It is still unclear to me what the exact reasons are but everywhere I look, I see empowered women starting up their own businesses.
From life and business coaching, healing, wellness & fitness, to handmade soap and shampoo, indie fashion design, artistic (and weird) jewelry, natural herbs and essential oils – IT IS ALL OUT THERE and in multiple versions (honestly, I’m just waiting for “The school of witchery & cosmic orgasm” and a Godiva-looking lady selling unicorn riding lessons to emerge, and I can die in peace and go to start-up heaven, knowing I have seen it all). I see you ladies, with all your products and services, ready to be launched, fallen in love with and ultimately sold. But I also see you struggling, doubting and constantly trying to figure out the best branding strategy for your newborn “baby” which in the end boils down to one persistent thought:
“How the hell am I supposed to convince the customers to buy from me?”
And I agree, it’s a tough question. Swimming in the sea of female entrepreneurs can feel intimidating and tricky. You do your thing: work breathlessly on your product & strategy, study social media marketing while simultaneously designing your new freebie and figuring out how to convince your stubborn friends to get more engaged in spreading the word about your business… only to discover that everyone else is doing exactly the same. You look around and suddenly the brutal reality hits you in a face: there is plenty of other women offering pretty much the same thing that you are trying to sell. And it looks like many of them are way better at it than you are (or at least, this is what you think)
And then it comes: How the hell am I suppose to stand out from the crowd? How should I brand myself to the world? What makes ME special?
If you ever got to this point, welcome to the club honey, but please, don’t panic. There is a secret I want to sell you, and it’s for free:
Being Yourself is your Most Powerful Branding Asset
Let’s start with a very simple thing: If you know who you are and you are ready to share it with the world, you are on the right track. What you need to realize from the very beginning of establishing your business, is that YOU – exactly as you are, with your unique personality, twisted life journey, “the why” behind your business and your story – ARE YOUR MPBA: Most Powerful Branding Asset.
Let me give you an example aka. “The Spiritual Butterfly Lady”
Some time ago I went to a Meetup organized for people who wanted to find their true life purpose. As the life purpose is one of those few areas where I really have my sh** together, I attended mostly out of a curiosity. Plus I was hoping for some free coffee (which, btw, didn’t happen, there was a herbal tea only).
God… I was so disappointed! TOTALLY not my style. The leading lady was way too “far out there” for my taste (I am “far out there” as well, but she was more of an “I’m a spiritual butterfly talking with angelic creatures” type, opposed to my “let’s vodka and see where the magic of the night takes me” attitude). The speech that she gave, felt (to me) like a chaotic patchwork glued together from randomly chosen schools of thought – with no clear focus and no good punch line.
So I was sitting there, with my judgmental mode turned on, counting minutes till the end and trying to magically turn the herbal tea into coffee with the power of my mind.
/I guess you got the point by now; the whole experience was “not my cup of tea” – literally and figuratively ;)/
So when the Meetup was over, I was ready to “constructively criticize” the whole thing(not publically of course – against all odds, I am a polite person – but to my best friend who was there with me; after all, that’s what friends are for). And when I was just about to start my “venom session”, I’ve noticed two or three other ladies, gathering around “the spiritual butterfly” with those dreamy, sparkling eyes, full of worship and gratitude.
“That was soooo amazing!” (Was it???) “This meeting was so insightful!” (Excuse me???) “The tea was lovely” (… ???)
I swear to God, it almost felt like I participated in a different Meetup (or maybe the same Meetup but in a parallel dimension). While for the past 90 minutes, I was suffering in a caffeine-free hell, women sitting next to me were experiencing a spiritual and emotional breakthrough. Suddenly, I felt humbled and a bit ashamed of my bitter and sarcastic mental feedback. I realized that the same lady that made me feel slightly annoyed and hugely disappointed, was a delightful and insightful gift for someone else.
Only recently I’ve realized that “The Spiritual Butterfly Lady” was instinctively (and most probably unintentionally) executing the most effective personal branding strategy that exists. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Business is WHAT YOU DO. Brand is WHO YOU ARE
No matter what your business or service is, I can guarantee that there are people out there offering pretty much the same thing (and in some cases, EXACTLY the same thing) as you are. And as it is essential for your product or service to be of the highest quality and delivered on time with a price that makes sense, this is not how you get your customers to madly fall in love with you an trust you. You do that by creating a unique customer experience that comes along with your product. And for that my dear, you need an authentic brand that is fully aligned with who you truly are.
Business is what You do. Brand is who You are
Let me break it down for you.
Are you a coach? Only today I have seen at least five different ads for female business coaches services, trying to convince me to buy their online course that will “unleash my inner business goddess”, help me to “launch my company using my intuitive voice” or allow me to “channel my true calling into a stream of financial abundance”. And that’s only in the area of “start-up coaching: spiritual edition”.
Or maybe you are a fitness instructor? Don’t get me wrong, but there is only a limited variation of sit ups and push ups in this world… and I am pretty sure that for most of us it doesn’t really matter what exercises we do, as long as we see the results, feel motivated to continue and have a (relatively) nice experience while doing it.
Unless you come up with a breakthrough, original offer, be prepared for an inconvenient truth: you are most likely recycling well-known services, concepts, and methods. You need to realize that it’s not your fitness program that makes you unique – there are millions of them out there, and they all consist of pretty much the same exercises. It’s not the coaching methods that make you stand out – on a principal level, all coaches use the same tools. It’s not the fact that you create and offer meal plans for losing weight. It’s not the organic tea you sell, cool websites you design or nice furniture you build. It’s the feeling; the experience that comes with your product or service that makes people want to buy it.
And that feeling is the essence of your brand.
Generating a unique experience that comes along with a product is crucial to the success of your business.
Many of us fall into a trap of creating a personal brand based on tips and manuals available online or by trying to copy from someone more successful than us. It may work in a short term, but it usually ends up in a frustration and with that sneaky, yet persistent feeling that “something is off”. And it is, because if you are trying to be or do something that is not the “authentic you”, you will sooner or later feel uncomfortable and out of place. And your customers will feel it as well; after all, we, humans, have a natural radar for fake people (and fake businesses).
The customers’ experience vibe that your product radiates, should be a natural extension of who you are as a person
So if, for example, you are a natural-born daredevil who loves to take risks and go on adventures, but you are trying to sell SPA services, branding them as peaceful and relaxing experience, sooner or later you will put your true self and the brand of your business in a direct conflict. With your clients, in a role of silent witnesses, watching the battle.
“No One is Me and that’s my Superpower”
That’s why, dear ladies, if there is something I would like you to repeat to yourself in a moment of doubt about your business identity or branding strategy is this simple mantra:
“No One is Me and that’s my Superpower”
If you are still not convinced, start simple. Take a piece of paper and try to describe yourself in four/five words. What would it be?
Determined? Edgy? Smiley? Positive? Daring? Peaceful? Serious? Relaxed? Energetic? Sexual? Reserved? Crazy? Down-to-Earth? Sensitive? Caring? Fierce? Posh? Natural? Wild? Casual? Friendly? Practical? Spontaneous? Adventurous? Welcoming? Quiet? Hippy? Modern? Rebellious? Open? Quirky?
What are your keywords? What is your true essence? When you discover that, you will create a basic definition of your very own MPBA: Most Powerful Branding Asset – Yourself.
Coming back to “The Spiritual Butterfly Lady”;
many things I can say about this woman, but the thing that strikes me now the most, is how authentic she was. With her patchwork speech, herbal tea, Zodiac signs and Akashya readings reference she was rather annoying for my taste, but I have to give her this: SHE WAS REAL.
She won’t convince everyone in the world to work with her; she didn’t even convince everyone that signed up for her Meetup (me included). But that raw authenticity, an ability to truly embrace herself and show it to the world (saute version) brought her already some dedicated following and will continue to do so in the future.
And a couple of loyal customers.
I would like to thank Blair Badenhop, personal brand professional, and copywriter for inspiring me to write this article. Her podcast “Brand Yourself” is an amazing source of information and inspiration for any female entrepreneur who starts small but dreams big.