4 Personal Branding Tips for All Small Business Owners

What do Neil Patel, Seth Godin, and Gary Vaynerchuk have in common? They’ve all created amazing personal brands around their ideas and expertise, that not only power their businesses but have also established them as thought leaders in their industry.

Many small business owners underestimate the power of brand building. Personal branding allows you to stand apart from the crowd, and even use it to grow your business.

And here’s the best part about it: You can use your personal brand to grow multiple businesses at the same time, or even transfer it from one business to the next, in case your current venture doesn’t work out.

With the widespread adoption of social media and mobile internet, it has become easier and cheaper than ever to develop your own brand and leverage it to increase the visibility of your business, gain customer trust, and forge new partnerships.

Here are four ways you can cultivate your personal brand:

Define your personal brand

How do you want people to perceive you? What do you want them to think about when they think about you? Do you want to be known for any specific skill or expertise? Are you a marketing guru or a small business expert?

Write down the words and phrases that describe you the best, especially the ones that are related to your business, industry, and skills. Include how your colleagues would describe you. How do people benefit from your presence in their team or workplace?

Also, include your credentials, goals, values, special abilities, and appearance. Think about what kind of roles you’re comfortable with. Are you an entrepreneur? A manager, team leader, or a business owner? It’s just like developing a character for a movie or a novel.

Be as detailed as possible. This will help you get a clear idea of how to present yourself to your target audience.

Create a platform

Create your own website under your own domain name (www.yourfullname.com) so that when people search your name, it will be the first result. Most well-known marketers like Neil Patel (neilpatel.com), Gary Vaynerchuk (garyvaynurchuk.com), Jeff Bullas (jeffbullas.com), and Seth Godin (sethgodin.com) have their own website with their domain name. Otherwise, you won’t have any control over what people see, when they search you online. For example, they might come across bad press about you and be turned-off.

Also, don’t rely on social media to build your personal brand. Social media is a great channel to promote your content and grow your audience, but you don’t own anything on it; it’s just a borrowed real estate. So if they change any of the social media algorithms, it can adversely affect your brand reputation.

For example, Facebook has reduced the organic reach of your posts to a dismal one percent, to promote its paid advertising platform. So you must own a website that you can use as a platform to build your own brand.

The good news is that you don’t need to hire a web development firm to build your website. You can simply use a website creator like Squarespace or WiseIntro to quickly build a professional looking website using beautifully designed templates.

You want people to connect with you, get to know you better. So display your name, a professional photo, and short bio (about who you are, what you do and how you can be helpful) prominently on your website. Ensure that you mention your skills and accomplishments in your bio, and portray yourself as an expert at what you do.

Add links to your external website (or business website) and social media profiles. Also, link to any external articles or blogs that you’ve contributed to. In fact, most of the website builders will ask you for this information even before creating your home page.

Also, Google yourself to understand what others see when they search for you online. If you find any images or websites that you consider negative or incompatible with your desired personal brand, delete the ones you can, and push down the rest by creating other results (using content marketing) with higher search rankings.

Tell your story

The most memorable personal brands are the ones that have mastered the art of storytelling.

People are always interested in knowing the story behind your journey. What brought you here? What challenges did you face on the way? What did you learn? Who do you look up to? What do you believe in?

Here’s a great example of how Sir Richard Branson shares his experience while running The Virgin Group.

Also, don’t be afraid to share behind-the-scenes stories about yourself. Do you love Game of Thrones? Are you learning how to play the saxophone? Share it. Your audience will be happy to know that you’re a human, just like them.

Write about your entrepreneurial experiences and publish them on your website/blog, as well as promote them on your social media profiles. However, while doing so, it’s important that you don’t appear to be all over the place. This brings me to my next point:

Be consistent

Provide a consistent experience to everyone, no matter how you interact with them (via social media, email, office, networking events, phone, etc). When they repeatedly come across the same personality, it will become easier for them to recognize and recall you.

Use the same name (spelling and case), profile photo, and bio everywhere, whether it is your own site, blog, external sites, social media platforms, business directories, or online listings.

Position yourself consistently. For example, if you describe yourself as a small business expert, do so on all websites and forums. Similarly, in one of your posts or interviews, if you’ve said that “Twitter is dead for marketers,” then maintain your stand everywhere. Don’t contradict yourself, otherwise, you’ll lose credibility.

It takes time and effort to build a personal brand—the trick is to be useful and consistent. As you develop your brand, you’ll discover new opportunities and realize that you’re able to grow your business by simply being yourself.

Not Motivated by Money? Well You’re Not Alone

Who came to mind?

You might have named a celebrity like Richard Branson, or someone you know personally who runs a booming business. If you’re like most people, you probably thought of someone who has earned a lot of money. (If you named yourself, congratulations and keep up the great work!)

Quite often, we consider the highest-earning entrepreneurs to be the most successful—and we assume that every small business is striving for the same thing.

But when we asked 402 small business owners how they define success for our Defining and Achieving Small Business Success report, we discovered something interesting: Money doesn’t define success for most small business owners.

What does define success for small business? Here’s what they said:

  • The ability to do work they enjoy
  • Being the boss
  • Work flexibility
  • Freedom and control
  • Having a positive impact on employees, customers, and community

Similar findings were reported in an MIT journal; researchers found that 50 percent of small business owners started their businesses for non-financial reasons, including:

  • Wanting to be their own boss
  • Being tired of working for others
  • Wanting flexibility to set hours
  • The desire to pursue a passion

Of course, every entrepreneur wants to achieve financial success—94 percent of the small business owners in our survey have specific financial goals. It’s hard to enjoy being the boss when you can’t make payroll, after all. But they consider their non-financial goals at least as important as the financial ones, if not more important.

And despite the popular belief that small businesses strive to grow exponentially, 88 percent of small business owners interviewed for our report say that they have no desire to grow a staff larger than 50 people.

While small business owners certainly strive for—and deserve—financial stability, it would seem that they are driven by far more powerful forces such as passion, freedom, and legacy.

If you’re a small business owner motivated by something bigger than a paycheck, you’re not alone.

Small business owners share their quiet the doubters experiences

From disapproving fathers to opinionated colleagues to incredulous former CEOs, many small business owners discovered that ‘doubt’ roots itself in unexpected places. Keap set out to learn about the stories from entrepreneurs who have inspired us to quiet the doubters through their own success journeys.

Alison Gower

Alison Gower’s experience with doubters came by way of people like her—other writers, freelancers, and entrepreneurs.

“Doubters in general have been a huge thing for me,” she said. “I think friends and loved ones were a little surprised and supportive, but of course concerned with whether I’d be able to make it …”

While they offered well-meaning advice on how hard it was to make a living as a professional writer, it came across as negative. Eventually, their comments created a new doubter—herself. However, Alison persisted and 6 years later, she’s crushing it with her own business. Her story is a good reminder to support one another in entrepreneurship. Alison recommends taking screenshots of positive emails, texts, or referrals and reading them often as a way to stay motivated.

Melisa Celikel—Let’s Get You Organized!

Melisa Celikel, founder, of Let’s Get You Organized! shared that sometimes it’s those closest to you that doubt you—even if it’s with good intentions. As the daughter of immigrants, whose father earned a doctorate while working his way out of poverty, Melisa was taught that success was achieved through good grades, a college degree, and a corporate job.

That version of the ‘American Dream’ wasn’t for Celikel, though. After 15 years and a case of burn out, she launched a professional home organization firm, netting a profit in the first year of business, with zero debt. She advises that untethering from anchored beliefs is the key to successful entrepreneurship. So far, Melisa has transformed the lives and businesses of 250 clients in 2018 and plans to double that in 2019.

Jason Patel—Transizion

Jason Patel experienced skepticism at a networking event in Washington D.C., soon after launching Transizion—a college and career prep company focused on closing the Opportunity Divide in America. While networking at a local bar, Jason was introduced to the head of a non-profit, who previously served as the CEO for a large corporation. He told Jason he wouldn’t be able to compete with venture-funded businesses, many of which raised tens of millions of dollars.

Jason ignored the advice, however and his company is thriving. His advice to other small businesses would be to check your ego and keep working. Additionally, he recommends focusing on the right tasks, spending your time wisely, getting everything you can out of feedback (even if it’s negative) and not giving up.

Kerry Mellin—EazyHold

While you wouldn’t expect skepticism at a networking event, Kerry Mellin of EazyHold was met with doubt at another unlikely place—her dentist’s office. Although a faithful patient for nearly 32 years, when Kerry shared her business idea with her dentist, his advice was not to quit her day job.

“You’re a costume designer. Why do you think you can do this,” he asked.

During each visit over the next 18 months, Kerry would update her dentist on her progress. His advice would vary, but would always end with the same token, “don’t quit your day job.” Eventually, she reported that her business was soaring and, yes, she quit her day job—and he stopped talking. Her advice: It’s hard, but the best way to quiet the doubters is to listen to your gut and trust your partners.

Susanne Evans—Driven,Inc.

Like Alison, Susanne Evans, founder of Driven, Inc., also encountered her share of doubters. While some entrepreneurs are great at turning off other people’s negativity, Susanne has a different approach—don’t tell everyone. Choose who needs to know about your vision and when. When naysayers start sharing their opinions she reminds herself of her successes. Susanne’s best remedy? Keep growing and working to prove them wrong.

Jeff Howell—Lease Ref

Someone who understands the need to prove people wrong is Jeff Howell. He started Lease Ref, an agency which provides virtual real estate advice. Jeff said many didn’t understand how he would earn a living online as real estate consulting was seen as only an in-person play. He encountered people who never believed that people would actually search for virtual advice on their commercial lease. They were wrong, and Jeff has a successful and profitable career with Lease Ref. His advice: although there are early mornings and late nights when starting his business—don’t give up.

He suggests getting advice early (good and bad), and having the self-awareness to know what is fact versus fiction. Keep powering through, and you’ll get stronger and better every day.

The bottom line is that there will always be a doubter in your path. Believe in yourself, learn from everyone and put one step in front of the other to keep going and keep growing.

Why You Really Need to Hire a Business Coach

However your small business got its start—maybe it was just you doing everything, maybe you’re one of a bunch of nerds who had a great idea and a modicum of business savvy, or maybe you took over a business started by someone else—whatever your story, you probably look like most other small business owners in this one regard: you’re driven by your vision and it’s got you working your tail off to keep the ship afloat and on course. You do this with a combination of intuition and management hacking. At this point, you may even say that your best lessons learned come from your mistakes. But at the end of the day, you know what’s best for the business because it’s the product of your vision.

But does the “go-it-alone” spirit always result in the best for your business?

A recent report by Keap and Emergent Research found that the vast majority (94 percent) of small business owners surveyed identify specific financial goals for their business and yet only 65 percent are confident they will achieve them.

This leaves 29 percent of small business owners—that’s nearly one in four—who have set specific financial goals for their business, but who can’t confidently say that they will achieve them. This is where coaches and mentors come in.

Business coach vs. business mentor: What’s the difference?

Before we dig in deeply to why it’s important to hire a business coach, we need to touch briefly on the difference between a coach and a mentor. Both are extremely valuable assets to small business owners.

Business mentor: A business mentor, primarily, is relationship-oriented (therefore a long-term commitment) and won’t charge a fee. Mentors tend to be concerned about the growth and success of the business owner as an individual. Their first role is to listen to the goals, dreams, and challenges of running the business, and to provide wisdom and advice that will shape both the individual business owner, as well as how he/she runs the business. The Small Business Administration offers a very strong resource for finding a mentor.

A mentor really is a must-have for any small business owner who wants to grow and run a successful business, especially given that mentor relationships cost nothing more than the time it takes to meet with them. Nonetheless, a mentor is not a substitute for a business coach. They each accomplish very different—very necessary—objectives for your business.

Business coach: A business coach helps your business tackle specific tasks and objectives (for example, helping through the process of bringing on a business partner, or managing a software implementation). The coach helps set the objectives, determines the number of sessions needed to meet the goal, and charges a fee for the service. The relationship with a business coach is most often short term, and you could make use of several different coaches over the life of your business.

Business coaches, too, are must-haves for small business owners. But when many entrepreneurs see that fee, they cringe. The gut reaction might be to hunker down and solve the problem on your own, just like you’ve done for so many other areas of your business. But don’t worry about how you can’t afford to hire a business coach because the truth is, you can’t afford not to hire a business coach.

5 ways a business coach will help your business

As an entrepreneur, you started off as a specialist: You had a great idea for a business, and you launched. As a newfound business owner, you’re now stuck with the job of the generalist. This can work for a while, but you’ll soon realize that you don’t have time to stay on top of all the things you need to do, or challenges too complex for your experience. You can continue to hack it, or you can get some help.

1. Strategy and planning

A coach will challenge you to think differently, stretching your goals. Sure, you have lofty expectations for your business, but to rebound your strategy off someone who’s walked this road before—pointing out pitfalls, areas you need to strengthen—this is invaluable. Someone with a unique, but proven, wherewithal for strategy will push you harder while also keeping your approach on course.

2. Technology

Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in small business, and it can be tough to keep up. Tech helps small businesses gain a competitive advantage by communicating better with their employees, customers and prospects; saving time and improving efficiency by automating their processes; and improving business performance through the use of business analytics. Coaches have the skills needed to successfully deploy new technology, manage integrations, and consult on the best options for your unique situation.

3. Management

Coaches and mentors help improve your management and leadership skills. As your business grows, your role will evolve into a greater and greater management capacity. Coaches will help you navigate difficult business problems and decisions, and will help set a foundation early on to be able to handle some of the big, inevitable, management storms that lie ahead.

4. Marketing advice

Especially in the early stages of a small business, the entire marketing strategy and effort falls on the shoulders of the business owner. Coaches can help you see what you’re not seeing. A seasoned business coach who has experience with branding, marketing strategy, and tactics can lift your sales numbers and keep you from spinning your wheels on what doesn’t work.

5. Grow the business

It doesn’t matter so much where you are now, as long as you’re clear on where you’re headed. A coach will help you address the areas of your business that need nurturing to ensure you stay on track to healthy growth. Perhaps the most important factor to staying on track is having someone to be accountable to. It’s easy to let yourself off the hook. A coach can serve as an accountability partner, helping you push through the challenges to meet your goal.

Bottom line: When you run out of time in a day to “learn while doing,” or when the margin of error for learning from your mistakes is gone, you look for expert help to provide guidance and work through complex problems quickly.

To be clear, coaching and mentoring is a two-way street. You get the most from it when you put the effort into the relationship. You still have to run your business, and you’re responsible for what happens.

As with every relationship, you can’t expect that there will always be a perfect fit. The small business owners interviewed for our report warned that not all coaches or mentors were effective or worth their fees. But they found that the Internet made it easier to find and vet qualified coaches who add value to their firms. These same businesses went on to say that good coaching was extremely valuable—indeed, was more than worth their investments in these areas.

The business environment continuously grows in complexity and at a rapid pace. Keep in mind that as your business moves through stages of growth, your key business challenges will inevitably change. Also recognize those new challenges will require changes in how you manage your business. If you want to stay competitive in the midst of growth and change, don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.

12 marketing buzzwords for newbies

Whether you’re new to the marketing game or an old hand, you’ll always encounter (or perhaps pepper into your own conversations) industry buzzwords. Buzzwords—aka jargon—can act as effective shorthand to convey your ideas, or they can just be hollow filler words. Of course, it all depends on the context, but here are the many of the latest buzzwords defined, explained, and ranked.

The ranking system

  • Relevant: This is a word you should know and is A-OK to use in conversation
  • Semi-relevant: You should know what it means, but use sparingly
  • Irrelevant: You should know what it means if only to know what people mean when they say it
  • Hollow: Meaningless—add to your Buzzword Bingo card and never utter it yourself.

1. Disrupt (v.) See also: Disruptor, disruption

To offer a product to a new, previously un-served market, or to offer a cheaper, simpler alternative to a product that already exists.

Even though few people use it in its true definition, disruption has been in the buzzword lexicon for years now. What people usually mean when they deploy the D-bomb is that they want to improve what they’re doing or offering, not actually completely revamp it.

Ranking: Irrelevant

2. Gamify (v.) See also: Gamification

To turn a straightforward, often boring thing like a website, app, or real-life tasks into a game to increase motivation and/or engagement.

Gamification involves turning ordinary tasks that people used to do because they had to do them and turns it into something they want to do. It’s easy to be cynical about millennials and shortened attention spans, but it can also be an effective strategy when correctly deployed.

Ranking: Semi-relevant. Use only if you have an actual way to gamify something.

3. Growth hacking (n.) See also: Growth hacker

A process of continually trying new things to see what’s effective.

Growth hacking sounds cooler than “Let’s throw things at the wall until something sticks,” but they’re essentially synonymous. Done right, it’s a matter of finding an unorthodox—or previously unused in your business—strategy that ought to lead to rapid growth.

Ranking: Semi-relevant

4. Holistic (adj.)

A strategy meant to convey that the business as a whole is considered in the strategy.

In reality, every marketing strategy should be holistic, because any good marketing strategy will look at the whole picture. The word just conjures up “holistic healing,” making it seem almost spiritual in the marketing context, but let’s all just accept that marketing isn’t spiritual, shall we?

Ranking: Hollow

5. Ideate (v.) See also: Ideation

To think of an idea.

This can have a pretentious overtone. Instead of saying “Let’s ideate on that,” try “Let’s think of some ideas.”

Ranking: Hollow

6. Iterate (v.) See also: Iteration

To repeat something until you improve on it.

Iterate actually means to perform something repeatedly, but businesses have absconded with the real meaning and instead, use it to mean “Let’s constantly make improvements.”

Ranking: Hollow

7. KPI (n.)

Acronym for “Key Performance Indicator.” A measurable value that indicates success.

KPIs are real things that you should definitely have but they aren’t just any old metric. Sailthru has a great definition: “KPIs are an actionable scorecard that keeps your strategy on track. They enable you to manage, control, and achieve desired business results.”

Ranking: Relevant

8. Low-hanging fruit (n.)

A culinary metaphor that means going for the quickest or easiest solution for the fastest payoff.

Biblical implications aside, low-hanging fruit is effective but shorthand for “Let’s do the easiest thing that will get us quick results first.”

Ranking: Semi-relevant

9. Omnichannel (adj.) See also: Omnichannel marketing

Broadly, all the ways organizations can interact with their customers. Omnichannel marketing refers to making sure that messaging and branding remain consistent across platforms.

Omnichannel is very confusing, but omnichannel marketing is also a really good thing to do. Just make sure that if you use it, you know exactly what you mean to say.

Ranking: Relevant

10. Micro-influencer marketing (n.)

Using micro-influencers, who have a smaller reach than regular ol’ influencers but theoretically deliver higher-quality leads, to publicly recommend your product or service.

Micro-influencers tend to come from the social media realm. They may have a smaller following, but their recommendation can be incredibly powerful for a small business. So, can’t influencers just be … influencers?

Ranking: Semi-relevant

11. Snackable (adj.) See also: digestible

Another culinary metaphor referring to content that is quick to read, watch, or access.

Your content is not a packet of crackers that you stick at the bottom of your bag in case you get hungry—it’s more important than that. Consider focusing on the content platform and what works best for it (i.e. quick reads for mobile).

Ranking: Hollow

12. Thought leader (n.)

People who are inspirational and innovative, who come up with brilliant concepts that make people want to do what the thought leader says.

Most marketers say they want to “produce content that will help showcase them as thought leaders in the space.” You will probably not become a thought leader from a blog post or white paper; true thought leaders put in a lot of work to get there. And for most businesses, becoming a thought leader is not the best goal to strive for; content should be way more than that—like lead to sales.