When you walk into a typical supermarket, you'll notice signs at the end of each aisle that give you an idea what's on the aisle. Obviously, it's not practical to include everything the aisle contains on these signs, so they narrow it down to the most popular or in-demand items.
In other words, these signs represent the most sought after categories of items in the supermarket. These tend to be the "staples of life" that are frequently listed on most people's grocery shopping lists. In fact, many of these items (such as bread, milk, eggs and, in my case, coffee) are important enough that you may go to the supermarket solely to get one of these important items.
With that in mind, think about your skills - the "things you're known for." How many of your best skills are important enough that people regularly seek you out to leverage those abilities?
If one of the skills you're good at is a "staple skill" you are lucky because you will probably be sought out frequently. For example, people may seek you out for your planning & organizing skills. You may even become the "go to" person for that skill in your organization - in essence, you'll have a place on the sign at the beginning of the aisle.
But if your best skills are very specialized, you may not show up on people's shopping lists very often - or they may not know you "sell" that particular skill. Consequently, they will walk past your aisle in the skills supermarket without ever realizing you were there.
To continue the supermarket analogy, there are a lots of ways to drive the kind of awareness that will result in people seeking you out. Here are some examples, along with some things to think about in each area:
- Advertising / Promotion - How can you let people know (inside your organization or beyond) what you have to offer?
- You can get the word out through blogging, advertising, contributed articles, and things like that.
- Try to think about who would be a receptive "customer" audience for your skills and strategize about the best way to reach that audience.
- Remember that the key to successful advertising is consistent impressions over time- be clear, concise, and persistent.
- Word of mouth (satisfied customers)
- This is perhaps the most powerful way to drive brand awareness. People look to others' experiences and recommendations when making decisions and trying to solve a problem. Your goal is to get people to recommend you when someone they know is looking for something you're good at.
- The problem is that you can't get word of mouth until people have experienced the value you provide - which brings us to...
- Free samples
- If you're just getting started in promoting your personal brand, you might consider offering your services to others for no cost - in exchange for a testimonial, recommendation, or referral. If you create a few enthusiastic, satisfied customers who will provide a reference for you, all the rest of your brand building will get easier.
OK, so I might be stretching the metaphor just a bit with this post, but my point is this:
You may have tons of value to offer to others, but if people don't know about your abilities or don't know where to find you, your contributions will be limited.
It's up to you to get the word out and drive demand for your skills. Keep at it, and you just may end up with your own sign at the end of the aisle.
Picture credit: "Tea, only barely" by Yusuke Toyoda