Now that you have laid the foundation for your brand and started building your online presence, let’s talk about some tips I’ve learned during my 10 years of building a brand.
I’m going to focus on building a personal brand, since that has been my experience. But most of these tips also apply to building a company brand. For instance, both a personal brand and company brand need to build trust, but with a personal brand customers need to trust YOU, and with a company brand, they need to trust your COMPANY.
Oh, and by the way, now that SPI has grown into the company it has become, we are starting to separate it into both a personal brand and a company brand! We now have SPI Media, which of course I’m still a part of. But more and more my team will be taking a role in educating, training, and interacting with the SPI community.
I also still have my PERSONAL brand, Pat Flynn, that will focus on the things that I’d like to focus more on in the future, such as events, in-person training workshops, more books, and philanthropy.
Another example of this is Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s the founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, a full-service advertising agency serving Fortune 100 clients. His Fortune 100 clients care more about the services VaynerMedia provides, and the results they get, than about who the CEO is. But over the years Gary Vaynerchuk has created his own personal brand as well. Through speaking, his online presence, his GaryVee YouTube channel (which has 2.4 million followers!), he has created his own personal brand as well.
So even if you start off with a personal brand, your business may evolve into a company brand at some point. And vice-versa. If you start out with a company brand, you may become well-known in your field and evolve into a personal brand.
Either way, as you read through this chapter, just apply the tips that make sense for your situation.
Tip 1: Build Trust
Establishing yourself as an expert in an industry and mastering the ability to sell YOU is not an easy task, nor is it one that can happen overnight. However, with some hard work and smart strategies put into place you can begin to create a personal brand that can pretty much take you anywhere you want to go.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience building a personal brand first hand, and although it wasn’t intentional from the start, I’ve learned a lot about what kinds of things need to happen before reaching that tipping point where people begin to mention your name when your niche or topic of choice comes up in conversation.
Before you can obtain mass amounts of readers, followers, subscribers, customers and fanatics, you’re going to need to build trust. This is true of any brand (personal or company brand). People need to trust YOU or your company.
As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Your personal brand is your reputation. And your reputation in perpetuity is the foundation of your career.”
Would you give away your name and email address to someone you didn’t trust?
Would you pay for a product from a person who has been known to not fulfill their end of the deal?
Of course not!
Big personal brands succeed because they earn bigtime trust.
So the question is, how does one build trust?
Put the “Person” in Personal Brand
People connect with other people. Real people. Not websites or products or fancy offers.
The idea is to incorporate (your) personality onto your blog or website, which accomplishes a couple of things:
- It makes you and your brand seem more real. The more real you can become online, the easier it is for people to trust you; and
- It helps you stand out from the competition, because no one is just like you.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to share every single detail about your personal life on your blog or website, but there are chances to share bits and pieces of it that can help you connect with your audience in a very memorable way.
For example, I have a picture of my family in the “About Me” section of my website. . People instantly see that I’m a dad and that family is very important to me.
Also, I strategically post fun things I’m doing with my kids (like building LEGO machines and going to Disneyland!), on my Instagram Stories. Of course I’m careful about it, but showing my audience a bit of my personal life is key.
Don’t let the fact that you’re doing business online stop you from being personable and sharing things about yourself that you’d normally feel comfortable sharing in person with someone.
Tip 2: Avoid Hype
There’s no quicker way to lose the trust of your audience than resorting to hype when you communicate with them. I really wish all internet online marketers read this tip, because there is way too much hype out there right now. So people think that the louder you scream, the more results you’ll get. While that may be true in the short term, in the long run it will damage your brand and break trust with your customer. After a while, your audience will get tired of all of the screaming and hype, and lose trust in you.
Resorting to hype to communicate and market your brand is, to be honest, lazy and makes you come off as desperate. If you have a great product and a great story, and if you consistently create quality content that serves your audience. there’s really no need to use hype to get customers in the door.
When building my business, I’ve tried to back things up with hard numbers, case studies, testimonials, and helpful content.
What you see is what you get, and no one gets let down in the way that hype can let you down in the end. Remember, you’re building your brand for the long-haul. And any short term gain from resorting to hype will hurt your brand in the end.
Tell the truth, or don’t write anything.
Especially now with how connected everyone is, any lies or deceit can spread like wildfire, and it only takes a moment to make everything you’ve worked hard for crumble like a month-old cookie.
It may be tempting to tell little white lies to make your product or story seem more compelling. But don’t do it. Just don’t. Just like lies can spread like wildfire online, it’s also easier these days to find out when someone IS lying. Whether is pumping up your resume to make yourself look better, or creating an online presence that isn’t authentic, it doesn’t pay off in the long run.
If your audience senses that you’re not being totally authentic, then that will damage your brand.
Tip 3: Connect with Your Audience
Answer all comments on your blog, Instagram and Facebook feeds, and even YouTube channel as quickly as possible. The good, the bad, the ugly; but especially the bad and the ugly.
For large companies, responding quickly is a must. For the entrepreneurial blogger, answering every comment is important (see 5 Reasons Why You Should Respond to Every Comment), but it doesn’t have to be done quite as quickly.
As far as addressing the bad and the ugly – I think that’s extremely important. Often times, those are the ones we want to avoid answering because we don’t want to stir things up, but if you can respond politely, and even go above and beyond in your response, you may change some minds and get others to support you too.
A great example of someone who does this is Gary Vaynerchuk, who actually responds to any bad reviews made about his books on Amazon.com. He goes above and beyond, offering to speak to them over the phone to clear up any misunderstandings.
This is what really impressed me about him and led me to purchase his life-changing book, Crush It! (full disclosure – I earn a commission if you purchase)
Tip 4: Tell Your Story
You have to have a story. This is true of a personal brand and a company brand. But for a personal brand, the story will be about YOU. With a company brand, it will be about the COMPANY. Either way, people love stories.
When a story begins, we keep reading to see what happens. When a story ends, we remember and reflect on what we had just heard or read.
A good story will attract new readers, keep them engaged and help them remember who we are later.
That’s powerful stuff.
Darren Rowse from Problogger has a story: when he first launched Problogger.net, it wasn’t making any money. It was only after his wife told him that he had 6 months to make it profitable or els– that he started to really get serious with blogging, and we all know he has one of the top blogs in the world now.
Yaro Starak from Entrepreneurs-Journey.com started blogging back in the 90s about a geeky card game called Magic The Gathering (that I played too, hehe). That’s where he learned about blogging and now he has a million-dollar business teaching others about blogging and online entrepreneurship.
And then there’s me . . .
I’m not afraid to admit I have a great story to share. I’m sure that you would agree that at least part of the rapid growth of SPI is due to my inspiring story:
I get laid off.
I start an internet business.
I make more money now, and work much less.
I think when I first started in 2008, there were so many people who had been laid off from their jobs during the Great Recession, that my story was one they could relate to. It also gave people hope that maybe they could find a new way to make money and support themselves and their families.
I know what it’s like to be at rock-bottom. I got laid off right before I was supposed to get married. Such bad timing! We were paying for a wedding and I had no idea how we would support ourselves as a new couple. For a time, we both had to move back in with our parents.
Compared to many people who had it much worse during the recession, I’m thankful that we had a safety net to fall back into, but at the time it felt really bad.
Many people could relate to my story, and they were also curious about this new way of making money online. I was happy that I could help others by taking them along on the journey with me as I tried different things out online to make money.
I told my story as I build my business, and people were intrigued.
Now, you may be saying, “But Pat, I don’t have a story to tell! My life is boring!” But I think you DO have a story. Everyone does. Even the fact that you’re trying to start your own online business has a story behind it.
Maybe you’ve been in the corporate world for years and years and are just tired of working for someone else. Tell THAT story. What was it like in the corporate world? What were you frustrated with? What was your “breaking point” where you decided that you just had to do something different?
No doubt there are many people out there who can relate to that story.
Or maybe your story is about wanting financial freedom. Maybe you’re tired of struggling financially and like many people are living paycheck to paycheck. So one day you’re at your wits end and decide to start a side-gig selling an ebook about your area of expertise.
No doubt there are many people out there who can relate to that story as well.
Be vulnerable (but avoid TMI!)
You have a story, you just need to figure out what it is, and then have the courage to tell it. I was a bit embarrassed that I got laid off, but I had the courage to tell my story, and I think that little bit of vulnerability is what helped me to build trust with my audience from the get-go.
Being vulnerable helps to connect us to one another. So when you tell your story, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, and tell your audience about those dark times or frustrations. Just don’t go overboard and tell them your whole life story and deepest darkest secrets. That would be TMI (too much information!). But an appropriate amount of vulnerability is key.
Tip 5: Illustrate Expertise
If you want to be the go-to person for information about a particular topic, then you must prove to be a reliable source for that knowledge.
When building a personal brand, you are your content. People are consuming you and your wisdom, thoughts, beliefs and opinions – all through your content. Always aim to provide the highest quality, unique, and consistent content possible. A person who publishes content religiously will be seen as more of a trustworthy expert than one who does not.
That being said, here are ways to establish your authority.
When I first started my LEED exam blog at GreenExamAcademy.com back in late 2007, I was also extremely active in a forum related to the exam where a lot of people went to ask for help. A couple of months later, without even knowing it, I was eventually driving a ton of daily traffic to my site and became fairly well known as the expert in the forum.
Was I really an expert?
To me I wasn’t—but because I was leaving detailed answers to everyone’s questions, I portrayed myself as one.
Forums are beautiful because it’s easy for a person to find answers to questions they’re looking for from existing threads, and if they notice you’re the one always leaving brilliant answers, they’re going to want to learn more about you.
And after a certain point, you’ll become so well known that other people will mention you as a resource, and the promotion just takes on a life of its own:
There are, of course, some rules that you must follow when utilizing forums for promotional purposes:
- You must first give before you can receive, and your primary purpose in the forum is to answer other people’s questions and solve other people’s problems—not to promote your website. Traffic to your site should be the result of people making the conscious decision to want to learn more about you and what you have to offer—not because you’ve tricked them or forced a link down their throats.
- You should never post a link to your website—not until you’ve become well-known enough that you won’t seem like you’re just spamming. Even if the link you’re posting is 100% relevant, it will always seem self-promotional until you become an authority figure.
- Always make use of your forum profile and signature. This is where you’re allowed to be a bit self-promotional, so talk about who you are, why you’re there and most importantly, link to your site.
Note: different forums have different rules, so be sure to read them over first before you do anything. Some forums, for example, don’t allow you to post any links until you’ve been a member for a week and have posted a certain number of times.
To find a forum for whatever niche you’re in, you can simply type the following text into a Google search bar: forum: “keyword”
Get on the Radar of Well-Known People in Your Niche
There is nothing that can quickly boost the credibility of your brand quite like an endorsement from a highly respected, top player in the same niche as you.
In the not-so-distant past, guest posting on big blogs was THE way to get in front of a ton of people. A guest post is sort of like an endorsement from the blog owner, which means huge spikes of traffic and lots of new subscribers for the guest author. Lately, however, guest posts are having less of an impact, probably due to the fact that they seem to be more and more common, sometimes more common than actual posts from the author on many of the top blogs around the world.
In the more recent not-so-distant past, featuring ‘Major Player’ generated content in a list post was an effective way to indirectly get loads of traffic, primarily from resulting shares on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. In this tactic, you’d contact several of the top people in your niche and ask them all to answer one or two simple questions, and then publish all of the answers into one major round-up post.
The best, but toughest type of endorsement you can get from a top player in your niche is a feature, or even just a link to your site included in a regular post written by the author of the blog. This isn’t easy and it’s something that cannot be forced (or else you’ll just be ignored), but with some work and a little bit of luck, you can get featured on another person’s site.
Here on SPI, I’ve featured several pieces of content written by others who have caught my attention a number of different ways—primarily with their unique content that they provide on their own blogs, and how often I hear about those pieces in my social networks. This is probably the same reason why A-list bloggers like Yaro Starak and Darren Rowse were happy to feature me on their sites too when I was first starting out, which obviously did a lot for my brand and my traffic.
Of course now that podcasting is popular, this applies to podcasting as well. Invite a well-known entrepreneur in your field onto your podcast (if you have one), and that will boost your credibility. In addition, if they promote their interview to their audience, that will boost your traffic and again, give you credibility.
You can also see if you can get invited onto other people’s podcasts. Maybe the person who you interviewed will invite you onto their show. As you become better known through your podcast, you’ll find that you may get more invitations to be interviewed yourself.
Besides blogging and podcasting, here are 5 non-spammy methods to get on the radar of anybody online. Here’s what I suggest:
- Retweet (RT) tweets on Twitter that link to their own posts, and compliment them (genuinely) on their work. Since it’s a RT, they’ll see your name in their “@ Mention” column.
- Tag their Facebook page while linking to their posts on your own Facebook page. Like Twitter, this shows up on their own Page and they see exactly who was responsible for the share.
- And beyond that, on Facebook and Twitter, you can obviously converse and chat with them about whatever it is they are talking about. Don’t go overboard though—you don’t want to seem like a stalker. Just be genuine, like you were talking to this person at a party. No self-promotion—just get to know each other.
- Link to their posts from your own site. If they have trackbacks, pingbacks or something like Google Alerts enabled, they’ll see where the link is coming from. If not, they may eventually see some kind of traffic coming from a new source (your blog), and they might be interested in learning more about where it’s coming from.
Getting featured on other sites or podcasts won’t always happen, but using these strategies you can at least introduce yourself to these people and get on their radar, and possibly generate long lasting business relationships with them.
Recommendations From Others
The best kind of promotion is promotion that is done for you and your brand by others.
Many of you, I’m sure, ended up on my website not directly because of me, but because of another person that you know.
What if instead (before you knew about me), I emailed you out of the blue and asked you to come visit my site about earning a passive income online? Chances are that most of you would not even think twice and you would immediately delete that email.
Recommendations from others about you are much more powerful than recommendations of yourself, from yourself. That is why it’s important to not only focus internally on your brand, but externally as well – connecting heavily with other people and brands in your industry.
Don’t think of them as competitors, but as business opportunities and relationships.
How many times do you eat at a restaurant because you heard from a friend how great it is, or maybe you read reviews on yelp or saw it featured in the news
Expand Your Reach & Look Professional
The channels you use to deliver your content have a direct effect on you, your credibility, and your brand as well.
- The design, look and feel of your blog or website can drastically change how people interact, consume and share your content. You can have the best content in the world, but if you have a crappy looking website, you will seem like less of an expert than you really are. As I mentioned before, your first goal when starting out is just to have a blog that works. Keep it simple. But as you get more established and can afford a good designer, make sure your website looks great and professional.
- Expanding into other media to deliver content, such as videos and podcasts, can drastically increase the authority and trust you have within your industry. You’re no longer “just a blogger” or “just a podcaster”, but you’re an all-around expert in your field. Through my own experience, I can confidently say that the results are very clear.
Learn to build a website and a brand you can be proud of
Produce Quality Products
Products such as ebooks, software, membership sites and courses often come with an instant increase in authority and trust.
This is exactly why many people go through the process of working with a publisher to get a book published, even though the process is long and drawn out, control is yielded and profits are slim to none.
Once you’re “published”, however, you are seen as an instant expert. Tours, interviews, speaking gigs and an increase in consultation fees are usually the results of one publishing a book. (For more on getting published yourself, check out our Epic Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Book.)
For those of us who aren’t in a position to publish a physical book, we can easily create digital products (like ebooks) that can have the same effect
You have to be careful here though, because if you put out a low-quality, no-value product it can really do some damage to your personal brand. On the other hand, if over-deliver with your products a lot of good things will happen as a result.
Now let’s look at real-life case studies in the next chapter.