Several years ago, after speaking at a conference, I was approached by someone who said that they loved my brand. I had to agree – Mabel’s Labels is a unique brand that embraces fun, creativity, innovation and reliability. We have worked hard to create this brand and we protect it fiercely. But I misunderstood the compliment. The person was referring to the brand of “Julie Cole.”
It left me scratching my head for a moment. I’m not a celebrity, so how could I possibly be a brand? Heck, I’m just a mom who started a company with a few friends in a basement. How could I possibly be a “brand?”
But, the fact is, I am a brand. And so are you.
Although I may not have completely understood this fact when I was approached by that audience member, I certainly was aware of it intuitively. We were already using my personal brand to leverage our professional brand. I was actively building awareness and a dedicated fan base without doing hard sales.
Understanding the marriage between personal and professional brands can be a bit tricky. There are a few things to wrap your head around first:
There are certain people who truly live the brand of their company. Think Steve Jobs, Martha Stewart and Oprah. Their personal brands are so intertwined with their professional brands that they are indistinguishable from each other.
How does this help you sell your product or promote your business? People are overrun with products and businesses. We are marketed to constantly. Drawing a connection to the individual CEO or entrepreneur is becoming more and more important. My personal story and family are part of the Mabel brand. I’m sharing photos of myself, my life and my kids. This is how we operate at Mabel’s Labels – we let people in. Many big businesses use stock photography, but I put my face out there. Personal connections with our customers is what sets us apart from competitors and keeps them coming back.
Our market is moms. Moms make the purchasing decisions within the family, so it is important for us to connect with them. Humans are more relatable than nameless/faceless brands and Moms want to support companies they relate to. My personal brand is much like that of our customers: I’m a business owner, a mom to a big family, an autism mom, a parenting blogger and a media contributor. Moms trust people who are like them. Connecting on a personal level with customers and potential customers can cut through the noise. If you are relatable, they trust you.
An effective way to build trust is to get out there and be seen. Don’t hide in your office –instead, be visible to your customers. People equate credibility with visibility. Present yourself in a consistent matter and don’t be afraid to face your market. Being visible gives you the opportunity to make connections in a consistent and reliable way. Because our market does not trust traditional advertising, we need to gain trust in other ways. If they trust you, they buy from you.
I am active in social media and have been blogging for many years. I don’t blog about labels or talk about how amazing our products are. I blog as another way to build community, trust, and let my voice be heard. I share stories about what it’s like to juggle a business and raise six kids. I share my adventures, parenting missteps and the fun and chaos that is my life. I share with an authentic voice that makes our readers feel like they know me. You can set yourself apart from competitors with your story – it is the one thing that is distinctly yours. Buyers have greater expectations of the brands they support and give their money to. Our market wants to know who they’re buying from and they want to make sure they feel a part of our brand community – and we have 150,000 Facebook fans that would confirm that!