I recently gave a presentation to a group of business journalists in the Kansas City area about the career skills they need to survive in the business publishing world. I guess they figured that since I have managed to stick around for more than 30 years with Electrical Wholesaling, I might know a thing or two about dancing between the raindrops without getting wet.
While putting together this presentation, I was struck by how many of the things I learned about surviving in the rather tumultuous world of business publishing translate rather well to the electrical market, too. Being a shameless self-promoter is not really my gig, but it’s just good business marketing to position yourself as a valuable employee and as a knowledgeable industry resource. Here are a few things I learned over the years about what it takes to build your own personal brand.
Integrity is everything. It goes without saying that brand-building starts and stops with being a person who co-workers, customers and vendors can trust. Without integrity you’re damaged goods, and you will have a tough time marketing yourself.
Get involved. Whether it’s internally with your company, in a local electrical group or a national electrical association, or the community in which you live, you will get out of it what you put into it. It’s fun and it’s a great way to pay forward for what other people have done for you over the years. On a pure business level, it’s also a great way to meet new customers and possibly new employers.
Weave yourself into the fabric of your company. Take a 360-degree snapshot of what your company needs most from a person in your role. To do this, talk with your supervisor, co-workers, customers and vendors about what they expect from you in your current job and then develop a plan to fulfill that role.
Be the high-energy employee willing to take on new responsibilities. Don’t be the employee who worries about company politics, what’s on your job description, or how to use up all of your sick days.
When you have an idea for a new product or service keep your pitch short and sweet. If you are having a hard time boiling down your idea to the essentials, then try doing it in PowerPoint and limiting yourself to no more than five bulleted points. You can always get into more detail later.
Build your brand as a subject matter expert. We all have our niche. Don’t be shy about sharing some of your knowledge as a speaker for local or national trade associations or as an author for an industry publication like EW.
Continually replenish your industry contacts. Some folks will be in your contact database forever, but many are on the move. They may get new jobs, leave the industry or retire. When you attend an industry event, try to make no less than five-to-ten new contacts to continually replenish your database.
Have your elevator speech down pat. When you are at an industry event, be sure to have a 30-second answer down pat to common questions from business associates such as, “How’s business?” or, “What’s new with your company?”
Have a promotional strategy in place before leaving for an industry event. This should include everything from having enough business cards in your briefcase or backpack to having digital copies of any appropriate company brochures or new product spec sheets on a tablet computer, laptop or smartphone. If you are going to use a digital device, make sure you can get to the information real fast so you aren’t fumbling around with it in front of a customer or vendor.
Have a post-event plan in place, too. Get any new contacts you make into your database and get an email back to them within a day or two of your return. Even better, try sending a hand-written note when appropriate to cut through all the digital clutter. It makes it easier to send notes to new contacts if you have some blank note cards in your desk with the envelopes prestamped.
These ideas are all pretty simple, but they can really help you build your personal brand.