In this age of information overload, success is all about building a brand that stands out above the competition. Whether you are focused on your professional career, or starting your own company, YOU are the first or only brand that anyone will see and remember. That means that you need to overtly market yourself, rather than wait and hope that the right people or customers will find you.
In my long-time role as a mentor and business advisor, I still see too many people who are waiting to be found as a candidate for their dream role, or waiting for investors to find their startup. Unless you are proactive, you will wait a long time as others less qualified buzz right past you. Building your personal brand is a key step to success in every career and business today.
I saw this message highlighted well in a new book, “Do It, Mean It, Be It,” by Corrie Shanahan. Corrie speaks from years of experience helping executives improve their position in large enterprises, as well as in small companies. Of course, she assumes that you are confident and courageous, and willing to capitalize on all your strengths and opportunities to market yourself.
Based on my experience and her recommendations, here are seven relatively easy ways to take the lead in building your own brand:
Offer to speak at local business or industry events. Every Chamber of Commerce, educational organization, and many business organizations are looking for people who are willing to share some special expertise, skills, or interests. Look for a gap to fill, and do the work to make your presence memorable. Build your momentum to bigger forums.
Attend networking events with investors and influencers. For an introvert like me, networking is exhausting, rather than exhilarating. Yet relationships and future warm introductions are well worth the effort in building a brand. Every business community sponsors a plethora of these events. You will learn more by listening rather than talking.
Start a blog and write for industry forums and newsletters. Every organization and web site is begging for content, so spread yourself around. These days, people love short articles, rather than taking the time to read a book. Being published will make it more likely that you’re invited to speak at events, or recognized as a brand while networking.
Seek out and mingle with reporters at business events. Reporters are always looking for content, so they rarely turn away professionals they meet at conferences or events. Stock up with interesting insights, and don’t be afraid to take a position on recent trends. Just make sure they get your name and contact info for publication and follow-up.
Invite experts to your company and organize an event. A little initiative here will get you branded by your peers and leaders as a connector, and provide you with the skills you will need later in marketing your own business. The experts you invite will be flattered, and will remember you as one of them. These relationships can be mined later.
Compete for awards or recognition for you and your team. Too many people don’t actively look for these, again waiting for someone to ask first. Search the Internet and trade associations for relevant awards and mark the submission dates on your calendar. When your team wins, you get credit multiplied by the number of members on your team.
Build international relationships outside your industry. These days, there is a huge focus on sustainability and societal improvements, in your country and world-wide. Roles and relationships with these organizations, including Hunger Relief, United Nations, and World Bank, make you and your company a global thought leader and recognized brand.
Building your brand is all about increasing your visibility and relationships. It’s really not about blowing your own horn, but simply being recognized and rewarded for the work you do, and remembered by the people who can offer new opportunities. For startup visibility, the most important people are potential customers, as well as investors and strategic partners.
Successful business professionals work hard to create the life they want, rather than simply waiting and hoping that they will be found and recognized for their capabilities. Successful startups do the same in building their visibility and image. Isn’t it time for you to take more control of your personal brand?
*** First published on Inc.com on 07/24/2017 ***