You want to be seen as a professional online. You’re worried that not looking professional enough is losing sales and you’re embarrassed to send over a great lead or network contact to your website right?
What if I told you that having the standard “professional” brand could also lose you clients and sales!?
93% of the time when clients come to me to create branding, logos, social media layouts, and design a new website is “I want it to look professional.”
After talking through their desires for their branding and website project in a discovery call I end up having a very important conversation with them that could make or break their venture’s success.
We want our online digital presence to be consistent and well put together. That’s how I define professional branding. Yet many times these clients (in every industry or age group, esp the older half of the millennial group) are hung up on an old belief: The old belief that we need to look corporate. That we should and can hide behind our graphics, logos and stock photos. These limiting beliefs are:
Looking BIG and established will help them succeed.
They should be a giant even when starting up.
That looking more corporate will sell better.
That corporate is more trustworthy.
15 to 20 years ago that might have been the case. Many of us were raised to trust well known brands, and big companies. When we are little we might dream of working for a big company and getting the corner office. Being important and making great money.
A very few decades ago we felt comfortable hiring and buying from very corporate companies. Where every photo was a stock photo or hired models pretending to be employees or customers. Where you always started with talking to the lowest ranking staff member. Assistants of assistants and call centers must mean you’re very successful.
That power attracted the masses.
At the same time we still valued the relationships at our local mom and pop stores too right? They may be small potatoes but if in your local stores the owner came out and helped you find something or checked you out it was remarkable service. We felt special.
Modern society has changed and anyone can run a business from their phone and computer. Many start out trying to look bigger than they are. We jump to wanting to look established and corporate. Using stock photos and saying “we” when there is only an “I”. And pretending to be our own custom service department. My hand is raised, I am guilty of this too!
THE THEORIES WHY
Theory 1: This is how we grew up. Suits and stuffy offices in high rises were the definition of success. Power was success.
Theory 2: Might be the strongest reason we want to look corporate and overly professional. We are afraid of failure. And when we’re afraid of failure and judgement by others we’re afraid to show our face. When we’re afraid to show our face we lose the best opportunity we have to connect with our audience, clients and customers.
I also hear that people are afraid to look like a show off. Or look self centered by having tons of photos of themselves on their website. I have even heard multiple speakers and educators express these feelings. They want to hide behind a logo, their book cover and stock images. As a speaker though. Your face is what sells! That’s what’s memorable and creates connection.
It’s the same with every industry.
THE SHIFT IN MARKETING
In the past several decades marketing has shifted from promoting the functionality to creating an emotion. Including attractive men and women of the opposite gender and creating in image of who you will be and how you will feel when you buy and use their product. Including more scenes and story telling. Fabulous people in a lifestyle using the product instead of the infomercial style of showing how it works and all the things you get.
Since the 70’s we’ve increased from seeing 500 brand messages a day to over 5,000! We are learning how to ignore and tune out the ads in our feeds, in the side bars, and billboards. We don’t desire to be sold to we desire brands that engage us and improve our lives. Brands that we can have a relationship with, that inspire us and that bring us close to our dreams and goals.
My dream wouldn’t be to have wrinkle free shirts for example. It might to be one of those super moms and wives that get everything done and still have time for friends. Or to be the next manager and head of the department and having a wrinkled skirt would stop me from doing that.
LACK OF TRUST IN CORPORATIONS
A recent study showed that 92% of people trust a recommendation from a person over a company because people have lost trust in corporate branding. Large corporations have become the enemy in our eyes. Money hungry, closing up local stores, or creating environmentally destructive products is how we see many of them now.
Companies are looking to influencers and their customers to promote themselves now. People do business with who they KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST.
Your audience can’t get to know a logo.
People can like a product but if they don’t like how the company does something else they will go somewhere else. Customers won’t trust a secretive company. One who isn’t open to answering questions about where they source their materials, or shows who they are and who works for them.
I remember back, (when I used to have TV) I think it was Kellogs… whose commercials started showing their employees in the factory making your product and how much they love and believe in the product. Or Florida Orange Juice, they are probably actors but they look like real people and they are picking really beautiful ripe fruit to make your juice with.
People want to know who they do business with. Or at least what the company does or stands for.
THE FUTURE OF BRANDING IS PERSONAL
A recent survey of 1,700 executives from around the world showed that most believe that the personal brand of the CEO will become more important than the company brand.
Take Elon Musk for example. Before he deleted his instagram account he had 8 million followers. At the time that was a much higher number than his company Tesla. Think Richard Branson, Oprah and Marie Forleo.
A leading branding professional 20 years ago said:
“Professionals will use the same technology as big corporations to market themselves.”
- Tom Peters
That prediction has come true.
People want to have personal connections. It’s our human DNA. To survive with the tribe we need to make connections to people and faces. We want to know who is behind it all. Are they someone we want in our tribe? Do they understand and care about us? Do we want to be like them?
PERSONAL BRANDING WORKS IN ALL INDUSTRIES
“A personal brand is the most powerful tool you have to accomplish your goals. Branding is no longer about companies managing our perception. It’s about people creating and sharing human experiences.” - Dr. Talaya Waller
I have given site audits and redesigned websites for several real estate investing groups and individuals. Some of these people understood that they’re not asking people to do business and hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars to a logo or hidden company.
They understood that it was themselves personally that built the trust of these investors they were looking to attract. They understand that their business is relationship based.
One couple built the brand around themselves. Photos and videos of them educating, showing up on youtube and not being afraid to be themselves. Which was the funny and sweet, hands on, t-shirt wearing people they were.
Another client and team I didn’t end up working with wanted to hide behind their company thinking it made them more trustworthy. They didn’t understand that custom design and websites evoked trust or valued that aspect of creating their business. They were insistent on only having one corporate looking headshot of the main team lead and wanted a stock and corporate looking website.
It’s easy to use a website template from your website platform, put in stock photos and create a scam business. It happens everyday. I am also running into a new phenomenon. Website agencies or hosting companies are popping up more and more. Barfing out duplicate sites that a dentist office or accountant can plug their logo on and replace the staff photos and have an instant website. Even the blog content is created for the masses and not unique to the company. You can feel it when you see it right?
Some sites evoke your trust naturally without you thinking about it. And others look phoney and you skip right by without taking a second glance. The more templated and generic a site, flyers or sales funnels look the less that people trust them. The less calls and sales you will make. Especially if there’s not a photo of the people behind the offer.
People don’t trust something that looks half assed or like a kid did it because it shows lack of care or pride in the service or product. The average consumer, even our parents age that are not tech savvy at all understand and appreciate well thought out websites and custom design. They know someone cares and is dedicated and not a fly by business.
YOU HAVE A PERSONAL BRAND ALREADY
Whether you’ve worked on it or not - you have a personal brand. It might not be planned, curated or consistent but your persona builds itself.
Let’s clarify one thing before we move farther. The difference between personality and persona is very important when personal branding.
The definition of personality is the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual's distinctive character. Your personality is in your head. This includes your likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, values and fears. You can like many designs, styles music. You are more than one thing. You can be a mom, lady boss, diva and tom boy.
The definition of persona is the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others. It’s natural and not our fault that we show up differently at work then home. With friends, parents and with our lover. We create (mindfully or not) a persona for each of our roles. What we allow the outside world to perceive of our inner selves, and of our personality.
It’s not that you are acting like someone else. You are just pulling out more of a specific part of you. All can be a version of your authentic self. You don’t have to be the safe version of your self in all areas of life to be authentic.
AN AUTHENTIC PERSONAL BRAND AND PERSONA
Your personal brand is a persona. What you say, wear, think and act like and contribute - build a personal brand. You are like Mr. PotatoHead. You have all these aspects of your personality that you can pull out and put on. Changing the way the world perceives you.
Authentic branding is pulling out something that already exists inside of you. You can’t put on something that isn’t in your bucket. People will know quickly. But you can curate what you pull out of your bucket and how you show up. Building your persona and a personal brand.
You don’t want to pull everything out of your brain bucket and wear it. That's confusing and impossible to manage. You can keep what you want for the other parts of your life.
You have a personal brand as an employee in a company, as a freelancer or business owner. Your personal brand will help you or hinder you wherever you go.
Think about a sport celebrity. It doesn’t matter when they get drafted and change their uniform and team. Their name, their stats, their identity and their fans follow them.
Same with a business powerhouse. Steve Jobs was the Steve Jobs persona when he was working for Apple or not. That was his personal brand.
“You don’t need to be Oprah or Richard Branson to have a great personal brand. It’s just a matter of continually crafting and curating your digital presence and most importantly, keep it real! Your honesty, transparency and authenticity are what will differentiate you in the long-run. You never get a second chance to make a first impression—make it one that will set you apart, build trust and reflect who you are.”
- Forbes Magazine
Forbes said that people with a strong personal brand earn an average of 25% more through their lifetime. 25% exponentially year over year. They lead more, win more and earn more.
MY TOP 4 SECRETS TO PERSONAL BRAND SUCCESS
1: Use Photos of You - No matter your business
Don’t miss the opportunity to show photos of you. Have a photo of you on every page if you can or multiple. They don’t need to be posed headshots - those wont hurt but they won’t work like lifestyle shots. Shots of you in action doing what you do. Seeing you using your product or what looks like conducting your services and living your life let’s us get to know you. To get comfortable with you before having that sometimes intimidating booking call. To know you stand behind your product. Literally and figuratively.
If you are willing to put your face to it then I am going to trust you more.
2: Don’t use “we” or write about yourself in third person
Authors I’m talking to you! I think the tradition of having the author bio being written by someone else and in third person influences how you think your website about page or content should be written. Speakers I am talking to you too! You might feel more credible to have an introduction to who you are and what you do before you go on stage right? That adds credibility and sets the frame for how the audience seeing you yet doesn’t work like that on a website.
Service providers and product creators - we see important people being announced by others or talked about in 3rd person and we adopt those beliefs too.
Remember that 92% of people trust a personal referral even if they don’t know that person!
That’s when we want to use this tool. In text and video testimonials sprinkled all over your website and marketing.
You might feel more comfortable writing your website copy in third person. There is a time and place for that but I highly encourage all websites to be written in first person and directly to the reader like you were talking to a friend. If you don’t have a team never say we. If you do have a team use it as appropriate when talking about you all do together.
When you meet the owner of even a local shop and they talk to you and serve you feel special! If your reader thinks you hired out your website content then why should they trust you? Are you too important to take the time to write to them? Then you definitely are too busy to speak to them or give your full attention then I would assume. Do you not believe in your product or service enough to stand behind it yourself?
3: Be both professional and personal
Personality and Persona is what connects. The best brands look well put together, are clear and easy to read and consistent. Attention to detail has been paid and everything is done with care. But they are also personal. They have a unique voice. They’ll use contractions like we do normally in speech. They appeal to you with their passionate words and stories and experiences. Drawing you in. Putting their own spin on whatever it is they do.
“You don’t look at your competitors and say we are going to do it better. You look at your competitors and say we are going to do it differently.” - Steve Jobs
The most successful brands are different. Back in the 90’s (I think) Apple was struggling and were almost going bankrupt. Until they did something different. They didn’t have to create a brand new computer or new technology. They made those big ol square computer monitors that were a puke grey color and rebuilt them into a more rounded cool shape and in different colors.
That’s it. Saved the company and had people wanting to buy the new monitor even if nothing was wrong with their old.
They were still professional right? But now the product itself is personal and they were expressing personality coming from the company. Giving customers a fun vibe and opportunity to customize their experience and workspace created engagement and improved their lives even a little bit without having to create a new device.
Using fun photos of you, being playful in your clothes, the colors of your site, the image you use can all be professional but create personality.
I include doodles in my blogs. Deciding to ignore the fear of “what will people think of an imperfect drawing. Will they think that I’m “a bad artist? That I’m not professional?” Instead embracing the personality and fun I can inject with my doodles.
4: Invest in profession design or templates
I know in startups that cash can be tight. The only path to success - THE ONLY PATH is to invest in your business. You can either invest more money in getting guidance and done-for-you services. Or you can invest less money and invest more of your time learning how to do it right and doing it yourself.
Compromising on investing more time or money to start and establish their online presence is the slow and painful track I have seen many startups take. And then I find them a year more down road redoing everything and investing money or time anyways.
If you’re tighter on cash then you invest time. You have no other option. But if you are like me or like many of my clients that are coming to me after 3 or so years of DIYing it you realize that time is your most valuable asset. And you show up more dedicated to investing what it takes to set yourself up for success. Using a little more money now, which saves tears and headache later.
Don’t cut corners where it matters most. I think DIYing and risking looking less professional but more personal will always bring more success down the road than using a copycat website hosting agency that populates your content, stock images, blog posts and gives everyone the same ol poo.
POWERFUL PERSONAL BRANDING IS NOT ABOUT YOU
In the website content process client hear WIIFM( What’s in it for me?) over and over. That's how our human brains work. People think that personal branding is talking about yourself all the time. So they think it’s too pompous.
Personal branding isn’t really about you. Just like your about page really isn’t about you. It’s about how people know you to be. What they truly value about you and what you can help them achieve and experience.
Remember it’s not just your function that is marketable. What makes connections and converts is how you make people feel.
“People don’t care about you until they know how much you care.” - Ann Bastianelli
Ann Bastianelli has a great story of how her personal brand opened doors up for her in her career in marketing and PR. She also talks about 3 steps to build your own strong personal brand. 1: Be self aware 2: Tell your story with your life & live into your story. 3: Build relationships
Watch the Ted Talk Here
IF YOU READ ANYTHING AT ALL READ THIS:
You can be both professional and personal. If there was one thing that I would hang my hopes and dreams on it’s being personal. My motto is “Perfection will never replace authenticity.” The world is changing. Client & customer mentality has shifted. Overly corporate, templated and inhuman brands are no longer evoking trust or connect well with their audiences.
I have given site audits and redesigned websites for several real estate investing groups and individuals. Some of these people understood that they are not asking people to do business with a logo or company. They understood that it was them personally that built the trust of these investors they were looking to attract. No matter your industry or field as an employee or business owner - personal branding will bring you at least 25% more income exponentially over your lifetime. Personal branding opens more doors. Remember that you’re always interviewing for your future life. A connection you impressed upon now could be a connection that changes your life and career one, five or ten years down the road.
I’m fiercely passionate about connecting you and your mission to your brand. I specialize in personal branding and helping you use your differences to set you apart in your industry.
Stand behind your product or service. You are your best asset. You are your unique value proposition. You are a force of nature. Follow your force young Skywalker and do it different.
Quality is my definition of professional. Invest in photoshoots, designer websites and designed e-books and a consistent brand. Show how much you care and people will listen, connect with you and follow you.
HERE ARE MY TOP 4 SECRETS TO CLIENT PROJECT SUCCESS
1: Use Photos of You - No matter your business
2: Don’t use “we” or write about yourself in third person
3: Be both professional and personal
4: Invest in custom design or templates
(described in full above)
Personal is what connects and sells. A personal brand is the most powerful tool you have to accomplish your goals by creating and sharing human experiences.
People want to see themselves in what you do and stand for. Then they will connect and become inspired creating a relationship. When a relationship is created they become lifelong fans.
Live into your brand (authentically) and tell your story with your life.
If you want to rebrand or refresh your website and create a more powerful and personal brand contact me and we can set up a discovery call to look over what you have now and brainstorm ways that it can become more powerful.
If you’re interested in my step by step process to build a personal brand that will creatively and authentically express your while marketing your business (and sell or book your pants off!) I will include a proposal after the call for pricing and my availability.
Or send me a message and just ask for step 1 of my personal branding process!
I'm Monica Fawn. An artist turned brand consultant and website designer. I work with individuals and small teams like you who want the power of psychology and trust evoking custom design in their brand.
I believe that the most overlooked problem with branding and websites is actually your biggest opportunity. I help you creatively and authentically express yourself while marketing your business and sell or book your pants off!
"PERFECTION WILL NEVER REPLACE AUTHENTICITY" - Monica Fawn Orto