If you’re working harder than ever to build your business and still not making money, it may be because you’re trying to be someone you aren’t, Michelle Villalobos told a standing-room only session of women at National Association of Women Business Owners Women’s Business Conference last week in Louisville, Ky.
When she struck out on her own, Villalobos said she “tried to step into the box of being an MBA and a consultant and it didn’t work.” She was a slave to her business and wasn’t even making money.
Things turned around when she decided to be — and brand — herself.
Premium brands, such as Christian Louboutin with his signature red-lacquered-sole shoes, can charge so much more for their products because of branding, Villalobos explained — and the same is true for people. “You want to be a celebrity in your field so that people are asking for you by name. When you’re top of mind in your field, you get more referrals,” and it’s much easier to bring in business through referrals than through advertising, cold calling or submitting proposals.
But you must be careful because “if you don’t brand yourself, then others will do it for you,” Villalobos warned before telling everyone how to do just that.
- Begin within. “You have to start by figuring out who you are before you can build a brand.” Focus on the PITs — passions, interests and talents — that make you who you are. Take your examination all the way back to childhood and don’t forget to look at your personality, because it doesn’t change.
- Ask “What’s your red sole?” Thanks to a recent court decision, Christian Louboutin has an enforceable trademark on red-soled shoes. With a few exceptions, he is the only one who can sell red-soled shoes. You need to pinpoint what is unique about you — not something that applies only to a few other people, but something that applies only to you. For most of us, this is only going to be one or two specific things.
- Own your name. Buy your space on the Internet — www.YourName.com — and work at making yourself the first full page of results that come up in a Google search of your name by blogging and engaging on a variety of social media networks. You also want to put pictures out there tagged with your name so that you have a full page of image results. Don’t forget to set up Google alerts for your name and its various misspellings, so you always know what people are saying about you.
- Create your look. You need a consistent appearance for yourself and look for your brand. Think about colors, logos and fonts — and don’t forget to get a great head shot.
- Post valuable content. Write blog posts and use social media to pass along useful content that relates to your brand. Be sure to tag everything with your name, so it all leads back to you.
- Start something — something big. Villalobos started The Women’s Success Summit, Miami’s largest business summit for women. Jessica Kizorek founded BadassBusinessWomen.org. “When you create something that’s valuable to people, you open the door to making real connections with them,” Villalobos said.
- Speak in public. If you’re unsure or inexperienced, just start practicing. Toastmasters International is a great group where you can make connections with people while developing your public speaking skills.
- Fire clients. “The easiest and quickest way for you to create a breakthrough in your lifestyle is to fire those clients (or customers, or products, or product lines, or revenue streams or service offerings) that don’t produce,” said Villalobos. You can’t serve everyone, and you don’t want to be wasting your time on work that doesn’t pay off.
- Raise prices. Yes, you’ll lose clients by raising prices, but you’ll have to work less to make the same amount of money, so you’ll be a winner. There are a variety of ways to raise prices, including bundling your service instead of charging by the hour, charging more for fast or last-minute service, and charging new clients more at the outset when you have the most leverage.
- Prepare for haters. When you set out to establish and promote a strong brand, “there will be haters, but there will be people who love you more and they’re the ones who count,” said Villalobos. “Surround yourself with people who love and support you and who think you’re great!”