Some Thoughts on Personal Branding

Posted On: August 5

 Recently a good friend of mine who is in the financial services industry asked me for my thoughts on personal branding, because he was preparing to make a presentation to his team of associates about how critical it was to their career to create a strong and focused personal brand. Here is the note that I sent to him…


Dan, great to hear from you this week. Here are some thoughts on branding/marketing /sales – and especially personal branding – I hope you find this helpful.

Branding is about creating an image/feeling/connection with the customer. There are many branding experts that say that the customer actually owns the brand and creates the brand – but I believe that an organization/person can have a great deal of influence on how the brand is perceived in the marketplace by the consumer. An excellent example of branding would be products that are automatically tied to thoughts/emotions. Some examples would be:

 Volvo equals safety — A diamond is forever — Pepsi is for the new generation — Nike: just do it! — BMW, the ultimate driving machine — The little blue box from Tiffany’s — Ritz-Carlton = ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen — With a name like Smuckers it’s got to be good!

All of these organizations have done a fantastic job of linking their brand to a belief/emotion. The goal of branding then, is to understand the emotions, thoughts, beliefs that you want your customer to have – and then attempt to present your brand in such a way that it will elicit those thoughts and feelings when your customer thinks about you.

 Marketing is much more about getting someone to want to purchase your product. Marketing focuses on features/benefits/price – and your USP or Unique Selling Proposition. There are two major marketing strategies – the “push strategy,” which says you push information out in the marketplace and drive the end-customer to go buy the product at whatever place you want them to go to, for example – think of a computer or electronics company that tells you about their awesome new product and says,  Available at Best Buy now! The other major marketing strategy is the pull strategy which says that you create awareness and interest in the customer and get them to request your product  from the supplier – so that the customer “pulls” the product into the marketplace. A good example might be soy milk – it isn’t until consumers start asking for it that major chains will pick it up – that is why a lot of new products from smaller companies use guerrilla marketing to build up a big fan base – and then have their raving fan customers demand their products from their local suppliers – think: micro beers. Advertising is the tool used to implement the marketing strategy.

 Sales, is the last step in the process which is convincing the consumer to buy the product. This is where it is critical to understand the customer/client at the deepest possible level – and understand the decision-making/ purchasing process. I have a saying here that is one of my very favorites: Whoever owns the voice of the customer – owns the marketplace. Whoever gets the closest to the customer, has the strongest relationship, and understands them at the deepest level – has a huge advantage in the marketplace.

 Now you can take all of these things and apply them directly to personal branding.

Each of us, as a professional, and especially those of us that interact directly with our clients – need to consider the importance of creating a personal brand. In other words, what are the thoughts, beliefs, emotions you want to come into people’s minds when they hear… your name! Do they think: “trusted advisor,” do they think about someone who is highly competent, caring, a true expert? Or does your brand not have a distinctive and unique position in the customer’s mind? Today, to create a successful career as a person who delivers professional services – such as a lawyer, insurance salesperson, real estate agent, financial manager… or “business expert” such as myself, it’s critical that you take the time to think through the images, feelings, thoughts, emotions and connections that you want your clients to make when they think about you – and when they refer you to their friends and colleagues!!!

 Let me use myself as an example:

After more than 17 years as a business consultant and professional speaker I have listened to my customers closely enough to understand that they hire me for three very specific reasons – what I call the 3R’s.

 Research – you would be hard-pressed to find any other business consultant or professional speaker in the world who spends as much time, energy and effort as I do in reading 100+ books a year, listening to another 50 on audio, reading hundreds of white papers, magazine articles, blogs – truly investing a major part of my life into becoming as knowledgeable as I possibly can about the topics I teach.

 Real Life – not only do I read and study an enormous amount of information and data – I have been the CEO of 10 companies – two of them multinational – so I don’t just teach, I have been there and done that. I know what it’s like to have to make payroll – I know what it’s like to make bets with hundreds of thousands of dollars and many people’s jobs on a strategy. I have been in the trenches and continue to be there with my clients right now. I don’t teach theory – I teach what I know works from direct personal experience.

 ROI – the number one reason that people hire me is that I don’t waste their time or money – everything I teach, every idea I put forth, every workshop I deliver is focused intensely on delivering a strong Return On Investment for the money they have invested not only in me – but the sometimes very substantial expense of bringing in a large group of people, flying them in from all over the place – putting them up at a hotel – feeding all of them – and letting them spend a few days in training with me. The investment can be massive – the return must also be significant.

To my clients my brand is pretty straightforward: John Spence is a human Cliff Notes who can teach my people extremely valuable ideas in a simple and easy to understand way – and he constantly drives for turning the ideas he teaches into action in my company!

 As you can see I have a very clear and specific understanding of the brand that I am trying to portray – and that my clients have told me reflects who I am and the work I do for them. Actually, I have a 15-page “brand platform” that my team and I wrote to help us stay extremely focused on what the “JohnSpence” brand is and how to communicate it effectively.

 That is exactly the idea of personal branding, just like any company would, you sit down and figure out clearly what you want the brand “YOU” to stand for the marketplace and how you want your customers – and potential customers – to think about you and the services you offer. And in this day and age if you want to be successful as someone who delivers professional services it is absolutely essential that you take the time and effort to carefully craft a unique and compelling (compelling – as defined by the customer) personal brand and then become and expert at using social media and personal referrals to market your brand aggressively. But that’s an entirely different topic…

 I hope you found this helpful – let me know if you have any questions at all. Take good care — John


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  1. You keep getting it right John. “Whoever gets the closest to the customer, has the strongest relationship, and understands them at the deepest level – has a huge advantage in the marketplace.”

    We say “feel their pain and come up with a solution.” If a solution works for one, it generally works for many others as well.

    Thanks for the useful material….

  2. Thanks for sharing John. Your work always keeps my sword sharp and my eyes open toward the future. As a professional tennis instructor who takes pride in studying and teaching the very best technique, it didn’t come as a surprise when a colleague Branded me “Mr. Technique”. I have spent numerous hours studying technique and applying over the last 18 years, which has led my clients to know me for what I do best on the court, teach very specific technique. Your writings are 100% on the money 100% of the time.

  3. Attentive John,

    It is always a pleasure to take a dive into your blogs.
    Hope all keeps going well.


    David W.

  4. Thanks John Spence. A post full of information every business in Gainesville can use. Know how we subconsciously like to read things that confirm what we know or believe or already do? Well, I didn’t enjoy your post in the sense that it really challenged me with my branding issues! Most small businesses in Gainesville are run by folks, like me, who have no training in sales and marketing. We are just masters of our trade and want to be independent. Sales and marketing continue to be a steep learning curve for me.

  5. Thanks Joe.
    While we might know most of what we need to do as it relates to our personal branding, your ability to surface some thoughts already covered by dust is…priceless.!

  6. Hi John,
    Thanks for your thoughts on personal branding. I find this easier to do for other people, than for myself, but this gives me some ideas for where to start.
    Take care,
    Amy Lyn D’Alesio

  7. Great stuff John, some good food for thought. I’d like to refer to this article in a newsletter so I’m hoping that is ok – better than me cutting, pasting and plagerising. Also, I know of several people who have brought your book from a previous article I linked to – including my brother who is a business consultant (MBA etc) so it’s all good mate. Keep the good oil coming, Grant

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