Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Sassy, Brassy, Direct and to the Point"

Developing Your Personal Brand is the Key Ingredient to Success

By Cambridge Who’s Who Contributing Author Jo DeMarco

Recently, I had the good fortune of reconnecting with a childhood friend. We hadn’t seen each other in an eternity and burned up the telephone lines with our first conversation in 20 years getting caught up with each other’s lives. After elaborating on where each of us was in life, we began to reminisce about the old days. I told my friend that I was certainly not surprised to learn about her travels around the world, as she was always an adventurer and loved learning and experiencing new things. In turn, she was not shocked to find out that I am now a small business owner. You were always so independent,” she said, as I explained the nature of my business as well as some of my achievements.

She then asked for my company’s website address (http://www.contessaknows.com/) and, as we were talking, looked it up online. “Oh, this is so you!” she cried out. I was a bit surprised at her reaction and asked what she meant by her comment. “Your website is exactly how I remember you, who you’ve always been. Sassy, brassy, direct and to the point, playing with words to get people thinking, very animated and entertaining and always making an impact. That’s you from the time we were kids.” she explained. Wow. I was blown away. I had never given much thought to how other people perceived me, especially as a youngster.

While designing my website, I pursued a unique look and high-quality presentation. I wanted my audience to be entertained. Although I have always been confident that I worked hard to achieve my goals and objectives, I have fretted and worried about whether or not I actually did put in enough effort. I was relieved when my long-lost friend, who is a marketing director, told me, “You’ve had a brand before any of us ever knew what one was, and it’s certainly apparent through your website. Congratulations!” This confirmed for me in an unexpected way that I had accomplished my goal.

I developed my business using what I knew, loved, held passion for and had expertise in. I also sought the advice and counsel of various professionals, but I made sure that I weighed their suggestions against my own thoughts about what I should convey through each of my products and my company in general. I wanted an extension of myself to be present in every aspect of my business. I wanted the things I stood for and have been recognized for by my family, friends and co-workers to be clear. In particular, I wanted my reputation to be visible when the public visited my website. By saying that she saw me in every descriptive word on www.contessaknows.com, the childhood friend who I had not seen in many, many years convinced me that I had hit my target. The website I created successfully reflects and upholds my “brand.” It presents who I am, what I’m about and what I want to communicate through my business.

To put it in perspective, let’s play the word association game. I say KoolAid, and you think of a big red pitcher with a smiley face, right? I say Calgon, and you picture yourself relaxing in a luxurious bath without a care in the world, right? Why? Because the companies that manufacture and market these products have consciously conveyed these ideas and feelings to the public. They have built their brand and sold their products on it effectively enough, so that the very mention of their product’s name conjures up the targeted image that they intended it to.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you develop a business, manufacture a product or enhance the image that you transmit to others:

  • How would a friend or family member describe you in one word? Would their “one word” be consistent, exciting, knowledgeable, etc.? Does it match your description of yourself and how you would like to be perceived by others?

  • If there was a billboard with your picture on it, what would the tagline be?

  • What is the image you want to convey in your business and/or in your line of work?

  • What is the reputation you seek to uphold?

Today’s market is highly competitive. A key ingredient for success is having a spirited personality – a unique factor that will set you apart from the rest. Achieve that edge through your personal brand…it’s who you are.

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