Next Level Personal Branding: Turning You Into the “Product”


Maria Ross of Red Slice

This is a workshop session that includes 10 activity questions for the audience to participate in.

Maria says welcome and hello to a packed room.

I am so excited the room is packed. I'm the creator and brand solver for Red Slice. I'm an author, I've written two books. One I'll be signing today. I wrote a book called "Rebooting my brain".

Today we're going to talk about next level personal branding, "turning you into the product." We'll be talking for the next 90 minutes. Talking about what a brand is and what it means to your business. Creating a personal brand and a business brand a are quite similar.

First, let's do a quick exercise..

On the screen are 9 business brands...Oprah, Apple, ASPCA, Disney, Walmart, Nike, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Steve Jobs. Pick one that resonates and what does it mean to you in three words.

One lady picked Nordstrom for customer service and product lines. Another chose Starbucks -- Addiction, delicious, eco-friendly.

I picked Steve Jobs (a lady says): Creative, black turtle necks
Oprah: Successful, driven, savvy, rich

Maria: Did anyone pick Walmart?

Yes one lady had Walmart.

Maria: Sometimes people have negative connotations for WalMart. In the instance of WalMart a lot of people have negative thoughts I'm sure that's not what the company wants.

What is brand? It's not just a logo, it's your promise to the world Brand is how human beings file you away in the mental file drawer. Brand is the mindshare you create. Having a brand strategy, even if you are blogging, it's gonna guide all your marketing decisions. It guides how you operate as a company.

It guides your decisions so you can say the right things at the right time.

I'll give you an example. Think about Nordstrom's brand. Would they ever sponsor a Monster Truck Rally? (Audience yells no)

Understanding and clarifying your brand's strategy helps you avoid wrong decisions. Would Dr. Oz ever talk about small business?

No, his brand is about health and medical.

I currently have a business about brand strategy. But I also love wine and dogs. You can find ways to tie in your personal interests

The simple truth...branding is not about how much money you's about clearness and consistency.

Why does brand matter to you?

Clarity...Customers and Coin

Clarity will guide you

Attract the right Customers

Coin -- A strong brand is something of value.

What does brand matter to your customer?

Clarity...what can I find here. this my tribe?

Coin...How does this "enrich" me?

How is brand communicated?

Your brand is the strategy itself. You communicate in three ways. It's visual. How does it look? The design. It's Verbal. As bloggers, what are we writing about. Are we formal, intellectual, wise cracking. It's experiential. What is it like to do business with you...or to be a member of your community.

When people talk about authentic branding it's about are you really delivering what you promise.

If you want to make money...your brand is a product. It is consumed. It needs to attract an audience and add value to their lives to thrive. Write your blog in your authentic voice with your perspective. But a product needs to deliver VALUE. What aspects of your personal brand are going to offer value to your audience?

Personal or Business Brands? Lines are blurring....but it's the same process. The Pioneer Woman. You can see how the lines have blurred
Their personal brand is the underpinning of the business brand.

Parlay a personal brand into your business: Intersource example. Formal naval IT officer wanted to build a brand that wasn't just based on him:

--Write a brand positioning statement
--This is what our company stands for
--We created a values manifesto for the company
--Now Jack's values for how things should be done are now Intersources values

Rest of the session will be talking about the 10 Key Questions to Build a Brand Strategy. We're going to work on this together.

#5 and #6 we're going to talk about in great detail because they are mistakes that are made.

This is really the basis of a brand strategy. The underpinning is, if you can answer these questions yourself, you will have the basis for a brand strategy. It will enable a web designer to hit the ground running.

First Question: Start with the basics. What do you do? Describe your blog and what you do. When you are building a mission statement or elevator speech, get to the guts of what you do. Pretend you're speaking to someone who knows nothing about you. Answer three questions:

--What do you do?
--Who do you serve?
--Why does it matter?

Keep it simple, no flowering marketing speak. Pretend you are talking to your grandmother. Right now take a few minutes to answer these questions.

Someone wants to share hers: My name is Dottie. I have a nostalgia blog. It's for moms who want to bring things from their own childhood to their own kids. We provide wonderful posts on fun things we did when we were kids.

Maria: Pretend I don't even know what a blog is. Talk about these are things I'm going to offer my advertisers.

Dottie: Shouldn't we know our target audience?

Sherell: My blog is I write and make humorous videos about urban women.

Maria: Love it. Keep it simple. These are the things that I do. These are the things I provide.

Maria: Can you kind of see how this is the basement, the foundation, what it is and why it matters. Just try this exercise for yourself. It's sort of a taking inventory question.

QUESTION #2...Offerings and Price Points

--What do you offer?
--What do you charge
--Free blog posts with ads? Video? Products? Courses?

Later you will align this with your ideal audience and determine if they have have a need and what if anything they will pay.

Your brand strategy has to be targeted towards your customer. This is purely focused on who is going to consume.

QUESTION #3...Strengths and Weaknesses

--What is in your brand arsenal?
--Where is the brand vulnerable
--Consider network, connections, what communities are you a part of?

Maybe there's a personal story related to what you blog about?

--Think about strengths you can parlay into a business brand.
--You want to downplay your weaknesses. Maybe you're really small. Turn it into a positive, we offer personal custom service.

QUESTION #4...What are your brand attributes?

--What do you want people to associate with you or your blog?
--What images, what adjectives. Are you the Anderson Cooper brand? The Audrey Hepburn. Are you NY or New Orleans? Do you compare to a TV show...Real Housewives or Charlie Rose? Figure out what it is you want to be and what you want people to think of when they hear your brand.

Take a minute and write down 5 images: What it is that resonates with you. 5 attributes for what you want your blog to convey. They can be fictional characters, a car, what ever you want that will help convey what you're about.

Maria: I know we will get some creative answers in this room! Is anybody ready to share?

Audience members: My blog is fun and authentic

Irreverent, accessible

I want my blog to be like Alton Brown. Informative, accessible, reliable and fun.

Maria: It's important to choose the right words. Words that are evocative. Choose Buttoned Up rather than Professional. Some attribute examples. Choosing the right designer is important. If you already have your brand strategy before you chose your designer is so important.

QUESTION #5: Who is your ideal audience?

Maria: This is the single most important question to your brand strategy. Who is your ideal reader? Think IDEAL and not AVERAGE. Defining this well guides your content and new offerings and ensures you will appeal to the right people.

Audience: Here's my difficulty. My blog title says mommy and if I look at the people who comment on my blog (it's a performance blog) it's very diverse.

Maria: You can't be all things to all people. You'll end up being nothing to no one. Vanilla and too bland. It's about who you're writing for. Who are you designing for. My point is have this person you are targeting to in mind. Who's your audience?

Primarily...I write for...whoever the customer segments are. Maybe you have the SAHM, the executive mom and one other segment on your mom blog.

When a designer designs an outfit they design it with a particular person in mind. Example, my husband is a huge X-Box player. He is in his mid thirties, has a wife and a dog. They are not targeting to my husband when they design Call to Duty. But that's not who they are trying to reach. But it still resonates for him and he still buys their products. Where are you going to place your time and effort.

--Build out three segments
--Give your target a name
--What do they look like
--Write a one page character profile of your ideal customer. What does she like, use, eat, do, read, watch on TV?

When I write content or post things on Facebook. I'm this going to attract Steve? Is it going to attract Kate. Do this exercise at home. Do it over a glass of wine. Think about what or who your two to three segments would be right now. When you go home tonight, flesh the segments out.

You can give the segment a fun name.

Audience Share:

My name is Heather (Rookie Moms). Writes with a partner. I define my true reader as my little sister Tamera and she's having her first baby. Other person is Long Time Reader or My Best Friend.

Another one: Young and Clueless. Veteran Grandma.

Non Punk Rock DIY, Curious Creative, Oaklandish

Sarah the Jewish Bride. Second bucket...Mother of the Bride.

Marie: For your target audience you are also targeting influencers!

My blog is Dead Cowgirl. I have two buckets. Young girls looking to Learn. Other bucket is the mom.

Question: Do you find these targets or profiles usually reflect yourself?

Maria: Great question...Yes. A lot of times we start things for ourselves. It actually makes things easier.

The point of the brand is so that your customers can self select. And decide if they want to be a part of the tribe or not. If you are not offending someone, you are not pleasing someone. I personally love Starbucks so they provide, fast...good...consistent convenient. Starbucks is not spending money to convince the hard core coffee people to become a part of their tribe.

Remember it's OK to have people not like you. It means you're doing something right.

QUESTION #6: What are the benefits you provide to readers?

Answer should not be all about you...not I do this or I do that. It should be about THEM. Why should they spend their time and attention with you? Think of the benefits you provide, not just the features. Why it matters to people. Who cares? What is it that I am getting from your blog? Answer the question, what's in it for me? "You can get a really lush, fertile, beautiful garden by reading my blog posts." Connect the dots for people and bang the drum over and over. These are the three main benefits I provide.

Benefits can be tailored slightly differently for different audience segments. You can think of it in terms of what are you increasing or what are you decreasing for them. Why does it matter?

If I'm a car company and I offer the most state of the art safety features. So what, why does it matter? It keeps your family safe in a crash. Boom! That's the benefit.

Audience: What if the benefits start to feel really generic. So let's say something about healing relationships with your mother. What's the benefit of that?

Maria: You could go down an endless path the circles like the kid that keeps saying, why...why...why.

QUESTION 7: Who is your competition and why are YOU different?

Maria: Different blogs and businesses will attract different tribes. Apple vs. PC. You want to find the "whitespace" in what your competition is doing. Nobody is doing it quite this way...find the niche that you fill.

Branding is about differentiating your blog from the other guys.

You have a florist, a jewelry shop and a chocolate shop. They do different things. BUT come Valentines Day, they are competing against each other. As you are considering your competition you might want to think where a particular audience profile is going to spend their time and money. Life coaches, other competition is self help books. It's sort of like Objection handling before you get the actual objection. Knowing what you are up against is going to help you convey while you're the best alternative.

QUESTION #8: Audience Communications. Brand is about two way communication. Different people have different relationships with your brand. Be mindful of the way you are communicating. Do you treat email list different than people who find you randomly on the Internet. Communicate to different audiences differently. Branding is two way communication. Listen to them.

QUESTION #9: What is your one greatest Asset?

This is something that only I can claim. No one else in your category can claim. Go back to strengths and weaknesses. What is that ONE thing I have
that no one else can claim? The advertisers you have? Your expertise? Your voice? The size of your audience?

Spend a few minutes thinking about this.

Share: I think my blog is Hollywood Mom Blog. For parents of professional bloggers. My goal is to be the Oprah of Momagers. My background is my greatest asset, but experience, I was a private investigator. I worked in Hollywood. It's like five different things. It's because I am the five faces of Eve.

Maria is that on your profile/about page?


Maria: The answers are inside of you.

Audience Member: Blog about food intolerances. She is the person that she is writing for.

QUESTION #10: Measure the success. How do we do it?

The ultimate metric is sales or ad dollars or even readership numbers. The sales cycle:

--Awareness--I know who you are
--Education--I know what you're about
--Consideration--Now I'm going to consider my choices and alternatives
--Purchase--Ok I'm convinced, I'm signing up

Every buyer goes through this.

What will you measure? Define the metrics:

--Blog readers
--Press mentions

Pick a mix of both qualitative and quantitative metrics.

What's in a brand strategy document?

--Ideal customer profiles
--Messaging platform
--Brand attributes

It's a good idea to have this articulated in one document.

Crafting a Visual ID for your brand: Hire an experienced designer, develop logo and color palette, create a style guide, carry color palette into web design, create visual ID systems.

Do not let a designer leave until they create a style guide so you can maintain consistency.

A clear brand strategy helps you

--define who you are
--spread the word
--Focus on effective marketing
--Create customized messaging
--Integrate communications
--Remain true to yourself
--Save time and money on marketing.

URL IS Red Slice:

Good luck and thanks for your time!