5 Ways to Build an Influential Brand that Every Leader Needs to Know

The bottom line – as a business owner you want your business to grow. If you don’t, then you should probably question whether or not you should be a business owner. What’s the most common indicator that your business is growing? You’re making more money.

This is true for every business, non-profit, and individual. People don’t like to talk about making money, but the truth is we need money to operate. But what’s the best way to earn more money? It may be tempting to start throwing out tactics, buzzwords, and strategies like: “You need to innovate”, “You must diversify”, “You need to penetrate the market”, “You need to build a sales funnel”, “You need more Instagram followers”….  yadda, yadda, yadda.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all valid methods to consider and could play a large part in how you operate your business. But, for a business owner who’s growth has flat-lined and is struggling to keep up, “penetrating the market” means nothing. If you’re tired of just surviving as a business and ready to start thriving, I’ve got good news for you – it may be more simple than you think. Humor me if you will, and allow me to give you a more simplified answer to the question, “How can I grow my business?”

For your business to grow and make more money you need…

  1. More people to buy more of your stuff.
  2. More people to tell more of their friends to buy more your stuff.
  3. To invest more in methods that will get more people to do both of the above.

It may sound simple, but for most businesses who are struggling to gain traction – these three things seem like an unreachable goal. The reality is that for most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) achieving these three things is easier than you may think. This brings up an important question that I’m sure you’re asking yourself: “Yeah, that sounds great and all, but what’s the best way to accomplish those three things?” It’s a simple answer, influence.

Building an influential brand for your business could be the best decision you have yet to make.

Understanding Influence

We’ve worked with many SMB’s over the years, and we’ve found a common trait shared among the ones who are struggling – a brand strategy is either underutilized or completely absent. That’s unfortunate because a strategic brand plays a vital role in virtually every aspect of your business. It can have a huge impact on your reputation, customer experiences, employee onboarding and engagement, important decision-making, gaining support for your vision…  and yes – influencing people to buy your stuff.

Let me make something clear – when I say influence, I do not mean “manipulate.”

Influence vs. Manipulation

Influence – the process of getting someone else to want to believe, do, think, or react the way you want them to. This approach encourages your audience to feel inspired, excited, and harbor warm feelings about you. It makes your audience feel like you care about their needs, and genuinely want to help them.

Manipulation – exerting devious influence over a person for your own advantage. This method creates anxiety, stress, or discomfort for your audience with the goal of getting them to take an action. This makes your audience feel guarded, and like you don’t care about their needs.

Both methods work in their own way. However, there are key differences in the outcomes.

Influencers…

Manipulators…

  • Seek to understand not to convince.
  • Communicate clearly.
  • Listens to their audience.
  • Relates to the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the relationship.
  • Ask plenty of questions.
  • Focus on gaining a loyal customer.
  • Seeks to convince not understand
  • Communicate ambiguously.
  • Talks to their audience.
  • Control the emotions of their audience.
  • Care about the transaction.
  • Don’t ask questions.
  • Focus on landing another customer.

It’s easy to see how being an influential brand will help your business grow. Now let’s begin to dissect how you can begin to build an influential brand for yourself.


 

The Building Blocks of an Influential Brand

1. Tell Your Story

Your story is the most human element of your business, yet it’s typically the last thing people bring up when they approach customers. Your story will begin a natural conversation with your customers. It’s this story that will show them that you care about more than just landing a sale.

Start with “Why?” Next time you are making a sales pitch start with answering the question “why?” Tell them why you do what you do, and why it excites you. This will give people something to relate to. It will also show them that you are passionate about what you do, and believe in its value – instilling confidence in them. Sharing your “why” is only one aspect of your story. Another aspect is the story of your brand.

The Story of Your Brand. Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. This 3-part approach is the natural progression of your brand story as well:

  1. Beginning (the Problem): Explain the problem that your audience faces.
  2. Middle (the Solution): Clearly explain how you solve this problem.
  3. End (the Success): Show the results and success your customers can experience.

Create a compelling story. You want your audience to feel like you’ve read their journal, and you understand their deepest thoughts. Really knowing the people that you’re talking to will all your message to stir up their intrinsic motivations. This will help you to influence people not because of what you do, but because of how what you do can help them. Telling your brand story can be one of the easiest entry points for building an influential brand.

2. Know What Makes You Different

Understand your position in the market. It’s hard to be an influential brand if you can’t clearly explain and defend what makes you different, and why someone should choose you over the competition. Many business owners mistake the quality of their product or service as their positioning. Simply stating, “we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

“we have the best quality products,” or “we have the best customer service” usually isn’t enough to communicate how your business is different.

Instead, try and pinpoint 1 or 2 specific and relevant aspects of your business that are completely unique in your industry or region – lean into those. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have quality products, but the process you use to ensure that every product manufactured meets your quality standards. Maybe it’s not the fact that you have the “best customer service”, but the fact that you guarantee a quality experience or you’ll give your customer a full refund.

Check out your competition. It’s important to do some competitive review, to see how your competition is positioning themselves. However, be sure to find something that is different than your competition. If you simply try to copy what’s working for them, you’ll find yourself getting lost in the market, and that’s a sure-fire way to not build an influential brand.

3. Make it Personal

Get personal with it. Know who you are talking to. Remember, “People do business with people.” Ask yourself, “What motivates them? What discourages them? What gets them up in the morning? What keeps them up at night?” Seek to truly understand your audience, and how you can best serve them.

This also involves getting face-to-face with your audience. Go where they are. Attend the same conferences, seminars, networking groups, or workshops that they attend. Doing this will not only help you make in-person connections but will also give you valuable insight into the industry or demographic that you’re targeting. It could help uncover areas that your business could improve to provide a better value to your customers.

Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you.

Your message. Your brand messaging should be focused on your customer, not on you. What I mean by this is that you should talk less about “I” (you the business owner), and more about “you.” (the customer). This will help you in your effort to make a connection with your customers, not just talking to them. Let’s face it, no one wants to hear about how great you are all the time.

4. Be Consistent and Clear

The value of consistency. Brand consistency is another simple approach that pays huge dividends. We’ve written about the importance of consistency in the past, but it’s worth mentioning over and over. Be consistent.

Put brand message and identity guidelines in place. This is why all BrandGPS clients receive a Brand Guidelines Handbook. It’s a vital piece to maintaining brand consistency across all customer touchpoints, as well as maintaining internal clarity around your brand values, message, and story.

Consistency earns visibility, visibility earns credibility, credibility earns trust, trust earns loyalty.

5. Be Authentic

These days, “being authentic” is one of the most common buzz-words to describe a business attempting to relate to millennials, or be relevant to modern culture. Despite the negative connotation that “being authentic” has recently earned, there is a real purpose in being an authentic brand. Building an authentic brand requires time and effort spent on keeping your promises, and ensuring that your messaging aligns with what you do.

The 3 pillars that play the part in building a healthy and influential brand are:

  1. How you look
  2. What you say
  3. What you do

If any of these three aren’t aligned, you risk being seen as an inauthentic brand, which can be extremely harmful to your business. A good example of this is when United Airlines responded to a passenger being pulled off a plane with two different messages – the messages contradicted each other, and caused public confusion. The mixed signals created a sense of distrust among the public and did further harm to the brand of United Airlines.

Actions speak louder than words. It should go without saying, but don’t claim to be something you’re not. Don’t make promises or claims you can’t deliver on, and be sure that what you say to your audience is exactly what they’re getting. If you claim to have the best customer service experience, and you have heaps of 1-star reviews saying otherwise, no one will take your brand seriously. You’ll never gain the trust of people if you’re not keeping promises, and you can kiss the idea of customer loyalty good-bye.

Building an authentic brand gives people a reason to care.

A Final Word

These five things play an important role in building a brand that is influential. I can’t stress enough the importance of a brand strategy for your business. If your business is struggling to get to the next level, gaining traction in your market, earning customer trust and loyalty, or simply getting beat by your competition – then you need a brand strategy.

An influential brand, like the ones we help our customers build through BrandGPS, is an investment you won’t regret.

 

Your Personal Brand is Important

Why do you need a Personal Brand?

If someone asked you to quickly identify your unique contributions to your business, backed up with supporting evidence, would you be able to do that without batting an eye?

Most people can see the importance of branding in regards to their business. It’s obvious that creating a strong brand is vital to every business. A well-built brand strategy can give you a huge advantage over your competition. However, people often miss the mark when it comes to clearly identifying who they are, what their values are, what they stand for, and how they are uniquely skilled and equipped to help a business grow.

Personal branding may seem odd, uncomfortable, or even vain – but the practice of building a personal brand should not be overlooked by any entrepreneur, professional, or aspiring leader. If approached properly, the process of creating a personal brand can give you a calm confidence as you establish priorities in your life and career, and plan out the journey ahead.

Creating a personal brand can give you a calm confidence as you establish priorities in your life, and plan out the journey ahead.

The fact of the matter is, you’re going to have a personal brand – whether you’re in control of it or not. Your personal brand is shown in every blog post you write, every twitter post you share, and every email you send. If left unclear or undefined, people will make their own assumptions about who you are, why you do what you do, and what you represent.

However, if you can take control of your own personal brand you’re the one writing the story. You decide the narrative. You are the one with the pencil and paper – sharing only what you want your audience to see. Wouldn’t you rather be the one in the driver’s seat?

If that fact alone isn’t enough to convince you, here are some other benefits to expect when building a personal brand:

  • Establish your value outside of your current career or job title
  • Pinpoint how to present the best you
  • Appreciate your strengths and weaknesses
  • Create a following of others who share common values
  • Gain confidence
  • Show your value through your efforts
  • Clearly define your niche
  • Lay a foundation of credibility
  • Position yourself outside of the norm
  • Impart your values with clear messaging

How do you create a personal brand?

So you want to start creating a personal brand; where do you begin? Well for starters, you’ll need to set aside enough time in a distraction-free environment. Be committed, and ready to focus on diving deep into your own understanding of yourself. Turn off your phone. Put away the computer. All you need is a pencil and paper.

It’s worth noting that as you begin constructing your personal brand, you need to be sure that you’re being honest with yourself. You are the one that has to live up to your personal brand. If you aren’t honest with yourself, it’ll lead you to live a life that isn’t authentic, which will result in sending mixed signals to others. This forces you to live a phony life and does great harm to your brand.

You are the one that has to live up to your personal brand.

1. Writing Your Vision Statement

Ask these questions separately for work and personal:

  1. “At my core, what do I value most?”
  2. “What interests me the most and what am I most passionate about?”
  3. “Where does my motivation come from?”
  4. “What makes me the happiest?”

After you’ve written these answers down, next write out a personal vision statement. It should be concise, strong, and true. This will statement will only be seen by you and may change over time, so don’t spend too much time waxing eloquent.

Here is an example of a personal vision statement:

Personal:

“My personal vision… is that my life is one of intentional purpose – for myself and others. It’s important that I live a life of kindness, love, compassion, and concern for others. By listening to others, and serving others, I want to gain new insights, learn new things, and gain an understanding of different perspectives.”

Career:

“My vision for my career… is one of constant improvement and continual learning. I want others to feel confident around me and yet challenged to do better when they are with me. I want to work with people who share similar ambitions, and values. Most importantly, I want every person I interact with to feel like I’ve helped them in some way. I never want to be a dead end for anyone. I want to be thought of as thoughtful and wise.”

2. Planning How to Reach Your Goals

Now that we’ve defined who you are and what you value at your core, it’s time to define some goals and outline how you’re going to achieve those goals. These next steps will guide you through creating the goals, and then deciding what you need to do in order to reach those goals, what you should be focusing your energy and effort on, and who you should be surrounding yourself with.

To discover your goals, ask yourself these questions:

  1. “What do I need to achieve in my life/career?”
  2. “What do I want to achieve in my life/career?”
  3. “Being successful in the short-term, what does that look like to me?”
  4. “Being successful in the long-term, what does that look like to me?”

As you write these down, you may find that many of these goals may not be connected to wealth or status, but rather happiness and fulfillment. That’s a good sign. It means that you’re being authentic, and honest.

Now that you’ve listed out your goals, you need to determine how you will achieve them. So next ask:

  1. “What are my best strengths?”
  2. “What are my worst weaknesses?”
  3. “Why am I unique?”
  4. “What are certain characteristics or competencies that make me stand out?”
  5. “Who are the people that energize me, bring me joy, and challenge me to do better?”
  6. “Who are the people that drain me, stress me out, and bring only strife?”

After you’ve taken inventory of your skills, expectations, and abilities, now you can prioritize the various pieces and types of people that will help you reach your goals – and also understand who and/or what you should avoid that may hold you back from reaching these goals.

You may find it hard to answer honestly or feel strange about some of your answers. If so, you may think about asking a close family member, or friend to help you answer some of them in an honest way. Ask them to be brutally honest. If they are sugar-coating the answers, it will just further complicate the process, and lead you down the wrong path.

The Evolution of a Personal Brand

Creating your personal brand takes time, effort, and constant evolution. Your personal brand must evolve with you – through life changes, career changes, or changes in your ambitions.

Personal branding isn’t a one-time event. You don’t simply wake up one morning with a personal brand that is well-established and respected. Instead, it’s an ongoing task that takes commitment, tons of effort, and requires consistency. But, it’s the best way to tell your story and cultivate the reputation you want.

At the end of the day, curating your personal brand is a continuous journey of defining your mission and vision, and ensuring that your sights are aimed in the direction you want to go.

So start the journey.

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Or just email us at info@longitudebranding.com