April 30, 2010
A special thanks to Jeff Beals, Author of Self Marketing Power, host of 1110 KFAB Saturday morning talk show Grow Omaha, and Vice President of Operations of Coldwell Banker World Group. You can pick up a copy of Jeff's book on Amazon.com.
So you may be wondering what’s all this talk about a 'building your personal brand?' What does this mean and how does a personal brand affect your business – especially with all these new online social media communication channels. I’m sure you’re familiar with your reputation – you know, the ‘old school’ way of what people think about you, how you perform at your job, and generally the quality of person you are. Well, your reputation (i.e. trust) is now more important than ever – it’s just not that easy anymore to do a bad job, take your client’s money, and move on to the next person. You can’t get away with that anymore.
More reasons why in a moment….
Quick question - Haven’t you put more time into fully researching your purchase or hiring decisions than a few years ago? It makes sense, we’re living in the information age and the ability to Google someone’s name/product is just too easy and convenient to pass up. In fact, it’s expected you show up in the search results for some industries. So what are people looking for? Well before I hire you, I want to know what you know, who you know, why you know it, when you learned it, what you provide, and how you’re going to make me a happy customer. But don’t forget, I want to know all of this right now – on my cell phone – and without making an uncomfortable phone call for a FREE Consultation. And whatever you do, don’t make me think.
Here’s an example you can relate to.
Let’s say you receive 3 bids from contractors to remodel your kitchen – a very expensive and risky decision if you choose the wrong person. Now, each contractor comes highly referred from your friends, each with strong professional references for quality work, on time completion, and market pricing. However, there’s still the Curious George in you to really learn WHO EXACTLY ARE THESE PEOPLE – you’ve never met them. Remember, you’ve only heard about them from your friends. So, of course, you type their names into Google and see what comes up. Everyone does it, right?
Here’s what you find:
Contractor A – no Facebook, bad review on Google Local, and a website from 1995
Contractor B – inappropriate picture on Linked-In, no website, no website testimonials
Contractor C – strong videos, articles, testimonials, Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In presence
Now, all else being equal – who would you trust with your $20,000 kitchen remodeling project? We’ll I’d trust Contractor C. Not only was I able to learn everything I wanted to know about this individual in my pajamas at 2:00am in the morning (the only time I have to research my purchase decisions), but getting to know him through Facebook and seeing what everyone had to say about him on his website created a FEELING for me – a personal connection, a stronger relationship if you will. Plus, if he in any way takes advantage of me, he has nowhere to hide as I’d be able to publicly voice my complaints on his social media accounts for all his future customers to see. In other words, he as a very strong incentive to perform his hired duties well – and that I like. Bottom line, Contractor C has a strong personal digital brand.
A strong personal digital brand creates a FEELING for your prospects.
Now this is important – remember, all three contractors are EQUALLY qualified. Because Contractor C provided all the information you’d ever want to know about him on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and YouTube, he had an UNFAIR advantage over his competitors. You were easily able to learn everything you wanted to know about him online – and with video and social media interaction (comments on Facebook, a quick reply to your tweet, etc) – he created a strong personal connection with you that didn’t take up any of his time (marketing), at least directly. But most importantly and without you even knowing it, you became a lot less price sensitive as you persuaded yourself to hire one specific person – not just a vanilla contractor to upgrade your kitchen for the lowest bid. Wouldn't you like to be Contractor C in business? I sure do.
As more people turn to Google and social media for purchase decision research, how strong is your digital presence?
* Now, on a side note, I get a LOT of questions about how to determine the ROI of social marketing – or just marketing for that matter. With these tips, you'll will reduce sales friction and shorten the sales cycle as you create the environment so you're the invited guest to the sale. However – yes - when compared to direct response marketing with a specific offer to a target audience, it is hard to determine the exact return on your marketing investment when you’re creating a feeling for people by investing the time and energy into your personal digital brand. But that’s what a ‘brand’ is, isn’t it? It’s the way you feel about something – or someone – before you even think.
Here are my tips to jump start your personal brand online:
1. Linked In
Linked-In is a professional audience – so keep your profile picture very professional. Bring your profile up to 100%, which means you have a few recommendations and complete your past employment positions. Furthermore, make sure you set your profile picture as ‘public’ so when people find your Linked-In account on Google, your picture will show up in the results (default is not public). It’s also a very good idea to join a few professional groups, as these logos will show up at the bottom of your profile and give your prospects a better idea of ‘where you hand out’ and who you’re affiliated with. If you’re super-savvy, include a link on your profile to your Facebook page, website, and a ‘Why Hire Me?’ video you’ve uploaded to YouTube. (more on that below....)
Set up a Twitter account under your name and hire a designer to create a custom background with your logo and contact information. Invite everyone in your Outlook or email account to follow you on Twitter, then make a short update when you get a new client, reach an achievement, or find an article you’d like to pass on. Make sure to have a link back to your website in the description, and include your Twitter ‘handler’ in your email signature (i.e. @VyralMarketing). If you do that, people will think you’re uber-social media savvy and totally with the times. :) Become friends with a few people in your industry and thought leaders in your target market. Follow what they are saying and participate in the conversations when you have something valuable to add. But don't spend too much time on it - it will suck you in.
Facebook is a casual social network (as opposed to Linked-In) – post a picture of you of how you would dress on the weekend. Make sure to have a link back to your website in your profile, and keep a tight eye on the pictures people ‘tag’ of you. The last thing you want are a few pictures tagged of you (when friends identify you in a picture for the world to see) from back in college in less than compromising situations. Facebook, in my option, is the most powerful tool to build your business as a service professional who earn referrals from their database of friends, family, and business associates because that’s where they all are! Every day, make a comment on someone’s ‘status’ to start a conversation, then when they reply back ask them for a referral of who you should be doing business with. I love it.
Right now – type your full name, plus your city, into Google and see what comes up. You should see your Linked In, Twitter, and Facebook account pop up in the first 5 search results. If you’re lucky and hired the right web designer, your website/blog will show up as well. Look for positive/negative comments that may be displayed from someone else’s blog, or a personal review site such as Google Local or Yelp! Now, if you see negative feedback, there’s not much you can do to delete it, however most creditable review platforms will allow you to respond to the negative feedback – very important to do so to keep your online reputation (i.e. your digital brand) strong.
I HIGHLY recommend you film a short ‘Why Hire Me?’ video to teach prospects how you’ll solve their problems better than anyone else. This way, your video will ALSO show up on the first page of Google’s search results for your name. Video, in fact, IS 50 TIME MORE LIKELY to show up on the first page of search engines, plus it’s the most authentic and POWERFUL way to create a connection with your audience. Record a video today and upload it to YouTube – include a few video testimonials while you’re at it to secure the sale.
So here’s the bottom line – people are checking you out on Google whether you like it or not. Plus, they are researching your social media accounts to get a better idea of who you are as a person. Don’t discount this – you want to be ‘Contractor C’ from my example earlier who creates positive feelings in his prospects, allowing him to compete less on price and reduce friction to the sale. While you’re a professional when it comes to building real-world reputation for trust, creditability, and authority – make sure your digital world reflects that as well. Remember, you are what you publish. Have questions about how to film a ‘Why Hire Me?’ video for YouTube or establish a strong digital personal brand? Send me an email and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.