James BenthamLike digital marketing, personal branding is all about perception and optimisation. It’s about recognising your strengths, focusing your energy in to them and sharing all the fantastic work that you do. As Head of Account Management at Search Laboratory, my work includes developing the agency’s strategic SEO offering and pitching to prospective clients to tell them about our services. Along the way, I’ve learnt a lot about the most effective way to sell yourself to a business. Whether pitching for a client or looking for a job, it requires the application of the same five lessons I’ve learnt during my time in digital marketing.

1. Know your market

To be successful in any line of business you must first know your audience. Who are the people who want your product and what’s the best way to sell it to them? In digital marketing, there are any number of tools to help you understand who your audience and customers are. Whether it’s through your Facebook engagement, sales data or clicks through to your website – there’s plenty there to help you steer your marketing efforts. While there may not be as many specific tools to help you understand what employers or clients want, you should still have a good idea of what the landscape looks like in the relevant industry.

If you’re a graduate looking for a job, then do your research. Revising a potential employer or client doesn’t mean just knowing the person who’s interviewing you, it means knowing the role and the work that’s been done before. It means knowing how similar roles in other organisations operate. Are there real, actionable solutions to specific challenges in an interview? If you’re a freelancer looking to sell your skills, then conduct your own market research – what is working in the industry and what can you learn from it?

2. Be confident and trust your skills

After our sales team sets up meetings, we visit prospective clients to tell them about our services and how we can help them. It’s a sales pitch yes, but they meet with us because they want expertise – something which we can provide. We specialise in everything from search engine optimisation (SEO), to pay per click advertising, to more creative methods like content marketing. When we pitch to prospective clients we always feel confident because we know what we do, and we do it well. While that confidence does come with experience, there’s also a lot that can be said about projecting. If you believe in yourself and your ability to do the job, then employers and clients will too.

Nine times out of ten you won’t fill the job description point by point, but that means that it’s likely none of other candidates will either. What you can do is sell all the other things that you’re great at. Don’t be put off by intimidating job requirements – employers will appreciate a graduate who is enthusiastic and confident. If you’re a whizz at excel, tell them how you could help improve processes within the team. If you’re a dab hand with photoshop tell them how you can advise on design best practice. No matter what the role, the more knowledge and enthusiasm you have about the industry the better a prospect you’ll become.

3. Share your success

As an award-winning agency, we’ve been recognised for our work across all of our departments. Awards are great and can be a significant boost to team members who see it as industry recognition of the work that they do. However, if we just put them straight in a trophy cabinet to gather dust then we’d only be harnessing a tiny proportion of their impact. It’s important that we tell people about our successes. Whether that’s awards as a business, or even just a great piece of work – the more we share our own successes the better we look.

While it may not be relevant for all industries, a website is a great way of sharing everything you’ve done. There’s only so much you can fit on a CV, so a website is a great place to house your achievements, displaying your work experience in case prospective employers or clients want to find out more about you. Fill it with examples of your work, client testimonials and employer comments. Remember though, that this platform may be the first impression an employer gets of you, so keep it professional, i.e. if you’re not a coding champion then use one of the many web hosting platforms out there (e.g. Squarespace) to help build your site.

If a website isn’t relevant, then keep your LinkedIn up to date and full of your achievements. Don’t just share your basic responsibilities, give examples of specific pieces of work, including how they contributed towards the success of a campaign or business. Prompt colleagues and employers to recommend and comment on the strengths in your profile.

4. Educate and Innovate

The difference between a thriving, forward thinking business and a stale one, is innovation. In the digital marketing industry, there are always new innovations and tools to help us do our job and to drive better results. Part of our roles as experts is to keep up to date with all the industry trends and insights, but it’s also to offer new ideas and solutions to problems that exist within our industry. Treat your own role in the same way. If you’re dedicated to working in a particular job, then recognise that there can always be improvements to make to it. Be on the lookout for issues, and try to identify tools, methods and innovations you can make to improve these processes. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but ultimately any way you can save a business time or money, or help improve results for a client, they’re going to appreciate it.

Why not start a blog on your website, commenting on industry news or your favourite examples of other professionals’ work? Not only will it add to the discourse and help educate others, but it will inspire your own work and give you the motivation to keep on top of news in your industry.

5. Create your own ‘tone of voice’

Having a clear and distinct voice is one of the most important parts of any successful digital marketing strategy. You need a differentiator, something that sets you apart from the competition. Competitor analysis will give you an idea of what’s already working, but to be an industry leader you need a creative vision to drive your business forward. That means a defined tone of voice that determines how you speak, plus how you use graphics and imagery. Many of the businesses we work with create extensive tone of voice and brand guidelines documents to help guide large teams and external agencies like ourselves. Thankfully, you don’t have that problem just yet, but you can take inspiration from this consistent approach to your personal brand.

If you work in the creative industries, the best way to do this is to treat yourself as your very own client. Design a logo for yourself and create business cards, letterheads and web assets for your website so everywhere people look, they see consistent messaging. If you don’t quite have the creative nous, keep it simple, and make use of easily available templates online for your documents.

When we graduate, we all want to get into our perfect job as quickly as possible, but in an increasingly competitive job market, personal branding is vital. While we might not all have the marketing budget of a multinational corporation, by taking some inspiration from the way brands market themselves online, you can position your personal brand as a real contender.