Just as cattle ranchers brand their livestock to identify their owners, successful businesses devote attention and resources to distinguish their brands in the minds of their target customer base.
If ranchers use branding to mark out their cattle and if businesses use branding to position their products, can an individual apply this concept of branding in a professional context?
Everyone has a brand. Few people think about this. Even fewer people actively manage their personal brands. This means you have an advantage if you become self-aware of your own branding and take active steps to position yourself effectively. We can begin to conceptualize personal branding using the “Four P’s of marketing”:
- Product — As compared to a large business with a range of products and services, the “product” you have to offer is your array of knowledge, skills, aptitudes, character, habits, and so forth. The better idea you have of what you can do and what you want to do professionally, the better you will be set up to distinguish yourself in the minds of your target market (whether an employer, a client base, a group of customers, etc.).
- Price — This concept has two dimensions. First, what price are you willing to pay to brand yourself? Just as a business pays to build its brand, you will have to spend time learning, thinking, and planning; this implies an opportunity cost, as you have to give up alternative uses of your time. You might have to spend money on certain attributes of your personal brand, as well. Secondly (and more to the point of the “Price” concept in the four P’s of marketing), what is your price requirement for making yourself available to your target market? You have to always focus on what you can give in your business relationships, but you also need to have an idea of what you want to get out of your endeavors.
- Place — Within the “Four P’s” concept, this refers to the distribution channels for making products and services available to the market. If you are an employee, you will primarily focus on distributing your set of services in the context of your job.
- Promotion — You can utilize means such as building a website for professional networking and knowledge and skill development (e.g., research topics and write blog posts and informational products as you increase your knowledge in your field). You can attend events and seminars. You can send your cover letter and resume to potential employers. Additionally, the habits you develop and the way you carry yourself will speak volumes as to your personal brand.
I plan to explore more of the nuts and bolts of personal branding in future installments.