spelling and grammar checkers.  Modern word processors provide a wealth of instruments to help writers.  There are also great web based tools like Grammarly.com.  These tools can be great even for good spellers and masters of grammar.


Following Through

A personal brand is built over time.  Therefore, stating your goals and focus are not enough.  We have created our pages and profiles and made sure they all announce our brand.  Now we start the work on cementing that brand in the mind of others.  Our goal is to grow our brand awareness while maintaining the consistency of the brand message.  This is accomplished through consistency, frequency, and continuous growth.

Consistency

First and foremost, we want to remain consistent in our message and presentation.  Review all of your methods of communicating with others.  All of these should have the same look and feel.  We have reviewed some templates in other classes, but to recap, here are the things that should have that consistent look and feel.

Email – It is now effective to have a standard font and colors in your email messages.  A majority of email readers support this HTML email form.  However, keep your branding to something simple in the signature.  Email is for reading, so your branding should not make it harder for recipients to read yours.  Avoid images where possible and reduce their size to less than 25kb if you must have one.

Profiles – Titles, goals, slogans, and logos should all be similar across all your social sites.  Your main marketing site and blog should also use these resources.  Images are required in a variety of sizes within even the same sites.  Use a tool like Photoshop to copy and adjust images to the needed sizes.  Try to avoid “blowing up” a logo or image to where it looks grainy.

General Documents – This includes status reports, flyers, advertisements (where possible), proposals, newsletters, etc.  Create a master template with your branding and then create templates off of that to help you keep consistent across all communication.

Frequency

A personal brand grows through repetition.  When people see the same message on a regular basis, they will start to associate that brand and message automatically.  For example, think of the Nike “swoosh” or the Starbucks seal.  It seems like there is a Starbucks on every corner.  Thus, the brand grows by seeing the name and logo many times a day.  The good news is that you do not need to be in front of people many times a day to build a personal brand.

There is some agreement, among those that have created great personal brands, that providing one to three contacts a week will be enough to grow awareness over time.  In our case, we have already made some initial contacts via our short list and hopefully seen some growth outside of those direct targets.  A good way to keep up awareness for these readers is a weekly newsletter.  A monthly newsletter is ok, but it will just take longer to build awareness.  A weekly newsletter provides regular “touches” of the community while keeping you accountable for periodic work on your content or company.

Newsletter content can create itself if you are blogging a few times a week.  Write a summary of the posts of the week and make sure you link to them in the newsletter.  Allow readers to sign up for the newsletter and that will help you build a firm user base.  Newsletters are also great vehicles for announcing deals and upcoming offerings as well as gauging general interest.

Continuous Growth

When your newsletter only has a couple of sign-ups early on, do not get discouraged.  It can take a while to build up enough content to draw people in.  Once you are seen to be someone that has a regular schedule that is hit on a consistent basis, members will see a value in signing up for your newsletter.  This is the concept of continuous growth.  We are not concerned with a big user base at launch time, although that would be great.  Our goal is going to be adding members over time.

We started with that short list of potential customers.  Now we will look at how to grow from that list to larger and larger groups.  Since we have already built some social networking profiles, we have good points to use to build our brand.  Almost every social networking site has direct contacts and groups.  We want to grow both these direct and indirect connections to grow our personal brand.

Indirect Contacts/Groups

Groups are a great way to get in front of a lot of people quickly.  Find a group or two that are a good fit for your brand and get active.  Read posts from others and provide comments.  Simple comments like, “Thanks for a great post” or “I enjoyed your post and will be using your suggestions” can get your started.  Your best approach will be to add substance to your comments and further discussion of posts made by others.  Combine this with your own posts to grow to an “active” member.

Direct Contacts

Provide a way to connect with you directly on every social network you use and in every communication you send.  Make it easy for others to connect to you when they want to and while you are on their mind.  While doing this, don’t be afraid to aggressively seek out contacts.  When others provide a link, use it.  Every time there is a response to anything you have posted, thank the responder and ask them to connect.  If they are already a connection, send them a quick thank-you.  When a connection is made, thank them and offer a link to your site or related articles.   Do not sell them, just offer some free content.  If you have an e-book or white paper, this is a perfect time to share it.


Crushing It

We refer to the frequency and consistency parts of growth as the “Crush It” cycle.  A personal brand is built through heavy work by you.  This is called “crushing it.”  I know, it stinks to bring this up, but we are keeping costs low.  Thus, sweat equity increases.  The good news is that this will be fun if you picked a good focus.  You may not get the latest achievement on your favorite video game, but you will have time for that later.

While you are “crushing it,” through providing regular content and building relationships with your community, you will start to see revenue.  Your personal brand will grow, and visitors will click on ads and pay for products and services.  The impact may be small at first, but as you add relationships, those relationships will create customers.

This push for growth is a cycle.  You will spend time creating products and services and then transfer that time to “spreading the word.”  As your products and services mature, you will find new avenues to provide additional products and services.  At that point, you will transfer time back to more development and the cycle will repeat.

The Last Word

Before moving on, I want to re-iterate that building a personal brand can be done through time or money.  Our approach uses time and it is time well spent.  This investment of time will grow your brand through building relationships with people you can help or that have the same interests.  This is either going to be a rewarding time for you or you should look at adjusting your focus.  The last thing this effort should be is “work”.  When done right, this is where you grow a hobby or interest into something that you can do all the time and support yourself.

For those that are selling a product or service, such as I do as a consultant.  The customers are demanding at times, but the work itself should still be rewarding.  If you find yourself where you are spending this time to allow for earlier retirement, or afford something you otherwise could not then keep that in mind.  This extra effort will pay off when the final goal being that much more enjoyable.


Assignments

  1. Set goals for your site business for the next year and next month.
  2. Build a list of at least 20 names to be your first contact group.  Write an email describing your product and how they can help you launch it.  Send to the facilitators for suggestions and comments.
  3. Find a job and create a proposal. Send the instructors the text of the job (or a link) and the text of your proposal along with any other details.  The assignment will be used to provide you some suggestions on how to land the best jobs for you.
  4. Create a plan for building out your marketing materials and share it with the facilitators
  5. Write up a plan for three areas where you can grow your reach.  These may be social networking sites, groups, or local groups you can contact.

Bonus: Find a second work site and create a profile.  You should be able to re-use a lot of your Guru material.  Send a link to the facilitators and make sure you link to it on your marketing site.

Secret Bonus: For linkedIn users take a look at https://www.linkedin.com/home?trk=nav_responsive_tab_home

When you are ready, it is now time to move on to the next step: Launch Your Business – Turn the Revenue Machine On.


Further Reading

Getting Started in Computer Consulting

Side Hustle Projects: 2 Business Ideas You Can Implement Part-Time… Social Media Consulting & Untapped Niches Selling

Guru.com

UpWork.com

Building a Great Profile: Mistakes to avoid

Getting ahead on UpWork

 

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Rob Broadhead

Rob is a founder of, and frequent contributor to, Develpreneur. This includes the Building Better Developers podcast. He is also a longtime student of technology as a developer, designer, and manager of software solutions. Rob is a founder and principle of RB Consulting and has managed to author a book about his family experiences. In his free time, he stays busy raising five children (although a few have grown into adults). When he has a chance to breathe, he is on the ice playing hockey to relax.

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