Despite his death in 2011, for many consumers around the world, Steve Jobs still represents Apple. Jobs had a natural talent for branding. He connected creativity, innovation, and accessibility and packaged them under a bitten apple logo.

Apple’s small business startup days are long gone, and its annual marketing and advertising budget could probably feed a small nation. Sounds like a good reason to give up your personal brand building efforts before you even start. Don’t.

Why invest in personal branding?

Small business owners often feel that building the business operation is far more critical than grooming their personal brand. It’s often considered an unjustified expense. It’s not. Building your brand is investing in a major business asset. It may be hard to measure trust, brand awareness, and customer loyalty, but the long-term effects on your business will certainly be noticed.

Building up your personal brand also helps with flexibility for your business – having an audience is convincing for partnerships and new ventures, connects your clients and encourages them to engage with you, and allows you to hold yourself accountable for your business’s growth: when the personal brand is you, you’ll want to show you’re learning new things and keeping updated on trends and strategies.

What is a personal brand?

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Personal branding is essential to small business success, and it takes more than just a logo design. 

It’s about communicating your identity and values effectively, differentiating you from other brands (big or small), and building trust. Professional management skills are extremely valuable when running a business. Harnessing communication to advance and grow that business is a real asset.

How to build your brand?

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True, small businesses have far less resources for professional branding, but what they lack in budget they gain in authenticity. Here are a few handy tips in strategic communication, to get you started with building your brand:

  1. Strategic messages: Every business has, or should have, vision. The first step in building your personal brand is formulating that vision into a clear, concise message. This shouldn’t be a grocery list of goals, plans, and accomplishments, but rather short and to-the-point phrases.
  2. Brand tagline: Turn your strategic messages into a tagline. Think Nike’s Just Do It, or Disney’s Happiest Place on Earth. These catchy phrases are prime examples of expressing vision, values, and products in just a few words. The tagline is the bow on your brand package. It makes it attractive and memorable, so give it some real thought. 
  3. Brand statement: Who are you? Why should customers prefer you over bigger, better-known brands? How does your service/product impact customers? The answers will define your identity, and help you tell the story, differentiating you from others. Here are a couple of personal branding examples: Marketing Nutz founder and CEO Pam Moore describes herself as: “50% Marketing, 50% Geek – 100% Social Business Results”. Larry Kim, founder of Mobile Monkey and Wordstream, coined the phrase: “Be a unicorn in a sea of donkeys”, forever associating his name with unicorn tech companies. 
  4. Stick to the statement: Whether on social networks, speaking to a customer, or engaging with the media, it’s important to understand that any interaction should be strategic. Turning it into small talk is a missed opportunity. Uploading a story to Instagram or being interviewed for the local paper? Craft your messages carefully and stick to them. 
  5. Brand story: Storytelling may be an overused buzzword, but don’t underestimate the power of a story. Telling your personal story while tying it to your brand values and mission is a highly strategic way to build your personal and professional brand. It’s a way to breathe life into your brand statement. Repeat it in a way that is accessible and memorable,  setting yourself apart from the competition. 
  6. Unified messaging: Your vision, your values, your brand identity should be evident in more than just words. They should be apparent in your customer service, in the quality of your product, in the personalization of your customer journey. They should also be aligned with the visual assets of your business, including logo, color palette, images, and graphic design, creating one cohesive brand language.
  7. Be you: The days of business talking heads are long gone. With direct communication through Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and others, consumers are accustomed to, and seeking, authenticity. They want to interact with a real person, not a public image. That’s why it’s important to bring yourself into the strategy and connect on a personal level. 
  8. Provide value: Building your personal brand is more about showing than about telling. Showcase your expertise by sharing your knowledge. Are you a career coach? Provide tips for nailing a job interview. Tax professional? Share a tax checklist with your community. Doing so, you’ll see that by providing value, you actually build your own. 
  9. Seek assistance: Sometimes, you can’t see the forest for the trees. You may be a genius accountant or a fitness guru, but when it comes to articulating your values, you get stomped. Guess what? There are branding coaches and consultants who are running their own small business just like you. Get help if you need it.

While it may seem to be out of your control, we hope this article gives a different perspective about developing your personal brand. It’s doable, but it takes strategy, consistency, and determination. However, in today’s digital world, where competition is far beyond local, small business branding is a new must, not a luxury.