It seems like right now more and more people are choosing to free themselves from the corporate cage and start their own business, which is why in 2013 there was record growth for new businesses being started.
In 2014 alone, there are over 250 million blogs in existence and people are spending more time online than ever, being consumed by social media and online purchasing.
So you can see why it can be difficult to try and make yourself and your brand stand out online and off, and separate yourself from the “sea of sameness,” as Ash Ambirge so aptly put it.
There is a phrase I have heard over the years that really speaks to the notion of creating a unique business brand – “Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.”
In a day and age when so much has already been developed and thought of, finding a truly genuine idea can feel next to impossible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a good idea and make it great.
So what’s the trick to moving from good to great? Your branding and voice, of course.
Over the past 4 years and counting, I have built a successful business based on a brand that truly represents myself and everything I stand behind. Every piece of content I publish and every product I create are all aligned with my core beliefs – or Painted Picture – and this sets me a part from others in so many ways.
1. Develop Your Brand through Your Voice
When I first started out in business, I had just come out of a very corporate job. As a result, my first blog posts were corporate too. Basically, what I mean by that is that although they contained useful information, there was a lack of personality; they were bland, maybe even on the cold side. I just couldn’t shake that corporate speak that I’d learned over years of being in marketing and communications roles.
It didn’t take me long to realize that my writing was lacking the passion I so clearly felt inside about my new venture. When I started to write from the heart and allowed my personality and voice to shine through, I found that what I was saying was resonating with my audience more.
Though this no-holds-barred approach came with spelling errors, grammar fails and a side of cheesy humor, it was me. More importantly, it was my Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or, as I prefer to call it, my Unique Special Ingredient.
Many people struggle with their USP because they are scared to try something different. That’s because we have been conditioned to do things the way we see others doing them. Once you face the fear of embracing what makes you unique, you can start to really cater to the needs of your customer.
A great example of this is my friend Maria Ross who I interviewed on my podcast. Maria is a brand strategist who also happens to be an actress and voice-over artist. When she was starting her own personal brand, others kept telling her to leave her acting behind because clients wouldn’t take her seriously.
Maria was smart enough to realize that what she had learned from her time acting and doing voice-overs was something she could actually apply to her brand strategizing.
Basically, what Maria did was help her clients identify what it is they wanted to do. What was their niche, who was their ideal customer, what services did they want to provide? After figuring this out, she applied her unparalleled ability for storytelling, which she learned from film, to help her clients really separate themselves from others.
Rather than rely on gimmicks or promotions to grab people’s attention, she used her USP to attract her clients’ audiences. What ended up being Maria’s special ingredient ultimately allowed her clients to find theirs.
Finding your unique selling proposition is essential, but after that you really need to consider your brand attributes so you can take it to the next level. What do you want to be known for? How do you want to be perceived?
A great way to pull all this together is by creating your own Painted Picture. A Painted Picture is a clear vision of where you want your business to be, but also how you want to be perceived. Running this by your friends, family, peers and co-workers can really help you iron out any branding wrinkles.
Is what you envisioned what others perceive? If not, keep working at it. If yes, that’s when the magic can happen. Once your vision matches others perceptions, you can really take the time to build your personality and voice to match. You want to make sure that everything you do, say and create aligns with this vision.
2. Stop the Comparison Game
Like I said above, finding our USP like I detail out in this post (which made me laugh cos I’m very much being true to my cheeky brand in it), can be a struggle because we are conditioned to do as others do, which also means we tend to compare ourselves to others as well.
One of the biggest mistakes of new business owners is that they see a brand they like and copy it. What’s special about that? The answer is simple: nothing! So please stop ripping off Marie Forleo’s website, people – I can’t tell you how many people I see copying it. Stop it NOW!
There are several reasons why people copy other people’s brands: there may be one or two facets of their brand that really resonates with you, or you see their success and think that by copying it you’ll achieve the same.
To avoid falling into the comparison trap, picture your top 3 brands and think about what draws you to them. Once you have figured that out, emulate the best, but make it your own because that is what your audience will resonate with.
Also take a moment to listen to one of my most popular podcast episodes all about this: [TSE 81] How To Stop the Comparison Game and Choose Yourself.
Friends of mine from Screwtheninetofive.com really loved Marie Forleo when they started building their online business. Did they go ahead and copy her website? No. Why? Because they knew that to really create a brand that would last, they would have to carve out a part of the market that was unique to them.
Instead of slapping their name on a lookalike site, they took this opportunity to design a website and business that reflected their tongue-in-cheek attitude and one that would exemplify what they stood for. In doing so, they created a brand and audience that resonated with what they were doing and were even acknowledged by their fellow entrepreneurial peers as creating something genuine and true to who they were.
Again, it all comes back to that Painted Picture – your vision – and standing confidently behind what you are doing. Of course, it can be easy to look at others doing well and want to be like them, but building a business from the floor up means living and breathing that vision, and you can’t live and breathe someone else’s dream.
3. Find and Capture Your Audience
Now that you are a little clearer on your personal brand, how do you find your customers and, more importantly, how do you capture their attention?
This is a two-step process.
Step 1: First, you must define who your ideal customer is.
Create your ideal customer avatar and be as detailed as possible. What age and gender are you selling to? What socio-economic status are they from? Does your ideal customer like spending weekends at the beach or do they prefer a quiet cottage in the woods with the latest mystery novel? What car do they drive or do they prefer a scooter?
Yes – be THAT specific! The more specific you can be, the more you will attract that particular customer and the more you can start to cater to their needs.
Step 2: Locate your audience and capture their attention.
Now that you’ve clearly defined who you are targeting, you can start to look for them on social media. There are several resources that can point you in the right direction and once you find them, set up shop and start using that unique voice of yours to capture their interest.
Jason Surfrapp is the perfect example of someone who knows how to go out and find an audience and capture their attention. Jason built his tribe by shocking them. With multiple name changes (he’s even gone so far as to sell his own last name!) and clearly identifying his target market every time he dives into a new project, he has been able to capture and enthrall.
I’m not saying that you need to go out and sell your last name to build your brand, but it worked for Jason and his audience has come to love and appreciate his unique approach. Plus, it keeps them coming back for more because they want to know what crazy, fun thing he’ll try next.
The key to this is consistency. Be consistent with your language, imagery and personality.
“Consistency breeds trust and trust strengthens your chances of success.” ~ Natalie Sisson
Perhaps this is the hardest part of building a personal brand because you must commit to the fact that not everyone is going to like you.
Not being liked can be a tough pill to swallow for many of us, but it’s reality and once you accept that, you can fully appreciate the audience you have developed and pour your heart and soul into giving them what they want.
What’s so amazing is that once you’ve determined your ideal customer, become comfortable with your voice and acknowledged your Unique Special Ingredient, your essence will radiate from everything you do.
Videos, podcasts, blog posts, tweets, etc., will all be a genuine reflection of your thoughts, beliefs, mission, vision and values, and that is what will keep customers coming through the door.
So go on, embrace your inner awesome and be true to yourself. You and your business will be better for it!
Full Disclosure: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit https://facebook.com/