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Articulating your personal brand (i.e. how you are the solution to your employer's problem)

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

I teach brand positioning to startups and small businesses . (It’s my favorite thing to teach). Essentially, brand positioning is how businesses offer meaningful value to customers in differentiated ways . It's how they want their customers to think of their brand or business — ultimately, as the solution to the customer problem or need. If these business don’t effectively communicate that positioning to customers, however, the exercise doesn’t avail them much. A strategy is only as good as its execution, after all.


Recently, a career coaching client was expressing frustration at the slow rate of advancement in her company. She had a clear goal of the leadership position she wanted. She identified company projects that could help her demonstrate to management the technical and leadership skills required for her dream job — but she couldn’t seem to break into those projects. She wasn’t being invited to join them. Upon investigation, she discovered that she wasn’t coming to mind for the managers staffing these projects with employees who demonstrated the applicable skills. In short, they didn’t recognize her as the solution to their problem or need. She just wasn’t effectively communicating her positioning.



Identifying a compelling personal brand


Think of yourself as a product. A "product" is really a bundle of attributes that offers benefits which solve a customer problem or need. Consider yourself to be a bundle of skills and talents that produce benefits which solve your employer's (or future employer's) problem or need.


Let's use the same brand positioning process that businesses use to identify your personal brand. A powerful brand communicates that it is:

  • Valuable to the customer -- that is, desirable and relevant because it credibly solves a customer problem or need;

  • Differentiated from the competition -- distinctive from other brands in its ability to better solve the customer problem.


To identify your best personal brand, ask yourself:

  1. What does my employer need from me to meet their goals?

Start by identifying the business goals of your department or business unit. How does (or should) your performance contribute to these goals and metrics? Specifically, what job duties support these and what are the skills required to successfully perform these duties?


Next, research the goals and performance metrics of your supervisor. Notice how individual performance goals in your organization are interdependent as they move up the org chart. Your job actually is to help your supervisor succeed in meeting their goals. Though not openly stated, your job is to make their job easier and to make them look good. (If you are tempted to dismiss this, consider that your boss's goal is likely the same as yours: career advancement. To advance, they must demonstrate successful leadership of high-performance staff. It's the results of their team that provide evidence of their competence and effectiveness. Your success drives their success.)


Now that you know what your boss really wants from you, what do you need to do to make it happen?

Your Unique Selling Proposition
Get ready for another Venn diagram.

2. What strengths of mine best contribute to serving that need?


Of the essential job duties you've identified above:

  • Rank them by which are most important to the success of your department and/or supervisor.

  • What do you bring to the table that allows you to successfully perform these duties? Think of:

    • Skills - things you know how to do (e.g. coding, copywriting, financial analysis)

    • Competencies - abilities that help you perform the duties well (e.g. systems thinking, strong communications, team leadership)

    • Experience - what you've done that shows that you can perform these duties well (e.g. participation in a relevant project, completing an effective report, recent achievement of successful performance metrics)

  • Note any skills and competencies that you are really good at or that people recognize you for.

 

Your competitive advantage is how you answer the question: "Why should we hire/consider you over other candidates?"

 

3. Which of these strengths are unique among my peers?


You've identified your strengths that matter to your employer. Now it's time to identify which of those set you apart from the competition. Don't skip this step - it's the one that justifies why you are the right person for your desired job.


Identify your closest and toughest competition. What are they good at? You might want to run through the exercise in #2 for your competition. Feeling geeky? Consider creating a competitive positioning map.


Next, create an statement articulating how you solve your employer's problem/need better than your competition. Here are some examples to get you started:


You know how to perform financial analyses...but it's your storytelling ability sets you apart from your peers. It's valuable because it allows management to understand the "so what?" of your analysis and assist them with making better business decisions.


You know how to conduct successful sales calls...but your ability to establish trust and engage with the customer at a strategic level rather than simply as a supplier enables you to upsell more than the average sales person.


You know how to write marketing copy...but your exceptional customer empathy allows you to identify deeper customer insights that produce greater resonance and impact in your marketing content.


Highlighting strengths that are common among your peers presents you as "one of many" and puts you in a position of head-to-head competition. Your desirable and differentiated strengths are the "winning zone" of your positioning strategy. This is the core of your competitive advantage.


 

Identifying and articulating your personal brand is a way of advocating for yourself along your career path.

 

Articulating your personal brand


Now that you have your strategy, how can you communicate it to your target audience -- your employer or the gatekeepers to your dream job? Consider using a format like the one below, borrowed from brand positioning conventions for businesses.


Brand Positioning Statement Format:


For _________________________ (describe target audience + their problem/need)


I am the _____________________ (describe role or position)


That ________________________ (what you do well that helps your employer succeed/matters to your employer)


Unlike _______________________ (describe your competition)


I ____________________________ (the desirable strengths that set you apart from competition and drives success for your employer)


That's because ________________ (evidence or detail that supports your claim above or the deeper reason why you deliver -- include skills, competencies and/or experience. Provide example of when and how your strength produced positive results and describe the impact.)


Example Brand Positioning Statement:


For the brand manager responsible for growing revenue and household penetration of the brand +2 pts this year (describe target audience + their problem/need)


I am the associate brand manager (describe role or position)


That provides brand performance analysis data that are essential inputs to strategic decisions (what you do that helps your employer succeed/matters to your employer)


Unlike other associate brand managers at my company (describe your competition)


I offer strong strategic thinking, which, coupled with my analytical skills, enables a deeper understanding of product performance; this allows me to provide performance analyses that better explain current performance and help identify future strategies for higher conversion rates. (desirable strengths that set you apart from competition and drives success for your employer)


That's because I link retail to consumer data in my analyses to address the deeper "why's" behind performance, and to model potential behavioral impact of marketing strategies. For example: my analysis of our granola bar brand identified the reason for the drop in sales last summer was new competitive promotional activity. From this analysis, I was able to identify and suggest a promotional + placement strategy to reclaim sales from the competition. The strategy produced a lift of 10%. (evidence or detail that supports your claim above or the deeper reason why you deliver -- include skills, competencies and/or experience. Provide example of when and how your strength produced positive results and describe the impact.)


How might you use your brand positioning statement?

  • Use the full format in interviews, especially to set up examples of how you drove results in your current and previous roles.

  • Use elements of it when promoting yourself in your current job and for future opportunities.

    • Begin sharing your competitive advantage with your supervisor and colleagues. Offer it in the context of how you can assist with a goal or project. Don't be shy - this advantage is by definition highly valued and noticeable.

    • Your competitive advantage is a key part of the answer to the question: "Why should we hire/consider you over other candidates?"

  • As your career develops, you will likely refresh your statement to reflect your new skills and competencies and define your differentiated value against higher levels of competition.

Identifying and articulating your personal brand is a way of advocating for yourself along your career path. It's an empowering process to recognize how you create value and what makes you unique.


We want to hear from you. What is your experience of defining and articulating personal brand? Comment below to share your experience and to provide feedback on this blog.

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