Personal Branding for Small Business Owners

In a previous post about my lack of personal branding, I talked about how, when I started my business I failed to take the advice of my (obviously-smarter-than-me) assistant to do more to brand myself and not just my business. That woeful tale ended up teaching me a very valuable lesson that I think many other small business owners need to hear as well.

Who Are Your Clients Hiring?
Let’s say you’re a consultant. Or an accountant, an attorney, a wedding planner, a designer, an architect, a real estate agent, pool service, or almost any other kind of business that isn’t product-related.

If your business is small, on some level (or perhaps on every level) the business is YOU. Clients engaging with your business are hiring YOU.

When clients hire me for digital marketing consulting, for instance, they know that they’ll be writing a check to my business but actually dealing with ME.

Here’s The Problem
A prospective client who wanted to find out what kind of reputation my business had might just go online and do a quick search to see what they could find. Importantly, they might also do a search for “Rob Croll.”

And here’s where I see a lot of business owners struggling. They’ve thought about and tended to the brand image of their business, but haven’t thought much about branding themselves online.

On Being You – And the Business
But, how can I brand myself separately from my business if I AM the business?

The idea here is to be strategic. Think about the intersection of your personal and business brands, and build a plan around that. Take a look at  Danny Brown, co-founder of Bonsai Interactive Marketing. He does an excellent job of having a unique identity while also clearly linking that identity to his business.

Use YOUR unique value propositions to build your business brand. Are you creative? Then your business probably reflects. Diligent? Connected? Expert in a niche? Your business most likely naturally reflects your personal characteristics, so think about the best way to build around those.

Here’s One Approach
I’ve been thinking a lot about personal branding and my business. I’ve done a  360°Reach Personal Brand Assessment, asking my friends, colleagues, and clients to help me define how they view my brand. I’ve thought about what I like to do, what I think I’m good at, and how I think I provide the most value to my clients.

And, much like Yaro Starak talks about in his post on  Small Business Branding, I’ve finally realized that my clients deal with me, know me, trust me, and hold me accountable, even if they write the check to my business.

By trying to separate my personal brand from my business, I’ve actually minimized one of my main value propositions – that I AM my business.

I’ve finally made progress on aligning my business brand with me, Rob Croll, in a way that I think will be better. (New website in progress.) This approach might work for you, too, if you’re a small business owner looking to build a brand that reflects you.

Here’s my favorite quote from Yaro’s article:

“Small business branding is the owner. It’s what the owner does, says and how the owner’s traits come through in every aspect of the business.”

Thinking back on my own experience, I know I’d have been better off if I’d have built a stronger personal brand from the start of my business ownership (or before).

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