Most online agency and digital business owners market their businesses the same way. This makes it challenging to stand out in the crowd. Did you ever go house-hunting before? Whether you’re looking for a house, apartment or condo – you pick a price range and start looking.
After a while, locations aside, everything starts to look pretty much the same. We can apply this to a lot of things.
It’s really no different when it comes to business brands.
If you examine enough of them, they seem to have more in common than not.
My First Business Site
This became a real issue for me when I built my first, serious, business website. I’m using the word “serious” in the context of wanting to make money and earn a full-time income.
I’ve grown to enjoy the styles of each era I’ve lived through. When I was a kid, I had bell-bottom pants. So did a lot of other people. It was a style that was connected with the 1970s.
In the 1980s, I grew a mustache. One of the reasons was that mustaches were in style in the 80s here in the USA. Eventually, that “look” went out of style and I shaved it off in the early 2000s.
Visually speaking, there’s a significant amount of pressure to look like everyone looks (more or less) when it comes to the clothes you wear and a lot of other things.
That principle applies to the websites we build and the graphics we design. Even if we love the designs of a bygone era, there’s really no denying that we’re pressured to avoid standing out in a negative way.
Once you’re ultra-successful, you can become a trendsetter of sorts. The ultra-wealthy are considered eccentric. Eccentricity is considered to be “cool” in some circles. Without the money, however, you’ll be labeled as “weird” instead and looked at as an outcast.
So yeah, I basically ended up with a website that pretty much looked like everyone else’s in my niche.
My Ability to Communicate Was the Key
So, there I was with a professional looking website that more or less resembled all the other professional looking websites in my niche. Was the site helping or hurting my business? Hindsight being what it is, I’d say – neither. In other words, the site didn’t get in the way of me closing new clients but it really didn’t help either.
At the heart of the matter, I either got along with the person I was talking to or I didn’t. We either came to an agreement on the details of the project and the price or we didn’t. At the end of the day, it all came down to communication.
This was my first taste of “personal branding” on a practical level.
People were either buying me, or they weren’t.
After the initial contact, everything came down to my communication with the potential client.
Don’t Be a Wallflower in Your Niche
Before the Internet, the easiest way to become a recognizable individual in your niche was through real, human contact. In other words, you had to get out there, meet people, and make connections. The nice thing about being old enough to remember the pre-online world was that it forced me to sharpen my social skills.
My parents always warned me when I was a kid saying, “Don’t be a wallflower. Get out there where things are happening.” If you never heard the phrase before, check it out in the Urban Dictionary – https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Wallflower
Today, I happen to live in a small city where there are always lots of social activities going. The city population is about 57,000 people. If most of your client’s own brick and mortar businesses, the chances are high that they know a lot of people. That means, with a little bit of effort, you can connect with people faster than the average person can.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box with this one. That might mean creating a quick video to introduce yourself. Video is also a great way to quickly share how your process is different from the competition. Think of it as a quick, personalized commercial.
If you’re camera shy, figure out how to beat that shyness the same way you’ve figured out how to overcome other obstacles in your business. I’m not a big fan watching myself talking on video. I’m pretty harsh when it comes to critiquing myself. Still, once you make it work, it’s one of the last viable shortcuts left. Use it to build a memorable personal brand.
The Rise of the Influencer
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration if I said we’re living in the “age of the influencer.” An influencer, by definition, is a person who has the ability to influence the behavior or opinions of others. While there will always be movie-star or pop-star influencers in any culture, many of today’s online influencers are simply ordinary people others relate strongly to or identify with.
YouTube and Instagram are two well-known platforms used by influencers to connect with their respective audiences.
The other day I saw a documentary on Netflix about teenage influencers. Some of these kids have millions upon millions of followers watching their videos. Most are between the ages of 13 to 17. Some are making six-figure incomes per month from ad revenue their channels and profiles generate. It’s really incredible.
On the other side of the scale, there are older adults (60+) doing the same thing… and every age in between. There are influencers in every marketplace and in every niche you can think of.
Thankfully, you don’t have to look like a movie star to influence people. Appearance isn’t the key. You’re not too fat, too skinny, too old, or too young to have a positive influence in your marketplace.
So, what if you applied the influencer concept to your business – combining it with your personal brand? I’m not saying you need to be a positive influence in the lives of 10-million people. Even if you only reached 1,000 people but truly impacted their lives – how incredible would that be?
You Already Have a “Brand” Whether You’re Conscious of it or Not
In my teen years, I learned some of these concepts the hard way. By trial and error. Nothing is perfect in this world. In my late teens, however, I used to focus a lot of thought on all the things that were wrong. I didn’t keep those thoughts to myself, either. I’d spell it out to anyone who cared to listen. That was my “brand” in my teenage years from about the age of 15 to the age of 19. I felt like I was living a blues/rock album.
Thankfully, all that changed. Afterward, I was determined to look at life through a different lens.
If you’d asked me why I felt the way I did at the age of 18, I would have told you I was just, “Keeping it real.” Keeping it negative was my version of keeping it real. The truth was, I was lazy and didn’t want to work very hard to fix anything. I’m talking about the things that were in my power to fix. I basically wanted everything to fall into place the way I wanted it to and when that didn’t happen, I’d go listen to music or play a video game. I certainly wasn’t a positive influence on too many people
Let me ask you – how do you think people see you? All they have are your words and actions to judge you by, right? If you want to change how you’re perceived, then you have to change what you say and what you do.
Consider your social media brand. I’m talking about you as an individual. People judge you by the words you post and the pictures you share. Change those two things and you’re on your way to building a new brand. Getting started can be that simple.
Paths Without Obstacles Rarely Go Anywhere
Building a personal brand isn’t exactly rocket science. Still, most people find that it’s a struggle to get the results they’re looking for. That’s because, like anything else in life, we face obstacles in just above everything we do. Things happen that we didn’t anticipate happening, and we stop moving forward. Or, the opposite, things don’t happen that we anticipated happening and we stop moving forward.
Unfortunately, great victories only come from great battles. It’s hard to have one without the other.
When you apply this to the online world it usually comes down to doing the work that needs to be done day in and day out, even if you don’t feel like doing it.
You don’t get the washboard abs without going through the pain of exercise. Doing the works means that you may have to sacrifice your time with something else in order to get the job done.
Do you know what I’d like to be doing right now instead of writing this article? I’d like to be playing my favorite game, Football Manager 2019. Seriously, though, sometimes you just have to get sick and tired of going nowhere fast before change happens.
Remember Rocky Balboa?
Do you remember the original Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone? The original movie won 3 Academy Awards. In the original story, Rocky was a club fighter – fighting for what the old-timers used to call, chump change. On the side, he collected money for a local loan shark to help make ends meet.
One day, he went to the gym only to discover that the gym owner, Mickey, had cleaned out his locker and had given it to someone else. When asked why Mickey told him he was giving it to someone who was going somewhere. He was giving it to someone with a future.
A short time later, the opportunity came for Rocky to turn his life around and fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the world. It was the fork in the road moment for him, and he decided for the first time in his life to finally go for it. For the first time in his life, he wanted to go the distance.
Let me ask you a question, have you ever really gone all in with your online business?
I’m asking the question because many people have multiple sources of income within their household. And sometimes, for whatever reason, we do what we need to do – no more no less.
My question is – how far could you really go if took your foot off the brakes?
Start Getting All the Pieces in Place
For whatever reason, the more complex the plan the more likely we are to believe it has some substance to it. Good luck with complex plans. If growing your personal brand makes sense to you, just jump in and get started.
Pick something that needs to get fixed and fix it. For example, if you need to clean up your Facebook page or profile, you can start there. If your LinkedIn profile is half complete, start working on getting it updated.
If your website is kind of finished, do whatever it takes to remove the “kind of” from the equation. If you stuck, either pay someone to help you or figure it out and get it done.
Do you need new photos? Is your bio weak? Write it all out, even if you’ve committed it to memory. Then, every time you complete something, cross it off the list. This is one of the easier ways to build some momentum because you’ll be visually charting your progress.
Experience Your Personal Transformation
Did you ever look at some of the people or the businesses in your niche and find yourself admiring how well they’ve put things together? It’s like they have a well-oiled machine in place. Then, when you look at what you’re doing, you see either a bunch of little components that are missing or a bunch of things that could be done much better?
I believe if focus for a while on building your personal brand, you’ll be able to pull some of those loose or missing pieces together.
Building a personal brand brings context to many activities and even projects that may have been done out of context.
For example, sometimes you’re promoting a business, sometimes a product. Sometimes you find yourself building a social channel just to have one. At the end of the day, there’s not a whole lot of continuity in play and you have loose pieces all over the place.
With a personal brand, you’re the primary product. What I mean is, you’re the familiar face, the representative if you will, for a line of products/services. Nothing is stand alone. This may sound a little funny but, you’re PT Barnum promoting your circus!
If politics is something you can relate to better, you’re the individual representing your city, state or country. In our case, we’re the spokesperson for our niche. You might think, “That’s really bold isn’t it?” I agree it’s bold thinking. If you want to lead, however, you can’t do it from the back.
There’s a lot more I could talk about, but I think I’ve put enough information out there, for now, to think about.
Feel free to share your own thoughts, insights or experiences with this topic in the box below!