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Everything You Know About Personal Branding Is Wrong

Who Are You

Personal branding is the key to getting ahead with your business. These are some key components to remember when building a brand. 

By Gina Bianchini (Founder and CEO, Mightybell)

Personal branding is the promised land.

It’s the thing that will help you stand out in social media, get more customers and take you to the next level of success.

Without great personal branding, you can get by, but you can’t get ahead.

Great personal branding is simple, but not easy.

Rather than dive directly into posting, sharing, emailing and other running around, the most effective self-employed professionals do the work upfront to make their personal brand do the work for them.

In a decade as an entrepreneur, I’ve named three companies and carved out a nice little personal brand all my own (if you need a smarter social network for an interest, passion or goal, I’m your go-to-girl.)

I’ve also made every personal branding mistake in the world and have lived to tell about it.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

One Upfront Decision Can Change Everything.

Starting with a business name that is memorable over one that is generic will save you time and make your life easier. You will have a better shot at growing your business faster with less work when your business is called “Hot Pool Guys” and not “ABC Pool Cleaning.”

A memorable business name is easier said than done. It requires focus and just a touch of courage.

Whenever friends have said to me I need to focus, I have a (negative) physical reflex. I feel the need to immediately tell them, “No! But you don’t understand! I’m so much more than that!”

Yes, you are. But, there is no “but, wait, there’s more!” in the two seconds you have to make a first impression and your business is much more likely to be shared if you stand out.

My life got so much easier when I had a business name that captured people’s imagination, or at least told them clearly what I did.

Don’t Start By Naval Gazing.

Whether you are just starting out or looking to take your business to the next level, personal branding is one thing that you just can’t do well on your own.

You are too close to it. You see nuances and all the things that aren’t technically accurate. You also know where you want to go and aren’t there yet.

It’s the curse of knowledge. It continually kicks my ass.

I want to propose something different to build out your personal brand.

Phone a friend.

Put on your best market research voice to ask your friends, family and current and prospective clients a few simple questions:

  • What do they see as your superpower?
  • What is the most memorable thing about you? What is their favorite part of your business?

The people in your inner and outer circle can help you uncover the seeds of what sets you apart. This can be the foundation of your memorable company name, personal brand and plan to stand for one thing.

Outsource a Survey…To a Friend.

The one problem with you doing the research yourself is that no one wants to hurt your feelings. They may not tell you the truth.

If you think this may happen, look to a friend to do an independent, anonymous survey of the people, friends, colleagues, clients and customers in your address book.

Nestled in those friends and contacts are sleeping thoughts and perspectives that may be the key to creating a personal brand worthy of Richard Branson.

Recruit your friend to set up a SurveyMonkey form with the three questions above. Then have your friend randomly select people in your address book to interview live on the phone. Have your friend stress anonymity. The key is that their answers won’t be attributable to them.

Your friend can compile the results and then share them with you.

In exchange, buy them dinner, a beer or return the favor for them later. A few hours of their time will save you a ton of pain later.

Figure Out What Makes You Irreplaceable.

While I loved the idea of becoming irreplaceable, for the longest time, I was afraid of getting the answer, “well, you are not.” So, I never asked.

Turns out this was a bad idea.

The simple things I took for granted (the dreaded curse of knowledge again), were the things that my customers found most valuable about my service.

Talk about upside.

Now I ask this question regularly and get perspective I wouldn’t have unless I asked. The more I aim to be irreplaceable to the people I serve, the clearer I can see the value I bring.

Don’t Stop Until You Feel a Bit Uncomfortable.

At first, great personal branding will feel a bit uncomfortable. Why? Because you are extremely close to all the things that you want to do and not thinking about that person running 10,000 miles per hour glancing at your profile for two seconds.

Those two seconds are your best friend, but a friend that feels a lot like walking off the cliff ledge when you first meet each other.

Congratulations!

Once you have a memorable personal brand validated by customers and friends alike, you have the foundation to take your business to the next level.

We’ll go there together next.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn

How do you build your personal brand? What are some things you have learned along the way?

Gina Bianchini

About the guest blogger: Gina Bianchini is an expert in creating smarter social networks online and in the real world. She is the founder and CEO of Mightybell, where you can create your own smart professional social network with your purpose, your people and your content, such as Intuit's community for the self-employed. Before Mightybell, Bianchini and Marc Andreessen co-founded Ning, the largest social platform for communities of interests online.