The “You” Brand

Client Centric Sales occasionally asks industry experts to share their unique view of the sales profession.  Dave Chambers was an early innovator in direct marketing and one of the first to successfully master the new world of social media for company promotion.  In “The ‘You’ Brand,” he teaches how to enhance your own personal brand.

Most sales professionals know that it is important for their company to have a strong brand.  Every MBA candidate examines this concept in detail, and marketing people spend a great deal of effort building and protecting their company’s brand.

As you know, Client Centric Sales does not like to assume anything, so let’s define what a brand is.  Contrary to popular belief, a brand is not a logo.  Instead, think of a brand as a reputation.  Enron logo = great; Enron reputation = awful.  When thinking about a brand, think reputation, not logo.

While the practice of corporate branding is well established, few people think of themselves as having their own personal brand.  In the new frontiers of social media, it is easier than ever to establish your own personal brand (both a good or a bad brand).  We will call this the “You” brand.

First of all, it is time to get over any aversion you may have to social media.  Yes, Twitter and Facebook are favorites with teenagers to talk about, well, absolutely nothing (at least that’s what my teenage son seems to do).  However, in an age when social media has brought down Arab dictators, African warlords, athletes, and politicians, it seems clear we need to re-think how we use the modern media.

What is social media?  The most useful sites for sales executives include LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and personal blogs.  Variations of these are coming to the forefront almost every day, but these are the true workhorses for salespeople looking to enhance their own brand.

Rule #1:  Nothing is private.

Don’t try to fight it.  Your last bit of privacy died when cell phones started to include cameras.  We now live in a world where everything we do or say can go viral, finding an audience of millions overnight.  In the world of social media, you are going to have to behave as if current and future employers, customers, competitors, current/past/future spouses, parents, siblings, kids, and even former classmates are watching.  Its time to take the advice that you have been giving your kids all these years and be a good person even if you think nobody is watching.

Why do you want an enhanced brand?  While social media performs a myriad of functions, for the purpose of Client Centric Sales we will focus on using these platforms to establish ourselves as an expert, network with peers, search for new prospects, or share our expertise in a mentor role.

Rule #2:  Don’t get sucked in.

It is so easy.  Remember that social media for us is a business tool, nothing more.  Especially at first, resist the urge to spend hours on Facebook digging up old high school friends, unless your only alternative for recreational activities is staying home alone watching TV with your 12 cats.

I learned my social media lessons by boot-strapping my way through the social media landscape while building, a unique online wine shop with a visible human behind the wine selections.  I use different sites for different reasons, and over time, I was able to establish myself as a trustworthy expert who could help my clients discover great new wines.  Here are some of the social media lessons I’ve learned that can help you build your credibility and broaden your exposure:

  1. A Written Plan – Do not start anything until you have written down what you want to accomplish.  Again, for our purpose, let’s say you want to establish yourself as an expert, network with peers, search for new prospects, or share you expertise in a mentor.  Whatever it is, write it down, followed by up to five bullet points containing the attributes you want people to know about you.
  2. Start a Blog – Blogs can take a lot of time to write, and you must keep up a schedule.  But postings are short, somewhere between 500 and 750 word.  “But I can’t write!” you might protest.  Microsoft Word has tools that help with spelling and grammar.  Everyone knows someone who did well in college English classes.  Make that person your editor.  A popular free site for blog hosting is
  3. LinkedIn – This is the best medium to master if looking for a new job, establishing you as an expert, or networking with prospects.  See Chapter 3 for more detail on  Comment on forum topics to create visibility and credibility. You can also gain exposure for your significant new LinkedIn postings by linking them to Twitter and Facebook.
  4. Twitter – The 140 character limit of a “Tweet” is the most confounding thing for those looking in from the outside.  But ignore at your own peril.  It’s a great way to promote headlines that point to your Facebook page, blog, or LinkedIn posts.  Promote each of your blog posts with three or four Tweets, sent out at different times.  Use a content management system such as to write multiple Tweets and schedule their publication date and time.
  5. Facebook – The key to success is to attract “friends” with similar interests because all your posts will appear on their page, which is viewed by all their friends, and their friends, and their friends.  As such, limit Facebook updates to one or two short paragraphs, linking to longer content on other sites or news feeds.  When promoting one of your blog posts via a Facebook Update, insert only a headline and a one-sentence synopsis linked to your full post.
  6. YouTube – You only need the most basic video equipment to record something for  Topics that remain relevant for months or years are best, especially “how-to” instructional videos that establish your credibility.  Be sure to enter your video shoot with the idea of sharing an enthusiasm, instead of proving what you know – helping to assure your videos will build your brand, not erode it.  And of course, generate more viewership via promotion on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Rule #3:  Don’t be boring.

Ever spend an evening standing next to someone who talked about himself all night? Boring, right?  The same applies to posts on social media sites.  Your content strategy should incorporate 10% self-promotion, 90% personal and industry updates.  Avoid postings or comments involving sex, politics, or religion!

This basic approach to social media marketing can be used to effectively build the “You” brand.  Don’t get bogged down by the enormity of the above.  Investing small chunks of time will allow you to learn and master this world-changing technology.

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