By now, most of us realize we need to create and market our personal brand to be a rock star in our fields, whether we work for an employer or ourselves. Our success depends not just on our individual capabilities but also on our network’s ability to magnify them.
With the venues for self-promotion exploding, the challenge becomes fitting it effectively into our work/life balance. In addressing a few hundred business owners at the recent Women’s Success Summit in Miami, experts shared their secrets for how to build a network that does your bragging for you. It’s time-consuming to promote yourself using every platform available. Experts advise choosing one and using it well.
• Make a video. Share Ross, a bassist who played with the ’80s all-female rock band, Vixen, strongly advocates using video. After touring with Vixen, Ross began making videos for musical acts. Now she creates videos for dozens of small business owners and teaches them how to do it for themselves through her Video Rock Star University.
“Video is a way to make an emotional connection. Doing it right is not about selling, it’s about tapping into that connection,” she advises. Because YouTube is the second-highest used search engine, ignoring it as an outlet to raise your profile is foolish, she says. A good video doesn’t have to be complicated or awkward, she says. Start out on camera by raising a question and answering it in a way that positions you as an expert, she says.
Making a video doesn’t have to take long, and it can be done at night using a smartphone camera, after the kids are asleep.
• Publish a book. Dawnna St. Louis, a South Florida motivational speaker on women’s empowerment, says to build a business, you need to build your credibility. Publishing a book will help. “It puts you in position of being an authority long after do the work of writing it,” she explains.
She published her first book, YOLO — Standing on the Ledge of Life and Leaping Towards Your Future, launched without any shameless self-promotion, and she sold only 2,000 copies. The next time around she took a different approach. “Create the demand first,” she says. In her case, she reached out to corporate clients, who pre-ordered the book before its release. That book, Audacious Acts of Successful Women, which encourages women to step out of their comfort zone to become more successful, has sold more than 22,000 copies. And she’s still receiving orders.
She believes almost anyone can position themselves as a expert with a book by identifying a problem and writing about how to fix it. To publish a book efficiently, she advises outsourcing pieces of the process by hiring a copy editor, ghost writer or cover artist. She suggests tackling one chapter a day, setting aside an hour a day for writing.
• Work the media. Eli Davidson, a business coach and author of Funky to Fabulous, says it is possible to leverage the media to promote yourself; to start, find a “diamond” niche. She recently coached a client who was a nutritionist and suggested he refocus to become an expert on nutrition for newly diagnosed diabetics.
Urgency is a big part of finding a good niche, she says. “He doubled his rate and filled his practice. People can die from diabetes. It’s urgent.” If you have a niche that’s solving a problem, it’s easier to get media attention, she says. For example, the nutritionist since has published articles in diabetic magazines and cooking publications. “When you’re in the media, it never goes away.”
• Start a blog. If you want your network to keep you top of mind, a blog can do that. If it has the right key words, it can send new customers your way when they search for topics.
A blog is a great “home base” and you can set one up in about 15 minutes, says Jay Berkowitz, author of The Ten Golden Rules of Online Marketing . “Blogs are the simplest websites that you can manage and update without a webmaster.” He suggests blogging to answer questions you get asked by customers, clients or co-workers.
Of course, blogging can be time consuming. However, there are people who will take on the task for you. Lisa Sparks, owner of Verity Content in Miami, launched a business that develops content for others. Sparks suggests quality over quantity and says blog posts can be leveraged further by getting them into article directories such as ezinearticles.com.
• Become searchable. Take the time to find out how people are searching for the products or services you offer, says Todd Paton of Paton Internet Marketing in Miami. He suggests using Google Keyword Tool to identify popular keywords, then using them on your website. Or you could buy the domain name where potential customers would most likely land.
Villalobos says to become Googlicious, the most important key word you need to own is your own name. And make sure everything associated with your name tells the right story about your professional accomplishments.
This doesn’t have to be time consuming. “The fastest way is to claim your name on all the social media profiles you can and fill it in with good information,” she says. “Start with Linked In.”
• Use email marketing. Pamela Starr, Southeastern area director for Constant Contact, believes shameless self-promotion starts with leveraging your existing network. Starr recommends sending up an email marketing newsletter and letting your network know what you are doing to improve their lives — saving them money, helping them eat healthier, offering them unique legal expertise.
To widen your network most efficiently, embed a sign-up for your email marketing pieces right into your email signature. Also, ask recipients to share with their friends. “What’s the best source for new business? Existing customers,” Starr says. “Promote to them and have them promote you to others.”
When shamelessly self- promoting, Villalobos says don’t be intimidated to plug your brand with the people who know you. “They are the low-hanging fruit.” But don’t stop there, she says. “Once you have a strong brand, it will speak for you.”