Personal branding is an incredibly popular subject lately. People don’t want to follow businesses anymore. They want to follow people.
Customers don’t connect with companies. They want to identify with individuals. But here’s the problem…
Almost all of the teaching I see out there about building a personal brand completely misses the mark. Picking your color palette, creating your logo, crafting your “design style,” choosing your font pairings… these are all fun things to dabble with. But they are NOT your brand.
I hate to break it to you, but even if you have these things dialed in, there’s a good chance that you still don’t actually have a brand.
The One Thing You Must Lock In For A Successful Brand
Here is the most important piece that you absolutely must get right.
If you nail this it will make up for almost any other deficiencies.
But if you skip it, it won’t matter how cool your logo is.
It’s your STORY.
The power of great storytelling.
When someone asks you about the last movie you saw, what do you tell them? Do you tell them about the cast? Or the cinematography? Or the soundtrack? Or how good the key grip was?!
Of course not. (These things are like your fonts and colors and logo. Important, but not the main thing.)
You tell them about the plot. You tell them what happened. You tell them about the moments where you were on the edge of your seat, or when you laughed out loud, or the scenes you couldn’t stop replaying in your head.
That’s because storytelling is one of the most important parts of being a human. For thousands of years, telling stories is how we have passed on information.
And the same is true for you and your business.
You could come out and say “Here are my qualifications. Here’s why I’m an expert. Here are all the things I’ve accomplished. Look how great my resume is.” But all of those things will go in one ear and out the other.
If you can tell a story though, especially a story with all the surprises and cliffhangers of an epic tale, it will embed itself in your customer’s mind.
If you can use your story to make your customer feel something, it will make a huge impact on them. (After all, emotions are more powerful than facts.)
So how do you tell a great story?
The 3 Parts Of A Great Personal Story
I’ve been helping my clients tell their stories for years, and we’ve boiled the process down to a simple 3-part formula.
Here’s how it works…
Part 1: Bring the problem to life
Most business owners I know dive right into their expertise. They’ve spent their career mastering their skillset, and they’re eager to share it.
Plus, they’re busy and their clients are busy. So they want to get right to the part where they help them get results.
But you have to take a big step back. You have to show your clients that you know what they’re going through, because you went through the same thing.
Tell them how it affected you. And don’t pull any punches.
Everyone wants to cover up their pain. They want to hide their shortcomings. They want to act like everything is perfect.
But your customers’ lives aren’t perfect. They’re struggling with a problem. That’s why they’re looking for guidance and help.
If you pull back the curtain and share your own struggles, they’re going to say “This person understands me! They know what I’m going through! I thought I was the only one who felt this way, but clearly they understand.”
If you can articulate what they’re feeling so well that they say “It’s like you’re reading my thoughts!” then you will build instant rapport. This is the quickest way for them to know, like, and trust you.
Part 2: My journey to discovering the solution
The next part of your story is how you figured out the solution.
Walk through the entire process. What things did you try that didn’t work out? How did it feel when your early attempts didn’t pan out? What were the highs and lows as you went through all of the trial and error?
And then when you finally achieved success, what did it feel like? What were your emotions when you realized you had finally conquered the problem that had plagued you for years?
Don’t just say “Here’s the solution.”
Turn it into The Hero’s Journey. Bring them along for the ride.
Part 3: What I learned, and why it’s good for you
In the final section of your story, you’re going to say “I’ve got this figured out. Here are the steps I’m going to teach you to get to where I am, because that’s where you want to be. And here’s why each of those steps is good for you.”
The last point is critical: why it’s good for you.
When you were a kid and you asked your parents why you had to do something, how did you feel when they said “Because I said so”?
It made you instantly skeptical, right?
Well what do you think happens when you teach your customers what they should do without explaining the “why” behind it?
That’s why you need to dig deeper. Explain why your strategy works. Show the science. Give case studies. Connect the dots.
This will drive home your expertise and make them trust you.
Before they follow your teaching, they have to believe they can succeed. And explaining the “why” behind your strategy is the best way to give them this belief. Now of course there’s a lot more nuance to each of those three things. But if you make sure to cover those three steps, you’re going to be ahead of 95% of the competition… especially if you’re aimed at the right audience.
The Expert’s Double Edged Sword (Don’t Let It Decapitate Your Brand)
In your business, it helps bring clients in the door and make sales if you’re seen as an expert.
No matter what kind of business you’re running, you want people to say “He/she is the expert, I want to go do business there.”
But here’s the problem… if you did a great job branding yourself as the expert, then they’re going to start to believe that you possess something they don’t. And that’s why you were able to have success.
How many times have you heard someone say “You know what, this person was able to achieve success because they were born with money.” Or “This person was able to achieve success because they were born with some sort of social skill that I was not born with.”
Here’s an analogy…
Batman is a normal guy who got dealt a crappy hand early in his life. But he was able to turn it around. He harnessed his tragedy and his grief and redirected it into a higher calling. His pain fueled him to become a hero.
Now let’s look at Superman. He was also dealt a crappy hand in life- he lost his parents just like Bruce Wayne. But Superman possesses alien powers that the rest of us will never be able to have.
So let me ask you something. Which of the two do you identify with… Superman or Batman?
Batman, of course! Because he’s human. And while we can never become Superman, we could work to become Batman.
And marketing is kind of like that.
When we’re selling how-to information, we want people to perceive us as the expert. But if you’re so much of an expert that it seems like you have superhuman abilities that your customers don’t have… they won’t buy from you. They’ll go buy from your competitors. So in your business, make sure that you’re not portraying yourself as an infallible expert. Make sure you’re showing your human side so that your customers can identify with you. They have to believe they can replicate your success.
What This Looks Like In Practice
I’m going to run through a quick example so you can see this in action (and you can use some of these phrases for yourself).
Let’s say you’re a fitness coach. You have six-pack abs, and you want to teach your customers how to lose weight and get six-pack abs too.
If they think you’ve always had a six-pack and you’ve never felt how hard it is to lose weight, they’ll just think you’re genetically lucky.
That’s why you’re going to start by saying “There was a time in my life when I was totally self-conscious about taking my T-shirt off at the swimming pool. Even taking my shirt off in front of the doctor scared me to death!”
These are the little anecdotes that show how badly it affected you. You can tell someone that you struggled with your weight, but when you tell stories like these it shows them that you really understand what it’s like.
Next you’re going to walk through your weight loss journey. When you hit rock bottom and finally decided to change. When you fell off the wagon and put the weight back on. When you stumbled across a little-known weight loss trick. The moment when you started building momentum and thought for the first time “I might actually be able to hit my goal weight.”
And then what it felt like when you finally stepped on the scale and saw your target number. Or the moment your spouse made a little comment that validated all the hard work you had done.
Then last, you’re going to break down your method and teach the 5 steps your customer can follow to lose weight too. Don’t forget, you’re going to explain why each of these steps is good for them.
They’re going to have doubts and objections. “Is this actually going to work for me? Am I going to keep the weight off or will I put it right back on? Is it safe or am I going to be starving myself?” Explaining why it’s good for them will give you the opportunity to overcome these doubts.
And that’s it… the three parts in action.
Building A World-Class Brand
At the beginning of this article, I talked a little smack about fonts, colors, logos, and all the other things people get caught up in.
The thing is… they’re not unimportant. (I have a very specific design guide for my business.) The problem is most people spend waaay too much time on these things, when they need to be figuring out how to get their product in front of customers and make sales.
But I understand how tempting these things are. And I don’t want you to get stuck in the bottomless pit of design. So we put together a list of our 10 favorite design tools that are going to make your brand look ten times better… and save you 10 times the effort.
Grab your copy of our Personal Branding Tools Checklist here. I know you’re going to love it.
It’s Time To Write Your Story…
I’d love to see how you implement this 3-part story framework. If you use it to write an article, an about page on your site, or a video, please drop the link in the comments below. Let’s give each other some constructive feedback.
Of course, if you have any questions, put those in the comments as well.
And if you need some help brainstorming your story, check out our article The 5 Videos Your Business Needs. We talk about The Hero’s Journey, and that information dovetails perfectly with your personal brand.
As always, thanks for being here! And remember… we all want to be a Superman-type expert, but it actually hurts you in the long run. Acting more like Batman- someone who had to develop these skills through struggle and hard work- is much more powerful.