Don't build a brand. Build a business

I know what you’re thinking, “Aren’t those the same thing?” Or, “You need a brand to build your business.” Building a brand helps your business. But, how to do it and what it means are often confused. The result ends up being entrepreneurs chasing their tail trying to achieve a result that come later in the process.

In entrepreneurship -- and society as a whole -- we’re always looking for that “one-thing,” the quick win. When successful entrepreneurs are interviewed, they’re asked about the “four or five things” entrepreneurs can do to reach success. Every time, the successful entrepreneur tries to explain that the secret is hard work. Lots of it.

The busy work.

When an entrepreneur doesn’t know what they should be doing or are frustrated with a lack of progress, they turn to the busy work. It can be trying to figure out SEO to build traffic to a website, it can be buying tons of Facebook ads; it can be designing new graphics and logos. It can be working on building a new brand or 100 other things.

The busy work makes you feel like you’re doing something. You hope if you do enough of it, it will bring business. This isn’t a great strategy. There’s no “why” behind it. It lacks focus but success comes from a clear plan.

The busy work can also come when you see another entrepreneur experiencing success using something that worked for them. Your natural inclination is to experiment with copying them in hopes that you get the same results. People do business with entrepreneurs who stand out, not blend in. Even if copying gets you a quick win it’s not sustainable or better for you business in the long run.

Related: 4 Signs You're Doing All the Wrong Things as an Entrepreneur

People connect with people.

The problem with a lot of “build your brand” advice is that it puts you on a pedestal. You’re told to list all your accomplishments as social proof. You’re told to use auto-responders to show people how busy you are. You’re told to have a virtual assistant respond for you and to demonstrate how scarce you are.

People connect with people they relate with. Relationship and referral marketing are two of the best ways to build your business and a loyal following. No one who first enters your ecosystem but feels like you’re a million miles away will stay to find out more.

If they conclude they’ll never reach you through all the filters, they’ll think long and hard before they ever do business with you. Building a business in today’s world of social media and the Internet is all about connection. When you are approachable and relatable, people are shocked because all the “build your brand” talk has hurt real connection.

Related: 5 Ways to Be a More Effective People Person

How to build a brand.

The best way to build a brand that people can connect with starts with building your foundation.

  • An "about" page on your website that’s personal. When your about page is in the third person, you’ve missed an important connection point. Everybody assumes you wrote it, so it will seem silly and pretentious that you’re talking about yourself in the third person. New visitors want to know the story. The story is what connects them to you and the message.
  • Interact as much as possible. You only have 24 hours in a day and a lot to do. However, the more that you can interact with your audience, the stronger your foundation will be. This is especially true when you’re just starting out. The reason entrepreneurs such as Gary Vaynerchuck, Dan Miller and Pat Flynn are so successful is because they connect with their audience daily and personally. Don’t try to be Superman, but make time to connect.
  • Get exposure. The way to build a brand and your business is by getting exposure wherever you can. It can be large publications, such as this one, or podcast/radio interviews. There are a lot of little things you can do to get a quick win, but exposure builds real authority, which is the foundation of a brand.

It’s easy to lie online, but the truth always comes out. There are a lot of ways to game the system but people can see through what’s fake.

Don’t get into the busy work trap. Don’t put yourself on a pedestal because you think it will impress potential leads. Connection is what impresses prospects because it’s rare today. Stand out and embrace what makes you unique. That’s how you build a brand that grows your business.

Related: How Great Entrepreneurs Got Started