Part of being a successful entrepreneur is having the skill set of a successful leader. Strong, effective leadership is integral to both individual and company success. In alignment with our dedication to creating content centered around fashion news, inspiration, and entrepreneurship, we at Indie Source believe that providing leadership development skills and education opportunities encourages growth and lasting success of your brand. We are thrilled to announce a partnership with several guest writers who’ll be delivering leadership focused content, right here on the Indie Source Blog.
This week, we introduce you to DeAnna McIntosh, Chief Global Strategist of The Affinity Group International. DeAnna is a merchandising expert with over 13 years in the industry, and is passionate about the same mission Indie Source is – YOU!
Every week, and often times every day, I’m approached by someone who has made the decision to create their own brand and asked “But where do I start”? You start by ensuring your personal brand is parallel to what you envision your professional brand to be, and if it isn’t, work on that first so your personal brand will propel your professional brand further than you could have ever imagined.
Even if you’ve already launched your brand, this information is vital to you as well.
You, as the Founder, carry a huge weight on your shoulders. The success of your brand, your “baby”, is in your hands and is your direct responsibility – the creation, organization, planning, execution, financials, hiring and firing, troubleshooting, product design, successes and failures – and the list goes on. Your saving grace is knowing who you are personally and professionally, and being consistent and steadfast in that. That is how you develop a reputation that carries with you through everything you do, not just in your business, but in your life.
Your Personal and Professional Brand Matters in Your Workplace
A lot of Founders begin building their brand while still working full – time, aka side hustle.
First, let me tell you there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that. It’s smart, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! I cringe every time I see another “business coach” or “guru” screaming for everyone to quit their jobs and pursue entrepreneurship”. Side husting allows you to test things with your brand and business model that you wouldn’t be able to if it was your sole source of income.
While at work, concentrate on the work that you are being paid to do, and during every single last one of your breaks, work on your brand. Take phone calls during your lunch hour. Check emails during 15 your 15-minute breaks. In your professional life you never want to burn any bridges. You never know who may be your greatest resource for your business – or even where your next investor may come from! Your reputation follows you, and typically precedes you. Imagine if people have heard about you before even meeting you – this is the goal.
Pay close attention to processes and procedures at work that you can utilize in your own brand.
Keep your eyes open to things that you love and want to emulate, and it’s just as important to pay attention to the things that you don’t. Test your methodologies at work in different situations and look at the outcome. Look at your full-time job as your biggest client, not just a paycheck until you can do what you want. What are concrete successes you can walk away with your job having, that will interest investors?
The same leadership qualities you display at work will translate into your company when you work for yourself.
Have you displayed qualities that will help you succeed and drive your brand forward? You can change that today.
Your Personal and Professional Brand Matters on Social Media
A few months ago I woke up wanting to support small businesses and shop local, so I spent hours scrolling #madeinatlanta and #madeinatl hashtags to find brands to shop from. I was shocked by a lot of the brands’ lack of customer engagement. Potential clients would ask questions under the pic, complement the products, and the brand never responded! This is a huge issue. You’re essentially ignoring your customers. Social media was created to be just that – social, whether using for business or personal use.
“Your social media images are your visual portfolio, your captions are your marketing tool, and your comments are your deal closers.” – DeAnna McIntosh
Don’t leave money on the table…. or in your comments.
When people take the time to comment on your images, it’s because they’re truly interested. They’ve done the easy part for you of showing up into your space. You didn’t pay a dollar of marketing expense to get them there. Show up, and show out! Answer their question and even add one of your own, inviting them to get to know more about you.
There are more people watching you than you think, and they aren’t even your followers.
Have you ever considered this? I’m sure you’ve come across someone on Instagram that you thought was interesting and you didn’t follow them, but you remember them. You may even wander back to their page often just to see what’s new. There are people doing that, to you!
I’m currently working on a project where I’m sourcing brands of color for a client’s brick and mortar store, e-commerce shop, and a pop-up shop. These brands unfortunately don’t have a ton of representation at trade shows, so I went directly to Instagram and searched using hashtags. When I saw things I loved, I saved them to collection folders, but didn’t follow the brands at that point. I often go back to the images in the folders and check the pages to see if anything is new and exciting, see how they’re engaging with potential customers, etc. but again, haven’t followed. I am a retail consultant and am in touch with numerous retailers, and have connections with large retail chains – and I’m watching these brands and they don’t even know it.
The number of followers does not mean anything, and do not equal success. It’s your level of engagement. I’ll take it a step further. As a consultant and product sourcing agent, if I don’t see brands engaging with the people on their page, my perception of that is you will have that same lack of engagement with me, if I were to become a customer.
Think of social media as an extension of your customer service department.
Be the same and consistent warm friendly face, energy, and persona that people see both via your social media and in real life. This is the perfect segway to the next topic.
Your Personal and Professional Brand Matters in Person at Trade Shows and Vendor Events
The same friendly face, energy, and persona I feel on social media from your brand should be the same that I meet in person at trade shows and vendor events.
If my perception of your brand was bright, cheerful, encouraging, and upbeat, and at the trade show your space has dark and moody hues, I can tell the staff are hired models there for appeal vs. support, and no one welcomes me, there is a big disconnect.
At smaller vendor markets, if I’m sourcing products and see something I really love, but the business owner is seated, on their phone, and doesn’t bother to speak after a few seconds of me browsing their space, I leave. I could feel that their product is the next biggest thing, I’m leaving. Again, the way you treat me as a potential customer should be an even better experience than if I was an actual customer.
So, if that initial interaction was lackluster, it’s telling me that there is worse to come.
Even if the show you’re participating in seems small, or is slower than expected, you do not know who is in that “small” crowd. That one person who came up to your space in the 5 hours that you were there, could be me – someone who appears to just be a customer – but in reality, I’m envisioning 3 different projects I could incorporate your brand into. Proudly serve that one customer!
Your Personal and Professional Brand Matters in Your Everyday Life
You likely run into your target customers often, unknowingly. Be memorable and magnetizing. This can be achieved in many ways, both material and immaterial. The infamous saying by Maya Angelou reigns true in every situation, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel”.
If you did something nice for your neighbor, or offered a word of advice for a coworker, that is memorable and resonates. Even being someone who smiles at strangers – you’re uplifting someone without even knowing it. The way you carry yourself and the way you treat others is a reflection on your personal and professional brand.
Get to know other business owners in your area, even if you plan for your brand to be an online-only presence. If someone is opening a new business, show up at their opening with a gift as an introduction, and to show them that you admire them following their purpose. Little gestures go a long way. And I could bet that when you launch, that same person (and others in their network) will be right there to cheer you on.
Wear “your brand” proudly. Be the real-life embodiment of your brand persona and people and money will be drawn to you.
You’ve Got This
Think bigger. All information mentioned above was directed towards you, the Founder, but you must view your brand as bigger than you. After all, it WILL be wide reaching across the world (It will. And you must strongly believe that it will with everything you have, literally).
Your brand is a living, breathing, embodiment of the lifestyle your target customer currently is or aspires to be.
For every decision you make and dollar you spend on building your brand, you need to do so with your target customer in mind. You interact with your target customer every day, and sometimes don’t even know it – or it may not be your target customer, but it is a person like myself who is in direct contact with your target customer with the click of a button or phone call.
Conducting your personal and business matters with integrity and consistency will create a base that will support you in whatever you may do – and they will have their networks support you as well.
Don’t “underthink” about the possibilities of every single person you encounter.
DeAnna McIntosh, Chief Global Strategist at The Affinity Group International, is a driven, entrepreneurial, and creative brand strategist with a strong eye for design, and over 13 years of progressive experience in merchandising, marketing, and event management. Her proven results as a strategist for numerous Fortune ranking retailers will drive tangible growth for your business from day one.
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