It’s been over ten years since the father of branding Tom Peters, writing in Fast Company, told us that “regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” Peters’ point was that whatever your area of expertise, you have to take steps to ensure that people think of you when they think of your field.
“You do that by creating a message and a strategy to promote your personal brand,” says Jenny Handley, who is an expert on building practical personal marketing and brand plans that create buzz for individuals – and their business.
What is a personal brand?
“A brand is a distinctive mark,” she says. “And more than that, it is the perception in the hearts and minds of the consumer. It is a relationship between a product or service and a person. A personal brand includes perceptions created by everything you do and say, and by what you do not do or say. It is a reflection of the real you, taking what is inside and communicating it to the outer world.”
Handley adds that a strong brand speaks for you when you are not there. Because of that, engineering a good personal brand is essential in today’s competitive world if you wish to be distinctive and make your mark. “From leader to learner, the aspirant to the arrived, employee to entrepreneur – we all need to market ourselves,” she says. “It is not the most intelligent or educated who become the most successful, but those who are accessible and make an effort to market themselves effectively.”
Why do you need one?
Handley notes that there are several good reasons for entrepreneurs to market themselves:
- To be perceived as a specialist rather than a generalist.
A specialist has greater status and earning power than a jack-of-all-trades. Further, a specialist gets clients and new business by referrals, or word-of-mouth advertising. “It’s more about focusing on your special talents than offering a one-stop-shop,” Handley explains. “This denotes quality rather than quantity.”
- To be considered first choice rather than most convenient or cheapest.
Handley equates this to the difference between a designer label and a no-name brand, the first being the one that is sought after as it is perceived to be of better quality.
- To have easier access to decision makers.
People who are well known find it much easier to get past gatekeepers.
- To attain the level or status where you are called upon for opinion, comment or endorsement.
This is when your brand has been elevated to a level where you are being invited to enhance other’s brands and help them to develop their own profiles. “This is the cheapest and most cost-effective marketing campaign you could ever embark on,” Handley notes. “It’s the equivalent of building brand equity.”
- To solicit the work you love, rather than having to accept any work that is offered to you.
“When you start out as a consultant or a small business owner, you may often be persuaded to take on any business,” she says. “By defining and refining your product offering, premium work will come your way.”
- To allow more work to come to you.
“When you have a higher and more visible working profile, work comes to you,” Handley says. “How wonderful to be asked if you would like to take on a client, with them having the thought that they are lucky enough to have you to service their business.”
- To get paid.
Handley says people who have visibility, credibility and good working relationships are given the respect they have earned. “They are in a better position of negotiation, and can receive higher remuneration, plus they will be paid on time out of respect alone…when a business has a cash flow problem the suppliers with the better, more valued long-term relationships are often paid first.”
No successful business is successful by accident; it has a plan. “Every ambitious individual also needs a plan,” Handley explains. It should reflect what goals are to be achieved, and what personal strengths can be leveraged to achieve them.
To kick off your personal brand strategy, Handley suggests creating a brief comprised of three questions: Where am I? Where do I want to go? What work do I want to attract? “Goal-setting is an important process,” she maintains. “It needs to be focused and realistic. For some people, short may mean three months; for others, three years. The same applies with medium- and long-term goals.”
Many entrepreneurs find it hard to believe that it’s possible to develop a personal brand without blowing the budget. Handley suggests that a personal budget is not only about money, but also the resources you have available to you.
She advises creating a balance sheet of “you”. “The first column will show your assets, the second your liabilities, the third perceptions (what people think of you), and the fourth your potential and areas for growth. You may want to add a fifth column called ‘loans’, listing what you can borrow in terms of skills, techniques and tactics, from those around or above you.”
One of the most vital aspects of developing your brand is to build credibility based on a worthwhile reputation – brand equity. Ideally, you should perform at such an optimum level that everyone you deal with becomes part of your marketing team, resulting in good word-of-mouth coverage. Giving excellent service and going the extra mile costs nothing.
To measure the effectiveness of your brand, you need to benchmark yourself against your competitors and perform research in your industry to determine what your reputation is. There are several means through which smart business owners can elevate their positioning in their industries.
“One way is to benefit from continuous learning and extending your broad-based skills,” Handley points out. “Small business owners especially deny themselves the chance to attend courses or further their studies, often because they feel they cannot afford the time away from the business. One solution is to send your staff on courses and ensure they report back on the experience to the entire team so that everyone benefits.”
Joining associations that are relevant to the work you do is also advisable. Membership of associations shows that you have met certain criteria and adhere to quality standards. Related to this is attendance at lectures, talks and networking functions, which will give you the opportunity to interact with many key people in your own and other industries.
“Make sure that you have a comprehensive understanding of your field,” Handley advises. “Read trade publications and newspaper headlines. Speed read and just take in the headlines if you are pressed for time. Listen to radio news bulletins and search the Internet constantly.”
Another important element of personal positioning is making your expertise available to others – even freely, if you can. Public speaking, writing, and addressing colleagues and students are all ways to elevate your position while you help to spread knowledge.
We live in a world that is characterised by constant change. As a result, the personal brand you build and consolidate will also have to change over time to keep it current. “Don’t rely on the fact that you were considered high-profile a decade ago,” Handley says. “Instead, make a concrete effort to maintain your credibility, visibility and flexibility. Move with the times.”
She advises taking stock of your brand offering once a quarter or at least every six months. “It’s not always a huge shift. Make some notes or implement some minor changes. It’s taking the time and trouble to reflect that will make you become more conscious of your personal marketing and your goals.
She also suggests getting clients involved in a re-brand by inviting them to give feedback and be part of the change.
When your brand goes bad
A reputation is not only hard-earned, it’s also largely out of your hands. Damage to your reputation can happen at any time, and for reasons that may not be of your own doing. That’s when careful management is required.
“Always be honest and transparent,” Handley cautions. “Good communication is key. Tell people personally if you have a crisis. Being positive and staying in contact with all stakeholders can help you to create good perceptions of your brand and improve its positioning.”
Handley adds that creating good brand alliances is essential, as you are judged by the company you keep. For example, know that your suppliers should be selected to enhance your brand. Business is, after all, a team sport. If you are connected to a company or individual that has tarnished your reputation, stand up and speak out.
“Always remember that to be your own brand champion requires you to be genuine, to be confident and to have self-belief,” she says.
Jenny Handley is a brand strategist, public speaker, author and owner of Jenny Handley Promotions, a brand management and PR company.
Contact: +27 21 686 0287, www.jennyhandleypromotions.co.za
Don’t Victimise Your Mind: The 6 Keys To Develop Yourself And Your Business
This writing offers six keys to self and business development.
“Plan your work and work your plan” – Ann-Marie Heidingsfelder
Considering the plethora of permutations within the self and business development fields it is truly hard to develop yourself and your business. The good news; however, is that it is possible for all to achieve fulfilment and sustainable business success should we consciously choose to and act on our choice with a mountain of good old-fashioned ‘grit’ to underpin our efforts.
This writing offers six keys to self and business development:
1. Find your purpose
It is highly probable that a number of readers might roll their eyes when they read again that they have to find their purpose and brand such a suggestion as cliché. Well the thing with clichés are that they are mostly true but they require investigation and reflection beyond surface judgements and thoughts in order to have true practical meaning in your life.
Finding your purpose for yourself personally and for your business means that you attach a lot of positive and transformative meaning to what you are doing. This meaning transcends yourself and adds value to society. Having sincere purpose is a source of inspiration and can get you through severe challenging times.
2. ‘Stack’ your inspirations
I prefer the term inspiration over the use of the word motivation. Motivation is as fickle as your will power and is finite. True inspiration mainly fuelled by a strong and enduring sense of purpose has the power to help you overcome the most challenging circumstances.
For the purposes of enduring success and fulfilment you need to connect the dots between whatever inspires you which will create a powerful and symbiotic effect that will give more meaning, confidence and improved results to what you are doing.
In practical terms this means to:
- Listen to music daily if music inspires you.
- Workout daily if well-being is a source of inspiration to you.
- Read the work of others daily if knowledge inspires you.
- Sing in the shower if your own singing inspires you.
- Meditate daily if seeking within for answers inspires you.
- Sleep deeply and at least six to eight hours if deep rest inspires you.
- Look at images of great works of art if art inspires you.
- Daily look at your written Vision and goals.
- If dancing inspires you dance every day.
The above are just a few examples of what might inspire you. You need to ‘stack as many inspirations’ as possible in one day in order to experience a great day.
3. Unlearn the victim mentality
The victim mentality presupposes an inclination towards a life of excuses and justifications however valid or invalid they appear to be. Several ancient teachers have taught us to look deeper into our own trials and tribulations and shift the paradigm of suffering them to honestly learn from them and become stronger as a result:
“I take pleasure in my infirmities” – St Paul
“The wound is where the light seeps in” – Jalal ud din Rumi
Reflect on the challenges in your life purely from a learning perspective and stop assigning blame to others or even yourself. Changed behaviour is the only true apology. Past guilt and less than desirable past results can weigh us down within a state of fear and anxiety within the present moment.
Direct your energy towards actionable solutions to challenges as opposed to diluting your finite energy reserves by overthinking on past negativity.
4. Unlearn the desire to always be right
Do not get stuck in the perpetual cycle of frustration caused by you thinking that everybody thinks or should think like you. Yes, you are mostly right but only within the realms of your own perspective.
Be open to other alternatives, truly listen to opinions and learn from others. Instead of holding on to an opposing view for the sake of defending your ego and the desire to be right attempt to ‘connect the dots’ between opposing philosophies and find the common ground between them. This attitude builds relationships and slowly but surely builds bridges between enemies.
5. Unlearn your need to ‘do something in order to get something in order to be something’
For most an expectation is to do well at school, then university, find a great job and build a family. All of this has to be done to truly be someone in society. A key and paradigm shifting realisation for me in life was that ‘you don’t get what you want but what you are’ – This means that you attract both your empowering beliefs and your limitations of who you are to yourself not what you want.
Therefore if you want more love in your life, first be more loving. If you want more money first truly develop an abundance mentality and not only pay lip service to the idea of abundance.
6. Take swift and confident action, daily
Procrastination is the top enemy to success. Overthinking leads to more anxiety. Yes think but do it rapidly and effectively by asking and answering key questions such as:
- Will this serve my purpose?
- Will this be worth it?
- What are the potential risks and what can I immediately do to counter act them?
- Does this resonate with me and does it align with my values and mission?
- How can I build capacity for this?
If I am unsure I should immediately take action on quickly finding out more and then execute. Procrastination reduces productivity by a great deal and builds your level of anxiety.
How To Leverage Your Skills To Start A Side Business
Start a service-based business with knowledge you have acquired over the years.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2016 report, more than 25 million Americans have initiated entrepreneurial ventures. Being an entrepreneur is synonymous with being a risk taker, and one of the best ways to minimise this risk is by starting on the side, from home. In fact, according to the same report, more than half of U.S. entrepreneurs start and operate their businesses from home.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs fail to start a business due to lack of funds and business knowledge. The truth is, in most cases, none of that is required. Entrepreneurs get rewarded for solving people’s problems exactly the way employees get paid for their services. Starting a business is about creating value by solving problems and addressing needs, therefore, capturing an opportunity to serve others and getting compensated for your work is entrepreneurship in its purest form.
Especially for service-based businesses, this does not require a website, marketing campaign, business plan, round of investment funding or any other assets but your existing skills, knowledge and a laptop.
In my experience mentoring entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and visions, I found that most aspiring entrepreneurs worry too much about their 100th customer when they haven’t even acquired their first. Most entrepreneurs worry about growth stages before building a foundation.
This article shares three simple steps to help you clear your thoughts and focus only on the activities that matter in the beginning of a business venture.
1. Define your service
The key is to stick to your area of expertise. While you may have plans to start a thriving business with many products, services and customer segments, thinking too big too soon will have failing consequences. The challenges entrepreneurs face trying to run before they walk is overwhelming, and this causes failure.
What is it that you do today? This will be your service. If you were hired to do a job, chances are you are good at what you do. If you are a social media marketer, other companies need your services and consulting. The same applies to project managers, designers, programmers, teachers, engineers, researchers, assistants, scientists, coaches, speakers, etc.
Grab a piece of paper and write down your solution – “I offer X.” Before defining your ideal customer, start by writing down your service. It’s fine if your solution is as general as, “I offer social media, consulting, accounting or research services.”
Defining your ideal customer in the next step will help you become more specific and targeted.
2. Define your ideal customer
Service providers are often challenged with the ideal customer definition. This is understandable because virtually speaking, using some of the services mentioned earlier, many companies of different sizes need project management, design, programming, teaching and coaching services. Focusing on the ideal customer doesn’t just save time and money in finding and serving the customer but more importantly, it helps in the outcome of your contribution and your results. An ideal customer is “ideal” because you know how to help them get results. They need people like you.
The ideal customer definition process starts exactly like service definition. Start with the company that trusted you to do a job — your existing or previous employer. Chances are, many similar companies need your help and expertise. You may want to avoid serving your employer’s competitors, however, using them and their needs as a benchmark will quickly help you identify similar companies in different categories or industries.
No matter how competitive your space is, the barriers to acquiring the first customers will still be much lower than learning a new skill to serve customers in less competitive industries. Stick to your background. Especially in the beginning, focus on customer segments with the least players. The bigger the company, the longer the sales cycle. In this case, even if your experience is in helping Fortune 500 companies scale, you may want to focus on smaller companies with similar profiles and help them grow as big as your current or previous employers.
Your value proposition combines service and ideal customer definition. I help [ideal customer] with [your service], and I do it differently or uniquely by [how are you different].
For example, I help professionals leverage their skills to launch service-based businesses by providing them with a clear roadmap to paying customers, and I do it uniquely through a tested and proven framework that aims to minimise costs and reduce time to acquisition while bringing clarity and trust in the entrepreneur’s journey.
3. Define your acquisition channel
This step is simply about connecting the first two steps. In other words, how do you convey your service to your ideal customer? Use this as a rule of thumb. Your first customers are hand picked. Yes, social media, SEO, funnels, affiliate marketing and all other marketing strategies can help, but you must get your hands dirty to close your first customers quickly.
When you start and don’t have proof or case studies, people will invest in you, therefore, presenting and selling yourself is your best bet. From experience, here are the two best channels to accomplish this goal.
- Cold emailing, including using the power and network of LinkedIn. Drafting a personalised email or message that goes directly to your potential customer’s inbox is one of the best ways to grab their attention, especially when you are addressing businesses. Keep your message short, mention an interesting fact about their industry, comment on one of their recent posts or accomplishments, and present your services and how it can help them drive results.
- In-person events, especially smaller conferences, meet-ups or social events. Defining your acquisition channels is essentially about finding a way to signal your availability to your ideal customer. Local and national events are a great way to build personal relationships that can soon turn into business partnerships. Spend time developing and nurturing relationships and the rest will follow naturally.
Finally, and above all, the world needs your skills and expertise, and people are ready to compensate you for your contribution. We are all entrepreneurs in one way or another. Entrepreneurship is about creating value through solutions. You do that already, so it’s about time you capture other opportunities on the side or full-time.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
5 Healthy Habits Businesses Should Adopt In 2019
Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019.
When we think of adopting healthy habits, we usually think in terms of our bodies or our personal lives. But as an entrepreneur, shouldn’t you be adopting healthy habits for your business too? After all, like our bodies, businesses perform better – and are better able to withstand the occasional storm – when they’re functioning at an optimal level. So how does the concept of “health” translate in a small business context? Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019:
1. Streamline your cash flow
You can have all the impressive clients you want, but if they’re not paying you on time (or at all), your cash flow will suffer – making it very hard for your business to function. Similarly, if you don’t strategically keep money in your business (for example by only paying bills when you need to), you can also run into trouble. Since cash flow is so important to a healthy business, take a high-level view of the money that’s coming in and the funds going out on a regular basis. Then, make sure that the two work in tandem, so that your bottom line stays as stable as possible.
2. Apply the KonMari method
Author and organising consultant Marie Kondo has exploded in popularity in recent years, and her 2011 book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has been published in 30 countries. In a nutshell, the KonMari method is all about keeping only those things that spark joy in your life – whether it’s clothes, books or furniture. The result, Kondo believes, is a happier, calmer, more contented life.
You could apply this principle to business too. For example, which clients are more trouble than they’re worth – and conversely, which ones give you joy that you could find more ways to work with? Or, what services does your business provide that your heart’s really not into – and which ones are you passionate about? This mindset could apply to almost any business context, from a branding refresh to streamlining your service offering, or even just clearing the clutter from your office.
3. Use tech to get organised
Admin tasks can often be overlooked in a small business, because employees are typically wearing so many different hats: they’re salespeople, account managers, the HR department and more. But if you let the admin slip, your business can suffer, and this can spill over into your dealings with customers. Luckily these days, there’s lots of tech available to help you with almost every aspect of business administration, from invoicing and budgeting, to timesheets and project management. Most of these are available at a minimal cost (or even free), so they don’t require a huge outlay. Making this small investment can pay for itself many times over in helping your business run more smoothly.
4. Get the pipeline rolling
The key to keeping your business healthy is to keep the momentum going, which means keeping the flow of new customers. Even if you’re in a comfortable position right now, you never know what’s around the corner in terms of your industry, new competitors or the economy in general. That’s why it’s important to keep stoking your sales pipeline by looking for new leads all the time. Be proactive: go to networking events, ask to be introduced to companies you want to work with, or even just try and upsell to existing clients.
5. Keep your people healthy
When it comes to the health of yourself and your employees, the personal and business worlds definitely merge. After all, if you or your employees are constantly sick, they can’t be giving their best to your business. Several medical schemes, such as Fedhealth, have a medical aid offering specifically for corporates and their employees. Besides helping to lower absentee rates and improve productivity, you’ll also boost employee morale by the improved benefits you’re offering.
By adopting just a few healthy habits within your business, you’ll make sure that in the long run, it’s as successful as it can be. It works the other way too: A successful business will have a positive impact on you as the business owner – you’ll enjoy going to work and be happier in general, which will go a long way to keeping you healthy too.
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