he concept of branding has been around for a long time. As the American Marketing Association would describe it:
[A brand is] a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
We're accostumed to business-level branding. However, there's a steady shift in how branding is perceived by the masses. It’s - in essence - people working with people that make business relationships valuable.
How does that translate into branding?
As the branding definition asserts, a brand's purpose is to differentiate a product from the rest. And in the connected, modern world of the Internet and social media a person/identity has become an extremely valuable asset to promote.
Why is an identity (personal brand) so important?
#1. P2P (People To People) In The New Economy And Personal Branding.
We link the concept of a brand to an idea, company or service.
It is - nonetheless - still relevant today and applies to many fields. However, due to the increased reach of social media platforms, and the shift in customer behaviour, a new paradigm of marketing has taken place.
Platforms like YouTube or Instagram allow virtualy anyone to create content and post it online.
- When you're posting a picture on IG it is affecting your personal brand
- Every time you upload a video to YouTube it is affecting your personal
- Even when you're writing a post on Reddit you're affecting your personal brand
Anything that says something about you and highlights your personal traits is affecting your brand, the idea of you, how people relate and perceive you.
And that is a huge asset to exploit.
People respond better to something they can relate to. They don't seek the perfect, most tidy company. They seek someone that understands them and can address the same issues they've got. Or simply that shares interests, tastes and opinions.
You might not relate with the L'Oréal ad you saw last night, but you might - however - with the vlogger you follow that recommended the same product.
They're both forms of branding, and both are valid.
It is just that one is becoming more relevant than the other.
Bonus: A good application of personal branding is self-promoting as an employee or to reach business agreements. It is the CV of the modern day, and it establishes much more credibility than a CV
This website is addressed toward this goal: to promote myself as a Web Developer.
The possibilities personal branding offers are endless, you just need to do the right things.
Where do we start?
hint: keep reading...
#2. Create Content. Like... A Lot.
This is where most enterpreneurs fail. They rely on paid advertising and old-school ways of promoting, failing to realise it is a losing bet.
It is my belief that advertising as an efficient explotation medium is obsolescent, if not obsolete [...].- Howard Luck, San Francisco practitioner of advertising.
Times have changed, and so have the things that customers respond to.
Putting out consistent value is the key to customer engagement.
A brief history of marketing:
We could argue that throughout the history of marketing there have been 4 phases
- Product Oriented Marketing: The main focus was letting people know about the product through plain advertising due to the lack of competition.
- Sales Oriented Marketing: This time the focus shifted toward the sale/pitch of a particular product. Marketers started to need to differentiate themselves in the face of competition.
- Production Oriented Marketing: Now it's more about producing economies of scale and attain lower production costs, and therefore, lower selling prices to compete in the flooded markets.
- Marketing Oriented:
Here's were we sit right now. In an overflooded market like nowadays', companies had to find new ways to differentiate themselves from the rest. At this point two important concepts gained relevance:
Niche marketing and branding.
Niche marketing - which is whole article on its own - allows companies to rob customers from the big whales.
How do they do it?
By going an extra step in terms of satisfying their needs.
In the prior phases of marketing, customer satisfaction was not the center of attention. There wasn't a stablished competition, companies only needed to provide the right product and that's it.
Withing the large group regarding, let's say, drone piloting, two smaller chunks could diverge:
-People who want a drone for recording video footage.
-People who want a drone for racing.
Let's say that there's one big company that sells generic drone supplies for both groups.
Now let's say that two different companies emerge:
-One company selling the exact same product, that addresses the recording enthusiasts, and gives them a free eBook with tips for aerial photography
-Another company that is specialised in building and assembling drones aerodinamically equipped for max speed.
The two groups will flock to these instead of the big one.
Because they address a specific need for each niche. And it goes on an on - you can narrow down as much as you want.
The further you niche down, the smaller the market; but the less the competition.
If everybody is doing it one way, there's a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction.- Sam Walton. American businessman.
If you find a profitable niche you can exploit it and steal customers from the big companies by addressing their most especific needs.
In essence, adding the extra value.
Now we're getting to the point. There's two things going on when a potential customer goes from the big whale to a smaller entity:
-They consume the extra value you add to their need/hobby.*
-They associate the extra value with your brand -> engage.
As you’ve noticed, people don’t want to be sold. What people do want is news and information about the things they care about..- Larry Weber.
*That's where hard work and hustle take place. You need to take it as a non-paid job if you want to grow your brand.
Identify your niche and dominate it. And when I say dominate, I just mean work harder than anyone else could possibly work at it.
You need to put out a lot of content so the customers can associate the value with your brand.
Now it all makes sense, right?
The direct consequence of you putting out (good) content is that inevitably poeple will start to consume it, and they start to engage.
The good thing about engagement is that they love your content so much that they're willing to share it with all their friends, family, coworkers...
That sounds like free promoting, and it indeed is. You know the one single thing you need to make this happen?
It is the following:
#3. Grow Your Brand Through Social Media.
In many cases your audience is excited about sharing your content, but it requires to much effort if you don't make it easy enough for them.
As a rule of thumb: the more times they need to click/tap, or the more pages they need to go through, the less likely they're to share it.
You don't really have to beg them to share it, just need to allow them.
They will share the content because they found it resourceful, not because of the annoying banner that popped up saying: please do me free advertising.
They share it because they want to show their peers and get them the value, not because they want to give you exposure.
But, again, if the content is good you needn't care about it, they will share if you give them the right tools and the effortless path.
That's the way marketing rolls now.
How are you more likely to find my website, for example?
- -Through a friend showing you one of my articles.
- -through the Google Ad I paid for.
Obviously the first one.
Because advertising as we know it is becoming obsolete.
The new paradigm consists in having an engaged audience that loves and promotes your content for you.
If you think about it it makes sense, back in the day there was no social media and people could reach a very limited number of peers to share about your product (if it ever crossed their mind).
Now they have access to the whole of internet for themselves, they have a tremendous reach in terms of influence. And what they share is the value you produced that links back to your product, not the product itself.
Forget about the ads and the numbers for a second, and really focus on understanding your audience to a deep level, and deliver the most tailored content for them to do the rest for you.
Bonus: you can pay any influencer on a given social platform and let them share with your content with their very-engaged, large-in-number audience. Plus some of them are not even that expensive.
Influencers are a tremendous way to build brand equity and get the word out there about your product, especially if you are trying to spread the word to a specific audience.
- Gary Vaynerchuk. CEO of VaynerMedia.
#4. Building Relationships
Having back and forth interactions with your audience can greatly improve your credibility as a brand.
A customer doesn't want to be a passive espectator, or at least they won't respond just as well by being so. The very moment they disengage they lose focus and won't be as susceptible to new information or won't go down the conversion funnel
In order to reinforce the bonds with your audience a few measures can be taken:
There's few better ways to grant engagement from the audience than a newsletter. If they subscribed because they enjoy your content, receiving an email with a teaser of your new content will get them excited and checking it out quickly.
Allow your visitors to interact with each other and build a community. If you make them feel like they belong to a group they will stay around for longer.
This is like taking the previous one to the next level. If you're on a tech-savvy niche or of any sort that mostly consists of technical people, they might want to develop and articulate their points properly. Giving them the right platform will increase engagement by a lot.
Bonus: you, in return, get something very valuable. Their feedback
The first step in exceeding your customer's expectations is to know those expectations.- Roy H. Williams. best selling author and marketing consultant.
Since people is less likely to get out of their own way to go down the funnel, when it comes to engaging in your website, it's best to provide the needed tools in order to facilitate the interaction. Thus, they need to put less effort from their side to contriubute.
Bonus: Consider adding share buttons in all your pages.
The easier it is for them the more likely they're to commit
Last but not least, surveys can be a very effective way to engage with your audience and gain priceless insight from them.
Just think about it:
You can hit on the specific points that concern you in relation to your business. You can literally ask them to tell you how to sell them your next product.
For the sake of compliance, I suggest rewarding them for completing the survey. They might not even require a compensation if they're engaged enough, since they sort of feel like they owe it to you. That's one of the reasons why I can't stress it enough:
Produce as much free quality content as you can. It will tremendously pay off in the long run.
Now that you have an engaged audience and a reasonable amount of feedback, let's use it the right way.
#5. Managing Your Reputation.
Your reputation is everything when it comes to promoting your brand.
It doesn't matter how fancy your website looks or how much content you're putting out there if you're consistently getting negative feedback and no one really trusts you.
If anyone has heard bad from you, it's very unlikely they will even give you a chance.
Good content and proper brand identification not only gives you the right reputation, it also helps you stand out from the masses.
There's a lot of noise going on in the online business.
And you must be able to cut through that noise in order to stand out and be recognised.
You must provide content a little better than your closest competitor, you must promote better, you must add an extra edge he can't.
You must display what makes you different, and you should make sure that your audience can identify your brand with it.
There's never been a better time for virtually anyone to serve the masses.
You don't need a multi-million dollar campaign to reach mass consciousness, it only takes hard work and proper use of the social platforms for your brand to attain great exposure.
It takes skill, patience and effort; but it is attainable.
Are you going to strive for a reputation? Or would you rather let your business go unnoticed and profitless?