As we’ve seen in the past few months, the question of how to go about personal branding is more complex than it appears. People create person-based and product-based personal brands, have different motivations for sharing information, and share different types of information with their customers. But in the end, what actually works? While this is a complex question, here are some intriguing findings from the pretest I conducted with over 50 individual entrepreneurs in the arts and crafts areas to finish off this ten-part series on personal branding for authors.
What personal branding actions are associated with financial outcomes?
Interestingly, most personal branding actions were not bivariately associated with entrepreneurs’ financial performance. In other words, there’s no magic formula for “do this and you’ll make more money.” However, sharing about one’s personality with one’s customers was positively correlated with both overall financial performance compared to one’s competitors (self-reported) as well as the entrepreneur’s perceived non-financial performance (all the benefits the entrepreneur got from his/her job apart from money). Having your customers know a bit about what you’re like, then, may encourage them to buy more from you, be more loyal, tell their friends about you, and generally drive profits up. However, the particular type of information you share about yourself beyond your personality appears to not have a consistent impact on financial performance – in other words, some things might work for one person and not for another, likely due to differences in specific types of products being sold, different personality and relationship styles, and so forth.
What personal branding actions are associated with non-financial outcomes?
As most artists and authors will tell you, they aren’t in the creation business to make money. Sure, profits are great, but it’s the creativity, the relationships, and the sheer fun of creation that keeps them in the industry. It’s worthwhile, then, to identify how personal branding actions are related to creators’ non-financial outcomes. Here, too, we find intriguing results. For a refresher on the types of personal information creators were generally found to share with customers, check out this post.
Sharing basic profile information about the entrepreneur and who they’re trying to target is positively associated with the entrepreneur’s emotional satisfaction and their satisfaction with personal relationships. This is likely because expressing similarity with customers and sharing information about the self probably increases an entrepreneur’s level of feeling known and accepted by others, and also establishes the foundation upon which a relationship with customers can be built.
Sharing information about one’s craftsmanship is associated with an entrepreneur’s levels of overall non-financial performance, emotional satisfaction, sense of personal fulfillment with their business, and their sense of accomplishment. Similarly, sharing about the unique value that an entrepreneur adds to their products is positively associated with their emotional satisfaction, level of personal fulfillment, and sense of accomplishment. This makes sense: focusing on one’s skill, ideas, the process of creation, and one’s own individual quirks and the meaning of one’s products helps the entrepreneur recognize their own value and feel proud of all that they have accomplished. However, emphasizing this information is not associated with better relationships with customers – it is possible that sharing this information establishes the entrepreneur as the expert and the customer as the non-expert, which could lead to respect and admiration by customers, but not to shared experiences and relationship building.
Sharing advice with others who are less established in one’s field is, somewhat surprisingly, not related to performance, emotional satisfaction, or a sense of accomplishment. It does, however, have a strong positive correlation with the entrepreneur’s satisfaction with their personal relationships. If establishing relationships with people through your business is what you desire, then, being a willing and eager mentor might help you reach that goal. If you’re perfectly fine finding your personal relationships outside of your job, however, then setting yourself up as a mentor and guru might not help you gain the other benefits that you might like (including emotional satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment).
Overall, sharing different types of personal information does seem to be related to entrepreneurial outcomes. Sharing about the hard work you have done, your process, ideas, motivations, and unique contributions may have beneficial emotional outcomes in addition to telling your readers things that they want to know. Sharing advice with others and telling them a bit about yourself (where you’re from, what your values are, etc.) appears to help you build relationships with customers or other authors. Making sure your personality comes through in your marketing does seem to be associated with increased financial outcomes.
Correlation, however, does not imply causation. There are many successful authors who follow different types of marketing and branding strategies, and many unsuccessful authors who have copied them to no avail. I hope these findings are useful for giving you ideas of things you might try and new ways to think about the important and still underexplored area of personal branding for authors.