I've been thinking a lot about branding lately, and in particular, how a person can brand themselves with little experience in online business, or even in their particular industry. It's a huge challenge not just to successfully brand oneself, but even more so to understand what branding means when you are just starting out.
I've been building websites for almost 3 years now. I basically didn't know the existence of the word ‘branding' the first year, I tried my best to put it off because it sounded difficult the second year, and here I am trying to understand and help others do it in my third.
So what is it?
It's basically a way to show people in a clear way how you are different from similar options within your industry. If you make something, how are your widgets better or different from anyone else's.
If you provide a service, how are you different, and what experience can your customer expect versus other options.
It's a pretty simple concept.
But what I found, is that in the beginning, I couldn't really find any way to make myself different from anyone else. It seemed like everything had already been thought of, and any kind of attempt I made to be ‘unique' or different, felt contrived, fake, and didn't feel right.
So what's the solution?
Unfortunately, with little experience in an industry, you've just got to copy other people.
Now, I don't mean you actually go copy/paste their content on your website, steal their pictures, and try to make something EXACTLY like what your competitors are doing. That will be very obvious, ruin your brand reputation, and may even get you in some legal trouble.
What I do mean is that someone just starting out is going to need to get ideas from somewhere, and those ideas are going to come from your research. Your research is going to be your competition. Take things you like from this guy, take something from that guy, spin off a little from some other dude, and you get the idea.
Construct your own ideas by using the building blocks of others.
You do not have to reinvent the wheel from day 1.
As time passes, and you get more and more involved, you'll start to see opportunities to differentiate yourself from the competition. You'll see gaps where others have missed details, you'll have new ideas springing up in your mind as you lay awake at night planning the next day.
There will be more ideas in your head than you'll know what to do with, and eventually, people will start copying you! Just remember that ‘back in the day', you too were looking to mentors, leaders, and teachers for advice, so pay it forward, and give back to the community. It can kind of feel like, “Hey, why should I help someone be my competitor, I need to keep this stuff secret!”
Very often, industries and niches are so broad and can be broken down into even smaller niche markets that there isn't much niche saturation to speak of. And even if someone is truly in the exact same niche as you and you think they could be a serious competitor, what about looking at them as a potential business partner or think of a project coop with them? Why fight it, when you can grow from it?
So if you're stuck, and don't know exactly how to find your voice to successfully brand yourself quite yet, look to the masters, emulate, and use this stepping stone to gain some secure footing, and eventually go on your own path.
Looking for a mentor? Why not ask me a couple of questions? I'm happy to answer.