If you are reading this post right now, I assume that you would have reached a certain stage in your life with your career. But do you want a better job? Or do you want more business opportunities? Apart from gaining more skills in your field of work, personal branding becomes an important part of your career growth.
I have been working hard to build my personal brand over the past 5-7 years, and I have been pleasantly surprised by the results. That’s why I want to share with you, my 7-step personal branding method that has worked wonders. It takes a lot of time to build a strong brand, and the principles of personal branding are almost the same as branding any consumer or B2B product.
I’ve worked with several organizations as a consultant and as a full-time digital marketer. I consistently get invitations to speak at events, conduct workshops and write for reputed publications. My personal brand has also helped me attract investors. It even led to a TEDx speaking opportunity. And most of these opportunities were a direct result of my deliberate personal branding efforts.
In this article, the focus will be on branding to get more job offers, but the same principles apply to getting more business opportunities as well.
Do you Exist in the Market?
A lot of organizations want good people with good skills & experience to work with them. Though you are excellent, you are not getting the job offers that you deserve because they don’t know about your existence and expertise.
Just like I have mentioned in my book about how to get your dream digital marketing job, you need to market yourself as a brand even if your goal is just to get a job offer.
Through experience, I can confidently say that this is the best way to get your dream job. I have been in a similar situation before. This problem cannot be solved by uploading our resume in more employment portals, having an active LinkedIn profile or by applying for more jobs offline. If you have tried that before, I am sure you ended up bored and frustrated with the process.
With my personal branding method, I am getting relevant and good job offers. I get at least 3-5 interview calls per month, and I hardly attend one because I have already found my dream job. Now people recognize me as a digital marketing expert, and I never have to hunt for good jobs again.
Today, I can get a job over a phone call or a Whatsapp message. I have helped many CEOs and Founders with their marketing strategy at early stages of their company (and that was also a part of my branding strategy).
Why Good People Don’t Always Get Good Jobs?
Before we start discussing my personal branding strategy, let us have a look at the problem and the reality first. The first step to solve a problem is to realize that there is a problem.
Good people are not the only ones having a difficulty in finding the right jobs. Organizations are also finding it very difficult to find good people to work for them.
So there are a lot of good jobs and good people, but they are not dating each other. Organizations are always complaining about the difficulty of finding great people to work with them and experts are always complaining about not having enough good and relevant jobs in the industry.
Why is this happening? The reason is because we do knowledge work and knowledge work is not quantifiable.
For example, consider two people who work in a phone factory. One person assembles 100 phones a day and the other person assembles only 80 phones a day. Now it is easy to say who is the expert in assembling phones. More phones per day, the better he/she is.
I think you can now understand where the problem stems from. A manager who makes a hiring decision cannot measure your expertise with any tests or tools. So people hire with emotion and “gut feeling” and hence the mega mismatch between roles and individuals.
It takes at least 3-6 months for a manager to completely understand the unique skills of his/her subordinate. So even if you actually possess the skills, they may not know about it, and you may lose a great opportunity.
To overcome this, you need to brand yourself in such a way to people perceive you as an expert even before they hire you. That’s what pre-eminent branding is all about.
In general, there is a huge market demand for experts because experts get the job done. But being an ‘expert’ is a subjective thing. There is no way to measure someone and certify them as an expert or otherwise.
You become an expert with indicators of expertise – which for many people is accidental, but for guys like me, it’s a deliberate effort. How to build that brand as an expert is what this article is going to be about.
Why Qualification & Certifications Don’t Help
As I had mentioned in the post about becoming a self-made digital marketing expert, certifications don’t prove that you are an expert. That’s because the market is crowded with too many certifications.
Certifications demonstrate knowledge, but not expertise. People DO NOT hire you for what you know, they hire you for the results you can bring.
Having a certificate of course completion or passing an exam will definitely put you ahead of many people. But the problem is that 1,000s of people who are competing for the same opportunity as you, also have similar certifications. How are you going to stand out?
Do You Need to Graduate from a Good University?
When big corporations and successful organizations want best of the best people to work for them, they always go for students who graduate from Ivy League colleges. Graduating from a good college will definitely help you in your career because it is a strong brand to add to your resume. But that’s not enough. And that’s not always required.
I did not graduate from a very well known college. But people never judge me based on where I graduated from because my personal brand and market positioning overshadows my education.
Also, since digital marketing is a fast changing field, having a graduation from even the best of the colleges would not have any relevance for a CEO who wants results for his company.
A recent testimonial from Founders or CEOs about my work will be far more relevant and useful for someone who wants to hire me. I am glad that I did not waste 2 years of my life trying to do an MBA.
Startups and other companies have realized that hiring people from good colleges is no longer enough to get results where subject matter expertise is required. And in such situations, personal branding is for the win!
Networking Helps, But It’s Not Enough
Networking can be a great tool to connect with interesting people in quality organizations and can help you a lot in getting a good job. In fact, studies state that 70% of the best jobs in the market get filled through networks and referrals, and only 30% of the vacancies need to go through the traditional hiring process
But there is a limit to how much you can expand your network and how engaged you can be in your network. The larger you grow your network the thinner you spread yourself.
You may have met an influential person in an event, but if you never engaged with him for the past six months, he is not going to remember you. Even if he remembers you, why would he go the extra mile to recommend you to someone if he hasn’t had the opportunity to know that you are great at what you do?
Personal branding is the key here. With tested and proven techniques which I am about to reveal, you can grow your network to big numbers and also engage with everyone using similar techniques that corporate brands use to market themselves.
The good part is that with today’s digital marketing techniques, personal branding & marketing is not as costly as it used to be. All you need is a few dollars and reasonable amounts of your time & energy.
Is it OK to Brand and Market Yourself?
I agree that the idea of marketing yourself may feel a little creepy in the beginning. You have overcome that hesitation. If you are really good at something, it is your responsibility to let the world know about it.
My branding strategy is based on how companies market their brands to their customers. But it is not the marketing that you see around you. Don’t worry! I am not going to ask you to create banner ads for yourself and start an advertising campaign!
My marketing strategy is based on inbound marketing and not outbound marketing. (You may want to read my article about inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing first if you haven’t).
Inbound marketing powered by content is a very subtle and powerful way to market a brand. It is based on trust and feels much more natural than outbound marketing. Inbound marketing is so natural that people and brands can sell themselves and the audience would never feel like they are being marketed to*.
How Ordinary People Become “Experts”
Becoming an expert is the easy part. Many people are experts already in what they do. Including YOU! Everyone has unique ideas, skills, and experience. The hardest is being recognized as an expert in the world that we live in.
Some people are good at branding themselves as experts, for some the branding happens naturally, and some don’t even try. The people who do not proactively brand themselves as experts will never get the good opportunities.
The web definition of an Expert is a person who is very knowledgeable about or skillful in a particular area.
You may be an expert. But are others perceiving you as an expert? How do others decide who are the experts?
In general, people depend on indicators of expertise. Here are some of the indicators that help us point out the experts among ordinary people:
- Experts Write: Experts write books. They also publish great informative articles on their blog. Many people read their blog. They post articles on reputed publications, newspapers, magazines and blogs.
- Experts Speak: Experts speak at seminars, do guest lectures at universities, conferences, and workshops.
- Experts are Thought Leaders: Experts are not just “I-know-a-lot-of-stuff” people. They also have unique ideas, concepts and theories which they have developed over a period of time. In short, they are authorities and thought leaders in their field of work.
- Experts Train: Experts also train other people. They charge a lot for the training. The Experts of experts charge even more.
- Experts Consult: They work as consultants to many businesses and organizations because… well, they are experts!
If an expert does none of the above, then it would be quite difficult for us to accept that he/she is an expert. On the flip side of the coin, if you want the world to perceive you as an expert, you should start doing as many things as possible from the list above and slowly you will climb the “expertise ladder.” It would be hard for someone not to believe that you are an expert if you do all the above things.
Obviously, I am not asking you to fake your expertise. Without having an in-depth knowledge in your field, there is no way to be an expert. There are no shortcuts to that. But there are many people who know a lot, but they are not perceived as an expert. I don’t want you to be one of them!
From an Expert to a Thought Leader
There is a hidden benefit in this branding process. When you brand yourself by showcasing your knowledge (by teaching other people what you know), you organize your thoughts in a better way and helps you increase the level of expertise that you already have. Read more on why you should be a blogger.
When you teach someone what you know, it is not easy for the student to understand it right away. That’s because your knowledge is unorganized & scattered in your mind. It tires and frustrates you when your student doesn’t understand what you already know. This forces you to make the presentation simpler so that the knowledge transfer is easy. But you can make it simpler only when you understand it one step deeper.
So the very process of teaching, showcasing your knowledge and hence personal branding helps you understand what you already know in a better way.
This increases your level of expertise. It helps you build on top of what you already know and understand. This process naturally gives way to the next level: becoming a thought leader! Einstein understood this very well.
If the above quote by Einstein is true, the reverse is also true:
“When you try to explain a concept in a simple way that others can understand, you understand it better during the process.”
I spent almost a week to write this article about personal branding, and while doing it, I understood personal branding better!
This makes me even better at personal branding than I previously was because new ideas are popping up in my mind as I write this article. 🙂
Now that we know what to do let us explore how to do it.
Digital Deepak’s 7-Step Personal Branding Method
With tools like WordPress for blogging, YouTube for Vlogging and so on, it is easier to start teaching others what you know and also get instant feedback. If your teaching is profound, it can reach a lot of people very easily, very quickly. My personal branding method is tailored for the digital age. Here are the 7 steps involved in it.
7 Steps to Great Personal Branding
- Start Documenting your Learning, Thoughts and Ideas.
- Create a Brand Identity and Position Yourself in the Market
- Establish your Digital Communication & Broadcasting Channels
- Discover, Learn, Think & Share
- Publish EPIC Articles on your Blog
- Write, Speak, Train & Help
- Market Yourself to Take it to the next Level!
1. Document Your Learning, Thoughts, and Ideas
The first thing we do in the journey of becoming an expert is to learn. It’s obvious. We learn from books, other people, co-workers, seminars, workshops, blogs, video content and so on. But if we are not taking notes, we will forget most of what we learned.
The primary requirement to become an expert is to learn, and take notes. However, do not take notes on a random piece of a notebook. We know what happens to them – it just disappears into the universe, every time! So publish your notes on a Twitter account and/or a casual blog. This blog need not be your primary blog.
When you take notes while learning, the information will be in a very scattered format. It’s OK! But it is important to take those notes. Later, you can use these notes to publish more organized and read-worthy content on your primary blog.
I take notes all the time. Ideas, random inspirations, business ideas and so on. Such notes and other bits of information act as a foundation for more serious content that helps me with bigger and comprehensive articles on my blog and other publications. Even this article has been built on so many random pieces of such notes.
2. Create a Brand Identity for Yourself
However, we feel its quite OK with putting different pictures of our face with different usernames all over the internet. Though having a slightly different version of your profile pic has its own advantages (more on this later), it helps to keep the branding as consistent as possible. Personal online branding elements include profile pics, usernames, primary colors, taglines, elevator pitch, “about me” text and website URLs.
Checklist for creating your brand identity:
- Hire a professional photographer and get a professional picture taken with different backdrops. This should be your profile picture across all professional communication channels. You can have 2-3 versions of your profile pic but they should be similar. The primary goal is that people should instantly recognize you from your photo.
- Create a nickname for yourself related to your industry. For example, since I specialize in Digital Marketing I got the name Digital Deepak. Make sure that it is not too generic. It has to be unique enough to get consistent usernames/handles at many platforms. If you google “Check social media usernames” you will find a lot of websites which will help you find out whether your username or handle is available across many social media websites.
- Create a short and an extended elevator pitch for yourself. It is a description that you can communicate in 30-90 seconds, the average time it takes in an elevator. If someone asks who you are and what you do, you should respond with the elevator pitch instead of thinking on your feet and being all over the place. This elevator pitch can also be published on various online platforms.
3. Establish Your Communication Channels
Your digital communication channels will be your primary tool to share your expertise online. The most important and central channel should be your main blog.
For example, this blog DigitalDeepak.com is my primary channel where I publish the best content and attract a huge audience. The other channels such as Twitter, Facebook, your secondary blog, etc. should link back and drive traffic to your primary channel.
You can collect email subscribers from your main channel and whenever you publish new content, you can notify your followers about your fresh content and drive traffic back to your blog.
Whenever you publish something new on your blog, you should update all your other social media channels – this helps bring traffic back to your blog. You can read my post about integrated digital marketing if you really want to get serious about driving traffic to your blog.
4. Discover & Share
Whatever field you are in, there would be news, blog articles, videos, tweets etc. related to your industry. Keeping yourself updated about what’s happening in your field is something that you would be doing already. It makes branding sense to share this on your social media channels with your followers.
This helps establish the fact that you are updated about what’s happening in your industry. Content curation is very powerful. You can also publish a round-up post of interesting articles that you have read and write a short summary of each article for your audience.
For example, whenever I discover something new and interesting in digital marketing, I share it across all the channels. All my connections and followers are subtly reminded that Deepak is a Digital Marketing guy!
This actually worked when I met a person in an event. He was connected to me on LinkedIn. We had never met before and when I tried to introduce myself, he instantly recognized me and said “Oh, you are the guy who keeps sharing stuff about digital marketing on LinkedIn!” It helped a lot in breaking the ice and then I had no problem boasting about my achievements and expertise in digital marketing!
Apart from just sharing the links that I discover, I also add something of my own. This makes me more human instead of looking like an automatic bot sharing the links! 🙂
5. Publish EPIC Articles on Your Primary Blog
Whenever you feel like writing something, your secondary blog is there for you just to absorb what you say. But your primary blog should contain only Epic articles. By epic, I mean the articles which are in-depth, well researched and worth linking back to from the inter webs.
For example, I have published only 100+ articles on this blog so far, but each article is unique, original and worth reading (Isn’t it?). In my experience, long in-depth articles always get more traffic than the shorter ones. The longest article published on this blog before this article naturally brought me the maximum number of visitors.
Such epic articles are like mini ebooks or chapters of a book. The content should be so valuable that each article on its own should be worthy of getting a promotion.
Apart from sharing these epic articles on social media, I create “Trailer” pieces of the epic content and distribute it in different channels to promote my epic articles.
For example, I wrote a post about 7 Ways to convert website visitors into leads in this blog. Then I created a presentation on the same with limited and uploaded it slideshare.net. Anyone interested in converting more visitors into leads would see that presentation and for more detailed information they would visit my blog article.
The same presentation can be converted into a video using keynote and uploaded to YouTube. On a later date, you can also combine several articles and compile them into a book with minor modifications. For all the content that you create the copyright is owned by you anyway.
6. Train Other People and Help Them Become Experts
Experts on a subject can do different things, but in my research of several experts across different industries the most common things they do which helps them in their branding are write, speak, train and help.
For example, Seth Godin – an expert in marketing, writes blog articles, writes books, writes wherever he can, speaks at several events, and he is definitely in demand for training and consultancy. So by reverse engineering the process, you can be perceived as an expert if you write, speak, train and help.
Depending on how good you are in your subject and in marketing yourself, you would get offers for speaking, training and helping people & organizations. Helping involves both consultancy and being a full time employee. The more you do it, the better you become at both your subject matter and marketing yourself and your demand will grow slowly but exponentially. Once you reach a critical level of branding and connections, your demand will skyrocket.
7. Market Yourself to Take it to the Next Level
All the methods discussed above so far doesn’t cost much. But once you start generating some income from your branding efforts you can take it to the next level by reinvesting some of the profits.
Here are some powerful ideas to market yourself:
- Help journalists and authors. They will reciprocate by mentioning you in their articles. You can also follow them on Twitter and leave a comment on every article they write. Every writer loves feedback and comments on their work and there is no better way to get the attention of journalists.
- Create a banner and retarget people with tools like AdRoll.com. For example, if someone has visited your training page, retarget them with your training offer. If some one visited your hire me page and downloaded your resume, retarget them.
- Create an online training program and give it away for free like I do. Or price it well and promote it using affiliate partners. For example, you can charge a one time fee of Rs.10,000 for your course and offer Rs.3,000 as commission for anyone who promotes it. You will get more followers for your content.
- Write a great ebook and promote it at 70-100% affiliate commission. Say your ebook costs Rs.299, offer Rs.250-Rs.299 commission for anyone who promotes it on their channels. You do not incur any cost because ebooks are digitally downloadable. But you will get some serious readers and followers for your blog and perhaps they will check out your training program too!
- Hire a virtual assistant to manage your personal brand. She can send emails to several universities, event organizers and organizations informing them about your expertise and your services for speaking, training and consulting. If actors and celebrities can have such managers, why can’t we!
- Buy a premium SMS service, collect people’s phone numbers while collecting their email IDs and ping them whenever you publish a new blog post.
- Instead of using a free email subscription services like Feedburner, use MailChimp, Aweber or GetResponse to manage your email subscribers. Read my post about permission marketing.
- Create a forum within your blog and make it a platform for discussion on the subject your specialize in. Invite other experts in your field to participate in the forum. For example, I created a Facebook forum – Learn Digital Marketing and it has 20,000+ members as of now.
- Review books on your blog. The authors of those books are likely to link to your reviews and it also establishes the fact that you have read those books! What do experts do? They read books!
- Hire designers to create infographics of your top content and publish them. Infographics usually generate a lot of buzz.
The above ideas are just some of the ideas which I got when trying to improve my personal brand. There are literally infinite ways to promote yourself and strengthen your brand.
I hope this post has given you a ton of ideas about personal branding. If you found this post useful, share it, tweet it and pass it along. If you have any questions or any ideas, comment below!
* Somewhere in the post above I mentioned that inbound marketing is so powerful that the audience never feels like they are being marketed to! Even this article helps me in personal branding. Now I am seen as an expert on the topic of personal branding. And did you feel that you were being marketed to? 🙂