In the digital age, most entrepreneurs publicly connect their personal name and reputation to their business. A strong personal brand ties these elements together in a professional, yet relatable way to help establish your expertise, credibility and trustworthiness among industry peers and customers.
Jeremy Goldman, a digital marketing expert and author, says a strong personal brand is essential for differentiating yourself, especially in a market where many others are offering similar services.
"You don't want to be lumped in with other people," said Goldman. "A personal brand implies uniqueness. A 'transition expert' is a stronger personal brand than ... just a 'career coach.'"
People tend to trust people over companies. That's why 52% of website visitors specifically seek out an "About" page when they first land on a company's home page — they want to get to know the people behind the business.
This is where personal branding comes in. Rehnuma Choudhury, a copywriter and branding expert, says your personal brand sets the expectation about how someone should feel about you — and this can push someone toward or away from your business.
"Everything you do as a business creates a perception ... that makes [customers] feel a certain way about you," Choudhury said. "This can be the difference between someone working with you, or … going to the next person who offers the same thing you do, but makes them feel better about it."
[See more: How to Write a Business Plan.]
Strong personal brands are memorable and recognizable, said Jessica Lawlor, who runs a content management and public relations firm.
According to Lawlor, Goldman and Priyanka Raha, founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, strong brands have a few key elements in common:
If you're just establishing your personal brand, here's how to create one that stands out and resonates with your intended audience.
Before you can share your brand with the world, it's critical to figure out what you stand for as a person and as a professional — and, more importantly, what you don't stand for, said Goldman.
"Find what you truly believe in and what you enjoy working at," added Raha. "This is key because the authentic voice always comes through loud and clear."
Raha, whose company creates an educational app for children, leverages her experiences as a technologist and mother in her personal branding efforts.
"I treat every conversation as a pitch," Raha said. "It is an intentional and focused approach to telling my story. I consistently share this story in my personal conversations, at speaking gigs and on social channels."
Lawlor added that, although it can feel uncomfortable or self-indulgent to share your successes, it’s incredibly important.
"You're opening yourself up to the opportunity to help someone else find what they need or what they've been looking for," she said.
Lawlor aims to share her business story as transparently and authentically as possible in her branding – both the positive and negative aspects. To that end, entrepreneurs should create content that helps people get to know them better.
"Give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your business and how you spend your day," said Lawlor. "Share a story with them about a success, a hardship or lesson learned. We're all compelled by stories – so start telling them!"
A good brand takes time and effort to build, so keep working at it — even if you don't see results at first.
"A lot of people give up too soon when ... building a brand," Goldman told CO—. "[They're] doing the right steps, but expect instant fame and validation. Do it for a little while, test it ... and make sure the whole thing makes sense. It's an uphill struggle ... [but] there's clear ROI in doing these things."
CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.