4 Personal Branding Mistakes I Learned From (The Hard Way)
September 17, 2018
Personal branding is a hot topic right now and even though this is the way that business has been conducted forever, I remember walking to the butcher's with my Grandad 30 years ago because he wouldn't buy his Sunday roast from anyone else, many people are considering this to be a ‘new' way of marketing.
And I get that, I do. It's a departure from the “I am business, I am person.” split that many of us were brought up with.
I do think that sometimes though because this is termed as a new way to do business and to do marketing, that some people believe that in order to be a successful personal brand they have to be overly themselves.
You know the kind of thing, people being over divisive for no reason; acting as if they invented well, everything; calling people out and being generally a little dickwaddy towards people working ‘the 9 to 5‘ and just really acting in a way that will never generate trust or likability amongst prospects or peers.
Ultimately, that's the whole point of personal branding isn't it: to be liked.
But importantly, the distinction is that we need to be liked by and attract our people. Not just anyone.
In fact, we need to be using personal branding and opinion marketing in order to filter out those who we really will never get along with – those who simply share different viewpoints – and to connect with those who will become our friends, advocates and community.
THAT is why personal branding is receiving so much attention right now because it's a really simple way for non-marketers to understand inbound marketing.
Here's how my friends at HubSpot define inbound marketing:
Inbound marketing is about creating valuable experiences that have a positive impact on people and your business. How do you do that? You attract prospects and customers to your website and blog through relevant and helpful content. Once they arrive, you engage with them using conversational tools like email and chat and by promising continued value. And finally, you delight them by continuing to act as an empathetic advisor and expert.
Unlike outbound marketing, with inbound marketing, you don’t need to fight for your potential customers’ attention. By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.
What's the one word at the centre of that entire definition?
I've spent a few years building my personal brand and using it as a way to tell the story of my business.
This is something that I'll be leaning into even more over the coming months as I unveil the upgrade of my personal brand and go behind the scenes of running a tech business that has transformed over the last 12 months.
As I've built my personal brand, I've spent time some time working with others on their personal brand as a passion project and without doubt, I have spotted a series of recurring problems that people face when building a personal brand based business.
Here they are – they're all mistakes I've made too, and that I've learned from.
Personal branding mistake no. 1: Switching focus
This is something that I struggled with when it came to my personal brand.
It's taken me a long time to realise that I don't want to be an online entrepreneur, I'm focussed on building a tech business.
Because of this, I really struggled with where I fit into that online entrepreneur space – what do I teach people to do?
Well, honestly I teach them how to survive, thrive and grow whilst building a business that starts with them and grows beyond them.
I teach people how to break out of their lifestyle prison.
So many personally branded solo businesses switch focus too much, especially if they have an idea that doesn't instantly “work”.
You have to stay the course. Sure, you may need to tweak or add/remove from your offer. Of course, you might need to change tactics from time to time to make sure you're constantly optimising what works, but you have to stay very, very clear on your message.
Be sure: what do you help people to do?
Personal branding mistake no. 2: Lacking consistency
The single biggest issue that I see failing businesses, both offline and online, making is that they are simply not consistent with anything for any length of time.
Whether that's content creation, internal processes or measuring core metrics – things fall by the wayside because staying consistent is hard.
You have to write when you don't feel like writing. You have to record when you don't feel like recording. You have to sell when the last thing you want to do is sell.
You have to be so consistent that your prospects, customers, community and friends can easily rely upon you being “there” when you say you'll be there.
My free coaching, for example, runs every single Friday.
Every single week with the exception of one week holiday per year, I turn up whether I feel like being “on” or not, and I provide value.
Sometimes all I want to do is go home after a hard week, but I made a promise and I deliver upon it.
What have you promised? And what are you delivering?
Personal branding mistake no. 3: Cheap design is the father of failure
Controversial, I know, but in the age of Fiverr and 99 Designs design has become commoditised.
You don't need to spend a fortune, but you need to invest in the right person to work with on your design.
Often as a business with a personal slant, you can invest a little in the right direction early on with a view to investing a little more as you gain more success.
The point is that just like Tinder, your face matters. And your face is your logo, your colour palette, your tone of voice, your use of whitespace, your choice of photographs and so many other subtleties that only a designer who understands you will be able to fully realise.
Yes, of course, it sounds shallow, but you chose to spend your life with your partner because you were attracted to them in the first case.
People will choose to spend their time with you because they're attracted to how you make them feel, and what people instantly see from you amongst the masses of other social distractions and entrepreneurial content will inform that very first decision on whether to court you or not.
Find a local designer, get to know them and build a relationship with them.
I use Killer Ky.
Personal branding mistake no. 4: No conversation with your people!
Every single week I receive questions to my free coaching session and without a doubt, every single week, I receive at least one question that goes like this:
Mark, how do I increase engagement within my email list?
So I delve a little deeper with the person asking and inevitably it transpires that they're making one of two simple mistakes, often both:
- They simply aren't asking people to engage. Instead, they're sending one-way, ‘outbound' style emails that are intended to sell their services. Rather than informing or helping and then simply asking people to reply to the email, they're hammering a ‘sale' and making the recipient feel like they're being sold to. That's ok for certain emails, but no way will it work when trying to build an engaged audience.
- They're ‘too busy' to reply to emails. Ok, I get it, you get a lot of emails. But you can't have it both ways – if you want people to engage with you, then you have to engage with them in return. But more than that, you have to want to get to know the person emailing you and take a genuine interest in what they need. A conversation is the easiest thing to start with a respondent and by making people feel like they matter to you, you'll build super-fans quickly.
Bonus personal branding mistake no. 5: Don't be a tool, just because you have an Internet connection
Look, personal branding is about having an opinion, I truly believe that.
But there's a big trend at the moment of people, especially amongst men of simply being rude, mean and sometimes even nasty to people who have a differing opinion to themselves.
“Authenticity” means being transparently you, helping people and asking for nothing in return.
What it does not mean is bringing people down, making them feel bad about themselves or using a platform to publicly deride someone.
I drop the odd “F-bomb” and make no apology for it. Gary Vee is the most outspoken person I know.
We live in a world where it's ok to be yourself, please don't confuse that with being a tool.
Well, I don't teach people how to build a personal brand right now, I'm not an ‘online entrepreneur', I'm a tech founder and that's my focus.
But, I have to build my personal brand in order to tell the stories that I want to tell from that world and so I'll continue to share my learnings.
Remember, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel!