Branding yourself for agency growth: 7 reasons you need a personal brand
When you set up your agency, did you expect to become the marketing, sales, operations, finance, IT and HR directors overnight? I bet you didn’t!
With so much to juggle, nobody wakes up in the morning thinking, “Hmmm, I need a personal brand to grow my digital agency!”
But if you want to build the kind of agency and attract the kind of clients that make you want to jump out of bed every Monday morning, you need a personal brand to fast-forward your agency growth.
In today’s content-heavy digital agency environment, blending into the background is no longer an option.
You need to show your expertise, build trust and authority with your dream clients. Why? So you work with more of them on the kind of projects that fill you with joy.
How can you achieve this?
How can you be more visible than your competitors?
How can you show what makes your agency different, without it feeling too cringe-worthy for comfort?
Over the last year, I’ve interviewed lots of super successful agency owners. One thing that stood out is that building a personal brand for the agency founder is a powerful shortcut to fueling your agency’s growth.
And in my experience, it’s a highly cost-effective marketing tool too, because everything you do becomes more on brand.
And as a bonus, if you do it well, you get to be more ‘you’ and selling becomes easier.
Because by the time your prospects get in touch to chat about their projects, you’re already one of their favourites.
If you’d like to discover the top 4 agency growth strategies, watch this vlog.
How do you feel about branding yourself?
When it comes to working on their personal brand, most people think:
“I know I need to do more to market my agency to secure more of my dream clients, but surely my portfolio and track record should speak for themselves! And anyway, I’ve got enough to think about working on my client projects!”
I have this conversation time and time again with agency founders, especially those who used to work for bigger agencies (where someone else takes care of the marketing!) More often or not, they find themselves stuck with working in their business rather than on it.
- They don’t like tooting their own horn
- They feel more at ease blending into the background
- They’re so used to wearing an ueber professional mask
- They don’t feel its ok to reveal some of their geeky nature
As a quick side note, here’re some of the super-likeable ‘geeky habits’ I’ve uncovered with my Wunderstars:
- Owning 16 (!) rock guitars
- Breeding chickens as a hobby
- Being an 80s David Hasslehoff fan
- A healthy obsession with Disney movies
If you’re constantly trying to present a professional image, you’ll blend into the background. People won’t be able to tell you apart from your competitors.
But when you run your own agency, you need to inject your own personality and learn how to stand out in a good way.
Build trust amongst your dream clients with your personal brand
How can you build trust with your ideal audience if you don’t reveal what you’re all about and who you really are?
Don’t get me wrong, being part of a bigger company and wearing a ueber ‘professional mask’ can be rather safe and fulfilling… I should know.
I worked in marketing for over 20 years for some great brands like the Financial Times and I’ve commissioned agency projects for years.
I relished being part of a worldwide brand like the FT and fitting in – as much as you can ever fit in when you’re tall, blond and German (think more ‘direct’ than anyone else in the room!)
But when I set out on my own as a marketing coach, blending in was no longer an option.
Just google ‘marketing coach in London’ and you’ll see why I worked on my fears of tooting my own horn!
So what is a personal brand?
Before we get started with the many benefits for driving agency growth, let’s briefly look at what a personal brand is.
The classic definition: A personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
Everyone has a personal brand, whether they like it or not. The internet has already created a digital personal brand for you.
Google your name or your agency name using the incognito function. Do you like what you see?
This is your digital footprint, a key element of your personal brand on social media and beyond as an agency founder.
- Does it reflect who you are?
- Does it show off your personality?
- Does it show you and your agency in the best light?
Google is the world’s biggest shop window, along with YouTube (which it owns!) and first impressions really do count! If you don’t like what you see, you can always improve it.
So if you want to take charge of what people see and to make sure it reflects the real you – be strategic about building your personal brand. A personal brand and your values influence how you show up for your ideal audience.
If you would like to better understand who your ideal audience is, what they care about and what would appeal to them, speak to your customers.
Yes there are lots of systems you can use to gather feedback, but even just picking up the phone will offer you powerful insight:
- What do your clients see as your super strengths?
- How do they describe you?
- What would they say about you when recommending you to their network?
If you’d like to kickstart your personal branding journey as an agency founder by identifying our personal brand values, watch this popular vlog I created to help you get started.
the key reasons for branding yourself
1 – Makes you dig deep and define your ‘why’
You are the most visible person in your agency and you want a personal brand which is truly you and which appeals to your audience.
One of the first steps in developing a personal brand is to understand yourself.
Do this by defining your identity, including your personal brand values and what you stand for.
Your ‘why’ is what makes you tick – what gets you out of bed.
Because let’s face it, creating and running your own agency is no walk in the park. There are many high and lows involved in operating out of your comfort zone on a daily basis.
My good friend Lee Jackson always says, small achievable actions lead to big change.
This is how you can grow a successful agency: by taking action, even if the thought of working on your personal brand fills you with dread.
As an ambitious agency owner, ‘feeling the fear, and doing it anyway’ is part of the job description.
Plus, taking time to reflect on your ‘why’ is a powerful motivator.
Knowing why you do what you do – and reminding yourself of it – helps you deal with the typical peaks and troughs of being your own boss.
It’s really empowering to identify your why and to use it as part of your story.
When you know your identity and what you stand for, it’s easier to show up for your audience consistently and confidently.
2 – Helps you to get under the skin of your dream clients so you can relate to them better
Building a personal brand can never be done in isolation. The reality is you’re investing in it to grow your agency. Maybe you want to make more money or work with more interesting clients who get you. Or you want to create a business that nurtures a lifestyle you aspire to.
Everyone’s version of success looks different. Your branding has to resonate with the kind of people you want to work with. The kind of people who will give you joy and can pay you what you’re worth.
A powerful personal brand is as much about your audience as it is about you.
- Ask yourself who your audience is and what’s important to them
- What are their hopes, dreams and attitudes?
- What are they interested in?
- How can you position yourself as a solution to the challenges they face?
This insight will help you to create marketing content that provides them with real value, attracting them intrinsically to you and your business. Go as far as creating your personal brand for the one person you want to work with.
Think carefully about what you enjoy. What can you get paid well for? Where can you find a demand for what you’re offering?
Someone who has excelled at this is Chantal Edward Betsy. Watch this vlog to uncover how she used her personal brand to attract her dream clients.
3 – Selling ‘you’ gets easier and less ‘icky’ with a personal brand
If you can’t pitch yourself confidently, who is going to believe in you and part with their cash to work with you? Now, I consider myself an adopted Brit, having lived here since 1995.
It’s true that we don’t like talking about why we’re better than everyone else. We’re a truly humble nation.
But the important thing to remember is that a personal brand defines why we are different from everyone else.
Remember the lovely ‘geeky traits’ I mentioned earlier. All of these have been used by my clients to inject personality in their agency owner brand.
This allows you to build a more memorable digital footprint which elevates how your dream clients perceive you.
Combine this with pursuing a niche and publishing expert content that appeals to your dream clients and you’re on your way to becoming the go-to-person in your field.
This in turn means that you generate more of the right leads and win more projects that you’d enjoy – at the right price!
4 – Attract people you enjoy working with – your tribe
People buy from people. How can you attract the right people if you blend into the background on social or are too corporate in your digital communications?
Fancy tech graphics and illustrations do not offer your dream clients a flavour of what it would be like to work with you.
Vanilla is not good enough nowadays. Your ideal audience is bombarded with marketing messages night and day, so you need to build a personal brand and develop real connections with them.
It’s natural to feel nervous about sharing your vulnerable side and imperfections, but the reality is that people are drawn to relatable people – and to their imperfections.
When I was younger, I worked so hard on softening my German accent and rather direct style of conveying my messages. Now, using my personal brand, I lean into my flaws and play on them.
So what if I can’t pronounce words starting with a ‘v’ or ‘w’ very well? It makes me unique! As part of my personal brand I use the odd German word and my Eastern German upbringing as part of my storytelling.
Because I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not, people trust me. When you watch one of my videos, you’ll find me just as I am when you meet me in person.
To me that matters. And it builds sales. I might not appeal to people who take themselves too seriously, but that’s fine because I like to have fun when I’m working with my Wunderstars clients.
Being honest about who you are helps you attract your tribe – it’s a win-win situation!
5 – Make yourself more memorable to your ideal audience
There are rarely any brand-new or groundbreaking concepts. We all have a similar message, but you as the messenger – you’re truly unique. A personal brand will help you unleash your creativity as a messenger and help you own that message.
Today’s marketplace is super busy. For example, if you Google ‘marketing consultant in Cambridge’, you’ll find over 20 million results.
This is even more reason not to blend in and be vanilla. You’ve got to give the right people every reason to like and remember you, and personal branding is your shortcut to this.
A memorable personal brand increases the likelihood of referrals from fellow entrepreneurs as they remember you too.
6 – Show your personality
A well-defined personal branding strategy pushes your personality to the forefront – the most energising and effective way to convey your message. For example, if you’re big on empathy, this will shine through and attract people who prefer a supportive approach.
A great example of this are Lyndsay Cambridge and Martin Huntbach who head up their popular online membership Make Your Mark Online.
They offer free website reviews in their Facebook group, and they understand how people can feel embarrassed about their own website.
This comes across immediately when you watch them doing a review (think website shame). Both Lyndsay and Martin have authentic personal brands which resonate with their target market.
Your tone of voice is your personality ‘on paper’ in digital communications, so make sure it’s packed with personality. All too often I see people being too formal on LinkedIn, on their About Page and on their websites.
Instead, amplify your messaging with your personality to avoid blending into the background. Standing out is a good thing when it comes to promoting your business!
Watch this LinkedIn video where I showcase LinkedIn Summaries from super successful digital agency owners.
7 – Make you and your agency more relatable and build trust
A logo alone doesn’t build trust. Fancy graphics don’t build trust – actually because everyone else is using them on their homepages, many agencies look the same online.
Getting to know the person who’s offering the service does help you stand out – in a good way!
How will you build trust? Social proof? Yes. Consistency? Yes. But showing yourself, giving your audience a window into your world with a consistent personal brand builds trust over time.
So when that person has a need for the kind of service you offer, not only will you be top of mind, but you’ll also have their trust.
People simply don’t want perfection, they want relatable
Boost your impact on social media and make sure everything is consistent: the visual approach, tone of voice, content. When I started my business as a marketing consultant, I just wanted to hide away and I was afraid to be judged.
In a podcast interview with Lee Jackson I really opened up about this. My original website had a green and purple laptop on it, without even a picture of me in sight – I simply didn’t want to stand out.
Not a viable approach when you need to build an audience! So I faced my fears (and still do) and I invested in myself. Conferences, courses, coaching and a lot of personal branding homework. Be patient and the hard work will pay off.
What’s next in YOUR personal brand building journey?
If I can do it, you can too! Just take the first step and start today. Ask yourself what makes you different? What is your WHY? Share your story. Your audience will respect and like you for it.
And, if you’d like to turbocharge your visibility and personal brand building as an agency owner, check out how you can work with me to grow the kind of agency that fills you with joy.
This blog was originally published as a guest blog for YouPreneur.com