BUILDING A PERSONAL BRAND ON LINKEDIN
Tips to make your profile stand out from the competition
By Carolyn Smith and Andy Neary
During a recent Beyond Insurance program, Tom, a new risk advisor, asked how to retain customers from his previous job in food service equipment sales. He explained that his former customers have trouble viewing him in insurance and risk management, thus limiting his potential opportunity with them. Tom said, “I don’t know how to stay in front of them and nurture these old relationships. I want to remind them that I am the same person they have trusted for years—just in a new role. Please help!”
Beyond Insurance suggested developing a reputation centered around Tom’s personal brand and new career role in order to earn trust and respect. He could start by creating a defined personal branding strategy using LinkedIn that would open communication with his former customers and build relationships with new prospects, clients, centers of influence, and underwriters.
Tom decided that he could reach out to an audience interested in what he was offering and authentically connect with them, offering useful information when the time is right.
Why should you build your personal brand on LinkedIn? With more than 876 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is ideal for driving customers to your personal brand while simultaneously enhancing your professional reputation.
Actively connecting with potential customers on LinkedIn can help you be the first brand a prospect considers when they’re ready to engage. In other words, regardless of the line(s) of business you write, LinkedIn is one of the best social media platforms to target.
Additionally, the LinkedIn algorithm began to favor personal posts in 2022 in order to entice people to stay on the platform longer. Today, it’s about educating your prospects and getting them to know you. You can post words of encouragement, short surveys or polls, fun stories, and personal anecdotes that show your authenticity and human side while still maintaining your professionalism. Congratulate people in your network on successes and provide endorsements. Join relevant LinkedIn Groups and answer questions to build your credibility. Don’t overshare but do let people get to know you.
“LinkedIn’s ultimate goal is to prioritize relevant content and promote engagement … . It’s not just boring networking. LinkedIn is a party where you just happen to have your [profile] in your bag if some-one happens to want to see it,” states Hootsuite blogger Stacey McLachlan.
Overall, LinkedIn helps you engage a community of professionals to drive actions that are relevant to your business while telling your story. It keeps your brand at the forefront of your followers’ minds so that when they need your product, service, or solution, you’re the first person they consider.
Making your profile stand out
Think of your LinkedIn profile as your personal website, and make sure your profile stands out above the competition.
Having a LinkedIn profile means connecting with current and former colleagues and linking with professionals you meet at networking and community events and conferences. They can give you endorsements and recommendations that build your brand. So how can you make your profile stand out?
- Define your personal brand. Do you want people on LinkedIn to think you’re ordinary or commoditized and move on to the next transactional salesperson’s profile? Absolutely not! So, how can you differentiate yourself and your personal brand and translate it into your LinkedIn profile?
- How do I want others to see me?
- What do other people currently say about me when I’m not in the room?
- What do I want them to say?
Next, establish your personal brand and create a tone and image that reflects you, your WHY, your purpose, and your passion. This is your judge and jury. Make sure to maintain this brand in all your interactions on LinkedIn to show that you are trustworthy and memorable to your target audience.
- Profile picture. Your LinkedIn profile picture creates a first impression of your brand for your connections. To make sure your picture has the right effect, always post an updated, professional, smiling, and accurate image of yourself. An old image takes people off-guard and reduces your authenticity when they meet you in person or on Zoom for the first time.
- LinkedIn banner. The banner behind your profile picture is your electronic billboard. It should include your company’s logo, an image of where you live or work, and your contact information. If a prospect is looking at LinkedIn on their phone, your contact information may be difficult to find or buried at the bottom of your profile. Adding that information to the banner makes it easy for a prospect to reach you.
- You want your network to focus heavily on the headline below your name. After all, it is the first impression of you that people will see. Good headlines use terms people search for and show clarity and confidence. Unfortunately, most agents list their job title (producer), the organization they work for, and its logo in the headline. They don’t understand that the headline is valuable real estate where you can put your tagline or that people who are viewing your profile can quickly scroll down to your résumé section to learn what your job title is.
Set yourself apart by emphasizing your best skills, talents, or activities. Tell your audience what you do and whom you do it for. For example, if you state, “I help Nebraska businesses improve their risk profile with a proven strategy,” your target prospect will know what you do and for whom you do it. This gives you a much better chance that your ideal prospect will recognize that you can help them.
- Complete your “About” section. Rather than adding all your industry expertise, give your target audience a chance to get to know you. Share your “WHY,” what drives you to get out of bed each morning, your passion, your community service, and possibly a few hobbies.
- Be visible. Continue to differentiate yourself by updating your status with a service project you are working on, articles you are reading, videos you are watching, and events you are attending. Your personal brand is more than just who you are; it’s also what you are doing.
If you have an engaging profile picture, a banner with contact information, a headline under your name with what you do and whom you do it for, and a warm bio in the “About” section, your prospects, clients, centers of influence, and carriers will get to know you better and recognize you as a go-to advisor in your market.
Trust in your personal brand comes from telling your prospect’s story
and not focusing all your efforts on telling your own.
Secrets to get others to love your brand
Sometimes we connect with others instantly. However, prospects may not see your wonderful qualities right away. So it is helpful to know the secrets for getting people to fall in love with your brand:
- Share your authentic story. Far too many transactional salespeople are like chameleons, willing to be whoever they need to be to win business. Instead, show up as your-self, the person you are every single day. That way, you can attract the right people into your LinkedIn community and share stories about your life. The easiest way to earn the A.O.R. (Agent of Record) is to be Y.O.U.
Mary Shea, previously a principal analyst at Forrester, suggests that a best practice for getting started is to build your brand while ensuring that your profile explicitly states how you will help clients. Allow a “bit of who you are as a person to shine through.”
Be open to sharing stories about your past experiences, e.g. your professional baseball career, your mistakes, lessons you’ve learned from the mistakes and the successes you’ve had—big or small. Passing these stories to your audience gives the man opportunity to get to know you.
When you turn those events and hobbies into life and business lessons you pass on to others, you’ll get the right prospects in your funnel. They’ll eventually become clients because they’re getting to know and like you. If your stories resonate with them enough to connect, then they are building trust with you before you’ve ever met them!
- Telling your prospects’ stories. Next, tell your prospects’ stories. Paint a picture of what they are trying to accomplish, their goals, their challenges, and how this is impacting them emotionally. When you share these stories, they can watch or read and agree, “Yes, that’s me! That’s what I’m going through.”
In that moment, they will realize that your product, service, or solution can move them from where they are today to where they want to be. Trust in your personal brand comes from telling your prospect’s story and not focusing all your efforts on telling your own.
After receiving these recommendations, Tom, the new risk advisor, realized that sitting on the sidelines is the greatest risk of all, so he modified his profile and practiced the secret combination of sharing both his and his prospects’ stories. He grew his community and built a brand that people love.
Carolyn Smith serves as chief training officer and leads strategy and execution for new program development at Beyond Insurance.
Andy Neary was a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers and is the founder of Complete Game Consulting (andyneary.com/complete-game-consulting). He is a Beyond Insurance strategic partner who provides coaching and training for insurance professionals who want to fill their prospect pipeline.