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Personal Branding

Dr. Carl Christman

We live in an age of abundance; there are countless products and services available to consumers. Your job is to make your product or service stand out. As advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves put it, you need to establish your "unique selling proposition." If you are selling a product, what makes it different from others on the market? If you are selling a service, what makes it better than your competitor down the street? If you are selling yourself to an employer, why are you the best candidate for the job or promotion?

"The key is to establish that your product or service is somehow different."

The key is to establish that your product or service is somehow different. Are you less expensive than your competitors? Are you higher class? Are you cooler? Are you easier to use? Are you more reliable? What is your hook and claim to fame? Being the only person doing something or having the only product out there certainly makes this easier, but it's not necessary. Your attributes are what make your pitch and your relationships with customers unique.

There are dozens of mechanics in my area, but I always go to the same one. Any of them could change my oil, but I go to my mechanic because he comes across to me as completely honest. There are many financial advisors I could use, but I go to mine because he has the best customer service I've experienced. There are many dentists I could choose from, but I go to mine because I believe he is the most empathetic. Many people can do these jobs and can do them well. The unique, intangible assets are what set these people apart, differentiate them from others, and lead me to give them my business.

I am not the only communications professor out there. There are several other people at my university that teach the same classes. We all use the same course guidelines and choose from the same stable of textbooks. What makes me unique is that I am the only communication professor that has a joke to illustrate every concept we discuss and shows students how they can read minds by using micro-expressions.

There are many speakers that help companies teach their sales forces how to increase sales. And there are many mentalists. But I am the only one that does both. If a company is just looking for a sales coach, they might not hire me. If they just want a mentalist, they might go with someone else. But if they are looking for a unique presentation that will entertain, inspire, and educate their sales force, they will naturally go with me.

Branding is everything. The most successful people in the persuasion industry are those who successfully create a distinct feeling or experience within the minds of the audience. Major companies spend millions of dollars to achieve this. Google wants to make sure that when you think about search, their brand is the first that comes to mind. The fact that people often refer to "Googling" something instead of "searching" for it means they have probably succeeded. Nike wants to make sure that when you think athletics you think of them. Mercedes wants to make sure that when you think luxury cars, they are the first name that comes to mind. All search engines search. All clothes cover our bodies (OK, maybe that isn't completely true). And most new cars run well. If we are just in the market for a car, there is no reason to buy a Mercedes. But if we want luxury and identify their brand as the most luxurious, we will naturally turn to them.

"Personal branding does not make us unique, it makes sure others know how unique we are."

These companies have branding and marketing agencies devoted to this task. For the rest of us, however, the onus is on us. Our own personal branding sets us apart in the minds of potential customers and clients. Personal branding does not make us unique, it makes sure others know how unique we are. Ask yourself what sets you apart from the competition and make sure other people know about it. Tom Peters discussed this in his Fast Company article "The Brand Called You:"

Cast aside all the usual descriptors that employees and workers depend on to locate themselves in the company structure. Forget your job title. Ask yourself: What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value? Forget your job description. Ask yourself: What do I do that I am most proud of?

Coming up with your personal brand can require a bit of soul-searching and perhaps the help of others. I have come up with a series of questions that will help you define your personal brand. Take your time and don't feel like you have to answer them all right now. Get input from other people. And always feel free to change your answers as you go. This is a creative exercise and there are no wrong answers.

1. What are my core values and beliefs?

2. What energizes me or what am I passionate about?

3. What am I better at than anyone else?

4. What is my weakness or what things do I not like doing?

5. What unique life experiences have I had that set me apart? This can include upbringing, education, work, experience, etc.

6. How do I come across to others? What adjectives would they use to describe me?

7. How would someone else introduce me or how would I introduce myself?

8. How do people feel when they interact with me?

9. Why would people want to spend time with me or what problems do I solve for them?

10. What do I want to be known for?

This article is an excerpt from Dr. Carl Christman's bestselling book
How to Read Minds & Influence People.

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