A couple of months ago I attended a presentation by my friend Nate Riggs at the Ohio Web Leaders meeting. Nate presented "Brand You" (many of the concepts of the presentation can be found in the post "Brand Ownership"). What I found interesting is the concept that the ownership of your "brand" does not really lie with you. Your "brand" is really defined by the perception of others. You can work to position yourself to provide the view you want people to see but it is on them how they see you. While people will always view you through their lens there are things you can do to help them better understand you. This is the core of "Personal Branding" and as a small business person your personal brand will translate to your business brand.
The key thing for small business owners is that they are usually the face of the business. The business is your passion, you set the tone for the business. When people see you, the business owner, they see the business. Even if you are not out in front (which most of the time you are) the perception of the business is a reflection of your personal brand. One of my favorite places is TehKu Tea. It is not that I am a tea connoisseur, it is because of the business' atmosphere and feel, all of which is set by the owners. It is genuine and an extension of the owners' personal brand.
So what should you do as a business owner to extend your personal brand to your business. First, be authentic and show your passion for the business. You started the business for a reason and more than likely it was because you have a passion for what you deliver. When you meet Kip Robinaugh, owner of Peach Tree Books & Company, in Bellefontaine, Ohio, you know he is genuine, real and passionate about his business and the community. The image he projects is not only a personal image but also a business image. When you see him you not only see Kip but you see Peach Tree books.
Keep your brand clean and easy to understand. I know that we are all complicated and there are many layers between the surface and our core. If you want your personal brand to represent you and your business you need to think about what you are putting out there for people to see. It is easy now with social media tools to reach people all over the world. It's up to you how many of your various layers you choose to project but know that it will contribute to your brand and your business. In my case when people see me or my posts they know I work with small businesses. They may see other things and they may not know exactly what SBDC stands for or exactly how my program works but they know I am a go to person relating to small business.
- Know thyself
- Listen and engage
- Be authentic
- Spread good karma
- Be transparent
- Ask questions
- Always be in Beta
Finally and most importantly...Project trust. Customers need to be able to know that you are on their side. Build a purpose based business and the profits will follow (thanks to Raymond Taylor for that one). Focus on relationships and how they interrelate with your business. Listen more that you speak (you have two ears and one mouth for a reason).
Step outside of yourself. What do you want to see and what do you see? Start today to bring these two together.