04/29/2015 12:38 EDT | Updated 06/29/2015 05:59 EDT

When it Comes to Personal Branding You Are Your Most Sellable Product

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Businessman pointing at himself with hand cursor pointer. Workforce concept.

The impressions we leave with people will usually determine our success or failure at engaging them further to create opportunities to enhance or restart our careers. Our handshake, ability to relate to others, the way we speak and dress and how we make others feel around us are all factors in the judgement process. They are also all factors that we have control over by establishing a strong personal brand.

Personal branding success ultimately rises or falls on the quality of one's social skills, personal and business networks and the ability to get things done using these networks.

As a business relationship coach, I learned long ago that having a pleasing manner and the ability to win people over are short-term attributes that can only get one so far, socially and professionally. Effective personal branding encompasses an understanding of what is needed to earn the trust of clients, prospects, centers of influence, colleagues and just about anyone else who directly or indirectly affects your career success.

It's essential to first define why and what we do, who we do it for and our value proposition that resonates with our audiences.

We need to view ourselves like a product and put our egos and concerns about our persona to the side. It may not be easy, but when we "get out of our own way" and focus squarely about the needs of our audience, we get their undivided attention.

Tim Spence, owner of Toronto-based marketing agency OMG developed an overview for successful product and service branding. His ideas about building a corporate brand translate perfectly into creating a personal brand.

Part 1: Brand DNA

Begin your personal branding process by defining your personal brand DNA. Imagine you are a commodity, and ask why people would buy your services. The act of temporarily commoditizing yourself and looking only at the quantitative value you bring to the working relationship will quickly help you articulate your value to the right audience(s).

You can do this on your own, but it's best to invite a colleague or client to join you for this important discovery session.

  • Brand essence (who you are, what you do and why you do what you do)
  • Functional ability (what you deliver)
  • Points of difference (what makes you extraordinary)
  • Source of authority (claims you can make to support your selling proposition)
  • Brand character (your personality)
  • Predominance (your unique edge over competitors)
  • Mandatory branding elements ("must haves" in any communications)
  • Positioning (you must be distinctive and deliver on your value proposition)
  • Values (your beliefs that bring you closer to your client)
  • Insight (your unique industry knowledge that translates into an advantage for the client)
  • Functional and/or emotional benefit (you fulfill the client's unmet needs)

(Source: OMG)

Part 2: Brand Statement

Creating your own personal brand statement can be rigorous. In its creation, you are taking all the information you gained during your DNA session and blending it into a couple of thoughts. Your brand statement is like your corporate mission statement. You can do this in three steps:

  1. Consider your vision and what you do as a professional to realize that vision. If you are a financial advisor, do you want to help ensure that investors are better informed about investing to secure their financial futures?
  2. Define your professional goals. As a lawyer, do you wish to run your own practice and serve a variety of different clients with different needs or do you want to specialize in one area within a firm?
  3. Support your brand statement with evidence of your experience. If you are an architect, you may focus on your work that resulted in inner-city refurbishments to the betterment of the community.

It's unwise to overwhelm your audience with too much information in an elevator pitch, which often becomes an extension of your personal brand statement. Where possible, assess your audience's interests and tailor your response to their question, "What do you do?" to reflect their needs.

Part 3: Become a Brand Experience

Your brand is so much more than an identity. Some of the most popular consumer brands have built a loyal community based on both brand identity as well as what kind of experience they provide for their customers. You will take your personal brand to the next level if you can do the same for your audience.

For example, once he or she has been able to identify their target audience and articulate their measurable value, a technology consultant is often hired for more than fixing computers. They get hired back because they possess the technical skills and the empathy that makes them easy to work with and motivating to people who are uncomfortable with technology.

The brands below are known just as much for the experience they provide to customers as they are their specific product or service offering.

• Apple equals self-expression and autonomy rather than information management.

• Sunlight equals the freedom to play and to get dirty rather than merely detergent.

• Fujifilm equals creativity rather than film.

• Medic Alert equals the freedom to enjoy of life rather than medical bracelets.

Take a cue from your favourite brands and build your personal brand to leave a lasting impression on your audience. You are the most important product you will ever sell.