This is a special guest post as part of Make a Referral Week 2009.
By Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation
As small business owners, the line between our business and personal lives can be a little bit challenging to define. Some people worry that the term â€œpersonal brandâ€ means sharing about their twelve cats, troubles with their mother-in-law or penchant for collecting pez dispensers.
The reality is, people donâ€™t refer companies or brands; they refer the people in those companies. The more your customers know your personality, your interests, your values and your real voice, the more likely they will refer business to you.
So here are some ways to amp up the personal in your brand:
1. Hang out with your customers.
When I asked my Twitter buddies which companies they considered great in personal branding, Freshbooks jumped to the top of the list. When I asked what it was about their brand that felt very personal, I learned that the CEO and staff blogged, Twittered and participated in user forums. There is nothing that builds good will faster than answering a customer question immediately and personally. If you have a face-to-face business, take time to stop by and visit your customers just to see how they are doing.
2. Show your face.
As the daughter of a photographer, I might be a bit biased when it comes to the importance of good pictures. But pictures really do convey personality and style in a way pure text cannot. So make sure the â€œAboutâ€ page on your website has good photographs of you and your staff. Look at one of my favorite examples, the team of mechanics at Patâ€™s Garage in San Francisco. You thought car mechanics had no personality? Think again.
3. Write clearly and with personality.
Check your website, blog posts, marketing materials and emails and make sure you are communicating in a clean, clear, engaging way. The basic rule of thumb is to write like you talk. If you are a corporate refugee-turned small business owner, you may be used to using words like â€œvalue-add,â€ â€œparadigm shiftâ€ and â€œout-of-the-box-thinking.â€ You wouldnâ€™t use these words in regular conversation, right? Strike them from your written communications and people will find you are not the tremendous bore they thought you were, you are actually down-to-earth, funny, and engaging. Colleen Wainwright aka Communicatrix demonstrates this well in her Hire Me page.
4. Create your posse.
Are there any small businesses that serve your market in a non-competitive way? When you build relationships with other like-minded entrepreneurs, you can expand your brand to include a network, not just your company. Then you can refer business to each other with confidence, knowing you share similar style, values and results. Your informal posse could develop into a collaborative network like Men With Pens.
5. Serve the right customers.
Do you ever feel a bit nervous about communicating with your customers? Are you afraid that they will find out that you are really an imposter? When my clients share these fears, we almost always discover that they feel that way because they are not working with the right market. When you find your ideal customers, talking with them will feel calm and comfortable, because you will know with conviction that you are the perfect person to solve their problems.
You do not have to share your entire personal life to have great personal brand. You just need to show up fully, clearly and passionately in your business.
Pamela Slim is a business coach and author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, coming out in May, 2009 with Penguin/Portfolio.
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