Among the many responsibilities an independent business owner has to juggle, they also must consider their business’s brand identity. A brand is the attribute (or set of attributes) that sets one business apart from the others and makes it recognizable: the quality of service a business offers, the type of products it specializes in, its location, its ownership, its overall aesthetic, and so on. All of these attributes come together to form a coherent brand identity that will be attractive to a certain group of consumers in a particular market.
Aside from building a business brand identity, independent business owners might also want to consider building a separate personal professional brand. This is because the business you own is only a part of a business owner’s professional identity. Your business may begin with a certain identity in mind, one that typically revolves around your own, but over time, you may refine that identity and see it evolve. A business can take on a life of its own and become distinct from its owner. You may also want to branch out beyond that business and speak at an industry conference as a professional expert, provide consulting services to other entrepreneurs or even write a book. For these reasons, it might be valuable to create separate brand identities for yourself and for your business.
These two identities—business brand and personal professional brand—should be built separately because, for one thing, they are calling out to different audiences. A brand is a beacon of sorts, designed to attract a certain audience. The Bat Signal is a beacon that summons Batman. Your business brand is a beacon that calls out to customers looking for the qualities that your business has: “we have X product for Y person.” (Fill in the variables: the lowest prices for people looking to save money; the highest quality for people unwilling to compromise.) Your personal professional brand is a beacon pointed to a different audience altogether, depending on your personal professional goals: conferences looking for speakers, entrepreneurs looking for a consultant or readers looking for a book on your area of expertise, be it gardening, houseplant care, flower design, and so on.
Neither of these types of brands, it should be noted, constitutes a personal brand. Unlike a personal brand, a personal professional brand isn’t so much about your personality or your personal life, so don’t think about it like a YouTuber or some other kind of influencer who positions themselves as a friend to their audience. It’s about your professional background and your professional persona, a persona authentic to you but not so intimate.
Sharing a personal professional brand does not mean sharing all of the intimate details of your personal life. Focus on the parts of yourself encompassed by your profession. “Independent business owner” is a part of that brand, but the same attributes that are part of your business brand might not be a part of your personal professional brand.
So how do you go about defining your personal professional brand? The same way you define a business brand. Think about your goals, what you do, what problems you can solve, and for whom you can solve them.
In your business, that means, first of all, identifying your strengths as a business. What can you promise to deliver that competitors can’t (or can’t deliver as well as you can)? Once you can answer that question, you identify a target market and a brand identity that resonates with that market and plays to your strengths. You have extensive expertise in planting and gardening? That’s your brand. Instead of trying to be the all-purpose garden center for everybody, you become the place to go for quality gardening supplies and expert service and advice. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, which will just get you lost in the shuffle, you stand out in a particular niche.
Many of the same skills and attributes you bring to your business you will also bring to your personal professional brand. The same gardening expert above can brand themselves as an expert speaker on the topic, but with the added individual style you bring, whether it’s a scholarly rigor or humor and a storyteller’s flair.
Once you’ve identified your personal strengths, think about how to share them online. If you’re given to pithy, quotable statements and are online a lot, Twitter might be the place for you. If you want space for more nuanced or detailed commentary, create a personal blog, post articles to Medium, or join Reddit. r/houseplants, a Reddit community for houseplant enthusiasts, has over one million members. Posting quality content on a consistent basis is sure to get you noticed.
If your gifts lie in speaking rather than writing, short videos on Instagram or TikTok, or longer videos on YouTube, might be the best way to share your expertise and build your personal professional brand. Also look for opportunities to speak on podcasts to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Separating your business brand from your personal professional brand gives both you and your business space to grow. Are you looking to expand your professional opportunities beyond your business? What have you done to define yourself as more than a business owner?
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