You Are The Brand
eBook - ePub

You Are The Brand

The 8-Step Blueprint to Showcase Your Unique Expertise and Build a Highly Profitable, Personally Fulfilling Business

Mike Kim

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eBook - ePub

You Are The Brand

The 8-Step Blueprint to Showcase Your Unique Expertise and Build a Highly Profitable, Personally Fulfilling Business

Mike Kim

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Learn how to build your business around your expertise, ideas, message, and personality with this USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller. It's no secret that more people than ever before are building thriving businesses around their personal brands. But why do some create six- or even seven-figure businesses while so many others strive to make a consistent income? What works is finding a happy medium between those who sell a false version of themselves and those who overshare in the name of authenticity. Here's a simple question that can serve as a litmus test for you: "Can I build a campfire around what I'm sharing?" Is there warmth? Are you building something that is attractive and inviting to others? Can you build a community around it? Are you someone whom others want to invite onto their stages, in front of their employees, or into their lives? In You Are the Brand, Mike Kim shares his proven eight-step blueprint that has helped build the brands for some of today's most influential thought leaders—as well as his own personal brand. In this practical and inspiring book, you will learn:

  • How to identify and showcase your unique expertise
  • How to gain clarity on your message, market, and business model
  • Why the most effective marketing strategy is to simply tell the truth
  • How-To-Preneur vs. Ideapreneur—Which one are you?
  • The three kinds of personal stories that ensure you stand out in your market
  • The simple "9-Box Grid" that shows you how to price your products and services

How to cultivate "rocket ship relationships" that skyrocket your revenue, and influence

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The Personal Brand

  1. Who Do You Have to Become?
  2. How-to-Preneur vs. Ideapreneur: Which One Are You?


Who Do You Have to Become in Order to Serve the People You Want to Serve?

I was in high school during the early days of the internet when web browsers like America Online (AOL) and Netscape were all the rage. I still remember interacting with strangers in chatrooms, reading blogs (Xanga, anyone?), and keeping up with friends through AOL Instant Messenger—or AIM, for short.
AIM was a chatting app that was a precursor to the direct messaging features found on most social media platforms today. One summer, all of my friends seemed to catch the AIM bug. Everyone I knew seemed to have an account, and the fear of missing out hit me big time. AIM was the place to be!
I scrounged through my family’s mail to track down one of the free discs that America Online was sending out in those days. I grabbed our telephone cord, plugged it into the computer, and fired up that snail-paced modem ready to join the party that was apparently happening on Instant Messenger!
Suddenly I stopped completely in my tracks, my face frozen by what I saw on the screen.
I had to create a username for my AIM account.
Laugh if you will, but I’m positive I’m not the only person who was terrified at the prospect of having to create my own username.
I must have stared at the screen for at least half an hour trying to come up with something cool and witty. My username had to be cool because I had friends to impress, and if I’m really honest, I wanted girls to think, “Mike is so witty! He’s so cute! I think I’ll marry him!”
After what seemed like an eternity, I came up with the perfect username. It would be powerful! It would project manliness! It would sound unique! It would be a clever play on my first name, and girls would surely bombard me with requests for dates! My AIM username would be…
(Stop laughing.)
Things didn’t work out the way I imagined. In fact, they completely backfired. All of my friends thought it was the dumbest username ever. One of my buddies asked if I was trying to sound like a Russian guy, and from that point on whenever I saw my so-called friends in person, they mocked me with a military salute shouting, “Greetings, Comrade Mikovitch!”
The final moment of humiliation was when a girl I really liked said she had an even better username for me: “Mikobitch.” I still remember her chuckling at me. (Whatever, I’m a grown man now, and she’s probably living a miserable exis–– oh, never mind.)
For as long as the internet has been around, people have been obsessed with how they present themselves online. We want to come across well. We want people to like us. We want, in marketing terms, to build a brand.
As you may know, “branding” stems from the old ranching practice of burning an identifying mark onto livestock with an iron. The concept of branding later expanded into business and marketing to identify products manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.
Josiah Wedgwood, an English potter born in the 1700s who is often called the father of modern marketing, was perhaps the first person who leveraged branding to create a retail empire. After winning a competition hosted by Queen Charlotte, Wedgwood dubbed his pottery “Queen’s Ware,” opened an exclusive showroom in London for a more affluent market, and pioneered sales practices of “money-back guarantees” and “free delivery.”
Whether it has to do with livestock, pottery, or how we present ourselves online, branding is simply about identity. Personal branding simply expands branding to include a person’s ideas, expertise, reputation, and personality. We intentionally craft a public identity for an express purpose.
During my adolescent AIM years, my express purpose was to get people to think I was cool. But is it really all that different today? Here we are all these years later podcasting, blogging, and spending countless hours on social media, presenting ourselves to the world for an express purpose. We want to gain more followers, attract attention, and maybe even make money.
But we’ve been doing this all wrong, and it’s starting to catch up with us. People are getting tired of the constant noise. They’re tired of empty promises made by the latest internet millionaires. They’re tired of image. They’re tired of the lack of authenticity.
Much of the personal brand space plays out in two ways. The first group of people sells a false version of themselves, thinking that image or perception alone will get them the results they seek. These folks don’t realize that attention isn’t owed, it’s earned. (Please don’t be one of those people who rents a mansion on Airbnb, stages a photoshoot, and says it’s their house.)
The flip side of presenting a false version of yourself is oversharing in the name of authenticity. They talk nonstop about their issues, sometimes revealing way more than what is even comfortable to read about. It’s as if these people are trying to sell their struggles, and it doesn’t work in the long run. Like a car wreck, these folks garner attention, but it’s short-lived.
So, what are we to do? Here’s a simple question that can serve as a litmus test for you: “Can I build a campfire around what I’m sharing?” By this, I mean, is there warmth? Are you building something that is attractive and inviting to others? Can you build a community around it? Are you someone whom others want to invite onto their stages, in front of their employees, or into their lives?

You Already Have a Brand, So You Might as Well Become a Better One

The reality is that you and I already have a brand. We occupy an identity that varies depending on whom you talk to. Have you ever felt there is a difference between who you are at work vs. who you are at home or with your best friends? If so, it’s because you have a particular identity among those different groups of people.
Your friends know you in a way your colleagues will never know. Those same friends may have very little knowledge of who you are at work. Yet who you are at work vs. who you are at home is still… you.
But when you decide that you’re going to build a business around yourself—a personal brand business—something shifts. Entrepreneurship has a funny way of bringing out the best in you while also revealing the roughest parts of you.
I want to level with you right off the bat. Don’t build your brand; become your brand. Do the hard work required to become the person you’re trying to sell to people. Embrace integrity. There is no shortcut.
When I was becoming my brand, there were areas in my life I had to do deep work in. There still are. But the process of building a warm, inviting campfire for others to gather around helped me get healthier… and become more successful. To this day, I find that the more I work on myself, the more money I make, and oddly enough—the less I care about the money. This is the kind of authenticity people are looking for.
All this talk of becoming a better person may seem like it’s coming out of nowhere, but I assure you that you won’t be on this journey very long before you have to confront your own dissonance if you want to go any further in this line of work.

Life Is Too Short for the Wrong Career

At times I’m asked, “How did you learn all this stuff about starting a personal brand business?” and the answer really comes down to confronting my own dissonance and building a life worthy of my own respect. The first time I was really confronted with this was in 2009.
On Father’s Day that year, I flew cross-country to a 10,000+ member church in Colorado to meet with a pastor named Ross. At the time, I was thirty years old and eighteen months into a position as the music director of a mid-sized church.
I reached out to Ross because I was hungry to be mentored by someone who was further along in the same role. He invited me to attend a conference he was hosting and agreed to meet with me one-on-one before the event. When I walked into his office, I was stunned. This guy was at the top of the mountain—figuratively because of his influence and literally because the back windows of his office offered a clear panorama of the Rockies!
Ross gave me some terrific insights during our time together, but an unexpected thing happened when I went back to my hotel that afternoon. I asked myself an innocent question that would forever change the course of my life: “If all goes well, do I want this guy’s life in fifteen years?”
The answer was a resounding no.
That hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t until I met someone who was at the top of the mountain I was climbing that I realized: I was climbing the wrong mountain! There was simply no way I could, in integrity, admit that leading music for thirty minutes every Sunday morning for the same group of people was my life’s calling. I wasn’t living a life that I could genuinely respect for myself, and I realized: Life is too short for the wrong career.
Little did I realize my life would head down a completely unexpected path.

Highways vs. Off-Roading

Traditional career paths tell us that life is a highway or at least a corporate ladder. Everyone expects some curves or bumps, but for the most part, the path is pretty straightforward: Get a degree, get a job, consider an advanced degree, and work your way up the ladder.
The reality is that life isn’t linear. Unfortunately, most of us are ill-prepared for that simple fact.
While society (and the hit Rascal Flatts song) tells us “life is a highway,” real life is more like off-roading. I consider myself a decent driver, but you won’t find me commandeering a Range Rover to off-road through the jungle. Off-roading requires a very different set of skills, and so does creating the life you want. Once you’re out of school, no one tells you what books to read or what moves to make to advance to the next grade in life. You’ve got to figure it out for yourself, and that’s when the comparison traps tend to set in.
If you’re anything like me, we tend to look at other people and assume their path is straight and narrow, and ours is the only one that looks like a scrunched-up accordion. If you open your favorite GPS app and set the directions from New York City to San Francisco, the path looks like a straight shot right across the United States. But if you zoom into the starting point, you’ll see the path to drive out of New York City alone will be more crooked than your least favorite politician.
As an inspirational meme on the internet once said, “Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.” So, where do we start?

Identifying Your Unique Expertise

One of the most clarifying exercises I did early on was to take inventory of what I did at work. In my mid-twenties, prior to my job as music director, I worked at an after-school academy preparing high school kids for their college entrance exams. (This is the same company I went back to several years later, where I was promoted to Chief Marketing Officer.)
One day I jotted down a short list of things I did in these roles, which looked something like this:
  1. I taught high school students.
  2. I spoke at church.
  3. I wrote songs.
  4. I led meetings for music team volunteers.
  5. I marketed the albums we recorded.
  6. I hosted conferences for the church.
Then it hit me. All I had to do was cross out the end of each of those sentences:
  1. I taught high school students.
  2. I spoke at church.
  3. I wrote songs.
  4. I led meetings for music team volunteers.
  5. I marketed the albums we recorded.
  6. I hosted conferences for the church.
When I saw those words staring back at me from my notepad, it was like I saw myself in a different light. More accurately, you could say I saw myself for the first time. For so much of our lives, we see ourselves through the lens of a company, organization, or role rather than the skills we possess or who we inherently are. We fail to see our unique expertise.
These mantras became a regular part of my self-talk early on: “I am a teacher! I am a speaker! I am a writer! I am a leader! I am a marketer! I am a conference host!” This was incredibly empowering, and I encourage you to do something similar.
Reinventing yourself is just as much about changing the story you tell yourself as it is in changing the story you tell the public.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I actually was rebranding myself… to myself.
There’s a good chance you feel torn between the life you live vs. the life yet to be lived or feel weighed down by second-guessing, self-doubt, and frustration. This is normal, friend.
If you’re going to be your own worst critic, you also have to learn how to be your own biggest fan. Be kind to yourself and do this inventory exercise. As you do so, the next step may surprise you.

This Is the Perfect Time to Go Silent

It’s alright if you aren’t sure what kind of business you want to start because there is still something very practical you can do to move forward: Go silent on social media.
Please don’t misunderstand: I am not advocating that you completely shut down your social media activity. Rather, I encourage you to stop publicly reinforcing anything that has to do with your current or past career. That means no social media posts about how your day at work went, what you did at the office, or how much you hate your commute. The goal here is to create space in people’s minds (and your own) so you can rewrite your life.
We see this phenomenon all the time in professional entertainment. Actor Steve Carell is most famous for his legendary role as Michael Scott on the classic comedy show The Office. Looking to reinvent himself, Carell left The Office (the show went on for several years after he left) and started to take serious dramatic film roles. Not long after, Carell was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the dark crime film Foxcatcher.
It would have made no sense for Carell to continue taking comedic roles while trying to establish himself in dramat...

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