The pros and cons of creating and leveraging your personal brand to build business
We've all seen them: High-profile business owners who are front and center of seemingly every ad or promotion they do, personally urging you to buy their products or services. Some do it well, while others appear unprofessional at best.
Is it important (or even appropriate) to put yourself “out there” as the face of your company? In many respects, it depends on the nature of your business.
"There are times when it makes sense for business owners to build their personal brand in addition to, or as part of, their corporate brand," says Joellyn Sargent, principal of BrandSprout Advisors, a marketing and branding consulting firm. Sargent believes there are three instances where it’s especially beneficial for the business owner to be the face of the business:
1. When business depends on referrals.
"It helps tremendously for the owner to be well-known, either in the community or within the target industry, because when a referral is made, it simply validates the owner’s reputation, adding credibility and increasing the chances of winning the business," says Sargent.
As owner of residential remodeling firm Dwell Remodeling, Jeff Hatala has seen the power of being the face of his company in action over his 20 years in business. "Since it’s a small business where I’m actively involved in running the day to day, my clients do refer me personally and talk about me in relation to Dwell Remodeling. I am the face of the organization," says Hatala, who has hosted home remodeling shows on the DIY Network and been featured in numerous magazine articles.
Hatala reports that personal referrals remain dominant even after he changed the firm’s name from Jeff Hatala Construction in recent years to reflect its growth and the increased involvement of other team members. "It’s all about reputation and trust and the image that we've created with our clients. Without it, we've got nothing."
2. When trust plays a big part in the buying decision.
"Knowledge and awareness create trust, so when prospects are familiar with the owner, even from a distance, they are more likely to feel comfortable choosing the business," says Sargent.
"I often tell my team that we’re selling trust; that’s how we differentiate ourselves and build rapport with our clients," says Hatala about Sargent’s assertion regarding the importance of a personal touch in a trust-based enterprise—companies like construction, IT support, financial services, and others that may have access to clients’ personal property.
3. If the owner possesses expertise or skills that differentiate the business from competitors.
"If the owner is truly a pioneer in their field, has a proven track record of innovation or has excelled in prior endeavors, it makes sense to highlight this unique star power," says Sargent.
"Writing, speaking and conducting research, for example, sends an unmistakable signal to clients and prospects that you’re a real business committed to them over the long haul, not a fly-by-night operation," comments Ed Barks, president of executive media training and public speaking consulting firm Barks Communications. He saw his own business base increase after he authored the book, The Truth About Public Speaking: The Three Keys to Great Presentations.
"To become better known in this way, make a cold-eyed assessment of where your strengths reside," Barks recommends. "Are you good at speaking before professional societies or writing for publications that reach your clientele? Then use those strengths in your business development efforts. Or, do you light up a room when you enter? If so, then use networking strategically as your prime vehicle," he says.