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Five Steps to Building Your Personal Brand From Scratch

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What would you like people to say about you?

As Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Your personal brand is the sum total of what you do, how you do it and why you do it. It’s not something you can fake. It’s authentic and deep-seated.

If you get it right, your personal brand will make you stand out from the crowd, shine a spotlight on your expertise and enhance your value. You’ll have an energy and a buzz about you that people can’t help being drawn to.

So how can you build your personal brand?

For starters, don’t make the mistake of thinking your personal brand is all about you. It’s not. Your personal brand is not about your work experience or your personal accomplishments. Your personal brand should be about other people, specifically what you can do for other people.

Start by asking yourself a few questions: What needs can you address? What are the areas where you can offer the most value? What makes you different from the rest?

Related: Eight Tips for Building Your Personal Brand in 2017

With a little thought and planning, you can build your personal brand from scratch. Just follow these five steps:

1. Discover your opportunity.

Passion is not enough. You might have a passion for rock climbing, or playing the ukulele. But having a passion does not automatically translate to recognition and success.

Instead of focussing on your passions, study the needs of the people in your circles. What are they trying to achieve? What are they struggling with? What are their frustrations?

Think about how you could best help these people.

Dig deep into who you are. Identify what you can bring to the table. Evaluate not just the skills and experience you’ve acquired but also the values that guide and inform you.

Study your competition. Can you serve a need that in an area that doesn’t have lots of competition?

If there’s lots of competition wherever you look, don’t be discouraged. Can you serve a need in a way that’s distinctive and noteworthy?

Related: Eight Reasons a Powerful Personal Brand Will Make You Successful

You’ve identified your opportunity when you’ve found a significant need that you can serve, in a way that sets you apart from the competition.

2. Know your audience.

Everything starts with your audience. Find out as much as you can about them. This includes standard demographic data such as what jobs they do, how much they earn and where they live.

Equally, if not more importantly, you need to know what their beliefs and values are, their hopes and dreams and the challenges they are facing.

Talk to your audience. Take them out for a coffee or set up a Skype call. Study them by reading what they’re saying on relevant social media, forums and review sites.

Is your audience more interested in quality or value? What’s more important to them, making a difference or making money? What public figures do they admire?

How much do your audience know about what you can offer them? Will you need to educate them for them to appreciate your value?

Related: How to Reach Your Target Audience

Identify who your core audience is. Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Identify which audience segments are most likely to become long-term customers and advocates. These are the people you should focus on.

3. Craft your message.

In Hollywood, budding filmmakers learn to prepare an “elevator pitch” to sell their movie ideas to busy studio executives. The key is to summarize their idea in a short, memorable phrase that could be pitched even if they had to do it in an elevator.

For example, the movie Alien was initially pitched as, “Jaws in space.”

You want to tell your audience about what you do, about what makes you different and exciting. But they probably won’t have time to listen to your life story.

Instead, you should create a short message that sums up what you’re about in a way which connects with your audience. Keep it simple and memorable. Think of it as your elevator pitch. Your message should reflect the people you serve, the values that you embody and the results you achieve.

If you have any testimonials, study them. What were the things about you that people valued the most? Observe the exact phrases people use when talking about you. Often, these are the precisely the phrases you should use when describing yourself.

Related: Three Steps to Creating Your Branding Message

Use your message to brand yourself on your professional profiles. Most importantly, embody it in everything you do.

4. Hone your uniqueness.

Maybe you can do something highly useful that very few people can do. Well, that’s your unique quality, and you should tell your audience about it.

But perhaps there are plenty of people who do what you do, and you’ll be competing for the same audience. Being able to demonstrate a point of uniqueness is your key to success in a competitive market.

The most obvious point of uniqueness is to be the best. There are many ways of being the best. Find out which way plays to your strengths. Are you the most experienced, most creative, most efficient? Do you excel at customer service?

If you can’t be the best in some way, becoming more specialized can make you unique. For example, instead of offering a marketing service to small business owners in general, you could offer a marketing service targeted at chiropractors.

Related: Differentiating Your Business

And don’t be afraid to be controversial to stand out. If you hold different opinions from the others, don’t be afraid to voice them. Just stay away from topics that are likely to cause offense, like religion and politics.

5. Define your values.

Authenticity is the cornerstone of personal branding. Your authenticity is what allows your audience to trust you, to engage with you, to tell their friends about you. Being authentic is about having stated values and being true to them.

So what are your values? You should include business values, such as driving innovation or personal accountability. You might also add ethical values, such as care for the environment.

How you speak and write is also a reflection of your values. Are you serious or informal? Do you address the layman or expert? What are your cultural reference points?

Guard against inconsistency, such as saying one thing and doing another, as this will cast doubt on your values and undermine your brand.

Related: Core Values News and Topics

Keep your values at the heart of everything you do, as you interact with people, network on social media, or publish blog posts. Wherever and whenever you engage, ensure you do so in a way that shines a light on your values.

A daily source of inspiration and information, Entrepreneur.com fuels the spectrum of game-changers that define what it means to be an entrepreneur today. That includes business leaders who launched something from nothing, content creators in the social influencer space, athletes pushing the boundaries of performance, and internal thought leaders innovating inside major corporations. Entrepreneur.com offers strategic insights and how-to guidance for the people that make things happen.

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How to Stay Calm Under Pressure

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He started playing poker at 18 and was winning championships by his early twenties. Despite millions in winnings, world recognition and playing at the high roller tournaments, Fedor Holz is leaving professional poker at age 24.

He’s focusing his energy on creating easy-to-access training on high performance mindset tactics. And I was fascinated to learn why.

When I met Fedor a few weeks ago, he had just finished in the top rankings of a huge high roller tournament in Vegas. But instead of talking about poker, we mostly talked about how he stays grounded when so much is at stake. We also discussed how he learned to honor his decisions, even when they turned out to cost him a game.

I loved getting Fedor’s perspective on what it takes to become great at a specific skill, but he was also honest about what it costs. I was especially interested in what he said about the skill of removing emotion from actions and how that can turn out badly in the rest of a person’s life.

Whether you’re interested in poker or not, you’ll learn valuable insights about performing at a high level in anything in Episode 544.

Subscribe on iTunesStitcher RadioGoogle Play or TuneIn.

This story originally appeared on Lewis Howes

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Why Kicking Out Counterfeit Crooks on Instagram Is So Important

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Would you spend over a thousand dollars on a pair of sneakers? There are plenty who would — a pair of Adidas Yeezy’s comes with a price tag of $1,000 or more. For those who are less flush, the market has become flooded with knock-off fakes. These are promoted via comments and sponsored ads on sites like Facebook and Instagram.

When Kanye West tweeted “you probably got bootleg Yeezy’s on right now,” followers responded in typical Twitter fashion, with a torrent of abuse from all angles, but when it came to real brand loyalty, sneakerheads were split. Die-hard fans rebuked the fakes, though others have been tempted by prices as low as $99.

A year later, these social commerce scams are running riot online, fueled by social bots and a growing underground counterfeit economy, hijacking brand advertising efforts. Andrea Stroppa’s “Social media and luxury goods counterfeit investigation revealed that 20 percent of Instagram posts for luxury brands feature counterfeit or illicit products.

At BrandBastion, we conducted an investigation into Instagram counterfeiters to examine the risks brands face on social media and what they can do to fight it.

Social media’s safe harbor for organized crime.

The luxury online retail market is estimated to reach $41.88 billion by 2019, according to Bain & Company. It’s impressive, but just a fraction of the booming business of the $461 billion global counterfeit goods market funding large-scale criminal operations. Stroppa’s investigation explains how exploitative practices force women and children to work in inhumane conditions, in turn powering illegal gangs, dictatorships and global terrorism.

Related: Evolve or Die: Luxury Brands Must Embrace Digital To Thrive

Organized crime has entered the digital realm, with counterfeit trade visible on the most popular ecommerce platforms and social media streams. These operations are largely based in China, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Ukraine, though technology allows them to target global audiences.

In the U.S., the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) mandates that so long as platforms have an effective takedown system, they are not liable, putting pressure on brands to protect themselves. Until now, this has mainly impacted selling tools such as eBay, Alibaba and commerce-friendly social network WeChat, to the detriment of luxury brands like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton and Gucci. But digitally-savvy fake sellers have graduated from basic host services like eBay, finding global reach and big profits as commerce takes off on social media. Complete with new mobile-oriented features like Instagram’s Shop Now and Buy buttons, these networks are becoming serious selling tools for counterfeit criminals.

As online sellers invest in social growth tactics, the frauds are hot on their heels, armed with ad campaigns and bots, retargeting their users and flooding sites with illegal goods. This social media safe harbor creates a playground for fraudsters using aggressive tactics, even hijacking a brand’s own social media posts or ads to target audiences with counterfeit copies.

The Instagram comments scam.

BrandBastion examined a sample of 36,000 comments from the Instagram posts of 12 top luxury brands — Salvatore Ferragamo, Manolo Blahnik, Marni, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Balmain, Versace and Dior — with a combined reach of more than 62 million followers.

One in 18 comments included a serious threat for brands. Major dangers included 729 (2.03 percent) comments leading to direct counterfeiting from some 94 counterfeit sellers; 1,013 comments (2.81 percent) contained spam and scams; and 208 (0.58 percent) had brand attacks from avid activists, at times launching brand boycotts. Some retailers fared worse than others; 8.27 percent of Saint Laurent comments contained a brand threat. On the other end of the scale, Dior had 3.37 percent brand threats, though with a significantly larger following and greater posting activity.

Related: U.S. Shuts Down Huge Online Dark Web Market, AlphaBay

Counterfeiters borrow images scraped from online searches, newly embed fresh information to appear unchanged, and, armed with purchased fake followers, they often appear legitimate. Fraudulent accounts post comments such as “Check out my page Got All Designer” along with contact details, such as instant messenger chat IDs, enabling encrypted conversations with so-called “salespeople.” The OECD reported that sellers post these goods via complex routes, preying on transit hotspots from “countries with weak governance and widespread organized crime such as Afghanistan and Syria.”

Fighting fire with fire.

Instagram is cracking down on fake accounts, purging millions of spam and bot accounts and using proactive tools such as spam detectors and blocking systems. But by cloning and replicating content, fresh accounts pop up every day. This proliferation of content keeps moderators busy in a cat-and-mouse chase. Meanwhile, the responsibility of tackling new social media fraudsters largely rests on law enforcement agencies, brands and innovative technologies.

A digital ecosystem to target counterfeit sellers is in early stages. Informal name-and-shame accounts on Instagram, such as @fake_education and @yeezybusta reveal identified fake sellers. Online community forums like Scamadviser, Realscam and Scamwarners allow both retailers and consumers to name and shame known offending domains. Flipping community activism on its head, third-party services and blockchain technologies, such as startup Blockverify using the bitcoin currency infrastructure, also verify goods and track sales.

The downside is that lack of formal regulation facilitates a free-for-all of independent forums and competing businesses. Moreover, uneducated consumers are often not deterred by fake labels and are unaware of real threats from criminal operations. One in four consumers report purchasing counterfeit products online —  and these forums can even aid their search for fake products.

Brand managers need to be able to monitor new social media accounts using keywords, images, handles (or account names) and trending hashtags to uncover brand violations. New accounts often have similar names, posting behaviors and messages, and third-party forums also provide new leads. It’s important that brands also have community moderation checks in place when it comes to their own content and community engagement, to ensure that sellers aren’t getting a free ride through hacking their own ads and posts.

Related: Lax Online Security Can Destory Your Brand Overnight

As fake sellers adopt new technology to mimic and automate brand posting behaviors, artificially-intelligent moderation tools help businesses to uncover the crooks. It’s a battle of the bots, cross-referencing masses of data and identifying trends in order to uncover new threats and scams.

Counterfeiters that have traditionally focused on luxury brands are branching out to all industries. While footwear is the most frequently copied, fraudsters plagiarize anything from high-fashion handbags to popular wines, automotive parts, chemicals, medication and even fresh fruit. With brands like Adidas, Louis Vuitton and Chanel fighting fakes and launching high-profile courtroom disputes, it draws attention to the crisis. Declaring war on this criminal activity, intelligent technology and anti-counterfeit partnerships seek to take control, cleaning up social media and kicking out those counterfeit crooks. It’s a new wave of rebellion against organized crime masquerading as luxury produce and trusted household goods.

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6 Fatal B2B Sales Mistakes You Must Avoid

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B2B sales can be incredibly rewarding and lucrative — if you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, most salespeople in this field make the same few mistakes again and again. When everyone around you is making the same missteps and blunders with B2B selling, it can be extremely difficult to know how to fix your approach.

If you’re looking to overhaul your strategy for B2B sales so you can start to crush your competition, it’s time to start actively avoiding the most common B2B sales mistakes out there today. Here are the six fatal B2B sales mistakes you’re probably making:

1. Selling to low-level buyers.

It may be easier to get in front of buyers and purchasing managers than C-suite prospects, since you never have to deal with a gatekeeper in order to reach them. But those low-level buyers don’t have the power — or the budget — to tell you “yes.” In fact, they’re only really good at telling salespeople “no.” You won’t make money selling to low-level buyers in B2B sales, so make a commitment to seek out high-level decision makers who can actually say “yes” to what you have to offer their businesses.

Related: Want to Make Your First Sale? These Entrepreneurs Share How They Did It.

2. Highlighting your product’s features and benefits.

There was a time when prospects cared about the features and benefits of your product. But they simply don’t anymore. Prospects today only care about the results and outcomes you can create in their world. More specifically, they want to know how you can solve their key challenges and deepest frustrations. Instead of highlighting your product’s features and benefits when selling to businesses, focus on specific outcomes your product or service can help your prospects achieve.

3. Giving proposals with only one option.

One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make in B2B sales is putting together single-option proposals. There are two major problems with these proposals. First, they don’t provide any context, which compels prospects to shop around to determine the value of your solution. Second, customers who really want to invest in a premium option will be limited to a lower-tier solution. Instead, provide a three-option proposal — ranging from the lowest end option that will still solve their problem to a higher end option with the most value — to boost your average sale size and the number of deals you close.

Related: 7 Tips for Getting More Sales Meetings With Prospects

4. Relying solely on the phone and internet.

There’s been a big movement in B2B sales towards selling online and on the phone. In some cases, this can be efficient and helpful, but if you’re selling an expensive, high-end product or service that requires a serious investment, you simply can’t skip out on meeting face to face. Hop on a plane if that’s what it takes to sit across from a valuable prospect. You’ll increase your close rate many times over, and being able to close big deals at huge companies is well worth the cost of travel.

5. Failing to clarify your value proposition.

Every time a B2B prospect asks what exactly it is that you do, you should have a quick and rehearsed response that succinctly describes the value you create. Clarify, script out, and memorize your value proposition. This is the only part of your sales presentation you have to memorize, so there’s really no excuse for hazy, rambling answers to this question.

6. Rushing to offer deals and discounts.

Low prices only attract bad prospects in B2B sales. Your ideal customer cares about value, not price, so quit offering deals and discounts. It only lowers your value in the eyes of your prospects. Instead, focus on the value you create, and be proud to offer the premium solution on the market. This attitude will attract the type of customer who values you for years to come.

Related: 6 Strategies for Avoiding the ‘Race to the Bottom’ Price War You Don’t Want to Win 

Which of these mistakes have you been making in B2B sales? How will you correct your mistakes and start crushing your sales goals? Check out this free Ultimate 3-Step Prospecting Call Template for more powerful sales advice.

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