There’s no doubt about it—people trust people overwhelmingly more than they trust brands. According to Edelman’s trust barometer, American trust in the media and business marketing has dropped to an all-time low.
On the other hand, trust in recommendations from “real people” has risen—92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from peers over branded advertising, even when that recommendation is not from someone that they know personally.
With the abundance of fake news, scandals, and lawsuits that fill our newsfeeds these days, it is pretty easy to understand why there is such a disconnect between consumer trust and marketing. Numbers like these also make it obvious why personal branding is so important for companies that want to build trust (and sales) with their customers.
If done correctly, personal branding can have a very powerful impact on the growth of your business. Studies have found again and again that content shared from personal accounts reach more audiences than branded messages do.
Here is how your team can start to build a personal branding campaign that brings about fruitful results:
1. Turn senior employees into thought leaders
Building a personal brand is about more than just pushing a product or service, it’s about creating a persona that is trustworthy and relatable. This is the essence of thought leadership, and is a tactic that has a great influence on potential clients.
Studies have found that when a business leader creates highly valuable content, it significantly raises the likelihood that people will turn into customers. It can also increase the trust and respect a customer has for a company by up to 90%.
Of course, the first step to creating thought leaders within your business is having strong team members to begin with. Your employees can be some of your most powerful marketing tools. However, a good personal brand requires a certain personality, skill level, and the ability to present information in a way that people connect with. When you are bringing people onboard, pay attention to the personality traits that could signal thought leadership potential.
Using “people analytics” throughout the recruiting process can make it easier to find candidates with excellent personal branding abilities. An AI-driven recruiting process lets you analyze aptitudes and soft skill levels to pinpoint these kinds of qualities before you make a final hiring decision. Many of these systems use personalized skill assessments that measure things like communication skills, critical thinking, judgement, and more, to create company match potential.
The concept of employee advocacy can be tricky, as it must be a genuine promotion that stems from the true appreciation of the business.
The process of turning your company’s top talent into thought leaders takes time and strategy. This type of status is not created overnight. In the long run, the process is certainly worth the investment.
2. Focus on the top of the sales funnel
Here’s a refresher of the basics of the sales funnel, broken down into the fundamental steps:
Obviously, a consumer must be aware of a business before they can engage with it. However, so many businesses are focused on the bottom of the funnel because the action step is what produces revenue. Brand awareness has no clear or instant ROI, so some companies foolishly forget to emphasize this important step in the customer journey.
Create awareness by providing key insight related to your industry. The focus here is on educating the target audience and establishing yourself as a credible source of information. Once people view your brand as an expert, nurturing their interest and guiding them down the sales funnel is much easier.
On average, it takes consumers five to seven interactions with a brand before people begin to recognize it. Brand awareness can be increased tremendously through personal branding. Again, consumers trust personal recommendations far more than branded marketing, so when an individual mentions a brand, it will make a much stronger impression.
Throughout the content creation process of personal branding, making top-of-the-funnel marketing a key focus is the best way to introduce people to your company in a sincere and meaningful way.
3. Know when to chime into industry chatter
Part of the process of establishing thought leadership includes sharing opinions and insights about your field, as well as what is going on in it. However, just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean that sharing it will be helpful for building a personal brand.
This is one of the biggest risks associated with personal branding. It’s about balancing personal beliefs and opinions with that of the company’s. If you are trying to establish leadership and trustworthiness, every comment, tweet, or post must be in alignment with the values of the company as well.
While it may be tempting to join the conversation as it’s happening, waiting until you have the facts straight and can form a supported opinion is the better option. For instance, earlier this year when Facebook announced major changes to its algorithm, lots of SEO and social media pros were all too eager to share their thoughts.
However, the true thought leaders, like Rand Fishkin of Moz, one of the best-known names in the industry, waited about a week before they shared their opinions on the matter (when more details came to light). As a result, the content was much more accurate and well thought-out, rather than rushed.
4. Be bold
The internet is a loud place, especially these days. Every minute, millions of pieces of content are posted, shared, and engaged with, making it easy for content to get lost in the crowd.
While you certainly do not want to stir up a controversy with personal branded content, it is important that your messaging stands out and provides people with something different and unique. In order to get noticed, you have to get a little bold here and there. Keep in mind, being bold in personal branding involves things like strong (yet informed) industry predictions, disrupting the status quo, and making people think differently.
Talk about the latest research or newest tactics in the industry. Question the way things are done and suggest a better alternative. Be interesting, funny, or creative in the way you communicate.
Personal branding takes just as much effort and thought as business branding (if not more), so be sure that your content is crafted in a way that gains positive and thought-provoking attention. Find your voice, share your opinion, and make it noteworthy.
Incorporating personal branding into your marketing efforts does not have to be complex to be effective. Create a community of thought leadership by asking experienced employees to share their thoughts and opinions. Focus on brand awareness (rather than just action) by using personal accounts to share stories and expert takes. From here, be smart with your content by monitoring industry chatter and add further meaning to the current discourse.
At the end of the day, businesses are made up of people, not products or services. By using the power of personal branding, customer relationships can be built on trust and genuine connections.