Building Your Personal Brand: Lessons Learned After 30+ Years in Marketing 

Posted on February 23, 2023
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We recently hosted a workshop titled Personal Branding and the Success of Your Business at the Venture Center where had some powerful discussions with a great group of local business leaders. No matter where you are in your professional journey, it’s important to take stock of where you stand, what you accomplished to get there, and what goals you can set to continue moving forward.

After 30+ years of trial and error, here are some lessons I’ve learned for building a personal brand and how that impacts your professional presence in any business market. 

Build your audience.

Otherwise known as your email list, or back in my days – a Rolodex! 

I built my list starting day one and gave myself a goal of at least 2-3 new contacts a month.  After 2-3 years, I had the email addresses of some of the top businessmen and women in my target area.  I follow up 24 hours after I connect with people and ask them to meet me for coffee or a quick Zoom to start establishing a relationship.

Grow your list. Nurture it.

And no, your social network doesn’t count but it does not mean that they are not important. 

Social platforms come and go, but Google is forever.

Yes, social media is a great way to connect and engage. But, if you’re looking for longevity, your best long-term bet is creating content that scores well with Google. 

Why? Because people use Google. Search is a crucial part of the buying cycle. I created content over ten years ago that’s still driving traffic.

You have the same opportunity.

But the process doesn’t need to be soul-crushing or so packed with key terms that it renders the article unintelligible. That’s not what Google wants. And your readers don’t want that either.

An easy way to get started is by writing down questions you hear every day. You can transform those questions into articles, showcase your unique take, and let your personality shine through.

People only notice you if you get yourself out there.

Join a local organization and commit your time through volunteering or board service. If you want people to know your name, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and be seen – everywhere.

Don’t wait for your business knight-in-shining-armor to help you get noticed.

They aren’t coming.

For instance, you joined The VC Ventureship or Woman Achieve and went to our first meeting. Did you want to come here early or hop on Zoom after a busy day? Honestly, probably not. Sometimes, getting yourself out there is hard.

But you’ll be glad you did. That first meeting was a blast! After that, you felt more comfortable reaching out and asking to connect with people.

You get to meet people and learn something! What a cool win/win!

Build quality, life-long business relationships.

Creating relationships is more than just “building business relationships.” It can’t just be transactional.

Get to know people. Spend time learning the person behind the business. Not only is life a little sweeter with friends, but you’re also building a network of people who know you, trust you, and will refer opportunities to you. Quality relationships matter.

I’ve known many of these people for almost half my life. That makes me smile.

Learn to love public speaking.

Throughout the years, I’ve spoken at hundreds of places and events. It’s opened the doors to customers and clients – and even the chance to create a course for LinkedIn. (A LinkedIn Learning course on B2B SEO writing is coming soon!)

Public speaking establishes you as an expert and exposes you to new audiences. Plus, it’s fun to do once you get over the jitters.

Sure, some people are naturally charismatic – but if this doesn’t feel like you, know that public speaking is a skill you can learn. Understanding your body language and speaking patterns can help you feel more confident, and you’ll connect with your audience faster.

You can start small by talking about your area of expertise locally – for instance, local networking groups are always looking for speakers. From there, you can check out local chapters of organizations and connect with their speaker coordinators.

Speaking somewhere once a month – even once a quarter – helps you polish your skills and spread your message.

Doing > planning.

I’m all for strategizing and planning. But sometimes – especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or insecure – it’s easy to stay in planning mode and feel stuck.

Do not wait. You will never be completely ready. Even if you only have the mental energy to do one small thing, do it. 

Do it every day.

Keep challenging yourself.

Here’s a dirty little secret: sometimes, being an expert can feel boring. For instance, I have been talking about The VC for the last 4 years. That’s…a lot of sameness.

But it’s important to remember to have fun. Inject something new into how you engage with people, or find a new, refreshed way of telling your story. People will remember you better if you know your audience and think of unique ways to engage them.

Haters are going to hate.

I still recall painful moments that made me want to disappear from the public eye. As people, we’ve all been there.

It can be hard to continually put yourself out there when others want to tear you down, and the more notoriety you have, the more this may happen. It’s okay to feel icky, but don’t let yourself stay there. Life is too short to let narrow-minded people steal our joy and make us feel small.

Be positive and don’t get caught up in the drama.  People gravitate to positive energy.  Be that positive force and win people over.  They will be your personal brand ambassadors. 

Track your successes.

Keep a list of your accomplishments.

Accomplishments you think are “business as usual” are actually pretty freakin’ cool. You have done incredible things. Don’t forget it.

I review my wins weekly and write them down in my notebook – or these days, on my iPhone.

That way, I’m constantly tracking my success.

You are amazing. Don’t underplay your brilliance. 

I’ve seen too many entrepreneurs hide their light, downplay their accomplishments, and hope someone out there will eventually reward them for their hard work.

That’s not real life. It won’t happen.

Some of us are conditioned to keep quiet about our achievements. When you do something cool, share it with your network and let them help you celebrate your success.

The world deserves to watch you shine.