One of the most important aspects of creating a personal brand, is first attempting to determine what your goals are. Are you trying to become the President of the United States, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a serial entrepreneur, a social activist? This will certainly help you understand how to frame your brand, how to develop it, and how to continually move you towards your end goals.
In order to do this systematically, you should think of your personal brand just as a company does of it’s own brand; like a business.
It starts with the product
That’s right, it starts with the person. After all, it is a personal brand, and you ARE the product. Write down how you want to be defined. What are the attributes of your product. Are you innovative? Are you a trendsetter? What are your specialties? If you were sitting on a shelf at a store, why would someone choose you over the competition?
Make sure you can deliver
Great customer service defines companies. It also defines you. Great customer service means you are servicing people who have already given you a chance. That means creating deep, meaningful relationships. It involves listening as much as it involves talking and responding.
Personal service involves great follow-ups with great communication.
You have to remember that your customers have immense power, and if you service your following correctly, they should be creating word of mouth for you. If they’re not, then you need to either re-vamp your product or your customer service.
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I just came back from Las Vegas at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show and what a spectacle! If you like to geek out to latest and greatest in technology this is the event for you. The consensus from most people who have traveled to Las Vegas is that 48 hours is enough! Not so for CES, but in general why do most people feel that way? I think it is because Vegas is very much a facade. Lots of lights, camera, action, but when you really get beyond all of that, it does very little to nourish the soul. I ate at one restaurant where at first glance it looked 5-star, but when I searched beyond the walls and sponge board crown molding I found something very different. I put my hand on the chair and what looked from afar like a $2,000 throne felt like something I would buy from a department store as patio furniture. I tried to lift it expecting its solid weight to hold it to the ground and I almost thrust it to the ceiling. Weak!
Let’s relate this to personal branding. If you look the part you are half way to being the part, but when are you actually THE PART? You are when you truly FEEL that you are. So it goes without saying that for a job interview, a client meeting or big date you always want to look the part. Dress appropriately, if it’s an interview for a bank wear a sharp blue suit with a white shirt and red tie, for a big client meeting wear well coordinated slacks and a jacket(and a tie where appropriate) and on a big first date leave the ripped jeans at home and tuck in you button down. Having said all that a clean hair cut, well groomed nails and a shave go without saying, and always, always shine your shoes. So there you go, you’re half way there.
The other half: Be prepared! If you are prepared you will feel that you’re going to nail it! Think of the time when you didn’t study for a test and you went into the classroom flustered and unsure of yourself versus the time you studied 20 hours and you knew your stuff inside and out! That’s confidence and that’s feeling the part. Once you feel it, you ARE it, and no one can stop you. That confidence comes from within when there’s substance and you have taken the time to prepare yourself to add value. Prepare for the job interview by studying the company, its offerings, and the Linked In profile of everyone you will meet. For the big client meeting know all of the latest news and the positive and negative press so you avoid putting your foot in your mouth and for that big date figure out who you know in common and a little about what he/she likes to do in their spare time.
“Luck is What Happens when Preparation Meets Opportunity.” So guess what if you feel lucky you will be lucky. Personal branding is a state of mind.
When I connect with someone for the first time via email, I will usually ask the person if they ever make it to Austin, TX. It’s too easy these days with social networking, email, and blogging to neglect meeting someone in real life. It’s comfortable and we can get away with it, but there is no substitute to meeting a person face to face. Sharing an experience in person, builds a relationship beyond what you could ever do through technology.
I like to meet people in person because it’s more fun. You can have experiences together like watching live music, having dinner, enjoying cocktails, and yes even karaoke. Activities like this give you chances to have fun with each other. When you have fun with someone, the emotional experiences you have carry on throughout your entire relationship. Your closest friends and business partners today are your closest precisely for those reasons. It’s the reason that Asian cultures embrace getting to know each other through dinners, parties, and karaoke as a way to build experiences and relationships before business is ever brought up.
This is also why I tell my friends who want to “network” to connect with someone on a human level rather than a business one. When you connect with someone on a human basis, your relationship will have more depth and breadth. It won’t be easily classifiable. And that’s a great thing.
I’ve found that part of connecting on a real basis involves revealing vulnerability. Talking about issues that make you seem more human is a relief to people meeting you for the first time. They are more willing to reveal their own vulnerabilities. It’s a beautiful thing to see. You can watch the layers of someones persona peel off like an onion as you get closer and closer to the core of that person’s self.
So of course, I will tell all of you, when you’re in Austin, let’s go get some margaritas, eat Tex-Mex, and go out on the town. Let’s get a group together and have fun. Let’s remember to live first, and remember that everything else will follow. Connect with me now, and when we’re in the same town, we’ll go get in some trouble.