Define, Develop, and Display. Be thoughtful and thorough in your personal branding approach. First, keep in mind the difference between branding and marketing. Marketing is using various different vehicles to get a message and image out to your prospects. Your brand IS the message and image that is conveyed through your marketing. It differentiates you, gives clear focus in your business direction, and helps you attract ideal customers so you can work smarter, not harder. Without a properly defined, developed, and displayed brand, you undoubtedly waste time, effort, and especially money when it comes to marketing yourself and your business.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr from BrandFace®.
Tonya Eberhart is the founder of BrandFace® and Branding Agent to Business Stars. She’s also the author of four books on personal branding. Tonya’s humble career began while selling vacuum cleaners door to door to pay her way through college. That led to a job in radio, where she observed local business owners who were featured in their own advertising and positioned as local celebrities in the market. That’s when she realized the power that personal branding has on a business. Almost two decades and many successful brands later, she founded BrandFace®, a personal branding firm consisting of a book series, speaking series, and personal branding program that is designed to help business stars differentiate themselves.
Michael Carr is America’s Top Selling Real Estate Auctioneer and the Abundant Life Broker. During his 28 years of experience, he has been actively involved in over 78,000 real estate transactions and licensed in as many as 31 states in the continental U.S. as a broker and an auctioneer. Michael first met Tonya in 2013 when he became a client. He immediately put her exclusive personal branding concepts to work at his own brokerage, and as a result, his real estate business quadrupled over the next year, and continues to grow in recognition, revenue and recruitment. On the heels of that success, they decided to co-author BrandFace® for Real Estate Professionals, which became a #1 international bestseller on Amazon. And today, he is a partner and the COO of BrandFace®.
BrandFace® is the only comprehensive personal brand building system across the globe. Our exclusive, step by step program helps business stars build a personal brand that STANDS OUT from their competition and attracts their ideal customers so they can become recognized and sought after authorities. Tonya Eberhart & Michael Carr are the partners behind BrandFace®. Their mantra is, “People don’t do business with a logo. They do business with a person.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Tonya: When I was selling vacuum cleaners, I learned pretty quickly that I couldn’t just walk up to someone’s front door and ask if they wanted to buy a vacuum. I had to craft my own story about why I was there, and how I could provide value to them in that moment. That’s where my first experience with personal branding took root, even though I didn’t know that’s what it was called. Then, when I entered the radio scene, that concept was magnified. From that point forward, everything I did in the media industry for the next eighteen years had a ‘personal branding’ thread running through it. When I came up with the BrandFace® concept, one of the first people I worked with was Michael Carr. He was a real estate broker, auctioneer, and investor. He stepped enthusiastically into the program, and became a fantastic success story. That’s when I invited him to co-author the second book in the series (BrandFace® for Real Estate Professionals), and eventually, he became a partner in the company.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Tonya: This wouldn’t necessarily be a mistake, because after 30 years of being in branding and marketing, mistakes still aren’t funny! All kidding aside, a moment that stands out to me was when we put Michael’s face on shopping carts in the most visited Kroger store in the state of Georgia at the time. He was still getting used to the idea of having his face out there. I was in our Columbus, Ohio, office at the time, so I asked him to visit the store and take a photo of himself beside one of the carts showing his ad. He reluctantly agreed, but hastily took a selfie with the cart in the back corner of Kroger. We both still laugh about that one! Now he has billboards covering an entire area along the I-85 corridor. He never looked back.
Michael: When I was starting as a real estate auctioneer, I scored a sale to auction off 30 lots on top of a mountain in Ellijay, Georgia. We had to put signs out to advertise the auction in advance, and that task was assigned to me. One day I set out for the downtown area looking for places to put the signs, and I saw a giant wooden structure, larger than two billboards put together. It contained a lot of individual signs promoting various businesses, and I thought it was the perfect place to hang one of our auction signs. After I hung our sign, I barely got ten minutes down the road before someone from the Mayor’s office called me and informed me that the businesses featured on the sign were paying sponsors, and those spots were 300 dollars per month. I was only 20 years old at the time, and it was a lesson that I never really learned. I say, put your sign up everywhere you can, and if they ask you to take it down, take it down.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our mantra is, “People don’t do business with a logo. They do business with a person.” Yes, corporate or business branding is important, but on the street level, your relationship with a business almost always comes down to a person who helps you cross the finish line. And that particular person is usually the reason you choose one business over another. We’re so passionate about that, that we developed the only comprehensive personal brand building system across the globe.That’s our point of differentiation in the branding world. Right now the term ‘personal branding’ gets tossed around a lot. Fortunately, that’s because it’s that important. But there is a lot of misinformation and misperception about what that means. First, there’s a huge difference between ‘building’ your brand versus ‘promoting’ your brand. You can only promote a brand once it’s built. And building a personal brand involves so much more than a photo, logo, and a tagline. In order to have a strong personal brand, you first need to define your ideal customers and your point of differentiation. It all begins there, and your logo, brand colors, photos, tagline, and more come only after those things are unveiled. We created a comprehensive three part formula for personal branding called the ‘3-D Freedom Formula’. In it, we look at 77 different criteria to ensure that we have captured the person and their brand before they begin to market themselves.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We actually just launched BrandFace® SCORE last year, which is a tool that will allow business owners and entrepreneurs to see how their personal brand is performing. The 6-Part Score System will show them exactly where they’re doing well, and where their brand could use improvement. The tool is in beta right now, and it’s free. We’re hoping it will help a lot of people understand what personal branding is truly about, and lead them in the right direction for massive success.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
We have a bold stance on marketing and advertising (whether it’s a brand or product). We’ve seen many advertisers waste money because they didn’t have a point of differentiation or well developed brand to promote. We believe it’s critical to have it all together before you begin marketing or advertising anywhere. Otherwise, you risk falling into the ‘sea of sameness’, where everyone is shouting “do business with me!” without the clear ‘WHY’. Defining who your ideal customer is, and a compelling reason they should choose you over your competition, should be the first thing you do. And when it comes to personal branding, it should be based on your professional and personal attributes. It’s the human connection that drives business success.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Right back to the last answer. It’s critical. For instance, how on earth would you even know what to say or promote in your marketing unless (first of all) you know who you’re trying to attract? Then, once you know that, you need to clearly define WHY they should choose you over everyone else in your space. Many marketers right now are screaming “we can help you build your brand!” from the rooftops, but in actuality, most are attempting to sell you a system or product to help you ‘promote’ your brand (not build it). That’s where the misinformation confuses people. You use tools like marketing funnels, social media, advertising, lead generation, etc. to market yourself after your brand is defined, developed, and ready to display. The awesome thing about building your brand first is that your marketing performs exponentially better.
Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
2020 changed the landscape of business. Now, more than ever, people need a trusted and believable PERSONAL brand, even if they are part of a company. Here are five ways to build trust and recognition through your brand.
- Remember Where You Came From. Your personal life from birth forward largely defines you, and many of the things about you, which you can use and project to help you attract ideal customers. The way you grew up often determines your direction in business. Many times, a positive upbringing and environment can instinctually lead you in a positive direction. Other times, great challenges in life cause you to move in a positive direction. But make no mistake about it, your upbringing largely determines your ethics, ideals, dreams, and goals. Michael and I were both raised in small towns where everyone knew everyone. It shaped the way we appreciate relationships and the pride we take in everything we do, from intimate webinars to speaking in front of thousands. We’re grateful for the opportunities and connections that both can provide.
- Begin with a Brand Identifier. That’s atagline or slogan which serves as a ‘hook’ to get people to instantly take notice of what you stand for. It provides a fast path to recognition and understanding. Your personal brand is like a book. There’s no way to fit the entire contents of the book onto the cover, right? So the cover has to capture the attention of your prospects, and get them to want to open the book to learn more. That’s what a great brand identifier does for you. As an example, one of our real estate clients is known as the Lifestyle Locator® in Whistler, British Columbia. Her name is Kathy White, and she is perfectly suited for that identifier because she embraces everything about the adventurous outdoor lifestyle that Whistler has to offer. She’s a downhill skier, a cyclist, a runner, and a pilot. She also happens to be active on her local tourism board. When people see the term Lifestyle Locator®, they immediately connect with what it stands for.
- Be Bold in Your Approach. There is only one you. Stop comparing yourself to others and be confident, authentic, and proud of what you stand for. So many times, prospects will ask us, “can you send me some personal branding examples from people in my area?” Our response is, “You came here to be different. So it really doesn’t matter what anyone else’s brand looks like. What matters is whether your brand represents you authentically, and positions you as the one person who can solve the problems your ideal customers face in your industry. For example, one of our clients is a board certified Veterinarian Internal Medicine Specialist who left private practice for industry consulting. Today, she’s known as the Pragmatic Professor, an activist for a creative and common sense approach to caring for animals. Her elevator pitch reads, “I teach veterinary students, practitioners and industry leaders a creative and common sense approach to caring for animals without sacrificing quality, a thriving business, or their own sanity.” This helps her truly stand out in her industry with a bold and unforgettable approach.
- Define, Develop, and Display. Be thoughtful and thorough in your personal branding approach. First, keep in mind the difference between branding and marketing. Marketing is using various different vehicles to get a message and image out to your prospects. Your brand IS the message and image that is conveyed through your marketing. It differentiates you, gives clear focus in your business direction, and helps you attract ideal customers so you can work smarter, not harder. Without a properly defined, developed, and displayed brand, you undoubtedly waste time, effort, and especially money when it comes to marketing yourself and your business.
- Unveil Your Inner Star. Everyone has star power inside them, and going through a personal branding process brings that out into the open. The reason many people are shy about putting themselves ‘out there’ is because they view the approach as egotistical. We disagree if it’s done correctly. Your personal brand should not focus on a “look at me” approach. Its entire purpose is to convey “look what I can do for you” to your customers. With that spirit in mind, it becomes powerfully positive, and focused exactly where it should be. When this happens, we’ve heard from countless people that it changes their life in a positive way both professionally and personally. After all, “A great brand doesn’t just change the way others see you. It changes the way you see yourself.”
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
We have many favorites, but one personal brand we believe to be among the most powerful and memorable is Tony Robbins. His name is synonymous with challenging yourself to be the very best you can be. His brand extends to all of his businesses based on those things that make him personally inspiring and motivating. He has never wavered from his ‘no excuses’ approach, and insistence that everyone deserves health, wealth, and happiness. The great part about that is, you can emulate the persistence, but you don’t have to emulate the man because you are the only you in the world. You have your own brand.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
There are several ways to measure the success of a personal brand. First, when people begin to refer to you based on your brand identifier or what you stand for, you know it’s working. Second, when you begin to get referrals based on your niche and direction, you know it’s working. Third, when you begin to see more and more of your ideal customers knocking on your door instead of endlessly chasing them, it’s working. And here’s a humorous one for you. When your competitors begin to make comments about your brand and marketing efforts, most especially if they are snide comments, you know for sure it’s working.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Social media is the window to the soul. You can sway more people at one time using social media than you can ever amass in one room. You can express what you stand for creatively and infinitely. And you can engage one to one, or one to many. We know it isn’t perfect, and we know that not everyone will love you and your brand. But if you remain above the fray, taking the good and casting out the bad, it’s actually one the greatest inventions in this century.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Forget what you see the popular celebrities doing, which is living every moment of their lives on social media. Forget the negative comments, unanswered emails, lost deals, and posts that get ignored. After all, “you can’t lose what you never had”. Stay 100% focused on the solution you can provide, and be positive about it every single day. Be true to yourself, and take time away from it all for yourself. Work to live, don’t live to work. Although that’s a very old adage, it is poignant nonetheless. If you build something meaningful and with good intention, you will reap the rewards. And a large part of that reward is time for yourself, your family, and your friends.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We plan to launch BrandFace® for Youth (a personal branding motivational division for ages 18 and under) within the next couple of years. We both came from challenging and humble surroundings, and wish we knew back then what we know now. Sometimes the only difference between a young person preparing for college and one facing a prison sentence is understanding what makes them different and special. We believe everyone deserves not only to know that, but to clearly define, develop, and display that. Our clients have asked us many times, “Can you make me a star?” We love to respond with, “We don’t make stars. We unveil them.” The world needs more authentic stars.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Tonya: My favorite quote by far is “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” (Dr. Wayne Dyer). When I first read this, it gave me an entirely new perspective. I have always been an optimistic and positive person, but it made me realize that I could affect my own view and attitude about certain things if I just changed the way I viewed them. Then I realized that it also applied to people. It’s made me more tolerant, and, I hope, more tolerable as well:)
Michael: One of my favorites is “A rising tide raises all ships”, a quote that is attributed to John F. Kennedy. Put together a group of like minded individuals where no one person gets the credit, and see what’s possible. If you surround yourself with people who share the same ideals, you build a culture that helps everyone. The worst thing any successful business person can do is not help those around them, especially when it costs them nothing to do so.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Tonya: I would love to have lunch with Barbara Corcoran, whom I have admired for years. She’s the quintessential female ‘power figure’ in real estate, and has been a member of Shark Tank, which I fell in love with at first bite. Pun intended. I love her ‘get it done’ business approach, combined with her genuine desire to help people who have a strong passion in businesses that do the same.
Michael: I admire Richard Branson for his adventurous management style. When asked how he makes money with so many different products (sodas, shoes, an airline, etc.), he says, “when you have the right management team, you can do anything.” I find that to be so true, and attempt to emulate that inside my company every day. If you want a successful organization that can shift in any market, it’s about hiring the right people and trusting their ability to do the job. Richard trusts his team implicitly to be successful at anything they do because of this culture.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube: @brandfacestar
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.