Is it their ground breaking innovations or exceptional business skills or determination?
The answer is neither.
While it’s obvious that all of these attributes definitely contributed to their success, as a matter of fact, these are the very attributes that have been often popularized. The truth is that there’s something more subtle that’s been frequently overlooked but is highly responsible for the success stories of most unusual entrepreneurs.
What’s this often overlooked secret weapon?
Their personal brands!
What’s Personal Branding?
Personal branding describes the process by which entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from the crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal.
A well-executed personal branding campaign creates a strong, consistent, and specific association between the individual and the perceived value they offer.
Personal Branding in Action
Let’s take some clues from the unusual entrepreneurs mentioned in the introduction.
- Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is known as a perfectionist. He had a passion for design. He understood what a personal brand is about. It is your unique essence and impact in the world. Steve reminded us to pursue our uniqueness. His personal brand defined all his actions. It was about the relentless pursuit of excellence. It was about innovating, not being afraid to break the rules to be different.
He didn’t care about making money. He cared about something bigger. Your personal brand is always about something bigger. Here is Steve Jobs’ famous question to John Sculley, former Apple CEO “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
- Richard Branson
Richard Branson, is clear about being a risk taker. He is not your typical CEO in a blue suit and white shirt. He is a dare devil who was dressed a wedding gown when he launched Virgin Bridal, and was not dressed at all when he launched his book, Virginity. Among his first big risky ventures was signing the Sex Pistols onto his record label when no one else would even consider them.
Since then, he has taken on both British Airways with Virgin Airlines and Coke, the strongest brand in the world, with Virgin Cola. Even outside of the professional arena, Richard Branson is clear about being a risk-taker. While many CEOs travel the world comfortably in their plush corporate jets, Richard Branson decided he was going to circumnavigate the world in a hot air balloon.
- Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is the human brand of show biz. Oprah’s personal brand is associated with celebrity, charity, education and successful launches of products. She cares for people and is willing to share of herself to help people advance. This clarity about what makes her unique is consistent among all of her endeavors. And it is constantly visible to her target audience through her numerous ways of interacting with the public.
Oprah’s business success is built solidly on a powerful personal brand marketing strategy. Oprah has turned her talents, skills and values into a multi-billion-dollar media empire that’s still growing. Other media personalities have tried to emulate her personal brand strategy. So far, no one else has been able to match her ability to make women laugh, cry and dream about how to “live your best life.”
The Brand Called YOU
“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.”
– Tom Peters in Fast Company
Most entrepreneurs in their quest to build a business often forget to build themselves in the process. They focus on developing the image and reputation of their business and products/services and completely lose touch with their own image and reputation.
They erroneously believe that the only thing the market cares about is the products/services they offer or the businesses they create. In the end, they end up building a company without a human face.
The human factor is the most powerful factor of all factors of production. The most powerful brand on earth, is the brand called YOU!
People buy from people. Companies are built by people. Products are created by people. People connect with people, not products. The more of yourself you put out there, the more acceptable your products/services will become. When they have bought into your person, then they will buy into your company.
Successful entrepreneurs know this and that’s why they inject themselves into the businesses they create. They literally become the face of their companies, putting themselves endlessly out there for the market to know, like and trust them.
7 Facts About Personal Branding
- “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” – Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
- You already have a personal brand whether you want one or not.
- Your personal brand is built 24/7 and 365 days per year through what you say, but even more importantly, through what you do.
- Personal branding is all about your Audience. Your personal brand exists in the minds of your Audience.
- Your personal brand exists in the minds of others in the way they perceive, think, and feel about you.
- The only way to have a strong personal brand is to carefully define it.
- The best personal brands are credible, so you must prove that you can deliver what you promise.
How To Create A Powerful Personal Brand
To help you create a powerful personal brand, below are 12 questions you need to fundamentally answer, they are the personal branding checklist for entrepreneurs. Don’t rush through them, don’t lie to yourself while answering them, if you do, it’s only a question of time, people will know and detest you for it.
1. Your Identity: what do you want to be known for?
2. Your Purpose: what’s your ultimate reason for living? What’s your why?
3. Your Vision: what do you hope to achieve by fulfilling your purpose?
4. Your Values: what principles/ideas are you willing to live and die for? Click here to learn more about values.
5. Your Message: what ONE word or phrase best captures the essence of your existence [Life]?
6. Your Story: what facts or personal experience about your life/past helped to define who you are today and what your purpose here on earth?
7. Your Heroes: who do you model your life after? Who do you aspire to be like and why?
8. Your Expertise: what are your most valuable skills/talents/competencies?
9. Your Profession: in what field/industry do you want to commit your life’s work?
10. Your Results: what are your greatest accomplishments in life?
11. Your Media: how do you intend to spread your message?
12. Your Legacy: When you die, what do you want to be remembered for?
This is not an exhaustive list, they are certainly more questions you will have to ask and answer to help refine your personal brand as you progress on your entrepreneurial journey. But, you should take these 12 seriously because they are the foundational questions that your personal brand will be developed on. Other questions will only strengthen your personal brand if you’ve taken time to answer these ones.
So what are other questions entrepreneurs need to ask themselves in order to create a powerful personal brand? See you in the comments!