Is it more important for online store owners to brand their product or brand themselves? It goes without saying that having a good product with a clear voice, promise, and personality is important for your online store's success. But having a strong personality behind your product or brand can also be critically important.
Consider Zappos and Virgin Records: One company is known for its excellent customer service, and the other its exceptional eye for talent. However, as we consider these brands, there is another factor at play. Tony Hsieh and Sir Richard Branson, both have created an exceptional brand around themselves, ensuring that whatever business venture they take on will reflect their previous successes. In a sense, they have developed a shortcut to positive brand recognition.
What To Focus OnIf you spend all your time building a one-dimensional product brand, you may be guilty of putting all your eggs into one basket. In a world where products come and go, it's nice to know you can always fall back on your personal brand. If you miss the opportunity to build one today, much of your work could be lost the moment your product ceases to exist. Let's say you sell that business, or technology forces it into extinction. You'd have no other choice but to start from scratch. A personal brand is always current.
A strong personal brand can ensure you are always two steps ahead of every venture. However, as in everything else, there is a dark side. Attaching yourself to a brand has its risks. You have to uphold the values of your product in your personal musings, otherwise you risk creating mistrust among your customers. In addition, creating two self-reliant brands takes time.
Four Steps to Develop your Personal BrandAccording to Dan Schawbel, personal branding author, you should devote as much as 10 to 15 percent of your day towards your personal brand. Schawbel says there are four essential steps to creating a strong and healthy personal brand:
- Discover what you're passionate about; what is your expertise? What is your niche in the marketplace, and how can you provide value to your demographic?
- Create a unique personality to attract an audience. Don't be like everyone else - you need to be different, you need to stand out! Reserve YourFullName.com, and establish a website relative to what you discovered about yourself in the first step. Also go to Knowem and claim your name across the entire internet. Do it now, don't wait.
- Communicate with your customers by getting your name out there. Get on social networks, write articles; do anything that will bring a positive association with your product and brand.
- Maintain your brand, pay attention to what people are saying about you, and react to it appropriately.
How to Compete With the NoiseYou're not the only one that's trying to promote their personal brand. There's a lot of noise out there, and you need to be heard above the rest. “You are looking at a very competitive environment with a lot of noise,” explains Schawbel. “Anything that you don't see a lot is going to help, and to be the first one to do it is a huge plus—that will get the most media attention.” Analyze what other people are doing in your marketplace, cherry pick some best practices, then present yourself in a different light. Stand out.
Schawbel says sixty percent of consumers use search engines and social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to find information that may lead to you and your product - the stronger your personal brand, the more likely it is you will direct people to your products, so it's important to penetrate as many 'platforms' as possible. But don't spend your time equally on them all - define your greatest asset (maybe it's your blog), then direct all your audiences there. You want your best material to be viewed as much as possible.
Finally, getting onboard with the newest and most cutting edge platforms is a good way to get noticed. If you don't have a Pinterest account yet - get one now. Also, don't forget about video, it's going to continue to grow, so you should consider setting up a YouTube channel and creating some videos. A few creative ideas that have paved the way for ecommerce professionals during 2011 was video e-mails, vlogs (video blogs), how-to features, workshop/online courses, and product demonstrations.
ConclusionDeveloping a strong personal brand doesn't happen overnight, but with commitment, you could start seeing results within a few months. “Just remember, everything has to be backed by a good product,” advises Schawbel. It doesn't matter how strong your personal brand is - if the product you're selling isn't good, it's not going to sell.
This is a Guest Post by Eric J. Leech