by Richard Zeitz, CEO of Purzue.com
Why didn’t I learn this stuff in school?
Throughout my life, I have learned a lot. From childhood to adulthood and from kindergarten to college, I was taught many things by many people and I learned something new every step of the way. Even when I think of my post-college life and my 17 years in finance, my brain continued to act like a sponge and absorb everything possible that was thrown at me. All with the hopes that this knowledge was going to one day be the difference between success and failure in the “real world”. However, the most important thing I learned was never spelled out to me in a textbook or taught in any investment licensing class I took, and has meant more to my professional growth than anything else. Want to guess what that is? Personal Branding.
That’s right, everything comes back to how you brand and market yourself, and the public perception and value of that brand. Companies recognize the importance of brand equity, and you should too. You are the CEO of your brand.
Now, I’m not saying I didn’t need the education and seven licenses/designations I obtained along the way to grow my business, but nothing, and I mean nothing, has been more instrumental to my professional growth than building my brand. The basic life formula of: grade school + high school + college = job and success doesn’t always work, and many times, isn’t enough. There are literally millions of people following this equation only to wonder why they can’t get a job, or land the opportunity they really want. They are unemployed or underemployed because they have come to a conclusion that they can’t control it…”it’s just the system”. I disagree. If you have a strong brand and position it correctly in an effort to be noticed and stand out from the other brands, great things will happen. You need to make your brand memorable. You need to make it different. You need to make it perceived as valuable.
First, let me give you a little background as a frame of reference so you will understand where my passion for personal branding began. Let’s go back to 1994 when I first entered the investment world as a shiny new stockbroker. I was proud and excited to show my stuff, only to realize that just merely saying “I am a financial advisor” wasn’t enough. Heck, so were a lot of people with a lot of experience, and competition was fierce. I was young and still very new to the industry, and like many newbies, I had a tough time obtaining clients. I couldn’t tout “experience”, because I had none. I cold-called night after night for a long time, gaining clients here and there, and I was frustrated. I followed the life formula for success and it wasn’t working. I realized there had to be a better way, a smarter way, a more efficient way. One day it hit me – I needed to separate myself from the pack. I needed to stand out by marketing myself better. I needed to build a brand…MY brand. I needed to create a better opportunity to get in doors and present who I was. I needed an angle and an edge. So, In 1995, I created my audio business card (ABC) and my life changed forever…my brand was born.
My first audio business card was a plastic case (roughly the size of a vinyl DVD case). On the front cover was a professional photo of me with the title “Building and Preserving Your Wealth: A Common Sense Approach to Your Financial Future”. When the ABC was opened, the inside left had an introduction written by me. It covered my bio (much like a resume), and closed with a “thank you” (much like a cover letter). On the right, sat my paper business card and above it, a cassette tape (yes, I said cassette tape – it was 1995). On that tape was a 15 minute professional audio interview between me and a voice over. The script I wrote covered everything from how I got into the business, what I look for in a client, why I am different, and what a relationship with me as your advisor would be like.
I knew potential investors would be intrigued due to its uniqueness. My intention; they would listen to this and know everything about me. I wanted them to see who I was, what I looked like and sounded like, be educated on my background and my investment philosophies, and understand what was important to me in an advisor/client relationship. I wanted them to know exactly who they were interviewing or hiring. The only way I could get them to hear me out and pull this off was to grab their attention by being different. So, I decided to send these out to everyone I knew and every potential client I was speaking to.
Then, something amazing started to happen. People were so impressed with the originality of my ABC, they actually shared it. Potential clients received it in the mail and starting calling me back. And when I started having those client appointments, my closing ratio went through the roof. The usual formalities of “getting to know you” were replaced with “I already know everything about you and I feel comfortable with you, would you look at these statements”? Maya Angelou once said, “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”. Apparently, my ABC resonated with them on an emotional level. Everything became streamlined. I was literally the same advisor doing the same thing, but in a different way. I was marketing myself and standing out. I was getting noticed and I was being remembered. Creating the ABC, and my brand, gave me instant credibility. It showed that I wasn’t just like everyone else out there – I was different. It demonstrated that I was serious and passionate about what I did for a living. Isn’t that what I want them to see?
Why should we brand?
When you think of a typical business card, or resume for that matter, what does it really tell you about that person? Sure, a business card provides you with a name, title, number, address and email address. A resume does all of that and adds a lifetime description of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. But neither really tells the viewer who YOU are. Neither gives a more compelling view of YOU. It’s a bunch of words crammed into a small space and is supposed to act as your sales pitch for the viewer. You may never meet the person looking at your business card or resume, so It has to sell YOU – the complete YOU. You see, a strong personal brand is like a magnet; attracting clients, opportunities, and especially job offers. Why? Because personal branding shows people you are the only solution to their problem. You are not just better than your competitors; you are the only logical choice. If someone is looking at 5 business cards and is also looking at my ABC, the business cards start fading away and I get the first look. I get the attention. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
If you are a job seeker, you need to understand that hiring managers and recruiters are hounded with resumes in their email each day, all from hungry, qualified applicants eager for income. They look at your resume on average for 6 to 8 seconds and since 93% of first impressions are non-verbal, you have exactly that amount of time to grab their attention. You need to make those precious moments count. You need to stand out. You need a “wow factor”. You need a brand. Few applicant resumes will get a second glance, and possibly a call-back, but the majority will find a home in the trash. The perfect job could be right in front of you and you never get the nod simply because your resume looked just like the next one. The worst part is this just keeps happening. I’m not saying it’s all your fault either. Hiring managers have to be quick and efficient or they will never get through all of the applicants. They are looking for a resume to stand out. They are begging for one to stand out. Shouldn’t that be yours? Your Personal Brand can be the deciding factor on whether you get the look or not and once you have engaged the viewer, you’ve already accomplished the most difficult part…awareness.
So, how do we brand ourselves?
First of all, dare to be different. Different in your thinking and different in how you present yourself. Realize that the life formula doesn’t always have to equal “job and success”. However, those who stand out and get noticed will create a bigger funnel than the rest of us and will ultimately be given more opportunities. Once you understand that, you are on your way. My company Purzue.com was conceived with one mission: transform the traditional resume into the most flexible, engaging, modern and smart “branding” experience available. Put in a simpler way – we give job seekers the tools to stand out and create that “wow” factor. A Purzue resume increases visibility and creates a buzz around your brand because of its uniqueness. We offer job seekers a structured resume creation environment and web-based outlet to showcase their skills and abilities, while giving them access to tremendous resources unmatched in the industry. Now, job seekers have better ways to achieve professional success and market themselves in ways never before seen.
Bottom line…get busy doing, or get busy dying.
Personal branding can help job seekers clarify and leverage their unique experiences, qualities and skills in the most compelling way. After branding yourself properly, you will begin to attract ideal opportunities, and doors which you once thought were closed, will open. The first step is to make the commitment and begin branding yourself for success. There are many elements that go into branding YOU, so start with the basics. Start with your value proposition, your resume. Then, use the tools that are out there to make it a reality. When you want more than what you are currently getting and when you want to differentiate yourself from the competition, consider personal branding. It could be the difference between seeking and getting.
To learn more, you can sign up for my webinar, Branding YOU – How to Capture Employers Attention to Get the Jobs, live this Wednesday from 8:30pm – 9:30pm EST HERE