So there I was, surrounded by ten very powerful, career-driven women. This sounds like the start to a good story, but in all actuality, it was one of the most intimidating meetings of my career.
That day, I was presenting to the leading US brand for cosmetics. My job was to close a deal to build them one of their biggest Facebook applications and convince them that we were the ones most qualified for this project. I practiced my pitch for days, convincing myself that I had it down and that I knew what I was doing. However, the two agencies competing against us for this project, who had presented more case-studies than us, made it hard to believe we had it in the bag.
Eventually, I got a call from one of the directors. “You got the deal,” she said, and just like that, we booked one of our biggest clients. She continued to explain that we got the deal because the team had read my blog, which is always at the signature of all my emails. In my blog, I talk about marking and social media – the expertise they were looking for. Turns out, they were impressed with my knowledge of the industry and social apps, and wanted to go with us.
I was bewildered. After practicing countless hours and putting forth so much into the proposal, it was my personal blog that sealed the deal for us. It was a crazy concept, but it made me realize one thing: In a saturated market, people want to speak with the experts.
Clients want an Expert, not an Account Manager
We’ve all heard it before: time is money, and money is time – that’s why people want to speak directly with the experts and get their advice. If they’re going to invest their money, they need to be reassured that their funds are going into the best person or best company.
Ultimately, it’s the experts that get the speaking opportunities to prove their knowledge and hook a company. I realized through the deal that my personal brand gave us the edge that convinced our clients to hire us. The personal brand beats the company brand every time.
The client always wants to speak with the expert, not the account manager. According to The 4-Hour Workweek, a lifestyle entrepreneur should never pick up their phone and answer emails only once a week. What I’ve realized, however, is that the winner is the expert who goes above and beyond to provide personalized service and is able to be easily contacted. Once I started putting my phone number on my site, my direct number on emails, and consistently picking up my phone, I started getting more and more opportunities, simply by allowing potential customers, users, and clients to access “the expert.” Just being easy to reach and actively picking up my phone led me to a pool of opportunities. The logic is this: If you’re only answering emails once a week, or allowing your account manager to deal with your clients, you’re potentially fending off the message that you don’t care, even if you do. Regardless if you are providing excellent service, clients want to feel special. They want to be assured that they are getting top notch service that they can’t receive anywhere else.
For example, online management companies are easily accessible, but the difference from my company versus others is that every one of my clients has the ability to talk to me personally and get advice. That has truly been the key in helping us grow our business and keeping our clients.
Online media wants to glorify the entrepreneur, not the the company
Other than allowing clients to contact you directly, personal branding beats a company in the sense that online media wants to glorify the entrepreneur, not the company. In today’s social-media-crazed world, the media enjoys glorifying the Mark Zuckerbergs or Tony Hsiehs of the world because in their mindset, knowing that anybody could be the next creator of Facebook or Twitter is exhilarating and certainly opportunistic. Even if an entrepreneur takes a bad turn, such as Andrew Mason and Groupon, they’re still getting the press and media coverage that allows them to market themselves. When being able to market your personal brand, it’s substantially easier to receive interviews as opposed to, “I work for this big company.” In today’s media focus, people are more interested in who the maker of the product is and where it’s coming from as opposed to what the product is.
A personal brand is evergreen, while a company brand can end
Evergreen = fresh, infinitely valuable, and relevant. It’s always fresh in content marketing, meaning that if you want to write a post that’s evergreen, you write a post that’s not based on just a current trend or recent news that’s happening.
An example of evergreen content is if you’re an accountant working during tax-season. You know that every year, there are three mistakes an entrepreneur should avoid. By providing this information, it allows the entrepreneur to think during tax season, “Okay, what mistakes do I need to avoid?” The information you gave, as an accountant, to the entrepreneur is considered evergreen content, or content that can be applied for a significant amount of time.
The same concept can be applied to personal branding. Personal branding is evergreen because it can be taken with you everywhere you go, even if you choose to move to a different company. I learned how useful this was five years ago when I was 22. At that time, I was working for a company called Future Delivery, which eventually shut down, but by then, I was already producing videos and a blog about my career. That small start of personal branding ended up leading me to more opportunities, which ultimately led to our social media marking firm. This is precisely what I mean by personal branding being evergreen – even if you want to switch to a different industry, company, or whatever it may be, your personal brand is you. It will follow you wherever you go and allow you to gain opportunities.
You can use your personal brand for many opportunities and industries
A lot of professionals start off as consultants who catch their big break because they are confident speakers who are knowledgeable in their industry. Big-time entrepreneurs like Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, and Brian Solis practically built their careers on speaking opportunities. This is essentially why establishing and maintaining your personal brand can be helpful. It can give you speaking opportunities that allow you to market yourself and your expertise.
On top of speaking engagements, a solid personal brand can help with consulting offers. A good friend and business partner of mine, Yu-Kai Chou, has been getting multiple consulting offers as he continues to blog and build his personal brand as a gamification expert. By showing people you are knowledgeable in your industry through your personal brand, people will want to get your expertise and hire you as a consultant.
Personal branding can offer you jobs and funding as well. Through my blog, I’ve been able to raise over $150,000 just by requesting my readers and followers who trust my personal brand and know that I am reliable. I am confident enough with my personal brand that if at any given time investors wanted to rely on my blog for funding, I would be willing to take on the project.
The quality of your personal brand is crucial when trying to gain clients and closing deals. A good place to start is by building your blog or domain of expertise. Gaining exposure won’t always be easy, so it is definitely important to choose a topic or industry that you feel extremely comfortable and knowledgeable about – enough to write a book on it. If you’re unsure of your level of expertise, the next judging factor is choosing a topic that you feel incredibly passionate about. That way, you can feel motivated about growing, improving, and learning about your chosen industry that will eventually become your personal brand.