Consumers’ buying habits have changed, and the truth is that they’re choosing to buy from personal brands now more than ever before. One study revealed that compared to 20 years ago, nearly half of consumers said they trust big brands less.
Your customers want to buy from an authentic person they can relate to, instead of an unapproachable, unrelatable business person or logo. The internet is responsible for this market shift, as social media provides consumers with a more intimate look behind the scenes of a company. This has lead to customers placing preference in personal brands, and this is why you’ve probably heard personal brands like Gary Vaynerchuk preach the importance of building yours.
However, it’s no secret that building a wildly successful personal brand like billionaire Kylie Jenner, Richard Branson, or Oprah requires a significant amount of hard work, time and energy. You need to factor in the amount of content you’ll need to produce and publish on a regular basis, the commitment to showing up online and nurturing an audience, and the dedication to sharing parts of your life you may have never planned to.
Building a personal brand isn’t an easy nor quick feat – and some even argue that having a personal brand can actually do you and your business more harm than good – if not strategically handled.
I’ve reached out to some of my favorite personal branding colleagues to get their take on some of the pros and cons of building a personal brand, so you can decide whether or not it’s worth it for you.
Pro: Your Business Will Gain A Competitive Edge
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are approximately 23 million small businesses in the United States alone. If you don’t have a strategy for standing out from your competition, you could find yourself struggling for years to come.
The good news is if you are the face of your business, building your personal brand will give you the competitive edge you need to stand out.
By strategically building your personal brand as the owner of your company, you will build a unique type of trust with your target market. You will be able to connect with them on a personal, intimate level and show your market who the person behind the logo is. This is what consumers look for when making buying decisions.
If you are the face of your business, building your personal brand now is critical to gaining authority within your market and earning consumers’ trust.
Con: It Can Limit Your Ability To Live In The Moment
If you commit to building your personal brand, just be aware that it takes a lot of effort, and one of the greatest struggles you may face might be living in the moment.
Pro: You Become More Visible Online
With almost 4.4 billion active internet users, it’s no secret becoming more visible online equals an endless plethora of opportunities for new customers, partnerships, and business growth. Personal branding can drastically increase your (and your business’s) visibility online. The reason personal brands garner such massive audiences, is because they tell a never-ending story. Just look at Cristiano Ronaldo’s whopping 167 million Instagram following. He’s branched out with his own personal brand – ending up with more followers that Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande.
Humans have been drawn to stories since the beginning of time, and personal branding is just that: a story. Personal branding means documenting your life day by day and sharing the highs and lows of your story. Transparency and authenticity is what attracts an audience online and makes you “followable” in this digital age.
I recently chatted with Lauren Gordon, storytelling expert and co-founder of Webmetrix Design, and she expanded on the topic of storytelling with, “I’ve trained thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners on how to grow their personal brand, and the first exercise I always have them do is figure out their brand story. The problem is, most people think their story isn’t interesting enough to follow – which couldn’t be further from the truth. YOU have a story that your market WILL follow and buy into if you tell it right. In just over a year of sharing my story on social media, I attracted a following of over 5,000 people, most of which became paying customers in my business. Don’t ever underestimate the power of your story and the people who are waiting to hear it right now.”
Con: Prepare For Criticism (and learn how to handle it)
Though having a large audience around your brand online surely has its perks (hello organic reach, free marketing, and massive authority), it also has its downsides.
If you commit to building your personal brand, be prepared for the criticism you’re bound to face. By building your personal brand, you are actually building an image of yourself – a public image. Some people won’t agree with your content, your message, and your story. Though you may not face any internet “trolls” until your audience is of considerable size, be prepared for when the day comes. Have thick skin, and remember that not everyone will agree with your mission.
In a phone conversation, Melissa Henry, visual branding expert, expanded on the topic of criticism by saying, “Part of growing your brand will include expressing thoughts and ideas that may be controversial or at the very least, strike a chord with some people who fiercely disagree with you. The fact is that when you step into the public eye and express your true thoughts and beliefs, you put yourself at risk for criticism. If you truly want to live your brand as authentically as possible, you cannot silence the ideas that will ultimately help the people you want to serve. Make it a point to proactively increase your capacity for hearing criticism.”
There is not one person on the planet that everyone likes. Not one. Accept the fact that not everyone will like you or agree with you – keep spreading your message.
Pro: You Can Build & Leverage Relationships With Other Well-Known Brands
Leveraging established brands for partnerships is one of the fastest ways to grow your business to new heights. Unfortunately, in the modern age we live in, you won’t have much luck building strategic relationships with other influencers or brands in your industry unless you have a strong personal brand yourself. Smart companies won’t partner with brands unless they look credible and reputable, which is where having a personal brand comes in handy.
If you plan to form brand partnerships to boost your business’s sales and visibility, spend some time building your own personal brand first. By doing so, you’ll have a much easier time getting your foot in the door and approaching large established brands with ideas and proposals.
Bonus Pro: Your Career Will Become Stronger
Smart business owners know we live in a world where sales and marketing are better executed by employees with strong personal brands than by the brands themselves. This means companies are hiring employees not based on resumes and cover letters, but on information they find online, such as their social media presence, personal website, blog, major media, and more.
This means the benefits of having a personal brand extend far beyond entrepreneurs and business owners.
If you are an employee, building your personal brand can be one of the smartest choices you make this year. Companies will see even more value in hiring you, and if you already work for a company you love, building your personal brand can put you in a strong position for growth and promotion within the company.
In an email conversation, Bettina Buhr, bilingual personal branding consultant for employees, said, “Personal branding in the corporate world is not about wanting to be the shiny star standing out from the team. It’s about looking at yourself as a brand. You start with taking a close look at your passions, strengths, and past results. Based on that, you look into current trends in your industry and gaps within the company you work for (or want to work for). When you match the insights of those two steps you will clearly see how you can create business-relevant value to a company as well as the customer in the future. This clarity about yourself will help you communicate your unique value in a way that you are seen for the positions you are passionate about doing and where you create real value add.”
Takeaway: Smart companies, employees, and business owners have taken note of the market shift and are choosing to build their personal brands despite the downsides and challenges associated. Take note of the honest pros and cons of personal branding listed above, and decide whether or not it’s worth it for you.
If you choose to build your personal brand, remember that it’s all about communicating your story in an authentic, valuable way so you can build trust with your target market and gain credibility within your industry.