Jon Michail is Founder & Group CEO of Image Group International & best-selling author of Life Branding. Follow him on LinkedIn & Twitter.
In recent years, the ease of creating and growing a personal brand has increased because of technological tools (such as social media) that have removed the old gatekeeping middlemen who once stood in the way of anyone starting down this path without prior connections.
That’s great, but personal branding is still often thought of as exactly that — personal thoughts and values linked to an individual.
Personal Branding Vs. Company Branding
What many unagile companies have yet to see is the fact that the ground has shifted underneath personal branding further than they might have considered. Many of the companies of today have icons who are synonymous with their brands, but these same people have personal brands that are just as equally linked to their business.
Take Elon Musk, for example (possibly the best example). Most people think of Tesla (or even SpaceX) when they hear his name, but equally, many people often think of Musk as well if Tesla were to be mentioned first in a conversation. The founder and the company are inseparable in many people’s minds.
This personal brand to company brand connection is where the power is, and companies should be looking to these household names as shining examples of how they can leverage the personal brands of their employees to grow their organizations.
The Currency Of Today
No, I do not mean Bitcoin. The currencies that companies should care about today are much more personal than any fungible or nonfungible tokens, and they should be working toward more than just a financial transaction from their customers. Today, businesses will rocket their growth if they increase attention, trust and loyalty.
Getting the attention of a potential customer is one thing, but keeping it is an entirely different matter. Companies spend millions on advertising to try to grab people’s attention away from the hundreds of other ads that are trying to do exactly the same thing. As reported in Forbes, for any of you who think advertising is the answer, take a leaf out of Musk’s book and ask yourself, “Will this activity result in a better product or service? If not, […] stop those efforts.”
Chances are your promotional efforts would be better spent on working with your employees on how you can use their already-made personal brands to reach a new audience and convert them into customers.
This can again be seen with Musk and his famous Twitter account. Musk is Tesla and Tesla is Musk. Musk has leveraged his personal 56 million-follower Twitter account to build a powerful audience beyond all expectations. Although you could argue that he is an extreme case, if you have employees who are committed to the company, it is likely that they will embody the company’s values in their social media presence, and it would be a great platform to convert their followers into customers.
It would be a darn sight easier than spending millions on adverts to try to cold-sell your company!
When you are growing a company, you need to not only gain new customers but maintain your current ones, as well. This again highlights why focusing your efforts on advertising would not be the best use of your time or money.
If you start with 10 customers, gain five new ones through amazing ads but lose six because you neglected your service, you are left with nine customers, less income and a headache (math lesson over).
Someone who is also synonymous with their company brand is Jeff Bezos. Impossible to not associate with his company Amazon or Amazon with him, Bezos knows that trust from customers is paramount.
In his testimony to an anti-trust hearing, Bezos said, “Eighty percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Amazon overall. … We are grateful that customers notice the hard work we do on their behalf, and that they reward us with their trust. Working to earn and keep that trust is the single biggest driver of Amazon’s Day One culture.”
So how does this relate to your employees, and how can it help your business? If your employees announce to their following that your company is the best in the business because of X, Y, Z, you will now have more people who actually believe that you are the best in the business because they already trust your employee.
It takes a lot of time, effort and money to convert a potential customer into a paying customer because there is a level of trust in the relationship between your company and them that needs to be built. Your employees have already cultivated that trust, and you can use it to grow your business faster.
Not the same as trust, loyalty is a broader concept that is the ultimate currency for your business. Someone might trust your company and buy your product every now and then, but if a customer is loyal, they will go out of their way not only to consistently buy from you but also actively praise your company to anyone who will listen. Their faith in you is total.
When it comes to branding, Harvard Business School professor Nancy F. Koeln said, “I’m hard-pressed to think of a stronger brand than Oprah.” The one thing that consistently stands out about Oprah is how transparent she is with her audience. They get to know the real her.
This is why leveraging your employees’ personal brands is so key because they are much more transparent and personable with their audience than any official company social media page or PR flak could ever hope to be. Encouraging your employees to cultivate their personal brands brings you not just new customers but loyal ones.
Money is not everything, but it sure is important when growing a business. If you still find it hard to believe that personal branding can bring you and your business success, it is worth noting that all three household names quoted in this article are billionaires, all with committed branding strategies.