“Branding is the action of creating something for people to connect to, whether it’s yourself, a product or service. Your brand is part of your reputation and reliability.”
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking at American Dream U’s VETRACONx 2017 workshop hosted at Coastal Carolina Community College. The workshop assists veterans and their families in getting the resources needed to start a business or find their dream job while they transition out of the military. We were so excited to participate as their mission aligns so well with ours in empowering our military entrepreneurs!
When preparing for my speech, I wanted to focus on branding, not just the ways to go about it but the importance of it when going through a major transition in life. While your identity doesn’t change when you separate from the military, you’re adding a new layer to it! I wanted to impart to each soon-to-be veteran the importance of branding themselves during his crucial time in their life, key things to prioritize when planning out their brand, and how to market it in order to get what they want.
Branding is important in so many ways. It is what people will connect with and often it is your first impression. What will they say about you? How will they tell others about you or your company? Strong branding can make you memorable, and bad branding or a lack of branding can make you forgettable.
What do you want to be? MEMORABLE or FORGETTABLE?
When you start to build from scratch or are refreshening your existing brand, there are a few things that I like to prioritize.
Tell your story and be true. Interject your personality and passions into your blog, LinkedIn profile, resume. Whatever the platform, let your story show. For example, if you love shooting guns and working out, or wear funky socks and drink whiskey, find appropriate ways to let that show.
If you are writing your LinkedIn profile and working towards getting a job in a higher position, talk about things that accentuate your traits or skills that you listed on your LinkedIn resume. For example, “In my spare time I love traveling to and running marathons for different charity organizations.” This would support that you are a giving, yet disciplined individual but still gives a glimpse into who you are.
The goal is to have people speak about you with admiration, as it builds trust to that potential client or business or hiring personnel!
This leads into…
Now relatability doesn’t mean following every trend or what’s more favorable to everyone. Many times people like the rebel or the outcast, however you need to always be mindful of what is trending because, if it aligns with your brand, you can ride the wave of marketing already in place!
Here’s an example of this. I have a friend, a fellow military spouse, who owns a boutique store called Pressed. They are (as stated on their site) “ a uniquely curated shop for those who are fueled by curiosity, collectors of experiences, and lovers of the unique.”
She is quirky and bold with her marketing and it works well for her. When the Pokemon Go craze was happening, she had products stocked up that related to the trend, she brought in local artists that made Pokemon-themed products, and played the game herself to stay in the craze. She even put a sign outside that said “Playing Pokemon Go? Stop by! We’ve got Locopops, drinks snacks & charging stations!”
(Images from Pressed Instagram)
It was an excellent way to incorporate a trend into her already fun brand and she got an increase in foot traffic and sales from it.
Now, our lifestyle is foreign to many civilians and you are foreign to civilian life, to an extent. Civilians will have an idea that they believe encompasses our lifestyle and you will need to keep in mind where you are now and where you want to be as you transition out and while developing your brand.
How much of your military lifestyle will be incorporated into this next level of you?
Which moves us towards…
Consistency is using the same elements throughout your marketing. Easy enough to remember, right? This can be through your graphics, colors, to the days you post certain items, like #tbt (throw back Thursday). When I shot Boudoir, it was Tushie Tuesday. It’s all about having some predictability in what you are offering. Consistency in your images, products or experience, or even tone and advocacy is important.
One pitfall I have seen is veterans’ overemphasis of their military service as a way to gain support. So, while consistency is good, too much of anything can be toxic to a brand identity.
So, how do you get your brand out there?
Position yourself as an expert.
Talk about what you know and talk about it confidently! No one will hear you or believe in you unless you say it with conviction. BUT be sure you are correct. Whether you are becoming an entrepreneur or employee, I LOVE blogging for those who want to lead. It is an easy way to promote your voice. If you are an employee, maybe write articles or create case studies in order to show whomever is your team leader that you are serious and knowledgeable in your position, hopefully giving you an advantage to move up!
This can be a hard but oh so important trait to master. Learn to listen, especially within a conversation. I want to know what’s going on with your life and make sure you know I care about you, just as much as you hope you care about me.
Listen to your audience or market. Are you getting bad reviews? Are clients struggling with some aspect of your business? What can be done to make it better or easier? Or maybe they are telling you they love something you are producing, meaning they want more!
The other day my mom was watching the YouTube star Zach King. He is a digital magician and makes videos and edits them to look like he is performing amazing magic tricks. My mom asked me “How does he come up with SO much stuff to do.” I scrolled down and showed her the comments below the video she was watching. People loved what he was doing and ask for more by giving him ideas on what to try next!
He listens to his audience and that’s contributed greatly to his success.
Network, Network, Network!
You MUST put yourself out there. Whether you are going to all the events for small business owners or doing Facebook live to showcase your personality, putting yourself out there allows people to connect to you on a human-to-human level.
Today many interactions and communication is done with no human interaction. It’s just text and there is SO much more value in face-to-face connections with others. Someone can get to know you and then become your champion and advocate. They will hear someone say “I am looking for a new manager? And think of you. So, get out there and network!
Present yourself as professionally as you can.
This means professional headshots! NO SELFIES PLEASE.
Dress appropriately or as your brand allows. I have misjudged the attire for an event or two in the past. It makes you feel insecure, which hinders networking and might make others think you aren’t quite ready.