Personal branding is how you project yourself to the world, how you create and maintain your image and identity. Your brand is just as much about your profession, business and career as your background, what type of person you are, your interests and any interesting facts.
Personal branding is what you do, what you are and above all – what you can do for others. Having a meeting, making a phone call, sending an email are all activities where you get the opportunity to demonstrate your personal brand. Offline and online, you only get a few seconds to make a first impression, so you must get it right.
Do you need a personal brand?
You already have one. You need to make sure it projects what you want it to by staying consistent or – better still – continuous improvement. You must take control of your personal brand because it can help your business to get noticed. It will help you to be seen by current and prospective clients, business partners, employers and so forth. You want people to remember who you are and what you do.
People buy from people – not businesses. Unless you’re ordering a book online, you want to know the people behind the business. This is especially true in service and high-end sales environments, where customers only buy from credible sales people with strong brands. Blue chips are giving their managers personal branding training to turn them into better ambassadors for their employer. The trend is growing and personal branding will be part of everyone’s induction training one day.
Personal branding is extremely important to start-ups – possibly even more important. Customers buy from a few individuals – not really the business brand, which has to be developed over time anyway. Having people with strong personal brands working for a start-up basically means they lend their credibility to the business. Leveraging your employee’s personal brands is probably one of the most cost effective ways of marketing and promoting your business.
Where do you start?
If you want to boost your personal brand and get the maximum impact straight away, the Internet is the best place to start. It’s free and very simple to sign up for online networking sites, which are great tools for promoting your personal brand.
A typical professional will have a profile on Linkedin or Facebook, some will have lots of others. As long as you use and maintain your profile correctly, you’re on to a winner. Try Googling your name and see what happens. Prospective customers are likely to do this these days. Are you happy with what they will see? If you were a client, you would probably want to see a supplier with a professional profile on Linkedin and possibly other platforms.
If you can’t find yourself, you have a fair bit of work to do. You will also be cross-referenced on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, blogs and other sites to see that you are not simply putting on a ‘corporate act’. Make sure the brand you project is consistent and well positioned.
What are the ‘must-haves’?
Having a professional looking, well-written Linkedin profile will benefit many start-up owners. You should also have well-rehearsed elevator pitch that you can deliver at any time. I’d also recommend an online bio you can link to, as well as ‘clean’ and searchable profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Google Profiles.
And the ‘nice to haves’?
Make sure you’re consistent with everything you communicate to the world. This includes everywhere you have an online presence. Consider whether prospective customers will be surprised or even disappointed when they meet you for the first time. You must be one and the same across all channels, then you will stand a better chance of coming across as genuine and trustworthy.
Share information about yourself, tell stories and inspire others. Add some personality to your brand – we all know it’s easier to sell on emotions than facts. When you think you are finished, anyone should be able to locate you online and find out what you do and what makes you special. If this isn’t the case – you need to put some more work in.
Jörgen Sundberg, Personal Branding UK
Dear aspiring mumpreneur,
I'm writing this open letter to you to outline some crucial points that I wish someone had laid out for me. I'll keep it as short as possible because I know your time is precious but I'm sure that if you read this through, you'll save a ton of time in the long run.
If you are truly serious about becoming a part of the wonderful world of mumpreneurialism, read carefully what I have written below, you'll gain the information you need to act now and get in the right mindset.
Here are, not necessarily in the best order, my top tips to set you on your way:
So there you have it, the open advice that I wish I could have received when I first started out. I hope that it serves you well and that you go on to be truly successful and accomplish all that you set out to achieve. Maybe you could look me up in the Mumpreneur community and let me know how you're getting on sometime ― I'd love to hear all about it.
So, from one Mumpreneur to another - good luck, stay focused and live each day to the max!
Nikki Backshall, WebMums.com
Research suggests that as many as one in ten mums would like to run their own business. It can be the best way to get control over your working hours and spend more time with children, while still being able to contribute to household income. If you are a mum and want to run your own business, here are my tips.
1 List your priorities. What is important to you and what do you expect in return for running a business? Do you seek to make loads of money or are you simply trying to find a way to spend more time at home with your children?
2 Think about time. How many hours you can devote to a business. Be realistic if you plan to work around your kids. Remember – young children are especially unlikely to understand “mummy’s working”. Write down your which hours are possible, whether that’s 12-2 each day during nap time; 9.30-11.30 to fit in with nursery; 7-9 in the evenings or a combination of these on different days.
3 Research your market. All new business owners must do this by finding the answers to key questions. Will enough people buy your product or service at the price you plan to charge? Is your product or service unique enough to appeal? What competition will you face and how can you be different or better?
4 Write a business plan. Set out your aims and objectives – and the steps you need to take to achieve them. Pop into a local Enterprise Agency or Business Link for advice. See if they offer a free start-up course, which could be a great source of information and advice.
5 Decide your marketing and promotional tactics. Have a promotion planning session, during which you seriously consider advertising, marketing, PR and events. What method(s) are likely to be most effective for your business? Note on a wall calendar promotional activities you will do each month, but spend enough time each day marketing your business – it’s critical to success.
6 Promote your business online. Get a good website designed. Start a Twitter account in your business name. Create your own blog and blog on other sites. Start a Facebook fan page for your business. To make things easier, use Twitterfeed or Friendfeed to link your different networking sites.
7 Get registered. You have three months to let HMRC know you have set up as a sole trader (ie become self-employed), otherwise you could be fined £100. Alternatively, you might decide to form a company by filing the necessary forms with Companies House.
8 Keep good financial records. It’s easier to note down every item of expenditure from the start than to have to deal with an unruly pile of receipts when you have to complete you tax return. Many expenses are tax deductible, while you can also benefit from a series of allowances, too. Visit the HMRC website for more information – or seek advice from a good accountant.
9 Make the most of every customer. It is much easier and as much as eight times cheaper to sell to existing customers rather than having to attract and convince new ones to buy from you, so you must aim to delight your customers if you want them to keep coming back for more. As well as products, this must apply to your services, too. Whichever means is most effective, always maintain good communication with your customers. Keep them well informed and updated. Sort out any customer complaints quickly and satisfactorily.
10 Get help. Before starting up, assess your skills list and identify any that are lacking. You might need to find someone to help with your bookkeeping, PR, online marketing, sales, deliveries – whatever. You might not have the knowledge, time or will to do everything yourself. Providing your business can afford it, buying in help can free you up so your time can be better spent on something else. Explore all free sources of information and advice – including the Start Up Donut, of course.
After you start your business, you need to remain focused on your ideal work-life. If you’re not careful, running a business can easily and quickly take over everything, which means your home life suffers and this can affect how you feel. Have a finish time each day; put your work away when it comes; spend quality time with your family and make sure you set aside time to relax by and do things you enjoy.
Antonia Chitty, Family Friendly Working
“Small firms should increase their website presence,” urges BBC entrepreneur expert Howard Graham in a new piece on the BBC website.
He cites the well-established business wisdom that growing your firm depends on creating a unique selling proposition (USP) and communicating it to your target market. “The web is simply the best way of doing that,” he argues.
In many cases, he’s right. For example, an independent bookshop selling rare first editions could make invaluable use of a website to make its unique publications known to a wider audience, and of course sell them via an online shop.
But I’m surprised that Graham should believe it’s “extraordinary” that fewer than half of all small businesses have a web presence. Is it really that astounding when, as the Federation of Small Businesses says, “the vast majority of small businesses serve their local markets”?
I spoke to my greengrocer this week. I suggested the very thing Graham is advocating, that he should consider investing in a website. I expected a negative reaction based on likely cost, but I was wrong. He simply replied: “I’m based in Bristol, why do I want someone in Leeds to know who I am? He won’t want to buy from me, and even if he does, by the time he gets to me, the carrots will have rotted!”
My local grocer was more concerned with making sure families down the street know he was open for business. Graham’s firm carried out a survey that backs this claim up: “A recent survey we carried out at Made Simple Group clearly showed that… specifically improving visibility to generate new business was a key concern for many.”
But is a website always the best way to achieve this? How vital is a web presence to a plumber, mobile hairdresser or local newsagent? Surely good old fashioned word-of-mouth, attention-grabbing signage and business cards do the job just as well – if not better – than an expensive website?
This is not to say small businesses should ignore other avenues of online marketing - social networks such as Twitter, Ecademy and Facebook, as well as blogging. All can provide excellent, low-cost exposure for your business. The Start Up Donut has some great videos that provide an introduction to online social networking.
But a purely web-based approach to publicising a small business can be ineffective if not suicidal. Small firms should increase their website presence – but only if there is true value in doing so.
Mark Hook, BHP Information Solutions
For many of us new to social networking and closer to being within Gen X than Gen Y, it takes considerable time to learn the rules and etiquette of social media. And to be honest, many of those rules are only just developing now. As Penny Power explains in this video, we really can learn a lot from the younger generation about being open, random and supportive on social networks, rather than broadcasting our wants and needs to friends online.
Have you taken time to learn from young people around you? They might be able to help you fast track your business.
Penny Power, founder of Ecademy.com, explains why anyone starting up a new business should be active on social networks.
Whether your business is large, small, new or been around the block a few times, every penny in your marketing budget has to work hard and give you a return. Remember though that doors opened through your marketing now may lead you down a profitable path in the future, but not yield a financial return just yet.
Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune and there are many effective marketing activities that you can do that won’t cost a penny yet will point you in the right direction to get your business to where you want it to be. Here goes …
The best thing to reduce your marketing spend is to Stop & Think before you commit any money. There may be a free or cheaper alternative … effective marketing does not have to cost a fortune.
I specialise in helping self employed people pay less tax and avoid fines - our clients are mainly one person businesses, usually working from home. As such, I am always looking at ways of increasing their profits for a low cost - we have had several start up businesses recently where they are particularly looking for low costs in their first year as they build up the business. The traditional way of doing things when you started a small business was to maybe print some flyers and distribute them, or to take out an advert in the local press or printed listing directory. Vanessa Warwick started an excellent discussion on the propertytribes forum, regarding Social Networking for business, which very much applies to every small business owner. I recently ran a talk on 'Social Media for Business' at the Epsom BNI group, where I am the chapter director, and was surprised by the number of people who hadn't considered the business return that is possible from social networking. This got me to posing the question: How many accountants offer advice on Social Networking to increase their client's profits? Following feedback from the talk I gave to Epsom BNI, in addition to continuing to promote ecademy and twitter for business to our clients, I have decided to offer a simple introduction to Social Networking for Business as part of the service I offer to small business owners, helping them to increase their profits. Social Networking is ideally placed for the type of clients we specialise in, the small self employed business, as there are low costs and great potential benefits for the business. A good example of what is possible is another propertytribes member, Sally Asling, who has in fact generated £6,000 of income via twitter in 3 months.