As a business owner or entrepreneur, you have two kinds of brands: professional and personal. While they might seem mutually exclusive, one can negatively impact the other. Everyone has heard stories about CEOs and business leaders caught up in a personal scandal. Whether you express personal opinions on Facebook, tweet about politics, or choose your work over family one too many times, your brand is the barometer by which you can judge your success.
Success in business can be defined in many ways: working for yourself, making a certain amount of money each year, being considered a thought leader, or making a certain “top list,” are a few examples. Being successful in your personal life is much more fluid and subjective. It requires knowing what really matters to you, it takes critical time management and productivity skills and the ability to strike a balance in all aspects of your life.
Do either of your brands need improvement? Here are some clues to find out:
1) Your analytics are not up to par
As a business owner, you need to know exactly where your business stands in terms of reputation. This can be done via focus groups, surveys, social media analytics or keeping an eye on your business’ mention with Google Alerts. If your analytics are not up to par, that means it’s time for an overhaul. Ignorance can never be considered bliss in business analytics.
2) You aren’t asked to present, guest blog, etc.
Once you’ve achieved a certain level of success, it’s normal to get asked to speak, contribute to news articles, write for magazines, contribute to expert panels at conventions, be featured in guides, or otherwise flex those industry expert skills. If it seems like everyone else is getting asked to contribute except you, then you will need to ask yourself some tough questions about your business. Is your business in a good place? If not, chances are it’s your personal brand that needs a makeover.
3) You didn’t put in much effort with initial branding
It’s understandable if you didn’t put in a lot of effort with your initial branding: As a start-up, you didn’t have the money or time to invest in a quality marketing company to brand for you. But, are you still using that same amateur logo, garish colors or motto for your business? If you can’t remember the last time your website (professional or personal) got an overhaul, I guarantee it needs it. Your brand is most likely lacking and the longer you wait the worse it will get. The sooner you fix it, the better off your business will be. If you’re still working with a tight budget there are plenty of resources, like Fiverr, to help connect you with branding and marketing professionals at a fraction of the cost it would take to hire a full service agency.
4) You Google yourself to shocking results
It’s not vain—Googling yourself is crucial to understanding how you appear on the World Wide Web. Set up Google Alerts with your name, business name, and any other keywords linked to you. If you start to notice a bevy of poor reviews or less than stellar mentions, immediately take action. In some cases you can ask the person who posts to remove content (usually this can only be done if the post is false or abusive), but otherwise you need to work on burying bad mentions lower on the list in the search results. Do this by accumulating good mentions and positive reviews.
5) It is not immediately apparent what your business or service does exactly
Your branding should be strong enough that people can quickly glean what you do when they check out your logo. An outside person should be able to tell what you do within five seconds on your website, and so on. If they can’t understand your information or if groups of people chronically guess wrong, you’re the one to blame. Your brand is your introduction and first impression to your business and to you. What happens when your branding is not doing its job? You will lose customers in the long run.
Branding is critical no matter who you are or the size of your business. When your reputation is on the line, there’s no such thing as letting things slide: you can’t take that luxury. It takes work to keep your branding safe and superior, just like anything else does, but set your brand up for success and embrace the respect you deserve.
What other advice can you share with entrepreneurs looking to build, or better, their personal and professional brands?
Originally published Dec 19, 2014, updated Aug 12, 2020