Business advice for artists, artisans, designers and makers
By Hilary Young
The concept of branding has officially made it into the mainstream. Branding is everywhere and, quite frankly, hard to avoid. It’s not even relegated to the business world anymore, given that I’ve witnessed many friends describe the actions of others by saying, “That’s so on brand for you!” over brunch.
As with most new trends, once you hit a saturation point, people begin to become averse to the concept. It can start to seem phony, watered-down, or unnecessary. But as someone who has been a brand strategist and marketing expert for well over a decade, I want to tell you that branding is perhaps one of the most important things you can do when you run a business.
Branding is the heart of a business and the reason that customers will open their wallets for you. The same is true for a personal brand; choosing to step into the spotlight, especially as an artist or a creative entrepreneur, can give you a bigger platform and help you forge deeper connections with your target audience.
Find the right community
A big part of branding, whether business or personal, involves knowing your audience. In some cases, your audience for a personal brand can overlap with a business brand, but more often than not, a personal brand will give you an opportunity to connect with a new audience. Getting to know a person has a different psychological impact on consumers than how they interact with a potentially faceless business.
The key here is to be strategic about how you let the audience see who you are; you have to cultivate a branded version of yourself to both create consistency and ensure that certain aspects of who you are can remain private. When you are thoughtful about the personal brand you are creating, you can ensure that the right people will find you—people who are interested in what you have to say.
Think about some of your favorite brands and the people who run them. How do you engage with their content differently? What do you like to hear or see from the personal brand that you don’t like to hear or see from the business brand (and vice versa)? If you notice that you feel more inspired by the people behind the business, that’s the work of a well-crafted personal brand.
Showcase your unique point of view
Knowing your audience is only one piece of the branding puzzle. Creating strategic pillars of content for your personal brand will not only help to keep you—wait for it—on brand, but they will also help you become known for your ideas, energy and awesomely unique self.
Telling people to “just be themselves” is never the best advice when it comes to a personal brand. Building the right personal brand means being intentional about the version of yourself that you’re moving into the spotlight, and the best way to do that is to come prepared with a plan. Strategic pillars of content serve as a framework for operating your personal brand effectively.
Typically, I encourage my clients to choose between five to seven pillars, all of which serve as the main topics they want to become known for. These pillars serve as your north star when it comes to creating content and figuring out what to say within the confines of your personal brand. Some of the pillars can be connected to work-related topics, but personal brand pillars should also focus on things you are passionate about—from motherhood to social justice to your approach to building a business, all of which showcase the heart of who you are and inspires connection with others.
Set yourself apart from the competition
A personal brand done right will help you stand out from the crowd. In this increasingly digital world, figuring out a way to differentiate yourself from the competition is a surefire way to achieve success. When you can showcase your unique perspective on the world through a personal brand, it connects you to the right audience and creates brand loyalty. And brand loyalty goes a long way when it comes to buyer decisions.
According to Nielson research, a little over one-third of consumers trust messages they receive from a company compared to almost 90 percent of consumers trusting recommendations from an individual they feel like they know. That’s a huge gap, one that has the power to move the needle in terms of profitability.
Just like people, brands have different personalities, characteristics, and voices. Just as all of these things set us apart from one another IRL, building a brand can do that for your business or your personal profile as a business owner. You’ll hit your stride by focusing on what makes you different and using it to connect with your audience.
Want to succeed? Always be authentic
The biggest piece of advice I dole out to clients when it comes to personal branding is to never lose sight of yourself in the process. Lead with authenticity, don’t try to copy what your competitors are doing and always show up as yourself. Otherwise, your personal brand will eventually collapse like a house of cards.
About the Author
Hilary Young is a brand strategist and marketing consultant. She works with entrepreneurs and marketing teams to develop their brand voice, tell powerful stories that connect with the right audience, and yield measurable results for the business. To learn more, visit her website at www.hilaryyoungcreative.com.