Branch Out - A Podcast from Connection Builders

Your Personal Brand Gap Analysis - Kyle Lindenboom

February 09, 2021 Connection Builders Episode 31
Branch Out - A Podcast from Connection Builders
Your Personal Brand Gap Analysis - Kyle Lindenboom
Chapters
Branch Out - A Podcast from Connection Builders
Your Personal Brand Gap Analysis - Kyle Lindenboom
Feb 09, 2021 Episode 31
Connection Builders

Branding is not just about what makes you unique but about how you portray that to the world. Your personal brand is the sum of how people perceive you, and understanding how to influence these perceptions is key to branding success. As the Founder and CEO of InTandem Marketing, Kyle Lindenboom helps businesses drill down on their brands by narrowing the gap between how they want to be perceived and how they present themselves. Kyle joins us today on the show to explore how to assess a personal brand and craft a vision for a desired future brand to help listeners identify potential gaps and areas for improvement. We start our conversation by hearing more from Kyle about what exactly a brand is and why it's critical for success. From there, we dive into the idea of personal brands, getting into some of the ways we can align our branding with our goals, and talking about how we get perceived through the way we dress, respond to messages, and more. We discuss the value of authenticity, awareness, and intentionality in building a brand, the centrality of expectations in brand-building, and a whole lot more on today's show, so be sure to tune in!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Introducing Kyle and the brand-building services he offers through InTandem Marketing.
  • What a brand is and the importance of understanding its components for building one.
  • Connecting branding to the personal: What is a personal brand, and how is it communicated?
  • The idea that a personal brand is the sum of all perceptions about somebody based on how they portray themselves.
  • The value of being intentional about personal branding but staying authentic as well.
  • How to be more aware of how your representation of yourself influences perceptions about you.
  • Kyle's method of taking clients through the process of aligning their branding with their goals through a gap analysis.
  • How valuable it is to know your target audience when building your brand.
  • How your branding will create expectations about you; how to set expectations correctly.
  • Kyle's thoughts on a branding exercise involving iteratively whittling down a list of brand goals.
  • The idea that strong brands are focused and not concerned with pleasing everybody.


Kyle Lindenboom on LinkedIn
Kyle Lindenboom Email
InTandem Marketing
Alex Drost LinkedIn
Branch Out Podcast LinkedIn
Connection Builders LinkedIn

Have thoughts or comments? We want to hear from you. [email protected]

Show Notes Transcript

Branding is not just about what makes you unique but about how you portray that to the world. Your personal brand is the sum of how people perceive you, and understanding how to influence these perceptions is key to branding success. As the Founder and CEO of InTandem Marketing, Kyle Lindenboom helps businesses drill down on their brands by narrowing the gap between how they want to be perceived and how they present themselves. Kyle joins us today on the show to explore how to assess a personal brand and craft a vision for a desired future brand to help listeners identify potential gaps and areas for improvement. We start our conversation by hearing more from Kyle about what exactly a brand is and why it's critical for success. From there, we dive into the idea of personal brands, getting into some of the ways we can align our branding with our goals, and talking about how we get perceived through the way we dress, respond to messages, and more. We discuss the value of authenticity, awareness, and intentionality in building a brand, the centrality of expectations in brand-building, and a whole lot more on today's show, so be sure to tune in!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Introducing Kyle and the brand-building services he offers through InTandem Marketing.
  • What a brand is and the importance of understanding its components for building one.
  • Connecting branding to the personal: What is a personal brand, and how is it communicated?
  • The idea that a personal brand is the sum of all perceptions about somebody based on how they portray themselves.
  • The value of being intentional about personal branding but staying authentic as well.
  • How to be more aware of how your representation of yourself influences perceptions about you.
  • Kyle's method of taking clients through the process of aligning their branding with their goals through a gap analysis.
  • How valuable it is to know your target audience when building your brand.
  • How your branding will create expectations about you; how to set expectations correctly.
  • Kyle's thoughts on a branding exercise involving iteratively whittling down a list of brand goals.
  • The idea that strong brands are focused and not concerned with pleasing everybody.


Kyle Lindenboom on LinkedIn
Kyle Lindenboom Email
InTandem Marketing
Alex Drost LinkedIn
Branch Out Podcast LinkedIn
Connection Builders LinkedIn

Have thoughts or comments? We want to hear from you. [email protected]

 [INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections. 

[00:00:20] AD: Hey everyone, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. I’m your host, Alex Drost. I’m excited for today's guest, Kyle Lindenboom, founder and CEO of InTandem Marketing. Now Kyle and his team are brand advisors to us here at Connection Builders and the Branch Out podcast. Fun fact, Kyle helped us land on the name of our show, Branch Out. And given that our show is all about branching out into our network to have meaningful conversations, I think that the name's very fitting, but I guess I’m a bit biased. 

For today's show, Kyle and I explore how to assess your personal brand and craft a vision for your desired future brand, and all of this really to help you identify potential gaps and areas for improvement. I hope you all enjoy.

[00:01:04] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.

[INTERVIEW] 

[00:01:11] AD: Kyle, welcome to the Branch Out podcast. Excited for this today.

[00:01:14] KL: Yeah, me too. It's going to be great.

[00:01:15] AD: So for our listeners, Kyle is a little bit of a non-traditional guest on here, right? We typically what I’ll say are middle market professionals, typically middle market service providers, accountants, lawyers and bankers, private equity. And Kyle is actually a creative director, a branding and marketing type of individual. And I’m actually really excited for this today, because Kyle is the founder of a branding agency that actually did the Connection Builders work here today. So Kyle, maybe can you just share a little bit about InTandem Marketing and your role there?

[00:01:51] KL: Yeah, absolutely. So we started InTandem marketing about three years ago, and it was really built on a core belief in the importance of a business's brand and how critical that can be to their success. And furthermore, the idea that having a great brand is not something that is reserved for the mega companies, the Apples and the Googles and the Amazons of the world that you think of when you think about a great brand. Every business deserves to have a great brand that is telling the right story to the right customers. And so we work specifically with small and medium-sized businesses and we help them develop a really formidable brand strategy that captures the true essence of their brand. 

Why was the brand created? What is the business seeking to accomplish? Who is their target audience and why does their audience value them over their competition? And then to convey that story through any number of mediums through their marketing communications, their logo, their website, their tagline, but also other business activities like the development of an internal culture, their approach to talent management, because every activity a business engages in should be telling the same story and that story should be a reflection of the identity of that business. And so we saw there was a huge need in that sized business community, to really think about and put time against development of that brand and then helping them figure out how to tell that story. 

[00:03:04] AD: You did a very good job helping me understand where you bring value, because everything you're saying there, I’m like, “Yup, yup, you've helped with that. Yup, yup.” The reason we have Kyle on here today is, as I mentioned, Kyle's organization is the group that has done the Connection Builders logo along with the Branch Out podcast. So for our listeners, you know what that looks like. You've seen it before. If you haven't, certainly make sure to go online and find it so you do see it. You can find it at connection.builders or the branchoutpodcast.com. 

What we really want to talk about today is personal brand, and where I invited Kyle on here today was because I think there's a lot of similarities between personal brand and corporate brand. And really where we want to start this conversation is, Kyle, why don't you just share a little bit around your thoughts on just brand in general. Not personal brand, but let's just talk brand. And then from there, let's talk about how those characteristics, those components that drive a true brand and the brand strength really correlate into personal brand and how that can affect you as an individual in building your personal brand. So, again, why don't we just start out sharing a little around brand?

[00:04:16] KL: Yeah, absolutely. So I think that there are a lot of misperceptions when people throw on the word brand, right? A lot of people the first they think of is your logo, which is absolutely a representation of your brand, but in and of itself is not your brand. A business's brand is, like I said, a crystallization of all the core elements that make it unique. So why was the business created? What is its purpose? What is it hoping to accomplish? What are its beliefs or stances? And then who is the audience that it serves and what unique value does it bring relative to the competition? So to take the opportunity to distill all that down and to understand it is really important for a business, because then once you have that story built, you can start to engage in things like development of a logo, development of a website or video content or whatever it might be because all of those things are now vehicles in which you can tell your story and talk to your target audience and demonstrate to them why you can add value to them.

[00:05:12] AD: I like that. It's really putting a broader framework in recognizing that this is a lot more than just the logo or just one part of an image, right? And, again, we'll tie this back in a personal brand in a few minutes here. But from a brand standpoint, let's talk about – Let's take a logo and let's just use the Connection Builders logo because it’s an easy example here. Let's tear that down a little bit and just talk about some of the thought that has gone into that and some of the whys, the reasons why something is designed and what it's meant to mean. And for our listeners, just, again, go find the logo if you haven't seen it already and think about this as you're hearing this and think about if what we're talking about is hitting home and if it's resonating. And then let's tie that into the personal brand side as well. Again, let's kind of start from the top down. So our logo is a tree. Do you want to just share why is it a tree?

[00:06:05] KL: Yeah, absolutely. And what I was going to say really quick before we dive into the Connection Builders branding, there are a number of key ways in which you can communicate those key attributes of your brand. So you have your brand name. You have your logo. You have your tagline and even the color palette that you select are all things that are driving a desired perception from your target audience. So when looking at Connection Builders, we really like the idea of a tree because it overtly represents growth, and that's really what this brand is built to do. It's to help people grow both personally and professionally through the power of networking. 

If you dig a little deeper and you look into the areas where the leaves are, they're dots with lines that connect them. So that's meant to represent the connections that are happening when you are engaging in networking and there's also a little bit of a kind of a digital look to it because this is going to be a brand that is built on a digital platform. And so it kind of inherently represents connecting digitally. 

And then even down to the color that we chose, green is considered – Represents growth. It represents power and intelligence. And so the green also ties very well into the story that we're trying to tell. And finally, the tagline of connect, grow, excel very cleanly and crisply demonstrates the value that the brand is going to bring to you as a consumer. It tells you exactly what it's going to do for you. And when presented to the right audience, it's instantly going to draw them in.

[00:07:29] AD: You did a great job talking about our brand as you did a great job designing it. What I want to really point out there to our listeners is think about all of the different elements that Kyle just went into. All of the details that went behind that, everything from why is it a tree? Why are the dots connecting? Why does it have a certain look to it? Why is the color what it is? Why is the tag line what it is? And actually we'll share a story around this. The tag line and some of the brand development when we were working on this last year, connect, grow, excel is our tagline. 

Today, one of the initial iterations was something along the lines of connect, grow, win. And Kyle and I had a really good conversation around, well, our brand is really meant to help people succeed, to be able to excel, to get ahead. And the win I think was a great word. It was a great thought process around you're helping our clients achieve something. But as we talked through it and we spent more time on it, we said, “Well, win is finite nature in some ways.” It sounds like there's a win or a lose. There's, “Okay, I won. Well, then what?” And that's where we settled on excel, because excel is much more than just that one time win. It's kind of this in perpetuity, this infinite level of continuing to go forward and really at a more rapid pace and continuing to improve. That had a lot of meaning for us. It had a lot of meaning behind what we were doing. Again, it sounds like such a little detail, but it has such a big impact.

Now all of that said, I want to pull us into the personal brand side of things and where this all ties together. So we just shared all this on what Connection Builders has done and with our brand, and Kyle has shared a great understanding of what brand from a company's standpoint means. But as a personal brand, what does that mean and how does this tie together? How does this all kind of make sense for us?

[00:09:25] KL: Yeah, absolutely. So to kind of bridge that gap, think about your favorite consumer brands out there and what is it about them that draws you to them? So they have a logo. They might have a special packaging approach. They might have content. There're TV commercials. If it's a physical store, when you walk in the store, they're playing a certain kind of music. There's a certain smell that they're projecting. All of these little things are creating a perception in your mind of what that brand stands for and what that brand is all about. It is absolutely the exact same thing for people. 

When you think about when you get up in the morning, the decisions that you make from what clothes you decide to put on, the way that you walk, the way that you style your hair. Did you shave that day? Did you not shave? Everything about your physical appearance and demeanor are all telling a story about you that is adding to the perception of your personal brand, and that doesn't even include getting into obviously your personality traits. Are you outgoing? Are you quiet? Are you a kind person? Are you a go-getter? What are these different things that that you are projecting to the world? Because at the end of the day your personal brand is the sum of all perceptions that people have about you. And everything that you do or do not do has an impact albeit slightly on that personal brand and that perception.

[00:10:40] AD: What a great thought. I want to have a certain brand that I’m perceived as. And what I want to be careful of is I don't want to get caught up worrying about what other people think about me, because that's not a place to be. I don't want my concern to be, “Well, I’m acting this way because of how I want someone to think of me.” But at the same time, I want to be aware of what my personal brand is and understand that what people think of me is my personal brand. There is an impact there.

So where I think we tie that together, and I love your reaction to this, Kyle, is as an individual and as a brand, but as an individual, you have to understand and really sit down and be thoughtful and intentional about what do I want my brand to be and then make sure the actions that you have and the actions that you're doing are ultimately in line with that in the way that you want to be so that the perception other people have are in that alignment. It doesn't mean they're all going to like it. It doesn't mean it's not being done for the perception of what the other person thinks. It's being done for you and how you want to be perceived, but that intentionality behind that. Does that make sense?

[00:11:48] KL: Yeah, absolutely. I think the word that is kind of the summation of the answer to that question is authenticity, right? So it all comes down to is your personal brand an authentic representation of who you are? Because you definitely don't want to get into the business of – To your point, if you're overly concerned with how people think, you might start to do things that are inauthentic. Like I’m going to drive a certain car because I want to create this perception about me even though that perception might not be who I really am. That's where you can get yourself into trouble and that's where you can really start to get whiplash and bouncing around between trying to do too many different things and you're overly focused on what people think of you because they aren't authentic representations. 

As long as you stay core to who you are and who you authentically want to be, then I think that you'll be okay. I think what you're talking about is more so understanding who you are and then evaluating the brand perception that you're giving off and identifying is there a gap or are they in alignment? And if they're not in alignment, what can I do to bring them into closer alignment?

[00:12:49] AD: That's exactly it, right? So authenticity is it's definitely the right word to use around that, right? You need to have an authentic brand especially when we're talking about personal brand. What you put out to the world, how you act, how you behave needs to be in alignment with how you think and feel and who you really are, or else there's no true foundation to hold that brand up. 

Now knowing that, the key here is twofold. One, it's the intentionality. It's finding the ability to be intentional, to really think through what you're doing, why you're portraying your brand, and be thoughtful around it. And then the second part of that is recognizing that every little detail matters. Like you said, every little detail of when you walk into a store, the way the lights are, the way things are, the smell in the store, all those things are impacting the way someone is perceiving you. In the personal brand setting what we're really saying is you have to be aware that all those are there. It doesn't mean you're trying to, again, address it the way someone else might want you to be perceived. It's how you want to, but you have to pay attention those details. You have to make that important and focus on all of that.

[00:13:58] KL: Yeah, absolutely. I think the way that you described it is perfect. It's not necessarily wanting to change the way that you are. I mean if you want to drive a BMW because you love BMWs, you shouldn't not drive one because you're worried that that's going to get off the wrong perception. It's more awareness. It's being aware that everything that you do and everything that you're putting out into the world is telling a story about your personal brand and just knowing that so that way you can – If there is something that you might be doing that is in conflict with the brand perception that you want to give off, you're at least aware of it. And it doesn't mean you have to stop doing it, but you'll at least – Knowing that that activity is happening will help you just be more self-aware on the brand that you're ultimately giving off.

[00:14:42] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.

[00:14:51] AD: So let's talk in awareness for a second. In awareness, we talk about it here in the Branch Out podcast quite often. Let's talk about it in the personal brand setting. I, for example, I say I want to portray a brand of being polished and professional. So I need to step back and assess my activities, my actions in making sure that I am in alignment with that. So, for example, and just using things that are easy to relate to as a professional, what does your email signature look like? How do you write your emails? How do you communicate through written text and how do you communicate through phone calls? How does your voicemail sound? And I’m not saying all these things have to be perfect. What I’m saying is that all of those things have some kind of an influence in one way or another. And you have to just step back and say, “Okay. Well, what does that mean? Who am I is that an alignment with the brand I want to have.

I remember the days back, I remember pre-COVID when we would get in a room together and shake hands and you trade business cards. And people would hand me a business card that sure looked like it's been in their wallet since at least a year at that point, totally worn down. And they had us tell me, “Oh, let me scribble off the phone number and write the right phone number on there. Now, what does that say? That's a very drastic example. But when you're in a networking event and someone asks you for a business card and you don't have a business card, that says something, and it's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean it doesn't – We all make mistakes, learn from them and make sure it doesn't happen again in the future. But what does that say about you when that happens? And if that happens again and again and again, that starts to say something about your brand. That starts to say a lot about your brand. And again, it's those little details that you have to step back and say, “Okay, what brand do I want?” Again, I use the example. I want to be professional. Well, if I’m going to be professional, then I need to make sure what work I’m sending out and what emails I send out and how my email signature looks or how my voicemail sounds or how my business cards look. Have to look professional. 

Now the question is how do you define professional? What's the right standard, right? And we could go on that for hours and hours of trying to figure out that and that's going to be unique for everyone individually. But what would you give to somebody who is trying to figure out their brand and really stepping back and saying, “Okay, I want to figure out what my brand is.”

[00:17:07] KL: Yeah, absolutely. So real quick, just an example that kind of ties it back to the business branding world. So we had a client that operated in the technology space and we began working with them and we were kind of evaluating their current marketing materials and looking at their website and they had a really poor, very unsophisticated website experience. And one of the suggestions that we made to them, which is very similar to your business card example, is you are a company that operates in the technology space. You are projecting innovation and technologically savvy and yet your website experience is really, really poor. What does that say about you? About your credibility? 

You could be Apple. The products you produce could be on the level of Apple but there will be a perception given off by that website experience that is going to conflict with what the brand you're trying to build. So that was kind of the business card example. So it's not the end of the world, but those that are more aware of those types of things will absolutely be the ones that will have a greater opportunity or chance of success just because of that that level of self-awareness and authenticity.

What I would advise someone who's wanting to build a strong personal brand, it would actually be the exact same advice that I would give a client. When we work with clients on business brand strategy, what we typically do is start with what their vision for the brand is. So what do you want people to think in an ideal world about your brand? What perception do you want them to have of you – that you're philanthropic and that you're community-oriented and that you care about your people and that your customer service is top-notch? Whatever it might be, right? 

Then we do some diligence on what is the current state of the brand. And you develop a gap analysis. Where are you not quite in alignment with where you want to be? Doesn't mean you're doing it poorly. It doesn't mean that they're problems. They're just opportunities to get closer to what that ideal state is. And so I would advise people to take a step back and think about what is the perception that you would ideally want to give off. And, also, because you can't have a brand without a target customer, in this case, target audiences that you're trying to interact with or engage with. Who are the people that you want to engage with? Who are the optimal audiences that you want to engage with? 

And then what is the ideal perception that you would want them to take away after talking to you for an hour, right? And then to take a step back and think about are all the things that I’m currently doing, are they all in alignment or are there opportunities or gaps that I can improve on? So your business card example would be a great one, right? I want to come off professional, polished and experienced. And then as I start evaluating the different stories that I’m telling through whether it's through your business card or your email signature or the way that you dress or how you conduct yourself in meetings, are there opportunities for me to do things that are a more authentic representation of how I want to be perceived or are there not?

[00:20:02] AD: I love what you said there about who are you engaging with. But when you're looking at building your personal brand, the idea of understanding who you're engaging with is so important. And that's any brand, right? You have to know who is the real audience you're trying to engage with. And speaking to our listener base here is a middle market service provider. You are focused on generating and building relationships with clients, and in whether that be other service providers that are in your network that are center of influence or directly with clients. And those frankly look very different. It doesn't mean you can't have some similar brand and similar brand that will appeal to both sides, but just be aware that that can definitely look different. In the way you present that you have to be thoughtful in where are you spending your efforts? Where are you trying to build your relationship base, your network base or wherever you're using your personal brand? And then understand what's going to really appeal there. 

Again, you have to be authentic. You have to be very true to who you are. But the way you present yourself, the way you act, the way you dress, those things can very much shift, right. And a great – Dressing's just such an easy example for this, right? So if I’m thinking about – Most of our listeners will be aware of ACG, the Association for Corporate Growth. I think about some of the large capital connection events that I have been through or inner growth or some of the large events they put on. You are there in a Sportco and maybe even a tie, maybe a full suit. You're absolutely there and dressed well. 

I also think about going to a client prospect who is a manufacturing plant in the middle of nowhere Michigan and you don't show up in a Sportco. You don't you show up in jeans and a sweater, and there's a reason for that. Because the way you show up, the way you're presenting yourself that day really matters, and those are very different audiences that you're targeting. So that's the thought process, right? That's what we have to become aware of and start putting some thought into in and how to make sure those are portraying the right way and that we're doing the right thing for the ultimate audience that we're looking to engage with.

[00:22:13] AD: Yeah, absolutely. And if you think about the saying dress for the job you want, not the one you have, right? What is it? At the core of that origin of that saying, right? They're saying that the way you dress can give off a very different perception than even maybe the job that you currently have and you're kind of dressing for that next level. Now that doesn't mean I love your example about going and visiting a construction client and so dressing appropriately versus dressing in the suit at more of a networking event or association event, and I think that's great. So I don't think the dress for the job you want, not the one you have. I don't think that necessarily means dress well. It's just making you aware that the way you dress gives off a different perception. 

And I’ll give you a great example. So when I first got into the advertising space and first job on the agency side, day one, I dressed like the Madison Avenue, Detroit trendy ad guy, right? It was like dress shirt, blazer, designer jeans, dress shoes, clean cut. Kind of look the part. And you could definitely tell from day one especially with clients there was a respect level there. It definitely gave off a certain presence and there was a reaction that people had to it. 

Fast forward in my career and I moved more into a strategic role where I was less client-facing. I started dressing more comfortably. I won't do my hair today. I’ll throw a backwards hat on or I’ll wear a hoodie and tennis shoes and that type of thing, and you could definitely see that the way that people engage with me was different. Now I wasn't different. I had actually elevated in my career. But the way that people reacted and engaged to me was different and even though I was the exact same person. And it was absolutely because of what I was projecting even through something as simple as the way that I presented my appearance.

[00:23:52] AD: Oh, I think that's such a great example. And, again, like you said, you just have to think about what kind of brand do I want to put off and what's great for the situation for where I’m going, what do I want to accomplish? And dress is the one we keep coming back to here, because it's just an easy one. But this is so much greater than dress, right? There's so many places that you can take this.

[00:24:12] KL: Yeah. I mean I was just going to say another really simple one is communication responsiveness. Definitely, I am one of those people that I have my phone on me at all times. And if you email me or text me, you in most situations will get a response back fairly immediately. We live in a digital world where it is insanely easy to respond to people. And the people that I engage with where I don't get an email back for four or five or even 10 days, definitely it creates a perception of that individual. 

So even when you think about the intentionality around the brand you’re trying to project, do you want to be responsive? Do you want to be the type of person that your emails are always well written and they have a beginning and an end and a body and they're articulate as opposed to just a quick blurb, or are you busy on the go and your brand is, “Hey, I’m going to get you the information you need and none of the stuff that you don't,” right? You don't need the fluff. You just need to go yes or no. And so that's my brand, is I’m the guy that just gives you the yes or no. I’m not going to – Me, personally, I’m much more verbose. I’m a marketing guy. So every email I send usually has an introduction and a salutation and everything like that. 

So even things like that are telling a story about you and will leave an impression on someone. And because part of what your brand will do is create expectations. If people know that you're very responsive, they expect that from you in the future, versus if you're not, that will also affect their expectations. So I think expectations begin to be created based on your brand, and I think that's where the awareness piece comes in because I’m sure early in my career people expected me to look like I walked out of a Madison Avenue agency. And when I showed up with a hoodie and a backwards hat and glasses one day, they're like, “Whoa! Who are you?” Because I had created a level of expectation of what I typically appeared like in the office. So I think that's the other piece of it is ensuring that you are setting the right expectations and then also ensuring that you're being aware of what those expectations are so that way you can ultimately meet those expectations. 

[00:26:10] AD: You had such a good example there when talking about the email and the responsiveness to an email. So talking again to our audience here is a professional who has probably more emails than you know what to do with in client demands and the responsiveness undoubtedly matters in client service. But what happens when you start responding any time of the day, 24 hours a day, nights and weekends, anytime you're available? And I’m not saying that's not right. In some cases under some transactions there may be a time and a place that that needs to happen. I don't think anybody wants their 100% brand to be I do nothing but work and nothing else matters in life but work, right? And that’s I think we all know that, but the expectation side of that, when for periods of time you are overly available or are responding all the time to things and not setting that right expectation and then that changes, that can cause someone to think differently of you. Can break trust in some ways.

Again, there's no right answer to this, and I wish there was a really simple answer, but life is all about this gray zone. It's not this binary decision. And the reality is sometimes you need to be super responsive to serve the client to make sure you know what you're doing. But other times you don't and you don't want to overdo it, because if you're too far one way or too far the other, you're going to set the wrong expectations that will eventually be broken and ultimately will have an impact on the relationship you're building and impact what your brand is. And the solution to all of that, awareness, and we've talked about this again and again and again. It's the awareness, right? Your brand is about finding that awareness. What brand do I want to have and how am I acting today? Is it in alignment with that brand?

[00:27:58] KL: You kind of hit the nail on the head. The beauty of brand, whether it's corporate brand or those personal brand, is that there is no right or wrong answer. It's a spectrum of ultimately what you're trying to accomplish and what you're trying to project. And so I’ll give you another example along those same lines. In our world, obviously, account management and advertising is absolutely huge and clients have demands. Over the years I've worked with account people that have very different styles. And I can tell you two individuals in particular. One wanted the client to have the perception that I’m a 24/7/365. You pick up the phone, I’m always going to answer. That was their brand. I’m always around. I’m always here. I’m always there to help. I’m the master of client service, and they wanted that to be their brand.

I have also worked with other account managers who will not respond to emails. I’m being exaggerating a little bit, but 5:01 on a Friday, they're not responding till Monday because they want to set expectations to the client that during business hours I’m your guy. But when it's not business hours, don't expect a response from me. So in both cases neither are right or wrong. They were both great account people. They just had different approaches. And were seeking to give off different brands and set very different expectations for clients along those lines. 

[00:29:09] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.

[00:29:18] AD: Either one of those work just fine. Obviously they have to be right for the client and the situation. But where they both go wrong is if I’m saying I am always available. Whenever you need me, client, you can get a hold of me. I’m here for you. Reach out anytime, but not after five o'clock on a Friday, right? And, again, this is an easy example for us all just to kind of think through, but I think this is applicable in so many different ways. You have to make sure that who you say you are, what you want to be and how you're trying to really portray yourself are in alignment with the actions that you're actually taking. The way you behave. The way you truly – And it’s authenticity at its core, right? 

[00:29:57] KL: Yep, absolutely. And going back to if I am seeking to build a strong personal brand, what steps can I take? And we kind of talked about this early on of think about the brand and the perception that you want people to have of you. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. It doesn't have to always be a client. That's a really easy example because we serve as a client. And so there's a lot of interaction, but it could be just someone that you're networking with. But put yourself in their shoes. So put yourself in that client's shoes. You respond to anything I ever send you and tell me you're always around except Friday at 5:01 you're not responding. Like, “What the heck? Where are you?” 

And so if you think about from their perspective what they value and put yourself in their shoes, it can help you triangulate on the brand that you want to create because of how they're going to react, what their expectations might be. And that can help you land on who is the person that you want to be or what is the brand that you want to project.

[00:30:51] AD: I think that's great. You put yourself in their shoes. Empathy. Thinking about it from a different perspective, a different standpoint. And that goes back to earlier. You mentioned the gap analysis, right? So you start with, you figure out what you want your brand to be. Then look at what your brand is and figure out if there is a gap there. And that's where you have to be able to really think about the person on the other side of the table. Think about who you're interacting. Who your audience? Who you're engaging with? And know if what you're doing is really being portrayed that way, right? It's really communicating the right things. 

So I want to ask you for a moment here, is we talk about people trying to figure out their brand and trying to understand their personal brand and what their brand attributes might be. I think it’s a really important topic and we can all find value in doing this. And in one of our programs we work with individuals and say, “Okay, here is a list of brand attributes.” And we give a list of I think there's 50 or 75 brand attributes on there and frankly they're just words that start to give you some place to think. And then we ask people to boil those down and to say, “Okay. Well, you have 50. Well, cross out 30 you don't like. Let's get to 20.” And I’m just using easy round numbers right now. So then I have 20 and then maybe I say, “Okay. Well, let's shave that down to 10. How would I get rid of 10 more?” And that's usually pretty easy for people until they get to the next step, and that's shaving ten to five, because at that point you start to get some words where you're like, “Man, I really like both of those. I don't want to get rid of either of them.” 

What we find in doing that process is that when you work through it and you're spending time thinking about eliminating words, that elimination process actually helps you narrow that focus and become much more clear on what the attributes that matter to you are. What are your thoughts around that?

[00:32:42] KL: Yeah, I think that's a great exercise. In fact I might steal that exercise for our corporate brand clients, because you're absolutely right. Something that we say quite often to clients is that there are lots of different ways to describe your brand, but you cannot be everything for everybody. You have to prioritize, because jack of all trades, master of none is very real in the world of branding. The brands that are the most successful, be it personal brands or corporate brands are the ones that have a very distinct brand identity, and it's very focused and they're not worried about people. They're not trying to be everything to everyone. They're being true to themselves. They’re being authentic, and it's very, very specific. 

If you think about the people that you've met or it could be celebrities or whoever, people you follow on Twitter. Think about the people who have the most demonstrable personalities, right? They're being very true to who they are. They are not worried if it's for everybody. They're just going to be who they are and they have very distinct brands that are very, very focused. And so I think that's great, because as you start to whittle that down, it's going to force you to pick the things that are most important to you and then that's where you focus your intentionality around how do I project those things. Because probably the majority of the words on that list, everyone says, “Well, yeah. I want to be that and that and that and that and that and that and that.” The problem is is that how do you project a brand that's trying to project 40 different things, right? 

And so if you have to pick between I want people to think I have high integrity but I also want people to think that I’m professional and buttoned up and I have to pick between those two, you're probably of course elements of both. But by picking one, you're, A, choosing what's most important to you. And, B, you're aligning yourself to say, “Okay, this is what I want to project over any of the other things,” and that's going to help you have a very focused path on building your personal brand.

[00:34:28] AD: Ultimately, that focus path of building your personal brand, that's the key, right? It's the intentionality. Having clarity, having focus, and just simply knowing where you're going and what you're trying to do and build that. So just to give a quick recap of what we talked about today, Kyle, you had mentioned that when we talk about brand whether in the context of corporate branding or in the context of personal branding, branding is really about the core elements that really make you unique or make a business unique. But again, in personal brand, make you unique. And really it's the sum of all the perceptions of you in how people interpret the way you dress, the way you act, your responsiveness, the way you hold yourself, all these little details do end up building up. And the real key behind all of this is having an awareness, number one, of what your brand is both in its current phase but also then the awareness and the intentionality to really craft and create the brand that you want to have. And the way that you get there in making sure you have an authentic brand is spending that time and really digging in and thinking about what those brand attributes and how you want to be perceived. 

Now, once you have that and once you have the brand done or some of your brand attributes figured out, you then want to step back and do a little bit of a gap analysis. You want to say, “Okay. Well, what do I want to do versus what am I not doing today? Where is there a disconnect between those to make sure that I’m staying on track there?” And you have to really be able to ask yourself who are you engaging with. Who is the person on the side table? And put yourself in their shoes to really make sure you're thinking that through and to understand where those gaps might be. And ultimately always remember that your brand creates expectations. And part of that consistency is important in building relationships and trust with people. And as you continue to have your brand and how you hold yourself and act and behave and dress, all these things will drive that expectation. And when you change, you change expectations, and that's not always bad, but it can have a negative impact especially when it's done without awareness and intentionality.

So, Kyle, anything to add to that as kind of a recap of the episode?

[00:36:45] KL: The only thing I was going to add was that I really think that the word that you said there at the end, intentionality, is what it really comes down to, because at the end of the day building a personal brand is just like having any other goal. It's like losing weight, right? You have to intentionally dedicate yourself to it and be aware of it at all times because it's easy to hit the snooze button and not get up and go to the gym. It's easy to buzz for McDonald's and not go home and cook a healthier meal, and it's the same thing with your personal brand. It's easy to go, “Oh, I’m not going to shave today, or I’ll throw a hoodie on today.” It takes effort and it takes intentionality and to really create that kind of consistent personal brand experience that is going to be something that that could ultimately become a calling card for you in the future with clients and with your professional network because you have created those expectations and you're consistent in meeting those expectations. And so people just begin to know what to expect of you, then they can start to count on you. So I think that intention, the word intentionality really is the most important thing there, is you have to be intentional about committing yourself to the road map every single day.

[00:37:48] AD: So for listeners this week, I want to just put a challenge out there. Again, we described how in one of our programs, in our intentional networking program, we work through building your personal brand by starting with that large group of words and working your way down. And it actually is a harder exercise than you would think because you have all those words. So instead, what I want to challenge all of our listeners to do sometime in the next week, find the time to just write down three brand attributes that you want to have. Just pull them out of thin air. If you need help, you can certainly Google that or shoot me an email. I’m happy to share some examples with you on this. But just get three of them down just to start with, and this is an end all be all, but get three brand attributes down and write more than just the word. Write a blurb, a one sentence blurb about what that attribute means to you and then ask yourself where your actions are in alignment and where your actions may have a gap created there. Again, three simple words. Don't overthink this. Don't make this too hard. This isn't meant to be a really hard process. Just spend 30 minutes doing this. And I think you'd be shocked at the insight that can come out of it from just putting that time in there. Kyle, any thoughts around that?

[00:39:02] KL: Be open-minded about what those attributes are. Like I can tell you, me personally, I’m kind of a jokester. I would say one of those brand attributes for me would be humor. I want people to walk away from engaging with me and be like, “Wow! I laughed. That was fun.” So it doesn't all have to be integrity and professionalism and these – it absolutely can be if that's what you want it to be, but think broadly about what you really want people to think coming out of an interaction with you.

[00:39:26] AD: That's great advice. And, Kyle, for our listeners, how can they get a hold of you?

[00:39:29] KL: Our website is intandem.marketing, and you can email me directly at [email protected].

[00:39:36] AD: Awesome. Thank you so much. And, again, appreciate your time and your contribution to the show today.

[00:39:40] KL: Yeah. Thanks for having me on. This was fun.

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