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Experts Reveal How Small Business Owners Can Develop Their Personal Brands

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As the world population hits 7 billion, barriers to startup entry decrease, social technology usage multiplies, fragmentation of media consumption continues, and the movement of people and ideas increase -- can small business owners afford not to brand themselves?

"You're a brand if you do and a brand if you don't," according to Los Angeles-based personal branding consultant Kimberly Bordonaro.

Gen-Y workplace and career expert, Dan Schawbel agrees. "All small business owners should develop their own brands so they can leverage them to build trust with customers, create new alliances and generate new business," said Schawbel.

"If a small business owner doesn't have a strong brand and their company fails, then they fail with it. Your personal brand is transferable from one company to the next and serves as your best protection against business factors you can't control."

The Power of a Personal Brand

As a small business owner your personal brand impacts all areas of your business -- how you convey who you are, what you value and what you do.

Today, we operate in a brave new world where Google search results impact your company's reputation, social media is the great unequalizer, and unprecedented consumer access marks the era of a growing divide between the brand haves and brand have-nots.

There's a good chance that if you're not controlling your personal brand someone else is.

Simple Ways to Develop a Personal Brand

Robert Greene, author of international best seller The 48 Laws of Power suggests that you must "be the master of your own image rather than letting others define if for you."

So, how can you reclaim brand control and be the master of your business image?

Four of the nation's top personal branding experts reveal how every small business owner can grow a thriving personal brand:

Kimberly Bordonaro, President at Kimberly Bordonaro Personal Branding

"You already have a personal brand, whether you are aware of it or not. It's how people perceive you. This moves the question away from if you really need to develop a personal brand towards whether or not you have defined your personal brand."

  • 1. Define your personal brand. Outline the foundation of your brand (vision, purpose, values, strengths, personality, etc.) to help you make "on-brand" decisions and articulate your value and competitive positioning.
  • 2. Research your target audience. While your personal brand must be authentic to who you are, it needs to be expressed in terms that are relevant to your target audience. Unearth their needs, fears, and desires and tailor your communications to addressing their problems and how you are able to solve them.
  • Shauna Mackenzie, Principal at Mark'd -- Personal Branding Studio

    "These days, business is often a likeability contest. We invest in people we know and like. If you can effectively capitalize on your personal brand, you can make more money simply by being more you."

  • 3. Walk the walk and talk the talk. Personal branding is not a be-all-end-all tactic. A personal brand is effective if and only if your company's offering is well-crafted and of value. Meaning, you won't last long in business with a captivating personal brand and a low quality product or service.
  • 4. Tell your story. Then, repeat it until others are repeating it. The strongest and most memorable personal brands master the art of storytelling. Why are you here? What brought you to this point? What do you believe? If you don't know why are you in business or doing what you're doing, you'll struggle to craft a captivating personal brand.

  • Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner at Millennial Branding, LLC

    "Your personal brand is transferable from one company to the next and serves as your best protection against business factors you can't control."

  • 5. Develop your own website under your domain name (yourfullname.com). The website could be built on the WordPress platform and contain information about your company, your story and your thoughts related to the industry you're in.
  • 6. Position yourself consistently. Make sure that you consistently position yourself as an expert related to what your company does. For instance, if you sell products to small businesses, you should be a small business expert, etc.

  • Melissa Cassera, CEO at Cassera Communications

    "A small business without a personality is like a party with no cake. Developing a personal brand injects personality into your business, making it interesting and memorable. In today's fast-paced, social media savvy world, it's a detriment not having a personal brand. People don't want to connect with a logo or a website, they want to connect with a name and a face."

  • 7. Create a character description for your personal brand. Include your values, credentials, goals, special abilities, signature phrases, and appearance/style. Just like developing a character for a film or novel, this approach helps you step comfortably into your personal brand, stay true to who you are, and sets a barometer for future business decisions.
  • 8. Place your photo, name and title prominently on your brand. Don't hide behind your "About Me" page! People want to connect with you, so invest in a professional headshot that matches your brand and splash it right on your homepage, your business card, and your social media profiles.