Nine Ways To Build Your Personal Brand
This article is an excerpt from Paul Kiewiet’s new book, Summit: Reaching The Peak Of Your Potential, available on Amazon in paperback and as a Kindle ebook. The tome is a collection of Kiewiet’s popular blogs and articles, and the 60 bite-sized chapters are packed with the lessons he’s learned and the strategies he’s used to build a successful, nearly 40-year career.
You are a brand. Your brand is you and you take it with you wherever you go, whether you work for yourself or for someone else. It even follows you if you change industries. But here’s the thing, "Brand You" is constantly evolving, and you can continuously build your brand.
My favorite definition of brand comes from one of my favorite business thinkers and writers, Seth Godin. I’ve modified it just a bit to relate to your personal brand as a promotional professional. “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a client’s decision to choose one provider over another. If the buyer doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that buyer. Your brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.”
So how do you go about building your personal brand? Here are nine suggestions:
You must always be stretching beyond good. Never be satisfied with delivering a good product at a good price on time. Everyone who is still in business does those things. Those are the costs of entry into the game. With every interaction with your customers, you need to leave them feeling great about themselves and about you. Set a standard for yourself to be fascinating, remarkable, outstanding. Create high expectations for yourself and then deliver.
What are the little extras that you can do to make your interactions with your clients memorable? Your customer will remember the handwritten thank-you note that you send. She’ll remember the extra spec samples that you had made up to show her what her logo would look like on some additional ways to help her achieve her goals. He’ll remember that you took the time to provide a post-project review of what worked, what could be better and the results of the program. They’ll even remember that your invoice was accurate, timely and conformed to their corporate requirements. Your brand is built with the details and the extras.
People love stories. Tell them. From earliest childhood and going back through history, it is the storytellers who become leaders. How can you reframe your presentations into stories? Use case histories. Ask your reps about successful uses and applications. Make the stories personal, funny,compelling, and you’ll gain a reputation of someone who understands his business.
Always make it about the relationship. Get to know your customers and you’ll learn what is important to them. You will just naturally be looking out for their best interest. You will take the Golden Rule and move it up a notch to the Platinum Rule: do unto others as they would want done to them. Friends do favors without keeping score. Friends genuinely like each other. Friends have something to talk about even if there isn’t an immediate business project at stake.
If your brand is to be known for something, you need to define it. Choose honesty, integrity, reliability, of course. But go deeper. What is it that you stand for and then be uncompromising on your principles. Become known as being impeccable. If you know what you are worth, charge for it and never lower your price without taking something back in return.
A specialist in any profession makes more money and is in higher demand than any generalist. With the hundreds of thousands of products and hundreds of categories available in our industry, you simply cannot be the best at all of them. Choose your niche, choose your product category, choose your client industry and then work at becoming world-class at them. It will mean sometimes saying “no” to a tempting client or project. Define yourself and become the favorite brand in your category.
Brands are built over time. Being consistent means that you follow your principles always. It means that you are authentic and transparent. It means that you remind yourself every single day of who you are, why you are doing what you are doing and that you provide value. Every single day you need to be turning strangers into friends, friends into customers and those customers into raving fans.
Get serious about becoming a brand. Buy a domain name that is uniquely you. It can be your name, your nickname, your brand name, even what you do. If you have a unique name, make that your brand name. Or create a combination of your name and your specialty. You may even create a logo for yourself. But your mark can be your colors, your apparel, your briefcase, your scent, sound or any of the senses. Just as major brands change and update their logos, you can as well. Be noticeable and be noticeably consistent.
You’re in the advertising, marketing and promotion business. You must promote. Promote your brand by providing useful content—like a friend would—free. Use your social media presence to extend your reach, but make sure you are following the previous principles in all of your promotion. Be yourself and be true to yourself.
Work constantly on becoming the preferred brand in your category. Build it and they will become raving fans.
Paul A. Kiewiet, MAS+, founded a sales promotion agency in 1982 and has worked with some of America’s most beloved brands including Elmer’s Glue, Krylon Spray Paints, Kellogg’s, Coca- Cola, Whirlpool, Kitchen Aid, Borden, Hush Puppies, Rocky Shoes and Boots, Wyler’s, Soup Starter, RainDance, Kroger, Dow-Brands, Tobler-Suchard, Mentos and many more. He served on the PPAI Board of Directors and was chair in 2007-2008. Kiewiet was inducted into the Michigan Promotional Professionals Association (MiPPA) Hall of Fame in 2010 and into the PPAI Hall of Fame in 2015. A frequent and popular speaker and educator, award-winning writer, industry consultant and coach, Kiewiet has won 14 PPAI Pyramid Awards and two ASI Spirit Awards including Marketer of the Year. Kiewiet has also won the President’s Award from the National Premium Sales Executives and a Golden Key Award from the Incentive Manufacturers Association, along with many other awards. He is currently executive director for MiPPA. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.