Every business has a brand, or image or identity, by which it is known to its customers. The brand is the combination of all of the big and little things that sets a business apart and that conjures up an image of the business in the mind of anyone coming in contact with it. When I think of the retail chain Target, the brand I see is not the red target logo, but a pleasant shopping experience in brightly lit stores with well-displayed merchandise and fast checkout lines. The brand image compels me to shop at Target rather than at some of its competitors.
A brand can include how merchandise is displayed, logos, signage, cleanliness and conditions of company vehicles, how the phone is answered, how neatly dressed employees are, and much more. Everything a customer sees, smells, hears, and touches, about the business contributes to a positive or negative perception of the business.
As a single-person home-based business, what is your brand? Sloppy personal appearance, a messy car, cheap-looking business cards and plain-paper brochures present a low-quality image that may make potential customers apprehensive of doing business with you. If you’re smartly dressed, armed with high-quality material, and project a positive attitude you create an upbeat image, as someone with whom people will want to deal. You might even be perceived as representing a much larger and more successful business than you actually have!
I attended a party hosted by the managing partner of a start-up company in which she unveiled her new enterprise to Cleveland. The party was held in the fabulous new and high-tech central Cleveland visitor center where everyone felt welcome and the food and wine were wonderful. High quality brochures and business cards were on tables everywhere. She gave a warm welcome and demonstrated her newly released website. It was hard to imagine from the branding at this event that hers was just a fledgling company with no employees!
What is your personal brand? Each of us forms an image of ourselves with what we say, how we say it, what we do, how we dress, and how we present ourselves to everyone with whom we come in contact. As small business owners our personal brand may be indistinguishable from our company brand. If we spent thousands of dollars on a logo, had the best graphic artist in town design our website, and have a unique product, none of that will matter if personally we come across as unkempt, or if we do not communicate well.
So, how do you improve your personal brand? You start by looking in the mirror to try to see yourself as others see you, or better, as you want others to see you. Do you exercise and eat well to keep in the best of health? Is your hair neatly trimmed? Are your clothes well pressed? Do you exercise good personal hygiene? Are your shoes polished? Is your cologne or perfume not too strong? Do you look others in the eye when you speak with them? Do you really listen to what others are saying or are you too intent on what you are saying to others? Do you write personal notes? Do you keep your word? Do you follow-up? Is your car washed and polished and clear of trash? All of these, and more, work toward making a positive personal brand.
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