You’ll often hear companies talking about the value of their brand which is the image summoned up in the eyes of their market upon hearing or seeing their company name.
For example, the BMW brand immediately conjures up a fine piece of German motoring machinery generally driven by exciting people who live a fabulous lifestyle coupled with overtones of great looking vehicles and safety. Contrast that with the image that the Mercedes Benz brand conjures up. It’s another fine piece of German motoring machinery too with the same smart looks and safety features but you’d probably perceive it as driven by older, powerful, more solid and serious wealthy citizens who live a more subdued lifestyle.
So the brand is everything a company does that impacts on the minds of their target market and therefore everything from the way they go about employing staff, their labour practices, their support of charities, the way their dealers behave, their advertising and promotion and the product itself will contribute to how their target market feels about the product or service. Companies work hard to ensure that the perception of their brand in their consumers’ mind is strong, positive and vibrant.
What about your personal brand?
If the impact a company makes upon its market is important how much more important is the personal impact you make upon your market? In other words how important is your brand?
It’s often said that 50% of success is performance and the other 50% is presentation. If that is so, your personal brand is critically important… what you do, what you say, how you look and how you deliver… and you should therefore be conscious of it and, more importantly, work to ensure that your brand positions you in people’s minds exactly where you want to be.
Some important elements in personal branding worth thinking about are:
How you look— Not everyone is born with film star looks but everyone can do something to maximise what they’ve got. That means wearing clothing that is appropriate both to the occasion and the wearer… as they say you never get a second chance at a first impression. It also means ensuring that you make the best of your physical features and you invest in the help of experts to make sure you make the best possible physical statement. For example, cosmetic dentistry may seem like a huge investment but, when you amortize the cost over the rest of your life and factor in the great results, the cost is insignificant. Equally important is making sure that you invest in the appropriate time and type of exercise so that you have that vitality that physical fitness delivers.
How you sound— Quite frankly it amazes me that so few people ever do anything about improving their vocal skills and that covers both the sound of their voice and their ability to deliver meaningful information with impact. Spending time with a voice coach to learn to use your voice in a powerful and persuasive way is a great idea… prior to Margaret Thatcher becoming British Prime Minister she had experts help her lower her voice a full two octaves to improve her presence, stature and delivery. No one could now imagine her as Prime Minister with a high-pitched squeaky voice. Similarly too, if you are careless with grammar or pronunciation, get some expert help to help you correct your mistakes.
How you present— This deserves special mention because here I am referring to your ability to overcome the greatest fear of most people… speaking in public. Around 60% of people fear this more than death and, judging by many people’s ability at speaking, death would be a merciful relief for the audiences who have to listen to them! Being able to speak persuasively and articulately is a skill not a talent and therefore can be learnt. The secret is to seek some training… from a speaking coach, Toastmasters or Rostrum, or getting involved in a club like Jaycees (JCI), Rotary or SWAP… and the applying the 3P’s… practice, practice, practice. Being good at presenting in public and being able to deliver your ideas effectively will certainly enhance your personal brand.
How you listen— People enjoy being in the company of those who are great listeners and yet very few people practice effective listening. As a general rule, because we have four observation devices… two ears and two eyes… compared with 1 delivering device… a mouth… we should listen four times as much as we talk. When you listen attentively to other people and show that you hear what they are saying by acknowledging them, you’ll build empathy and rapport which are critical factors in “likeability” an important part of your brand.
How you build your brain— When people deal with you they want to know that you have an appreciation and understanding not only of your business but a broader range of interests, activities and affairs. That’s why it pays to always be on a lifelong learning process and invest in increasing your knowledge and skills. Most people stop learning when they leave school or university and yet research shows that people who invest as little as $1,000 a year will earn 20% more than those who don’t. How’s that for increasing the value of your brand?
How you describe yourself— When you meet people they have two questions… “What’s your name?” and “What do you do?” How you answer that latter question is hugely important and you can judge your success in doing so by how people respond. If they say, “Hey that’s interesting, tell me more!” you are doing it right.
What it means is that you must be able to describe what you do in a way that is interesting and different and has them lusting to learn more. For example the response to “I’m an accountant” is generally total disinterest because regrettably accountants are perceived as being conservative and boring. On the other hand the response to “I help people in business make more money” which is what an accountant really does do would be “How do you do that?”
These are only a few of the factors that will influence your personal branding in the minds of people who are important to you… your clan, colleagues, competitors and clients. Work on them, get them right and see the value of your personal brand… and your results… really soar!