in Branding

On personal web sites

In the era of personal branding, you’re not going to manage to be a very good web professional without some semblance of a personal web site.

Perhaps it’s just a link to social presence or whatever else, but it’s pretty important for you to have something, because you can best be sure that people are going to look and do their homework before they meet you.

Now that we have that fact out of the way, let’s talk about the details of such a site. Do you really want to give away all of your trade secrets? No, you don’t. But what do I mean by trade secrets, anyway? After all, you do want people to discover you, right? You need to let folks know how much you know your stuff.

How can you do that without giving away the farm? Here are a few tips, though your mileage may vary with each, I think it’s the sort of stuff you need to know, but that no one will tell you until well after it ceases to be useful:

1. Don’t copy the style of your favorite ___________. It makes sense that you’d go to the site of someone you admire, see what they do and maybe graft together a few styles into your own cohesive thing. The problem here is, you’re trying to make someone else’s style work for you. Maybe it can, but chances are, it’s going to be hard to pull off long term. Put another way, you might borrow a shirt from a friend, but if you two had to switch closets, it’s likely that you’re going to spend several hours of each day a bit uncomfortable. The lesson? Don’t worry about anyone else’s talents. Just do you.

2. Be concise. It can be tempting to tell your life story. Then you remember that no one spends very long on these sites, the analytics confirm it and you just spent an inordinate amount of time telling very personal stories that don’t make the sale. People love human interest stories, but they like them in books or in visual formats that don’t require them to work for it. So unless your entire presence is around a blog that you’ll be updating constantly and it relates directly to what you’re offering up, just keep it simple and clear.

3. Know your audience. Not just the people you want to reach, but the ones that are actually stopping in. Find out who they are and make sure when they get there, they’re getting what they need from you.

4. Understand your goal(s). Intent is huge. If you’re making a site to attract potential clients, that’s one thing. If you’re creating a web presence that’s really just an extension of your personal brand, but isn’t a place where you expect to generate the majority of your contacts/clients, etc., then you can take a different approach in developing your content. It’s really up to you. Your goals may change, but remember to stay the course. It can be tempting to change horses in mid-stream, but if you keep getting out of line to get in new ones at the supermarket, you’ll never checkout and leave the store.

Conclusion: I’m going back to the idea of minding your competition. Everything you say or put out there is open fodder for whoever is competing with you. While you’re not focused on them, as much as you are the stuff you’re doing, it’s important to mind your consistency.

The literature on your site should be enticing and drive interest, but if there are things that set you apart that you’re using to close deals in client meetings and in proposals, don’t go spewing this stuff on the web for someone to retrofit for their purposes and take.  Ideally, you’ll grow and adapt your messages and it won’t matter.

Remember, no matter what you say, if you can’t deliver on those promises it won’t make a difference how great your sales pitch is.

  1. Thanks Andy. I’m with you. I struggle(d) with that quite a bit. Not so much on tone, but more on formatting and such. But I’ve learned even that has a lot to do with personal style. The key, you know, is doing what you do and making that work for you. It can difficult depending on the situation, but it’s worth taking the time to cultivate your own identity that you can grow and adapt with.

  2. Solid advice. I especially like your first point, about being yourself. It reminds me of the advice given to writers to “find your voice.” In my earlier writing days, I would imitate the writers I admired — or thought I should admire — and try out their style, borrowing some elements and discarding others, until I figured out what worked best for me. It’s the same thing with creating your online persona — whether it’s your personal website or your social media presence.

    And that last part about delivering what you promised is also huge.

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