Many people feel frustrated with their personal branding efforts because they can’t see visible progress. Nobody told them that there are stages to personal branding, so they can’t understand why it's taking so long to become a household name. How long does it take to build a personal brand exactly?
Most experts show you what the finished product looks like: A large audience and products selling round the clock because people know, like, and trust you. Yes, that makes sense, but today, I want to show you the 5 levels of personal branding so that you can see for yourself what stage you’re at, and what level to aim for.
This would also help you validate what you’re doing because everyone can be a household name, the question is which household? In as little as 3 weeks, you can start becoming known for what you do. Just because you’re not on a global stage yet, doesn’t mean you’re not on your way there.
So, here you go: The 5 stages of Personal Branding
Stage 1: The In-house Expert
Your immediate community knows what you do (because you told them), and they respect your expertise. This community includes colleagues, existing customers, followers and people within your immediate contact.
You know answers to common questions about your topic, and your friends and family know this.
You are recognizable online. It is clear to everyone who finds you, who you are, and what you do - though many people haven’t found you yet because you've just started building your personal brand.
Your priority at this stage: Clarify your brand positioning, polish your online presence and build your body of work.
Stage 2: The Local Champion
At this stage, you are getting known outside your immediate circle. You are active and visible in groups, business communities, and you’ve started sharing your thoughts and perspectives in those groups.
Thought leadership starts here, often in the form of micro-content such as tweets, posts, stories, and social media posts.
Your priority at this stage: Increase your credibility, and actively grow your audience by creating and promoting quality content.
Stage 3: The Rising Star
You are fairly well known among your peers, not just in your industry, but in other industries as well, and even outside the demographic, you belong to (i.e. age and location).
You’ve put out thought leadership content in long-form (articles, videos, or audio). Your content is attracting an audience and they, in turn, tell their friends about you. You are rising as a leader in the communities you belong to.
People want to work with you and hear your advice on issues. You are being invited to speak at high stake events and facilitate training.
Your name is being mentioned more often and referrals are becoming normal. You’re able to charge higher fees because people are willing to pay more for your time.
Your priority at this stage: Create proprietary material eg. A book, A signature talk, or An original method of doing what you do - just like Marie Kondo did when she created her "Marie Kondo Method".
Stage 4: The Niche Champion
You are well known nationally for your specific areas of expertise. You are among the top 10 voices in your niche.
You attract premium clients and higher fees. As a result, you are a significant asset to any business or project. The requests for partnership pour in and you get several invitations to speak, contribute or feature. And as you feature in these places, you draw your own crowd.
You have built an audience of people who are interested in what you have to say. You have your own body of work.
At this stage, you’re not only active in communities, you lead your own community. Your materials are referenced often and people talk about what you do.
People find you by searching for information around your topic/niche. You are nominated for opportunities and recognition.
Your priority at this stage: Grow your community, optimize your business structure and continue to refine your method of solving their problems.
Stage 5: The Global Superstar
Your influence has gone beyond your niche and you are more broadly recognized in your industry. You are among the world’s elite experts. You global now! 😉
People and Organisations around the world want to be associated with you. You are known across several industries and beyond borders. Your network is large, not just because you want it to, but because people keep finding their way into your network.
Influential people talk about you and recommend you because your methods are tested, and your wisdom is trusted. You’ve been around long enough and you have been prolific about sharing your perspectives.
Your priority at this stage: Scale your impact, and continue to expand the network and people to whom you can give back.
You'll notice that we didn't dwell on things like audience size or revenue figures at any stage. That's because those things are not good measures of influence. There are people who advise presidents and do not have 1 million followers online.
Also, the fact that you have never heard about someone does not mean they are not a global superstar which reminds us why it's important to define your own dream, outline your personal branding goals and articulate what success means to you.
There you have it!
The 5 stages of Personal Branding, and your priorities for each stage.
At every stage you'll keep building your personal brand, and taking the opportunities that come your way. However, we won't all focus on the same things - even if we are at the same stage.
How do you know where to focus at each stage of your personal brand?
Your specific focus is not necessarily determined by the stage you're at, but by your current goals. You can pursue any goal at any time, while bearing in mind the big-picture focus of your current stage. Let me give you a quick cheat sheet of your options:
If you’re at stage 0 (which means you’re unclear, unknown, and untrusted,) please get my free Personal Branding blueprint ASAP so that you can jumpstart your personal brand today.
Do you want to build a community of potential buyers, loyal readers and brand enthusiasts? Then create a platform to serve your community eg. email list, or online group.
Do you want to grow your audience and increase traffic to your platform? Are you trying to grow your thought leadership? Then, create quality content, and promote the content you created.
Do you want more people recommending and referring you, besides your clients? Do you want to invite guests to your platform or grow your affiliations? Focus on strategic relationship building.
Are you trying to look more credible online, be seen in certain places, or get paid to speak? Dial in on your online presence, press, public speaking and media features.
Are you trying to grow your revenue? If yes, you need to create a product aligned with your brand, and create a buzz so that people know about the product.
The important takeaway today is to recognize what stage of personal branding you’re at, so you know what the big-picture priority is, and then determine what personal branding goal you'll pursue with intense focus.
Wow this is so insightful. Thank you so much Tolu. I think i will like to start with the blueprint. But is it possible to go through the blueprint and still pick content at the same time
I am in stage 2 Building thought-leadership – creating and promoting quality content. Quite an accurate description of where I am at. I have had to rewrite what success means for me at this stage. Thanks TM
Hi TM, this really helps with knowing what to do at each stage to move to the next. Thanks for this.
I’m on stage 2 for Productivity and focused on creating and sharing quality content.
Is it possible to be at a different stage for a different aspect of your personal brand? What are your thoughts on this?
Thanks Ogaga. I like to think that a person can’t have 2 personal brands, just like you can’t be 2 people. A more useful lens is to say you have different brand expressions or projects. Think of your personal brand in terms of where you are being known, and the conversations you are in instead of saying “where am I being known for productivity?” Else, you’ll keep saying you’re in 4 different stages for the 4 different things you’re doing. If your favorite celebrity starts a new project today, yes they’ll need to grow the visibility and credibility of that project, but the person herself won’t have to go back to stage 1. In fact, her existing reputation will rub off on the new thing and help it grow quickly.
Thank you so much TM! I must say I needed this, it’s time to move to stage 2.
Yay! Glad it helped you.
Your content has been a wonderful motivation for me.
I am in stage one for now and I will continue to build my personal brand till I get to the top.
Fabulous! I’m glad this helped you identify your current stage.
Thank you Tolu.
I’m in stage 1. I’ll focus on the community goal. The stages are really helpful. It has removed the pressure of trying too many things at the same time.
That was the point of writing this, so I’m so excited it helped you Seun.
Thank you Tolu. I’m currently in stage two but hoping to move to stage four by the end of the year.
I’m launching my blog before the week is over. Hoping to move really fast.
Great content Tolu.
Fabulous! Great job Ann. Keep going!
Thanks for sharing TM! I think I’m at stage 0.
I’ll start going through the blueprint because my Personal Brand is something I really want to build.
Excellent choice! Now is the best time to get started, really.
Great article, Tolu 👌🏽 Really love how you broke each stage down. Am I permited to say I am in between stage 2 and 3? 😁 Once again, great article 👍🏽
Thanks for your comment Nnenna. It makes sense to be in-between stages and in that case, it’s best to act in accordance with where you’re going, not where you’re coming from.
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