The current economic climate in the United States has made life harder than ever for many entrepreneurs. Consumer spending is down and unemployment rates remain high. For entrepreneurs and small business owners in particular, competition has intensified -- as businesses are forced to compete tooth-and-nail for every sale.
Therefore, it is important for business owners to find something that makes them stand out in their market -- to differentiate themselves from their competition.
And that is where personal branding comes into play. Personal branding is a proven method by which business owners can separate themselves from the rest of their market. A strong personal brand positions the business owner as an expert in his or her field -- allowing him to attract more business without slashing prices.
Now, to many entrepreneurs, the concept of personal branding is a foreign one. It sounds expensive, and it sounds complicated. In reality, it is neither.
The concept of personal branding is quite simple, in fact.
Your personal brand is simply the combination of thoughts and feelings that pop into the minds of your audience when they hear your name.
Let's play a game for a moment. Read each name below, one at a time. For each, jot down the first couple of thoughts that come to mind:
- Michael Jordan
- Lady Gaga
- Bono (of U2)
Everyone is different -- but I'm willing to bet that:
- When you thought about Michael Jordan, "winner" came to mind.
- Lady Gaga's name immediately conjured up images of eccentric headpieces and creative performances.
- Bono's name made you think of humanitarian causes and charities.
Jordan, Lady Gaga, and Bono have all built strong personal brands. Most likely, neither you nor I will likely ever be as famous as them. But that's not the point. When building a personal brand, the goal for an entrepreneur isn't to become an international celebrity -- the goal is simply to stand out within your market. If you're a tax accountant, your goal should be to be considered the go-to tax guru in your market. As a landscaper, you want to be known as the unquestioned landscaping expert in your city. Achieving this type of celebrity standing within your market positions you head-and-shoulders above the competition -- it allows you to charge premium prices and still win the business.
Personal branding doesn't have to be expensive, either. Granted, the more you invest, the higher your returns will be -- but for entrepreneurs operating on a shoestring budget, there are plenty of tactics that will enable you to define and build your personal brand without spending much money. Here are three such techniques:
- Start a blog. There are a variety of free blogging platforms available -- wordpress.com and blogger.com, just to name a few. Use your blog to share your expertise as it relates to your market and your customers. A dentist could share tips for a brighter smile, for instance. It won't cost you penny -- but it will begin to establish your expertise.
- Give speeches. Public speaking makes many people uncomfortable -- but in terms of free exposure and credibility enhancement, it is hard to beat! Look for opportunities to speak on topics relevant to your area of expertise.
- Write an e-book. There are a variety of programs available to help you create and publish an e-book, for little or no cost. Write a short book, focused on your area of expertise, and designed to appeal to your target market.
A strong personal brand allows an entrepreneur to separate himself or herself from the competition -- and to truly dominate the market. And it doesn't have to be expensive. These ideas are a great starting point; put them into practice, and you'll be well on the way to dominating your competition.
Nick Nanton is a dad to three, husband, Emmy award winning director, best-selling author, Fast Company blogger, branding and marketing consultant, songwriter, musician and lawyer.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business's development and growth.