You’ve heard it before, the old adage of “people buy from people” so my question is, if that is true why do we not market people?
For a long time now small businesses have hidden behind their corporate logo, email, their website and even their desks too afraid to be found out that they are a sole trader and not an international conglomerate. When I started in business a number of years ago all sole traders, myself included, would always talk about we, our “accounts department” or “my assistant” all in a bid to ensure that no one found out our little secret that we were in fact a sole trader. The result of this was that rather than marketing ourselves we created a false impression and marketed that instead. We hoped this bland professional face offered the security and reassurance of a bigger company offering the same services and products.
If people do buy from people, and in my experience they do, we need to get better at marketing them. The way to successfully market a person is through personal branding and relationship marketing because there is no point in marketing someone who doesn’t represent and connect with customers. In my experience, they also have to have something that the potential customer desires, something they want to be themselves or to own.
I recently had a very interesting conversation with a very prominent business person who asked me what I thought the banks had to do to win back customer loyalty and trust. I said that one of the actions they could take was to identify and promote someone who would in effect become the face of that bank. For example, Michelle Mone, Richard Branson or a similar type of public figure who has a strong personal brand that attracts customers. My idea was shot down by this person (not that I took it personally) and by the other business men in the room as being too “celebrity” and “we don’t want someone being flash with our cash that we can’t trust”. That was exactly my point; haven’t we already let the banks be flash with our cash? Haven’t we already lost trust in them? Surely if we had a person we could relate to who stood for the value, ethics, beliefs and behaviour of the bank we would have a better understanding of what the banks do and how they align themselves.
While this blog isn’t a comment on the banks, it is an example of why personal branding has become increasingly important. We grow more cynical day by day as customers. We are far more streetwise and savvy than we ever used to be so to win our trust you need to show us who is behind the brand.
The question is who is behind yours? I would encourage you to come out from behind your brand and market yourself. While you might divide opinion at least we’ll remember you for having had one. The point is those who do agree with you will instantly connect with you and are more likely to be interested in what you do and offer. Those that don’t won’t, but if you play it safe behind your brand you’ll be remembered by no one at all.