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Getting Your Image TogetherApril 1, 2006 By: Gary C. Sain Home-Based Travel Agent
Building your personal brand will lead to more home-based success
In my last article, I spoke about the importance of assessing the brand you represent (your employer or host agency) on an annual basis. As critical as your parent brand might be, it is equally important to tune up your personal brand.
Take a deeper introspection of yourself as it relates to your individual positioning within your enterprise and the overall business community. A personal brand assessment, so to speak. A few questions will help you get started:
- 1. How would people who know you describe you as a person?
- 2. What is your biggest strength? Biggest weakness?
- 3. Are you trustworthy? Do you stand behind your word?
- 4. Do you love what you do? If not, what would you love doing?
- 5. Do you have a plan for improving your skills? A plan for your life?
- 6. Do people seek you out for help, guidance and counsel?
- 7. Are you considered a leader? If so, do you hold yourself to high standards?
I-Brand(sm) is an attitudinal mind-set in how we position ourselves to various audiences. Individuals can be brands. How each of us positions ourselves within our individual enterprises, as well as the business community as a whole, dictates our future success. If great brands are about relationships and emotional connections, then individuals have the greatest opportunity to brand themselves—an I-Brand(sm)!
I-Brand(sm) is based on three pillars: Credentials, Standards and Style. How well you execute your personal brand will determine how your target audience perceives you. These are individuals you want to influence. These three core pillars of I-Brand(sm) help reinforce your personal brand's distinction, esteem, relevance and awareness to these target audiences.
Credentials consist of education, experience and insight. Credentials make you believable. At one time, you demonstrated that you have the skill set to perform your current job better than anyone else. Your ability to continue to perform at a high standard determines if you can manage more responsibilities. Constantly updating your credentials enhances your position in the minds of your customers, supervisors and peers. It also reinforces your desire to be the best at what you do.
Do you have a mentor? A mentor can help you see your future path more clearly; he or she will tell you what you may not want to hear—but need to know—about your personal brand positioning. Getting constructive input is critical.
A mentor can be anyone whose opinion you completely trust, and is really your personal brand manager. Every brand has one. Why shouldn't you—the most important brand in the world?
Continuing education is one of the most important endeavors you can pursue. Whether it is the attainment of a master's degree, increased proficiency in technology, a foreign language, or industry certification, continuing education reinforces your credentials and helps you gain insights clients are asking for.
Look at your role models—what educational attributes do they have? Study your competitors. If they are more successful than you, find out why. What part of your educational portfolio is missing?
How does all of this apply to travel sales and marketing? While sales experience is a great teacher, it may not provide the fundamental marketing skills required in today's competitive environment. Sales management, direct marketing, interactive marketing, podcasting, research, public relations, and customer loyalty are but a few topics of importance to most travel marketers. Building your educational repertoire will foster your I-Brand(sm) presence with senior management, peers and customers.
As travel marketers, we promote travel experiences to our customers. We are only believable if we have been there, done it. How do you recommend a cruise if you have never cruised or sell Hawaii if you have never been there?
Customers today have all the information they need online. They think they know as much as travel marketers do. The secret is insight through personal experiences. Insight combines education, experience and professional curiosity. If you are perceived as the "one in the know," that is extremely powerful. Hotel concierges are personal brands. Guests stay at their hotels in large part due to the personal attention and insight they provide about the newest restaurant in town, the hottest nightclub or the closest coffee house. Concierges live and die by their recommendations based on insight.
Write down your goals for your life. Where do you want to be in five or 10 years? What career path do you seek? What do you want to do for your community? What are your financial desires? Family aspirations? This is a critical step within I-Brand(sm).
Once you have this outline, write down your educational strengths and weaknesses. Do the same with your experiences and insight. What is missing to get you where you need to go? Highlight the additional education, experience and insight you need to help you achieve your goals. Then build an action plan to fulfill your personal brand's extraordinary potential. Throughout 2006, review your action plan and make adjustments to ensure you are on track.
Standards are personal benchmarks or individual commitments you make to yourself. The higher your mark, the more distinctive your personal brand becomes.
Think about your position in your company, your involvement within your community, your family, etc. How do you want to perform your duties and responsibilities? How do you want to create a personal distinction within your work, community and family? What are your ethical standards? Selling standards? Customer-service standards?
Think about the customers you serve. They have choices. Do what you said you were going to do, when you said you were going to do it, and how you said you were going to do it. You can increase sales by 30 percent by providing excellent customer service to your existing accounts. Excellence is not optional.
If you want to be perceived as an individual who is committed to doing a great job, you need high quality standards If you want people to perceive you as a "can-do" person, what are your networking standards? Maintain a written document listing your standards of performance, and follow up. For example, commit to returning every phone call within one to two hours. If you want to stand out, set your personal standards high. Standards bring credibility and respectability to your I-Brand(sm) support the brand you want to be.
This is your personal trademark. Style may be the most memorable core pillar of I-Brand(sm). It can also be the quickest way to end a promising client relationship. Personal branding is about emotional connections. Style connects you to your desired audience is a distinctive way.
The most important elements of style are presentation, etiquette and attitude. Presentation is how you dress, your grooming habits and your overall delivery. Etiquette is how you treat people. Attitude is your mindset, your passion and enthusiasm for what you do.
How you present yourself through visual and verbal communication to your targeted audience can make or break your credibility, from the first impression onward. Make certain you always put your best foot forward. To maintain your I-Brand(sm), you must manage your personal brand presentation at all times.
Etiquette skills provide a proper framework for you to interact with people. Since we live and interact in a diverse society, it is paramount your personal brand positioning is sensitive to the cultural, political, and religious fabric of your targeted audience.
Attitude drives actions, actions drive results, and results drive lifestyle. Be passionate about what you do, and excited about your future. Enthusiasm is contagious. Believe in yourself, and in others. Consider being a mentor yourself.
Your credentials, standards and style help convey your personal brand story. Word-of-mouth advertising is critical in branding. Recommendations by friends, family and associates are the most credible forms of information sources used in making purchasing decisions, especially travel. Your personal brand story will be told regardless if you want it to be told or not. I would suggest you manage it diligently so the right story is being told.
There is much more to I-Brand(sm) than this article. However, my hope is it may motivate you to think differently about yourself. As sales and marketing professionals, we spend a great deal of time ensuring the brand we work for is well positioned in the marketplace. We should spend more time on the most important brand in the world—ourselves.
I wish you continued success in 2006. One last quote, which I have always liked, is "If you are not the lead dog, the view is always the same." To stand out from the crowd, execute your personal brand plan to create a distinction for yourself. It's up to you.
Gary Sain is CMO/Partner of Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, a specialist in brand building for travel brands. It also offers brandRing, which helps travel companies increase brand equity and clarity. Visit www.ypbr.com, call 407-875-1111 or e-mail [email protected].