What personal branding experts get wrong

There is a lot of personal branding advice encouraging business owners to stand up, stand out and show how they are the best, brightest and most fabulous person to work with on the Internet.

“Show yourself!,” they say. “Position yourself as the expert!”

There is nothing wrong with showing up on social media. For some people, like me, it is a natural way of staying connected, and sharing my life with friends, family and clients.

But there is some personal branding advice that leads business owners astray and that is to solely focus on sharing who you are as a person, and position yourself as the only unique authority or expert who can solve your customers’ problem.

I have three main critiques of this philosophy:

1) Not all people, by nature or with concerns for privacy, want to center their business branding on themselves as a person.

You can have a successful and flourishing business without splashing yourself all over social media.

Many people I work with do not feel comfortable in the spotlight all the time. And it is not because they are not confident, or don’t value or trust themselves, it is because that is not the way they look at business branding.

You need to show up with a clear point of view, and a warm and human presence so that people know who you are, but you can focus a lot of your marketing on the problem you solve and the people you serve, rather than solely who you are as a person.

2) It is simply not true that any one person, or brand, can solve all the problems that your ideal customers face.

I have been in business for 25 years. I have helped thousands of people start, launch and grow successful businesses.

I have developed methods and thought leadership in my books Escape from Cubicle NationBody of Work and soon to be The Widest Net.

But I will never pretend that I have all the skills, tools and knowledge required to solve every problem my customers face.

I rely on a big, trusted ecosystem of experts and professionals who provide the complementary guidance, products and services my customers need.

Within this ecosystem, I have some specific things I do that are based on my unique skills and methodologies. 

If you build your business brand with the promise that you can solve ALL of your customers problems, you will either have an unwieldy and bloated set of service offerings, or you will struggle to develop consistency and excellence in what you do.

3) A sustainable business is built on the core practices, methods and products developed by the business to solve a specific problem, not on the magnetism or personality of the business owner.

If your value proposition is “work with me because you get to work with me,” as opposed to “work with me because I have a thoughtful and trusted process to solve your specific problem,” you risk losing sight of the true value in your business, which is the intellectual property (IP) you create.

It is wonderful if your clients are drawn to work with you because they resonate with your personality, values or way of life.

Be careful that you don’t promise results simply because they are in your presence.

A good question to ask yourself about the sustainability of your business model is “If anything were to happen to me and I were not able to work in my business, would I still be able to stay in business?”

Build out your methods, processes and intellectual property, and then your charming personality will be a bonus to folks who work with you, not the central value proposition.

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