You’re being tested.
Every single day — potentially at every hour.
Your words, your behavior, your veracity.
Who you say you are, what you say you do, and the services you say you offer, is all under scrutiny. They are all being examined, whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not.
All the time.
Before you panic and head for the safety of your bedcovers: a few words.
The people who are testing you are: curious about you, drawn to you, intrigued by you or your offerings and considering connecting with you in a meaningful way. They have seen you, or heard about you or your company from a trusted friend or colleague.
And so they have taken one of their most precious resources, their time, and set it aside to get to know you better.
So, it’s a nice thing.
Googling your name, visiting your social media profiles or stopping by your website, is the 21st century equivalent of a phone call inquiry, or a visit to your office or retail location to pick up info or browse. It’s the moment when that person, that human, can determine if you are the sort of person or company they can relate to, depend on, and, ultimately, trust.
This is the first decision every potential client of yours makes. In 2016, they get to make it in front of their screen at their home or in their car, or in their office. Or while waiting for their child’s soccer practice to end in the park.
This moment, this test, is something you naturally want to put your best self forward for. It calls for a virtual check of the hair, click of the pen and a huge smile. It’s the moment a stranger becomes a potential investment of yours.
It’s what I refer to as the Brand Test.
As a brand consultant, it’s my job to make sure you pass.
Because you are just as fabulous as you say you are — and therefore there is injustice in you not passing and possibly losing that chance to connect.
And injustice bothers me.
Unfortunately, many people are unaware the Brand Test even exists. The injustice in that is this: as a result they don’t even know they are failing it. But they are.
Failing means losing leads, making poor first impressions and hurting their brand and their professional reputation.
Though passing the Brand Test is not on their conscious radar, too many people and companies believe what they have put out there is good enough. They may think the website they created in 2008 is “not the best, but it’s there” or that its outdated, lackluster, copy-heavy design “doesn’t matter anyway” because “my clients don’t go to my website.”
Wrong. (I hear that misconception all too much.)
You may believe your taken-ten-years-ago headshot on your 2014 LinkedIn page is adequate. But it’s not anymore, and hasn’t been for quite awhile.
This “it’s adequate” mindset is hurting your brand and inhibiting your business.
But here’s some good news, folks.
You have the power to change it. You can start passing the Brand Test with flying colors, the minute you invest in it.
Here are three things to help you get started.
1.) Say cheese.
One of the easiest ways to pass the Brand Test is to be current on your social media profiles. Companies and people tend to delay updating websites so there’s more tolerance for a slightly outdated look there – for now. But keeping current on social is so quick and so easy that presenting old content there has a major negative impact on your credibility. Start with a new photo. We now take more pictures than we ever before. If you don’t have a friend who is willing to snap away until you get a photo of yourself you love, you haven’t thought hard enough. Find a friend with awesome photos on their profile and ask them to snap a pic of you. Or doll yourself up, set up your photo timer and fire away until you’re pleased. With mobile uploads offered on every major social outlet, there’s no excuse not to.
2.) Put It In Words.
The quicker your audience can understand what you do, and what you care about, the faster they open up to you in a personal way. The best way to do that? Tell them. Write one or two short sentences that include the following: your position, your passion and any current projects. Example: “I’m a software engineer turned entrepreneur in love with helping startups scale, and stoked to be working on my Ted-ex talk” or “I am cofounder of the branding team Root + River, am obsessed with translating emotions into words and am currently preparing for our first Root + River Brand Lab event in January.” Use this as a description on all social profiles. Be sure to change it up as your passions and pursuits change.
3.) Write It Off.
Now’s your chance to put your writer’s hat on and give yourself a polished new voice. Consider what you wrote in the previous tip about what you have passion for. What fires you up the most about it? What’s the number one mistake other people make when undertaking that passion? What do you see far too often among your competitors? Answer those questions, or something similar, in writing, and explain your perspective. Then publish this 300-500 word ditty either on your blog, on LinkedIn’s Pulse or even on your Facebook feed. Give people a look inside your world – show them you are a thinker, that you have ideas worth sharing and that your perspective can be helpful to others. This strengthens and enhances your personal brand and positions you as a thought leader.
You will be tested on this journey. Count on it.
But if you believe, like I do, that building your brand begins with an inward journey, and that the result of doing that internal work is having an external brand that shares the fantastic person you are, you will pass this test — again and again.
And if you’d like more insight, come to Scottsdale this January for our Brand Lab.