For me, building my personal brand is integral to everything I do. My brand is how I get traction for the tools I build and the projects I’m invested in.
My personal brand is how I sell.
As part of my efforts to build this brand, I’m always open to the opportunity to contribute to other sites. One way I do that is through podcasts.
The podcast, which you can listen to here, was great fun to record. It was also the inspiration behind this post, in which I’m going to talk in a little more detail about one of the areas the podcast touches on: using a personal brand to sell.
The Importance of a Brand
You can’t argue that a brand isn’t important. A recognizable brand lends instant trust and authority to a product. This has always been the case, and probably always will be.
That said, building a brand is more important than ever.
Competition in most industries has never been more fierce – especially online. If you want a chance at survival, you need to have the backing of a brand.
That’s why I’ve invested so much time in building my own brand. For the past few years, it has been my life.
Instead of spending time with my family, I’ve been working. Instead of seeing friends, I’ve been working more.
I miss out on a lot, and that sucks.
But I’m aiming for something bigger, something I’ve learned we have to make sacrifices to achieve.
This is because I know that building this brand, and more importantly, getting other people on board with it, will make the rest of my job – selling – much, much easier.
Building a Community Around a Brand
A brand is not how you see yourself. It’s not colors, a logo, or a font. It’s not the tone of voice you use, or your values.
These all play a part in a brand, but ultimately:
This is why I’ve put so much time and effort into building an active community around my brand.
But let’s take a quick step back and get some context.
At the moment, my main goal is to increase customers for my company ContentMarketer.io. I’ve launched a couple of smaller tools recently, (Connector and Notifier) but promoting them doesn’t take precedence (I’ll explain why later).
Now, I’m not going to beat around the bush: getting paid customers for Content Marketer is tough. Not because it’s a bad tool (it’s definitely not) and not because it’s been marketed poorly (it hasn’t).
It’s because there is so much knowledge and competition in the marketing community.
To try and stand out, I chose to do something that I enjoy and that comes naturally to me: engaging people on a personal level.
I wanted to help people, and help get them to the point where they chose to use Content Marketer to promote their content.
One of the first things I did was begin to host some dinners for marketers and entrepreneurs. I simply wanted to get people together to share knowledge and ideas. I certainly had no intention of selling or pushing my products on them.
I made a point of holding these dinners in various locations around the world. The idea was that I would appear more successful than I was at the time, that I was jet-setting around the world for business meetings.
This was all part of the bigger building-a-brand-to-sell plan.
You Have to Give to Receive
In my experience, most brands see the free trial as a chance for a prospective customer to try their tool and decide whether or not they want to become a paying customer.
I see the free trial as a chance to grow and further cement the community around my brand.
When someone signs up for a Content Marketer trial, they’re asked if they want to have a one-on-one chat with me.
If they do, I don’t call them right away. First I give them the chance to test the tool out.
When I do speak to a customer, the conversations we have aren’t about how to use Content Marketer (unless they have specific questions they want to ask). Instead, we talk about how to do content marketing the way I do it. I call them ‘brainstorming calls.’
I focus on ensuring that they understand what a content strategy is really about – that it isn’t about the brand, it’s about the customer and solving their problems. It’s not about pushing your solution to their problem.
That’s the same philosophy I adhere to with my free trial and phone call strategy – I’m not looking to push my solution (which would be Content Marketer) to their problem. Instead, I want to help solve their own unique pain points.
This is another part of my building a brand that sells. I’m not looking to sell directly, of course. I want to encourage these potential customers to become paying customers by helping them.
If they get advice from me that they take action on and get results from, they’re probably going to come to me if or when they decide they need a tool like Content Marketer.
I see the free trial and the resulting conversations as being key to my success, not necessarily in the here-and-now, but most likely in the long-term.
In fact, remember Connector and Notifier that I mentioned earlier, when I said that promoting them wasn’t a priority?
That’s because these are additional add-on tools to Content Marketer. They can be used in isolation but they work best when used as part of the complete package.
I didn’t create them to drive sign-ups to each tool individually. The idea is that if people sign up to either Connector or Notifier, I can introduce them to Content Marketer, too.
By offering more freebies (even if only for temporary trials), I widen my reach. This gives me the opportunity to talk to more people, expand the community around my brand, and increase the chances that my personal brand will, ultimately, sell.
For me, a strong personal brand is key to selling. Many of my customers don’t buy from me just because they like what I’m selling; they buy from me because they like me.
This is no different than any other brand – we feel affinities with brands, and that makes us favor a particular brand’s product over a competitor’s.
This just feels a little different because we’re fronting the brand ourselves.
That’s why I don’t treat building my brand as a side-project – I make it the focus of everything I do.
I write blog posts. Talk on podcasts. Host dinners. Offer one-on-one consultations with potential customers. Next on my list is to start doing weekly webinars and office hours in which I’ll host brainstorming sessions with small groups.
As much work as this is, I’m not doing any of it because I believe it will help me make immediate sales. I do it because I want people to know that I’m here and happy to help anyone that asks. For me, that’s part of my brand, and I want other people to see that, too.
I look at the bigger picture. If I can get people on board with my brand, then the selling part will take care of itself.
This post was originally published on my weekly Forbes column. You can view more of my Forbes content here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/sujanpatel/