5 Tips to Build Your Personal Brand During the Era of COVID-19

As many of us work from home and are forced to socially distance ourselves, one now has the time to review, define and improve our personal brand.  To stand out, to find your next job, to build your network.

Personal branding is the practice of marketing people and their careers as brands. It is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining a reputation and impression of an individual, group, or organization. Even Oprah Winfrey began by going through several iterations of her show before finding her voice and transforming into one of the most influential brands in the world.

Today, the reality is that your personal brand is linked to social media whether we like it or not.  Your personal brand is not solely based on your perspective, but largely on the perceptions from others; your personal brand is the aggregate of positive and negative as seen largely through the lens of others.  Remember social media has little to do with what we say about ourselves, and has everything to do with what people say about us.

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You’re a brand.  I’m a Brand.  We’re all brands whether we want to or not.  Now to those five tips to help improve all our brands.

  1. Start by defining your personal brand

Too many people are unfocused and trying to be “everything to everyone.”  In today’s hyper-competitive world it’s crucial that you build your case of what it is that you do differently.  As important as it is to define your purpose, it is of utmost importance to differentiate yourself.

Knowing your personal brand “why” is an important step. Only when you truly know your “why” can you find the courage to take risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated, and define your brand clearly with a rewarding trajectory.

You can begin to define your personal brand by answering these questions:

  • Who do you want to serve and why?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you great at (your areas of expertise)?
  • How are you different from others within your field?
  • What unique value do you offer (related to your business)?
  1. Identify your target audience

Once you’ve identified your niche the key is to begin to narrow it down to address a specific demography.  It’s crucial to have a clear idea about who your target audience is. Since  branding is based on authenticity, you need to understand who you are and what makes you compelling to your target audience aka the people who are making decisions about you.

As you think about what makes you, start to ponder some of the below questions:

  • What do they want from you?  
  • What are their biggest aspirations?
  • What are their biggest fears?
  • What experiences have you had that can help them?
  • Where do they hang out the most?
  • What do they associate themselves with?

Conduct thorough research on all these questions and then build your message to best balance authenticity and what your audience might be looking for.

  1. Post Regularly on Social Media

The key to using social media to build your personal brand is to have a focused strategy, set time limits, and continuous reinforcement.

Sharing online allows you to craft an online persona that reflects your personal values and professional skills. Even if you only use social media occasionally, the content you create, share or react to feeds into your public narrative. How you conduct yourself online is now just as important as your behavior offline.

Building your personal brand on social media takes some work, but it can help you land you your next job opportunity or help you to foster valuable connections.

  • Focus on platforms where your audience hangs out. You don’t have to be everywhere, but you may need to tailor your content based on the platform you’re using – such as images on Instagram, articles on LinkedIn, and a combination of media on Facebook.
  • Engage with your audience by asking questions, posting discussions, setting up polls, making comments, and replying to comments to keep the dialogue going
  • Start a private community with your target audience where you can offer help and advice
  • Join groups relevant to your area of expertise and interact with the members there.
  • Consistently share your personal brand content by maintaining a social media content calendar.
  • Spend time on platforms that your fellow influencers run. By engaging within those networks, you’ll increase your visibility with people who can have a valuable effect on your success. And with a clear personal brand, you’ll be able to show them exactly how you can help them and they can help you.
  1. Develop valuable content

Decide which social media account(s) you are going to focus on, and delete any old accounts that you are no longer using. For the networks you will be using, make sure all of your information is complete and accurate. This will help build traffic on the networks you want to showcase your work. It can also remove any potential “questionable” content from years past that doesn’t have a positive effect on your professional image. Before you begin to develop content, think about what you want to be known for.  Your digital reputation stays for life, so I encourage you to treat your reputation that way.

Everyone’s an expert at something – whether it’s content marketing or having an in depth knowledge of your favorite TV show. Is it time for you to experiment a bit more? What type of content have you created that your followers have responded to most? Can you replicate this with other similar content? The more unique and engaging content you create on your chosen topic of expertise, the more your followers will start to think of you as a leader in your chosen field.

As you get going with developing content ensure you’re producing content regularly and staying on topic to gain trust. Once you’ve become a thought leader, begin to seek out guest appearances.  Working with other relevant people within your field to expand your reach can help tremendously to enhance your personal brand.

  1. Think of being an influencer like being an intern, everyone must prove themselves.

Nobody wants to work with a self-interested, self-absorbed, self-serving self-promoter. Nobody. The days of endless self-promotion are over.   The quickest way to lose followers is to constantly promote yourself.

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It’s important to seek to promote others and become a curator of content that speaks to your purpose or product with the goal of adding value. Assume everyone can help you.

  • Always Respond: Conversation > Promotion
  • Have an opinion online, add value, and become engaged within online feeds.
  • Follow people, really… it’s okay! And when you get unusual followers (good ones) always reach out!

The very best brands come from repeated trial and error, mistakes and failures and not from instant perfection. My final piece of advice for those of you reading this is to remind you to be ready to fail.  Failure is tough, and all of us generally want to avoid it – it’s human nature.

Walt Disney spoke of this when he reminisced about his failed first attempts at creating an animation brand. 

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“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. And what can happen is never as frightening as not trying at all.”-Walt Disney

Defining your personal brand takes time and it doesn’t come easily.  Like anything else worth investing in, it takes time, effort, patience and thick skin to make it a success.   Learn from failures, but try to fail fast and move on.

It’s hard to imagine a future where social media in whatever form is less prevalent than it is today.  Now is the time to spend time defining your personal brand and get started with simple steps.

Regardless of age, position, line of business, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. It’s that simple — and yet, that hard.

28 Effective Ideas to Improve Your Sales Strategy in 2020 (Guest Post)

Guest Post from David Coen. The Full Post can be found here

Do you want to add a personal touch to your sales strategy?

Does reaching out and building relationships with important businesses and customers make you happy and increase the number of sales your business makes?

It’s true that strong communication between a business and a potential customer is crucial to enhancing sales.

Just think about it; let’s say you build a good daily relationship with your local newsagent. You become familiar with the people that work there and the value of the deals in the shop. This encourages you to return and buy more from that newsagent.

Today, you can bring this relationship to the next level by personalizing your sales. By capturing information such as buyer data, online purchases and social media activity, businesses can tailor sales to the customer in the most personal way possible.

Moving leads through your pipeline needs a clear plan and strategy. If you try to sell without a defined strategy, you are likely to miss out on potential sales.

A good place to start is determining how the sale will affect the customer’s business. You are likely to capture attention by making the customer aware of the positive changes that your sale will bring.

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This post shows you the best ways that you can improve your sales strategy in 2020, including keeping your first email short and sweet, creating buyer personas and using storytelling.

1. Keep your first email to the point: You need to truly engage your prospect in the first email. They will likely have hundreds of emails to get through, so yours really needs to stand out from the crowd. Keeping things simple and showing that you have done your research is a good place to start. You don’t need to pitch your solution immediately. Establishing trust with the lead is the important first step you need to take.  The first email is better off being short, possibly bullet pointed and as clear as possible. It should be clear why your solution is relevant to the prospect. You should arrange a meeting with the prospect in the first email. This is then followed by a simple summary of what you like to discuss.

2. Understand the company’s challenges.  Following the first call, you are likely to have a better understanding of the company’s challenges. This can be used for greater personalization in the next phase. For example if the business told you they had an issue with their CRM and you were selling this service, you can use this to your advantage. Sharing valuable content that provides solutions to the company is a good next step. By reaching out to them and sharing an article about alternative CRMs, you will show that you listened to your first conversation and care about helping them. Building a relationship with the prospect is always important to improving your sales strategy.

3. Add that personal touch to your sales strategy.  We all want to feel valued in a business relationship. This is no different when it comes to sales. Adding that personal touch when discussing a potential sale will set you apart from the crowd. This can be anything from finding out more about the prospect’s hobbies and interests, or the sports team that they follow. This is usually best achieved after an in-person meeting, where you can give them a handwritten note about something they are interested in. You can establish trust with them quickly as this is a physical connection that will help create a bond.

4. Become trusted.  Becoming trusted in sales is hugely important. Once you build a strong relationship with a customer, this can then snowball into further relationships such as becoming partners. A sale does not have to be the end of the relationship! Once you become trusted you will become a partner of the client. This can lead to upselling and more renewals, which will increase revenue for your business. You will also get more referrals from being trusted. It’s common sense that customers will refer to someone that they know and trust. Whether it’s a sales strategy for startups or a sales strategy for real estate, building relationships is key for improving your sales strategy.

5.  Don’t get it wrong! Making sure that you don’t get it wrong when it comes to personalization seems obvious. However it’s surprising how many people do get it wrong! You need to promote products that are relevant to the prospect. It’s also important to get the name, gender and other personal information right. You need to be sincere when reaching out for the potential sale, otherwise no one will take you seriously

6.  Be relevant. Always try and provide value to the person you are talking to. With this at the back of your mind, you will keep the prospect genuinely interested in what you are saying to them.  Your content needs to be tailored to the person you are talking to, so watch out for spam like emails or badly personalized content.

7.  Honor your commitment.  It’s important to deliver what you promised once you have built a relationship with the prospect. Let’s say you tell them you will provide a discount on the product. You need to honor this. If you forget to give them the discount or take too long in giving it to them, then the prospect might feel that the relationship is not being respected. This comes back to nurturing the prospect in the sales funnel and keeping them satisfied with the business relationship.

8. Be careful with personal information. It’s no secret that businesses are collecting more personal information about customers than ever before. This doesn’t make everyone feel comfortable though!  Be careful with the amount of personal information that you show to potential customers. They won’t want to feel as though you are stalking them!

9.  Create Buyer Personas.  It’s essential to develop clear buyer personas for your brand. With these in mind, you can target your product to the type of person that will be interested in your product. Having precise data about your customers is a must have, so make sure you have the best resources available to you. Let’s say you are developing a sales strategy for hotels. If you own a hotel that also features a golf resort, you can target your hotel to people who play golf. Similarly if there is a state of the art leisure centre you can focus on people who are interested in fitness.

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10. Provide the solution to the problem.  When you start your sales outreach, remember to relate to the problems that the business is facing. The potential customer likely won’t be interested in your pricing plans or product features at this early stage. That’s why it’s important to do your research to try to understand what issues the prospect is facing and how you can solve them with your product. This level of personalization will capture the prospect’s attention immediately. It shows that you have put work in to helping them. You understand what they are aiming to do and which obstacles they will face. Instead of talking about how great your product is, show how your product provides the solution to their problems. They are also much more likely to become loyal customers if you take this approach

11.  Showcase end results of your sales strategy.  Another thing you need to highlight when you are selling your product is the end results it will provide. They need to know exactly what will happen as soon as they start using the product. People want to know how their problems will be solved quickly and easily by using your solution.  If it’s the first time they are using your type of product, you need to show them how to get set up, how much time it will take and the amount of support they will have available to them. It would also be good to show them the expected results short-term and long-term from using the product. This will motivate them to stay with the product as they will also want to succeed

12.  Be flexible.  It’s important to remain open minded when trying to close a sale. Different businesses will have different objectives and issues, so you need to change your approach depending on who you are talking to.  Again, solving the problem of the person is key to being successful in sales. And everyone will have different issues! Make sure to always be open to solving the problem. Don’t say that you can’t or it’s not possible to provide a solution. If you are unsure of how to help the prospect, tell them that you would love to assist them and go away to research the issue. Even if this means offering a minimum order quantity you will come closer to closing the sale and remaining flexible to the situation.

13.  Start with smaller markets. Having clear segmentation for your product is crucial. You need to define small groups of people who share a common problem that you can solve. By doing this, your sales strategy will feel more personal and be much more effective.  Think about it –  your pitch will be so much better if you have a similar and smaller group of people to target. This will allow you to improve on certain areas of your sales pitch and help to keep the prospect engaged.

14.  Reach out to the decision maker. You don’t want to waste time talking to someone who doesn’t make the decisions in the company. Reaching out to someone who makes crucial decisions for the company’s future will always improve your chances of making a sale.  Finding the right person is an important skill to master. Platforms such as LinkedIn are probably best used for connecting and messaging the people in control. It also allows you to identify the CEO/Marketing Manager of the company by job title. You need to provide value upfront to the decision maker and initially not expect anything in return. By building the business relationship in this way, you can provide immediate value and get that value back as the relationship develops.

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15. Use storytelling. It’s true that storytelling is important to capturing your lead’s attention. Telling an effective human story that involves your products is sure to keep the prospect engaged. People have always been interested in great stories, and it’s no different when it comes to sales. Storytelling is also a great way of building trust with potential customers. You can tell stories of how previous customers overcome their challenges by using your product. This will make them trust you enough to go to the next stage and use your product.

16. Stay attentive during sales calls. This should be an obvious one, but you need to concentrate during your sales calls! The person on the line needs to feel that you are giving them your undivided attention. If you are calling from a busy and loud office space, try and move somewhere quieter where you can 100% concentrate on the lead.  Constant communication during the call is a must, as well as being an active listener. This will allow you to respond to anything the person asks you during the call. Keeping engaged really is an essential part of making that sale!

17.  Listen carefully to your prospects. Similar to the last point, but you really need to listen to what your prospects are saying. You will get valuable feedback on the quality of your product from these calls. This can be shared with your team to gradually improve your product and also to keep your prospects happy.  It’s also important to determine whether the feedback is valuable or not. Try not to share feedback or implement changes that don’t fit into your roadmap or from people who are not in your target market.

18.  Using the BANT framework.  It’s important to use the BANT framework when qualifying leads. This stands for budget, authority, need and timeline. Does the prospect have the funds to allow them to buy? Are you talking to the key decision maker in the business? Is it possible to solve their problems? Over what time period are they planning to invest in a solution? By asking these questions, you can quickly determine if the prospect has a need. If they have short answers then it could mean they are not interested.

19.  Knowing when to automate.  Streamlining your sales process with great automation tools will save you time. Automating steps of the follow up process is always a good idea.  Any task that doesn’t need you there should be automated with great software! Ask yourself the following questions; Can it be eliminated? Can it be automated? Can it be delegated?

20.  Getting the timing right.  Creating effective and timely follow-up emails is an important strategy. If someone doesn’t respond to your first email, don’t worry! You need to think about how you will capture attention in your follow up emails.  A simple message, asking for an opinion on the first email usually works well. You can also provide interesting results that have helped customers, or share valuable content. If you plan this email sequence over time, you are likely to get results!

21.  Use internal growth strategies.  Keeping an open mindset and trying everything with your sales strategy is always a good idea. If you are in any way unsure of your sales strategy, trying things like email marketing, video marketing or setting up appointments with people is a good idea. This will allow you to understand what’s working in your sales strategy and what isn’t. After implementing these ideas, make sure to follow analytics and decide which idea is working best.

22.  Achieve a win-win.  Trying to achieve a win-win is a crucial strategy in any area of business. You need to provide value to the person you are communicating with. This way both parties come out benefitting from the conversation.  Think about it from their point of view. You want to get a sale across the line, but they want to receive genuine value for their buck and be satisfied with the product. If you keep this in mind you are much more likely to succeed.

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23.  Be honest about risks in your sales strategy.  Be honest about any risks related to your product. This will be appreciated by the person you are selling to. As well as highlighting the best aspects of your product, you should tell them about any possible risks from using it. This will show that you are an honest salesman/saleswoman, and are much more likely to be trusted.  For example, with a sales strategy for solar products you would need to tell the prospect of any risks from using the solar product.

24.  Have a strong mindset.  You need to have a strong mindset when it comes to sales. There is no doubt that you will receive plenty of rejections when you start off. Becoming used to this and taking rejections as a positive is a good place to start. Any great business starts by having people who are not afraid of rejection and will continue to work on if they are being told no.

25.  Give demos of your product.  Showing the prospect how your product works in person is always a great idea. This will help them to understand how the product works, and how it might solve a particular problem for them. It’s best to meet the prospect in person and show them face-to-face, as this develops trust and a clear demonstration of how the product works.

26.  Using the PAS framework.  The PAS framework is a great concept to have in mind when approaching sales. This stands for problem, agitate, solution. Again, finding the problem that your product will solve for the prospect is essential.  You need to identify what the biggest problem is. Then, you need to agitate them by reminding them of how dangerous this problem is. You then need to present your product as the number one solution to solve this.

27.  Be Helpful.  This seems like an obvious one, but it’s always important to remain helpful. During your sales call or meeting you need to assist the person in the best way possible. Make sure to answer any questions quickly and clearly. When discussing a potential sale, you need to personalize for the prospect and ensure they know you have done your research.

28.  Ask for a referral. Usually when you ask for a referral there is rarely a follow-up. You can get higher quality referrals if you take your time and identify your prospects in advance. A good way of doing this is on LinkedIn where you can browse connections and previous companies they have worked for.  Giving your connection a referral candidate and handing them the ammunition to contact them straight away makes everything easier. 

And there you have it! These are 28 simple ways that you can evolve your sales strategy and grow revenue. From providing solutions to prospect problems, using the BANT framework and having a strong mindset, these ideas allow you to bring your sales strategy to the next level and create a better selling experience for both you and the prospect.

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David Coen is a Digital Marketing Associate for Design Wizard. Having completed an MA in Journalism and Certificate in Digital Marketing, David enjoys building relationships with bloggers and social media influencers! He realizes the importance of long-lasting relationships with like-minded businesses and aims to help them with easy-to-read content.

4 Tips for Building a Social Media Strategy for Your Personal Brand

This September I’ll be speaking with April Rudin during CFA Institute’s Alpha and Gender Diversity: The Competitive Edge Conference in Boston.  We’ll be delivering a pre-conference workshop on building a strong personal brand through social media.   In a nutshell social media is the crucial piece for managing and establishing your personal brand online. Not only is social media free it also provides accessible tools to communicate with infinite “niches” to fit into.  It allows us to stay hyper networked 24/7 while gaining instant access to information.  After our session in Boston we’ll be able to connect with conference delegates and stay in touch and continue conversations in live time.

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So, What Exactly is Personal Branding? Within Barry Feldman’s Blog Post he nailed it: You, my friend, are a brand. Therefore, personal branding is the process of managing and optimizing the way that you’re presented to others.  While self-help management techniques are about self -improvement, the personal branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging (i.e. You’re a brand. I’m a brand.  We’re all brands, whether we aim to be or not.)  

Below I’ve outlined a summary of our presentation sharing Four Tips for Building a Social Media Strategy for Your Personal Brand.

Tip #1: Determine Your Area of Expertise

Before you can establish your personal brand it’s important to determine what sets you apart from others.  The world of personal branding is flooded so you just can’t choose a general field like “marketing” or “social media.”  It’s more beneficial to focus on finding a specific niche so you’ll have an advantage to prove that you know what you’re talking about and stand out.  Although your audience might smaller, it will also be much more relevant. Your area of expertise should be something you’re authentically interested in.  After you determine your 1-3 areas of expertise it’s important to prioritize becoming a thought leader-producing content regularly and staying on topic and therefore gaining trust.   Before long you’ll have proof of your expertise!

Tip #2:  Remember that your digital reputation stays for life!  Treat it as if it were permanent

Sharing across social media will help draw others to you and help grow your personal brand.  Although social media can be overwhelming and confusing remember that it was initially setup as a forum to start conversations, providing the perfect forum to add value and drive engagement.  While it’s important to take a proactive approach to generating social media engagement by getting involved within your community.  However, be smart along the way and remember that so much depends on reputation- so you should guard it with your life.

It’s important to build a personal brand because it’s the only thing you’re going to have.  Your reputation online, and in the new business world is pretty much the game, so you’ve got to be a good person. You can’t hide anything, and more importantly, you’ve got to be out there at some level.- Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk stated it well, it’s important to remember that a reputation is your greatest asset follows you everywhere you go.  The web is permanent, and anything you say is etched into a digital presence that isn’t easily removed.  Being thoughtful in what you publish and engaging others tactfully goes a long way in positioning yourself in the right light.

Tip 3: Assume Everyone Can Help You

Think of being and influencer Like Being an intern, everyone MUST prove themselves.  As you work on building your social media footprint and generating engagement it’s important to remember to always respond and assume that your followers, fans and connections can help you.  Social Media 101 states that engagement and conversation always outweigh self-promotion.  It’s important to have an opinion, ask questions, and follow people back on social media (really…it’s okay!).  When you get unusual followers, specifically the good ones, always reach out with a personal comment/message.   I’ve been fortunate to amass a large social media footprint by actively participating in conversations within my community and taking time out of my day to retweet, share content, and engage with my followers.  Remember, social media has little to do with what we say about ourselves, and has everything to do with what people say about us.

Tip #4: Understand Exactly What NOT to Do on Social Media:

Although this may seem like a given, and I’ve covered some basics of what to do, it’s also important to address what NOT to do within social media.

  • Don’t complain about your job, co-workers or your boss (hint: see tip #2)
  • Don’t share too much information- think about how you can separate your digital & personal life
  • Don’t have an incomplete social media profile (if you’re not going to take the time to set it up then why bother keeping it active)
  • Don’t have an inappropriate, blurry, logo, or unprofessional photo (hint: a selfie or photo of you with drinks isn’t suited for your LinkedIn profile)
  • Don’t reference illegal activities- anything you wouldn’t do or say in front of a police officer shouldn’t go on social media!
  • Don’t be too self-serving or phony- remember You eventually become who you are who are on social media…You can only fake it for so long.  If you are a pain in real life, you will be a pain on social media. 

Conclusion: Hopefully these tips have been helpful in thinking about how you present yourself online. Establishing a personal brand on social media is something anyone can do, start small, stay focused, and drive engagement through your actions.  Social media is a powerful way to amplify your message, whatever that message may be, whatever the audience.

I would love to know which of these tips might work for you, leave a comment below or send me a tweet @marissapick.  As a reminder, you can follow the conversation online during CFA Institute’s Alpha and Gender Diversity: The Competitive Edge Conference September 14-15th by following the #CFAWomen hashtag.