Building Your Own Unique Personal Brand
As great marketers know, a clear and concise branding strategy is critical to successfully building a consumer/customer franchise. However, it always amazes me how few marketers apply these important concepts to the building of their own professional/personal brand. Building your own brand has never been more important — business cards, résumés, and even LinkedIn profiles simply don’t cut it anymore. Moreover, with advances in CMS (content management systems), it’s easier and more cost effective than ever to build and manage your own website. If used correctly, these tools can help you build your own personal brand awareness to showcase what you can do to help solve employer’s/client’s problems.
In part one of this blog post, I will briefly show how easily you can build a distinctive personal brand. In part two, which will appear in tomorrow’s MENG Blend, I will provide a step by step process on how to communicate it via building your own professional website.
The major driver behind the need to identify your own brand is the fact career search has really changed. Negative marketplace dynamics, candidate/social media commoditization, and search engine under optimization makes it harder to stand out vs. the competition. This is especially important for those who haven’t searched for a position/secured new client over the past few years. Factors behind this change include employers who really want specific industry experience — and are not really interested in transferable skills anymore. Most importantly, your competition is working harder than ever to get marketplace visibility (source: Execunet).
Career experts like Dan Schwabel, William Arruda, and even Tom Peters all talk about creating something called “Brand You” — messaging highlighting your key areas of distinction. You can think about a personal brand in terms of a business’s hierarchy of needs as diagramed below:
As you can see, focusing your communications is less on jobs or specific skills/experiences and more on results oriented performance critical for differentiation. It essentially answers the question “Why I should hire you vs. someone else?” To get started, you need to map out/identify your strategic or sustainable competitive advantage. The process is briefly outlined below:
First start with your core competencies — that is your problem, action, result stories (PAR) surrounding your key career accomplishments. This process leads you to identifying your strategic or sustainable competitive advantage (SCA). A strategic or sustainable competitive advantage consists of three elements.
- It’s something you exclusively have vs. others
- Your competition doesn’t have it (or don’t realize they have it)
- Your target companies want it.
If you can’t say you have all three elements, you need a plan to address this shortcoming. You then still need to determine if your SCA addresses key industry needs or if you need to adjust it to make sure it’s relevant. This will lead you to your final SCA which will drive development of your positioning statement.
Positioning is a concept first developed by Jack Trout and Al Ries — formerly of Trout & Ries — that originally developed this concept in the 1980’s. In their book, Positioning– The Battle For Your Mind, they said positioning is “not what you do to a product or service – it’s what you do to the prospect’s mind to CONDITION how he/she thinks about your product or service.” This concept has been translated by others into a positioning statement template below:
To: Target Market, X (You) is a brand in the Frame of Reference (usually industry) having a Benefit/Point of Difference.
Supported by the following reasons why:
Below is an example of how this can be translated into a career positioning statement:
As you can see, development of a personal brand positioning statement can be very powerful in communicating your key areas of distinction. It helps in fighting the battle for your employer’s/client’s share of mind. It’s not a hard concept to grasp. However, what’s hard is the kind of thinking required to make an effective positioning statement for yourself. Unfortunately, what I observe with most people’s positioning statements (sometimes called an elevator pitch) is they try to be all things to all companies —generalists so to speak. Companies are looking for exactly the opposite; they are looking for folks who have one to two key unique competencies vs. other choices they can make. So I would argue the more specific your positioning statement is, the better the chance for you to stand out vs. your competition.