Business Thoughts: How to Build Your Personal Brand (and why everyone needs one)
Wouldn’t you agree that making money would be a lot easier if you didn’t have to deal with competition?
There are two major ways to make money. The first one is to compete based on price (such as being the cheapest). But competing on price can be dangerous… what if someone were to undercut you overnight? There’s no reward if you’re the 2nd cheapest in the market.
The other way to make money is to offer benefits that your competitors can’t replicate. This could include more personalization, better service, or simply better products.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to gain an advantage in business is a strong personal brand. A personal brand is how you appear and market yourself to the world. Now that we’re all connected in the digital age, I think it’s more important than ever to work on building your brand. People are going to make judgments about you, might as well control it.
Personal branding doesn’t apply just to bloggers…plenty of larger companies have benefited from a personal brand.
Here’s an example:
There are thousands of social media marketing agencies around the world. Everyone wants to charge thousands of dollars to manage your company’s Facebook fanpage. It’s a bloodbath out there and margins are getting squeezed.
But one agency out there is absolutely crushing it.
This agency had revenues of $67 million and employed 500 staff last year.
It’s Vayner Media, owned by the prolific Gary Vaynerchuk. I’m going to guess that people who wanted to work with him didn’t care as much about the price or service.
They work with him because he’s known as “the best” when it comes to social media. He built his brand and recognition from over a decade of hard work.
When you have a strong brand, you set your own prices. Clients come to you.
* Where would Virgin be without Richard Branson being in the public?
* Apple wouldn’t have been as big as they are if Steve Jobs wasn’t the showman.
* And Subway experienced tremendous growth because of Jared (Though this is a great example of a brand gone wrong now that Jared’s in jail)
Companies already compete out there on prices, products, and services. But a brand keeps their products from becoming a commodity.
I wanna share how you can benefit from building your personal brand, and how you can benefit from it.
The Benefits of Building a Personal Brand
I had no intentions of ever building a personal brand. I’m an introvert. I used to have stage fright. I wanted the money…NOT the fame.
But everything happened organically over the past decade. It gets boring when you’re working on campaigns 12 hours a day so I started writing on forums. After that, I started tweeting constantly. I guess people liked what I had to say and wanted more.
In 2012 I started the blog because everyone else stopped. I felt someone needed to step up to the plate.
Here’s how I’ve personally benefited from having a brand.
1. Access to Better Deals and Relationships
It’s hard to do business when no one knows who you are.
As soon as I started my blog, people slowly started approaching me. I get approached by advertisers all the time with exclusive deals…ones that even networks haven’t had access to yet.
Relationship building these days is easy for me – most people come to me. They read my stuff, they see that I’m legit, and they trust me before we even meet.
Building a personal brand means that when anybody talks about affiliate marketing, there is a chance that my name will pop up. If I’m fighting with another affiliate over cap space on a hot offer, I’m going to have that extra leverage in negotiating ( I can give networks a shoutout, or even send affiliates).
I’ve also been able to meet a ton of amazing people outside of affiliate marketing because of my blog.
This industry can be shady, and people screw each other over all the time. If you have a great reputation then it’ll be easier to do deals.
2. Clients Come to You
A few months ago I was searching for someone to handle my InfusionSoft.
I first went to Upwork and I wasn’t too impressed by what I saw. Eventually, I did some online searching. The guy who handles my CRM has been on podcasts, has a blog, and a great reputation. By having such a strong personal brand, he wasn’t competing against the 1,000 other contractors.
3. You Gain Access to Great Talent
There’s a war out there for top talent, and true rockstars are hard to come by.
I’ve made a ton of hires in the past 3 months, and I didn’t limit myself to just referrals or monster.com.
Some of my employees found me because of my Brand. Every week I get tons of resumes sent in from people who wanna work for me.
If someone wants to work for me then they’re already a great culture fit. They already have an idea of my core values and principles.
4. You Can Leverage Your Brand into Creating More Companies
I mentioned how Vaynerchuk leveraged his brand into creating VaynerMedia.
Michelle Phan is one of the top YouTube beauty bloggers (and my future ex-girlfriend). She leveraged her YouTube channel into Ipsy…a mail delivery beauty service. That company is worth $500 million.
I leveraged my brand into creating AFFcelerator. Now my income isn’t just limited to just running campaigns.
One of the hardest parts about starting a company is the sales and marketing. When you have a brand…the sales / marketing is 90% done.
5. I Get to Share Knowledge
I love learning, and I love to share information.
This brings me a fulfillment in my life that money and business can’t. There are close to 7.5 billion people on Earth, and everyone wants to feel significant in some way.
6. Reputation Management
People google search each other all the time.
What if someone were to search your name, and the first page listings showed a scammer or murderer? It might not be you, but that’s still what everyone’s going to see. It might affect job searches and reputation.
Anyone can write shit or talk about someone these days. Having a brand and strong SEO is great defense for your reputation.
How To Build Your Personal Brand
Remember that there are “levels” to building a brand.
You don’t have to go on YouTube, or do public speaking if you don’t want to. Just remember that anything you put online is part of your personal brand.
This could mean starting on a basic level. Updating your headshots, LinkedIn Profile, and really thinking about how you wanna portray yourself to the world. I recommend buying a domain name at least as your home base and to help with reputation management. You can use a domain name generator, or try to buy your own name as a domain.
But what if you wanna go all the way with building a brand? I have some tips for you.
Before you even think about building a brand you have to realize three important facts:
- People come to you for entertainment FIRST
- They come for information SECOND
- Develop your craft. People want to follow EXPERTS.
Information is everywhere, but it’s the most entertaining person that gets paid for it.
I watch a lot of YouTube Fitness channels. The guys I watch are the ones with entertaining personalities. If you can make someone laugh, then they’re going to be 10x more loyal.
Define what you want to be an expert in
Unless you’re Richard Branson, you’ve gotta specialize. I know a LOT about blogging now, but I’m not going to write a post on the “10 Best WordPress Plugins for 2016.” That’s not what you guys are here for.
You gotta narrow your niche.
Russell Brunson mentioned his business blew up huge when he narrowed himself down as the “funnels guy.” He was hesitant because he felt he was great at plenty of things. But by narrowing down on funnels and re-branding everything, his business exploded.
Feel free to talk about other topics once a while. For example I talk about business and productivity quite a bit.
Imagine if you’re dating someone and you guys bonded over CrossFit. Well if 5 dates later you’re STILL talking about CrossFit then you’re kinda basic. It gets repetitive, boring, and makes you look one-dimensional. So find the perfect balance.
Affiliate marketing is my niche. But when I talk about other topics I’ll tie it back to affiliate marketing.
I’ve been blogging for over 4 years.
People know there’s a new post on my blog each week, a new post on my Facebook daily, and I update my Snapchat daily. I’m consistent and reliable.
If someone were to go to your blog and see you haven’t updated in months, then they’re never coming back.
It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. I think a lot about the compound effect. Of course I wanna be bigger and grow faster, but I focus on the process.
Everything You Do Online Matters
Employers are starting to social media stalk potential hires before they make an offer. What happens if someone goes to your profile, and your friend tagged pictures of you getting completely hammered last week.
Yea you could make the argument that what you do in your own hours doesn’t affect your work, but it does. They’re going to wondering, “is this person going to show up drunk to work?”
Last year I wanted to work with an advertiser. I didn’t know too much about him so I checked out his social media profiles. Major red flags everywhere. He constantly partied and spent money like water. This isn’t the kind of person I wanna do business with. He doesn’t seem responsible with his own money. Could he have been the best advertiser ever? Maybe. But I have to weigh the risks when I choose who I wanna work with.
Think about what kind of image you wanna portray yourself online.
There are some templates to build a brand online that you can customize to suit your purpose.
Choose Your Platform
The platform is where you choose to build an audience.
The two best platforms are either a blog, or a Youtube channel.
Blogs are great because you can take advantage of SEO traffic and build a list.
YouTube is great because there’s a high barrier to entry. You need to be able to edit videos AND be great on camera.
I have a huge bias towards blogging and building an email list. Why?
I own my blog. I own my email list.
The social media channels can shut you down anytime for any reason. People on Facebook know that organic reach is not what it use to be.
So how do you know which platform to go with?
Figure out what you are good at.
- Most of my career has been in writing, so blogging and emailing makes sense for me.
- Are you a more visual person? Instagram or Pinterest marketing might be your area.
- Are you a confident speaker? Maybe podcasting or vlogging would suit you.
Focus on one platform when you’re starting off.
My blog is my main platform, and Snapchat is secondary. Of course there are a ton of other platforms I wanna be on more such as podcasting or making more Youtube videos. But I gotta stay focused. I can expand once I have more resources.
One huge “ah-ha” moment I had was about the power of the email list. I have 25,000 people on my email list now for CharlesNgo.com. Lets assume I send out an email and 35% of people open it. That’s close to 9,000 people who read what I wrote.
Imagine if you were in front of an audience of 9,000 people. That’s why I’m all about listbuilding. I own my list.
If you have a blog then do whatever you can to collect someone’s email. Show a pop up. Build some lead magnets.
I know some people can find it “annoying.” But a popup only annoys a person for a few seconds. But you could capture that persons email and end up helping them for years. I don’t think that’s a bad tradeoff.
Monetizing a Brand
Let’s say you wanna start making money from your brand.
My best suggestion is to always think long term. Don’t recommend any products unless you’d stand by it 100%. If you’re going to develop a product, then spend the extra time to make sure it’s quality.
And it’s important to give value first.
I unsubscribe from email lists when they stop delivering value. Some guys just sell, sell, sell every single week. You have to mix it up.
Don’t be one of those people who only talks to people when there’s something to sell. You know what I’m talking about. You don’t hear about them for months, but then they wanna act like your best friend when it’s time to make money. The sale started way before they ever saw the sales launch.
Building a Relationship With Your Audience
The relationship is everything.
Don’t get caught up in vanity metrics like how big is your list, or Facebook fan page. What matters is how deep the relationship is with your audience.
Here are some easy ways to build a relationship.
1. Share Your Story
Batman’s parents were murdered by muggers. As a child he swore he’d spend the rest of his life waging war on criminals to avenge their deaths.
Things really blew up for me when I wrote my origin story, The Rise of Ngo.
Download it here if you haven’t read it.
Ever send a sarcastic text and someone gets pissed off? Sometimes writing alone can’t share all the emotions that we want to. That’s the limitation of writing. The good news is anyone can start shooting videos! It’s a great way to get people engaged.
That’s why I love SnapChat. I get to share videos and it doesn’t take as much time.
3. Share Your Mistakes
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s ok NOT to be perfect. If you share your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, then people will think…”wow he’s just like me.” People learn from more your mistakes than your victories.
If you try to come off as too perfect then people will feel like you’re fake.
The Downsides of Having a Brand
Building a brand is not all sunshine and rainbows. Here are some of the downsides I’ve experienced.
It Takes Time
It does take a ton of time to write content. I can’t even put an estimate on how much time I’ve spent on building my brand.
Remember, you don’t find time…you make it.
It takes me around 2 hours a week to write a blog post.
It blows my mind when people tell me they don’t have time to blog, yet they can waste 2+ hours a day on Facebook. Work on building stronger habits and routines.
Not Everyone’s Going to Like You
It’s a numbers game. A few weeks ago I sent out a great email. One reader emailed me back saying the article wasted his time. I had 40 more emails from others saying it was amazing and wanted more. Should I focus on the 1 person who didn’t like it, or the 40 people who liked it?
It’s natural to focus on the 1 person, But I’ve learned to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
My time, energy, and attention are precious to me. I don’t wanna waste it on people who don’t deserve it.
Everyone is fighting their own battles. I remember working in the Gas Station when I was 18, and a customer was extremely rude to me. He called me a loser because I worked in a gas station, and some other things I don’t wanna repeat. I didn’t understand what I was doing. What did I do to him? My boss told me I didn’t do anything wrong. He’s going through some shit in his life and just taking it out on me.
He came back the next day and said sorry to me. He found out his wife was cheating on him, and I was the first person he saw since. He felt powerless and wanted to take his frustrations out on someone. I was the person at the wrong time. I forgave him and moved on.
So these days when people “hate” me I look at them more with empathy. This guy must have having a ton of sadness in their life if they are spending so much time thinking about me.
Some of you guys know more about my life than some of my friends do :-).
It does feel weird when people I’ve never met before come up and ask me how’s my dog doing, or how did my cruise go last week.
I’ve built my brand from being “rich” and I do have concerns about my safety sometimes. That’s why I rarely show my employees, family, or other close relationships on social media too much. And if I do have kids I’m not gonna put them on social media.
Keep in mind these concerns are for people who go “all the way.” You have complete control of how much you wanna show in your life.
Even to this day, I consider myself an extreme introvert. Even though I do public speaking, videos, and put myself out there, I’m still an introvert.
Introversion is all about energy. I feel energetic when I’m alone and by myself.
If I’m at a conference or speaking, it DRAINS the energy out of me. So imagine how I feel walking around a conference, and everyone wants to talk to me. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE meeting you guys. But if I have a speech in an hour, my mind’s in the zone.
I’ve got to have a day or two in cave mode away from everyone to charge myself back up.
You’re Giving Away Knowledge For Free
No one has shared more information for free than I have in affiliate marketing. And there’s still more to come.
I’ve created my own competition. I can’t imagine how many people I’ve helped become full-time affiliate marketers. I’ve helped teach other people how to beat me by using my own strategies right?
I’ve always felt this is a loser’s mentality. Here’s how I dealt with it:
1. There’s more than enough traffic for everyone.
2. The more I give, the more I get back.
3. This keeps the pressure on me to keep learning more.
Building a powerful personal brand can move you to a higher level, FAST.
But if you’re going down this path, you’ll need thick skin. You might get 99 emails thanking you for your incredible work, and one sour guy who complains you’ve sold out and your emails suck – that’s just life.
You don’t have to go ham with a blog, videos, podcasts etc, but you do have to realize that even if you don’t have “official” content out there, you still have a brand.
Maybe it just includes your email signature (and email address), LinkedIn and your personal Facebook… but it’s still your brand.
Are you working on building up a personal brand?