The Basics of Branding
There are no shortcuts to success. This is a consistent message in all of my blog posts, as well as through social media, thought leaders, personal branding experts, and business strategists. Personal branding is the most effective and efficient way to gain recognition, build relationships, and cultivate business.
What is a Personal Brand?
While working hard and working smart will carry you far, there are a few other things required for the recipe: a message that resonates with your target audience, a personal brand designed to build trust, connections and relationships, and integrity. The sum of these is called a personal brand.
At the first point of contact, your target audience will likely consume either your logo, your branding and marketing material (signage, website, brochures, business cards, etc.), your biography, your headshot or a combination of all of the above.
The sum of these items really amounts to how you make people feel. You aren't asking them to engage their brain and think critically at this point. You are just trying to incite and excite some warm fuzzy feelings, and get your audience to a point where they want to know you.
According to Seth Godin, "People do not buy goods & services. They buy relations, stories and magic."
The unfortunate reality is that until you do this, you are an unknown quantity. Even if you have a large company, it does not necessarily mean you are on everyone's radar. Making the assumption that everyone knows you, or even cares about you, is a tremendous error.
Best practice is to approach every situation as if no one has a clue who you are, why they need you, or what you can do to make their life better.
The goal is to push those warm fuzzy feelings to a point where people want to know more about you. Your headshot is the opportune moment and mechanism for building that connection and foundation for a relationship.
After you have tugged on the emotions of your audience, you can ask them to think about how your product or service will fit in their universe.
It's All About Expression
You've probably heard it before, ad nauseam, that a headshot is absolutely essential. I agree. What you probably haven't heard is that the expression you make in that headshot is even more important. Portraying the look of someone confident in what they know and friendly enough to engage is the easiest way to build trust. If you give off that creepy, serial killer vibe, chances are you won't be making friends any time soon. The trick however, is to be authentic. Yep, you have to be 1000% real in your images.
These are the moments where the old adage of not judging a book by its cover seem to go out the window. No one cares what your personality is really like if you aren't showing it in your headshot.
7 Seconds. That's all it takes (or less) for another human being to make a judgment about you. This applies to viewing a picture as well as in person. After that brief moment has gone, your opportunity to make an impactful first impression has gone as well. This is the driving force behind having an incredible headshot. First impressions are everything!
People are inherently skeptical. They have almost no tolerance for insincerity and their bullshit meters are always super sensitive. They know when you are putting on a show, a face, or feeding them a line of crap.
Best practice: Be yourself! And, see a headshot specialist for your headshot. No, not any photographer will do. The ability to push a button on a camera does not mean that they have the ability to coach and direct you to the expressions that will positively affect your revenue.
The last part of the equation is integrity. This is super important. It is defined as "a quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, and moral uprightness."
The other day, upon a recommendation, I engaged another business for a product they sell. They literally sell products, stick them in boxes and ship them out. That is their business model.
I was given a price over the telephone, which I agreed to. I inquired about the shipping rates. I was told, "I don't really know, but it will show up on your invoice." My invoice arrived via email and the rate was double what it should have been. I could not fathom the idea that this small item would or could cost that much to ship.
I replied with an email simply asking to justify such a steep charge. The manager telephoned me to discuss. I reiterated my question, and the answer I received was somewhat baffling.
I was told that they only ship using certain methods, and the "handling" charge was removed for me.
1. Their business model is to HANDLE items into a box and ship them. It makes no sense to charge an additional fee for what the business actually does. That should be included in the price of the item. The fact that they removed it for me, while a nice gesture, tells me that they are using this lame excuse as a means to gouge other customers.
2. If shipping rates need to be that high, they either don't monitor the rates of their shipping providers, don't care about them, or are simply looking to juice customers for a few extra bucks.
3. If handling fees and shipping fees are an attempt at getting more money from customers, perhaps they need to re-evaluate your business model. It seems to me that they are keeping product prices low to remain attractive to customers, but aren't quite making their desired profit margin. Squeezing margin using these types of shady practices is not smart, its shrewd and dishonest business.
4. The likelihood that I will be dealing with this company in the future is slim to none. I am sure the product is exactly what I need and what I ordered. Ultimately, it comes down to how I was treated and their business practices. Sure, they can run their company any way they want. I just don't have an obligation to work with them. As such, their opportunity to impress me and earn a customer for life, went down the toilet.
Large companies will often cite "policy" as a reason for not bending to help a customer. I call bullshit on that, because customers are the lifeblood of a business. If "policy" is what prevents them from having integrity and building solid relationships, then a re-evaluation of that policy is necessary.
The lesson here is that it always pays to be honest, sincere and moral. Bend over backwards to help your customers, and even those people who aren't your customers yet. When you care about them, they'll care about you. Until that moment, you are ships passing in the night, without a reason to engage.