How often do you notice multiple “leaders” posting nearly identical content? The problem with this copy/paste method is that you can’t stand out from everyone else if you sound like everyone else. While the information might be valuable or entertaining, it’s not memorable because it’s not different. And the person who posted it? They’re not memorable either. So how can you build a personal brand that is memorable and stands out from everyone else in your competitive landscape? Here are four things I do with my clients.
1) Get clear on all the things that make you different. Maybe you spent a semester studying abroad while you were in college, or you’ve lived in multiple countries. Maybe you’ve worked in multiple industries, have multiple degrees or multiple certifications. Whatever those qualities may be, make a list of them and, next to each one, write how those unique perspectives and experiences contribute to who you are now and what you bring to your niche.
For example, if you’re someone who has lived in multiple countries, how has that experience impacted how you do your job or run your business? Perhaps it’s that you understand different cultures and can help your clients navigate conversations with people from different backgrounds. Those are things that you can incorporate into your brand narrative to build and connect with others who are interested in your skills, products or services.
2) Be relatable. No one has had a perfectly triumphant career trajectory. We’ve all had setbacks along the way, that’s just the nature of business. So think about the temporary setbacks or even failures that you’ve experienced and what you’ve learned from them. Are there lessons you could share with your online audience?
Keep in mind that your goal is to build a brand that is relatable and trustworthy. I usually recommend you share things that make you human but are not directly related to what you promote as your expertise. (The exception is if you created a unique solution for a problem you also had and that is what you want to be known for.)
I’ve talked about how I used to lose track of time when I was working and would often find I had not completed my to-do list by the end of the day. Then I discovered block scheduling my tasks just like I schedule appointments and it changed how I work. This does not relate to the services I offer, but it’s true and it’s humanizing so I share this tip to help others.
If I were an efficiency coach, I might say I remember a time when, as a driven entrepreneur, I was lacking focus or discipline and would wake up feeling completely overwhelmed by the day ahead of me. I might say that I tried a variety of things, and what really provided the breakthrough was block scheduling.
What are the setbacks and struggles you’ve experienced that you could share in order to show vulnerability and build rapport with your ideal prospects? Write about them.
3) Take a contrary position to what you’re seeing or hearing in your market. The following example paraphrases a stance taken by Prosper for Purpose regarding the present-day “experts” from whom people seek professional advice:
“One current social media trend is sharing humorous Instagram reels. While reels can certainly be entertaining to watch, professionals are actually choosing content creators to lead them in their careers based on reels that have little to nothing to do with running a successful business. It’s also common to see influencers professing to be excellent coaches who make six or more figures, while half of the pictures on their social media pages are non-related photos of them in barely-there swimsuits or athletic wear. If you want to build and scale a profitable business, it isn’t wise to invest in “experts” whose notoriety stems from dancing on reels or posting photos of themselves scantily clad. A model who teaches modeling might be the exception. However, something that should always make you wary is people who boast about how “easy” it is to start your own company or scale your business to 6 or 7 figures because, frankly, they’re trying to sell you a scheme that makes them money, not you.”
These remarks showcase independent thinking by challenging a common trend in the market, which is a step in the direction of thought leadership. They also provide the perfect lead-in to strategy four…
4) Share a better way or new opportunity. After you share what you think is wrong with what you observe in the market, the next step is to share a better way, what I call the new opportunity. The previous example spoke to what not to do when attempting to build a personal brand online as a business expert. In this case, I would follow that up to share the qualities that true experts should share in their content:
- Experience in your field. Are you a seasoned professional, or are you attempting to provide advice about an industry you are still learning to master? Be honest.
- Accomplishments that are both measurable and verifiable. Have you had success putting the practices you preach into action for your own business?
- Authenticity in the messages you convey. Are you willing to talk about your mistakes as openly as you discuss your accomplishments?
- Evidence to support your statements, theories or findings. Do you provide testimony from former clients to corroborate your claims or cite sources to validate your assertions? Do you have case studies on your website?
When a person is looking for someone to help lead their business to success, they want to find a professional with obvious expertise, and they want that individual to be reliable, reputable, and clearly dedicated to their work. If you don’t appear to take your own business seriously, then no one will believe that you’ll take their business seriously. Still, far too often, business owners choose to jump on the bandwagon of whatever hot new trend is gaining traction that week because they’re more concerned with likes and follows than they are with genuine originality and actual knowledge.
While you’re implementing step one by listing the traits that make you unique and how they’ve helped you become better at what you do…and while you’re demonstrating step two by sharing your vulnerabilities, the setbacks you’ve experienced, and how you overcame those challenges…and while you’re epitomizing step three by taking a position that is contrary to a common philosophy in your field, thus establishing yourself as a thought leader…and while you’re illustrating step four by highlighting your experience, accomplishments, authenticity, and the evidence to support those in any place that you have an online presence…remember, these are the practices that will get you the right kind of attention. And while others are damaging any professional hope for their personal brands, you’ll be gaining new clients and growing your business.
Interested in learning more? Check out another one of our blogs: 3 Keys to Establishing Your Personal Brand on Social Media.