What’s Your Product?

Posted on June 13, 2012 by Marian Salzman

Many of you reading this have worked in marketing, advertising or PR and have made a lifelong career out of building brands and selling products in many categories. But have you ever taken the time to think of what you have to offer the world as a product? Maybe it’s your ability to write great blog posts. Perhaps it’s your virtual Rolodex of contacts. Or it could even be your good taste, coupled with great smarts, that has people calling you back for more.

We’ve entered an age in which freelancing is becoming the new normal; Ad Age recently penned a piece about how adland is using freelancers more than ever, with other industries already there or surely about to follow suit. If you are a freelancer or contemplating a freelance life, knowing and selling your product (that would be you) is what’s going to set you apart, allow you to sleep at night and keep you consistently working.

The best personal brands conjure up an image in a potential client’s mind of what it will get when it hires you, whether that be quick results, a fun approach to challenging situations or a clever point of view on the world. Your product is what makes your personal brand “you,” and it should pervade all your branded efforts (social media, website, portfolio, business cards, email signature, blog design, etc.) so that more people want to buy. With endeavors such as Pinterest gaining real traction in the social media world, self-curation is the new black—so don’t take for granted that anything you put up on social media should reflect the values of your personal product. It’s a crowded world out there, so take cues from big brands such as Apple that know their product and brand values inside and out. Apple’s brand infamously stands for creativity, and its legions of consumer fans who wait in line for every new product launch are nothing short of fanatical. You might not get as popular as the iPhone or iPad, but take note from these powerhouse products and get creative when it comes to selling your very own product.

On Polyglots and Linchpins
With technology moving faster than anyone can track it and the world speeding up at a pace that would make Captain Kirk dizzy, the best Brand Me’s are those that are equal parts polyglot and what marketer Seth Godin (a stellar personal brand himself) calls linchpins.

Being a polyglot is the new version of what it once meant to be a renaissance person. The literal translation of polyglot is someone who can speak multiple languages, and that’s never been truer when it comes to the nature of doing business today. In order to survive this thing called life and work in 2012 and beyond, you simply need to know how to do a lot of things. You need to be part trend forecaster, part technologist, part rainmaker, part cheerleader and part do-gooder (a big part) when it comes to contributing to the world.

Another personal brand trait that is a must-have on your Brand Me checklist is being a linchpin (Godin waxes on the concept in his book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?). According to the book’s description on Amazon, it notes that “[t]here used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Now there’s a third team, the linchpins. These people invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen and create order out of chaos. They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. They delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it and turn each day into a kind of art.”

Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? As lofty as the notion of being considered a linchpin might be, a linchpin’s character traits make for a great personal brand and will set you apart from the pack. The book notes examples such as Keith Johnson, who shops in flea markets around the world to fill Anthropologie stores and catalogs with cool stuff (sign me up for that job), and David, a Dean and DeLuca employee who sees “every customer interaction as a chance to give a gift and is cherished in return.”

It’s fascinating what these linchpins have in common and what makes them indispensable to their companies and super personal brands: They are using their “me-ness” to bring a different level of quality to their job. One is using his unique point of view to inject his company’s brand with a highly curated point of difference, while the other’s personal brand values make him a superstar in an industry so reliant on customer service.

So whether you are ambidextrous when it comes to your skills, or your talents lie in the great ability to infuse your personality into everything you do at work, using your own best gifts and abilities is what will make your personal brand sing.

[photo: creativecommons.org/curegreed]

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