The Brand Called YOU

August 7, 2023

by Peter Montoya

In an age of faceless corporations, free online advice, and companies that deliver rubber-stamped services, entrepreneurs who realize that they are the real commodity, not their products, will set themselves apart from the competition. Let Personal Branding expert Peter Montoya show you how to turn YOU into a “brand” in this brand-driven society and how to use your Personal Brand to generate better results, more clients, and greater profits.

In an era of faceless corporations and online advice, the best way an entrepreneur can succeed resides in his or her ability to market a strong Personal Brand. Individuals who market themselves as “product experts,” or whose services are not adequately unique or specialized, risk blending into the background or being replaced by larger competitors in their industry.

In the face of grim prospects and competition, some thoughtful entrepreneurs are taking a different approach — packaging themselves as the product through creative, aggressive marketing.

As opposed to “product-” or “fact-based” marketing, Personal Branding uses brochures, logos, direct mail, the Internet, public relations, and other channels, not merely the salespeople, to position entrepreneurs as the brand of choice.

Personal Branding promotes an identity of the individual that communicates on an entirely new level and gives consumers a reason to choose your products or services over those of your competitors.

What will your name attract?


As an entrepreneur, you don’t need to be told about the injustices that exist in any given industry. But Personal Branding is a fair way to tip the playing field to your advantage. To be a leader, one whose client base continues to expand even during down times and who boasts at least a mid-six-figure income, you must create your Personal Brand identity; you must turn yourself into a salable, valued asset instead of just another face in the crowd. You must build your brand — YOU!

Take the multibillion-dollar category of athletic shoes. You have Nike, the colossus. Hard on its heels you have Reebok, Adidas, Fila, and others. What’s the difference between them, other than logos and advertising? Virtually nothing. So why does Nike own the world of shoes?

Brand identity. People buy based on how a brand makes them feel emotionally. They don’t buy based on logic. If “Just do it” strikes a chord with a football player, he’s going to grab Nikes. It’s got almost nothing to do with quality. Your average American doesn’t check Consumer Reports ratings before he or she buys a pair of high-tops.

The same truths apply to any product or service. If you can build a brand identity around your practice or business — something that instantly creates a reaction in your audience — you will attract clients and maintain your client base, no matter what times are like.


Charles Schwab was just a broker toiling on Wall Street. Then one day, he decided to turn his name into a brand. He sent the Street reeling with discount brokerage services, which brings up a powerful Personal Marketing principle: differentiation. But more importantly, Schwab turned on the marketing machine and began saturating the media with his name, face, and company identity. Years later, Schwab is perhaps the best-known name in finance to millions of Americans.

You can do the same for your services and business. All you need to do is follow these fundamental principles when building your brand:

* Differentiate yourself. Schwab and others started out by hanging their marketing hats on something that made them different from their competitors. Whether you choose to highlight your education, your high-tech equipment, an aspect of your service, or your expertise in a certain facet of finance, pick something that sets you apart from others and begin from there.

* Create a position. Your position is the place you occupy in the minds of your prospects. You might specialize in a specific service (Jiffy Lube made millions with this concept) or focus on a specific audience (real estate people often focus on a community; others can pick a dream client with unique needs and goals). Decide what position suits your background, abilities, and audience, and then build your marketing around driving that position home.

* Consistent and persistent. Once you’ve determined your position and your differentiator, create your brand by advertising yourself — over and over. Use print ads, direct mail, radio, websites, speaking engagements, newspaper articles — and any other medium available to communicate your name, your slogan, and your message to the target audience.

* Customize your services. Once you’ve built your brand, begin changing and evolving your services and business to fit your identity. If you preach personalized services, you need to qualify your identity by promising to offer a specified amount of one-on-one time with your clients. If you talk about your large, helpful staff, hire one. If you promise a unique specialty, back it up by offering a focused blend of products and services based on that specialty.


Brian Williamson, a professional photographer in Missouri, had fallen into some less-than-desirable jobs in his career. He was constantly being typecast as a wedding and senior portrait photographer, so his jobs were limited to that. While Brian was making a good amount of money overall, he wasn’t making as much money per shoot as he knew he could. He was facing burnout, and he wasn’t living up to the potential of his skills. He wanted to concentrate on taking portraits for models. He knew that the work was there and that the marketplace wasn’t extremely crowded.

“It felt like I was in a rut,” said Brian. “I knew that I had to make some serious decisions if I was ever going to change my situation.” Starting in February 2000, Brian — with the help of a professional ad agency — printed and began distributing a personal brochure showcasing his works, philosophies, specialty, and personal style of doing business. The brochure never mentioned the words “wedding” or “senior portraits.” It focused on the services he wanted to provide most.

“Of the 1,200 talent scouts, ad firms, and referred clients who received brochures on the first mailing, I received around 40 calls that led to 17 jobs,” Brain recalled. “The people who called later confided that [they] thought they’d be comfortable working with me because I had shared my philosophies and personal information in the brochures and postcards.” After offering a referral discount to talent scouts and distributing his brochures through his happy clients, the brochure led to more and more business with every passing month.

Brian attributes the success of his campaign to the quality Personal Brand identity it conveyed to prospective clients. While many photographers in the industry had reputations for being introverted and difficult to work with, he was positioned as an outgoing, caring professional who helped models take a crucial step in their careers.


Combine a personal connection with a memorable slogan and you’ve got something. A slogan is a single powerful phrase that captures the essence of your position, your personality, and your services. Slogans like “Just do it,” “Don’t leave home without it,” and “The ultimate driving machine” have become part of popular culture, showing the power of a memorable slogan.

In creating a slogan for your practice, focus on getting past trite phrases to find something that captures you as a person. Stay away from timeworn ideas and clichés that make you blend into the background. They’ve been done a million times, and they say nothing to your prospects. One of the core principles of Personal Branding is making your message unique to you, and for that you need a unique slogan. Focus on ideas that will elicit an emotional reaction from your target audience.


A thorough marketing plan is the first step in any successful marketing program. Sadly, it’s a step many entrepreneurs skip. A marketing plan takes time to create and revise, and that’s time that many busy professionals simply won’t invest. If you want to brand yourself properly and spend your marketing dollars wisely, invest the time as carefully as you invest in any other important facet of your business.
Here are some critical elements of a successful marketing plan:

* Budget. How much are you going to spend on your Personal Branding campaign? It’s shocking how many people create a plan without any coherent idea of what they’ll be spending. Look at your marketing budget as a percentage of your total income, and plan on spending between 15 percent and 30 percent of your income on marketing to conduct a proper campaign. If you think that sounds high, consider that some of the top independent professionals spend as much as 40 percent of their revenue on marketing.

* Strategy. What are your goals? In what amount of time? Who are your competitors, and where are they failing to meet the needs of your target audience? These are all strategic elements of your plan. They include the broad plans you have for your business: growth goals, where you’d like to be in five years, and so on. List them as specifically as possible, and then outline how you’ll get there.

* Niche. Niche marketing is another tent stake of Personal Marketing. Under it, you don’t market to everyone, but to a smaller select audience of carefully chosen prospects. It’s exclusionary marketing, and it’s proven to work. Look at the types of clients you want, the money you’d like to make, and the people in your sphere of influence who you think have the best chance of helping you reach your desired income level. Ideally, you should closely identify a single exclusive demographic and focus your brand on that group’s perceptions, needs, and demands.

* Tactics. What will you mail? When will you mail? How long will your mailing campaigns last? How will you distribute your brochures? What publications will you look at for print advertising? These and other deployment questions are crucial, and you must answer them all before making a move. Make sure you have complete direct mail schedules and a list of ideas for distributing brochures and other materials.

Some advisers think a marketing plan is for people who are already successful. In reality, it’s what you must do to become successful.


Creating a marketing plan, developing your position, and doing the demographic research in choosing your niche is well worth the effort for one big reason: Marketing is never without effect. It either enhances your business or makes you look ridiculous. Proper Personal Branding, given a year to work its magic, will turn you into a brand that endures even when market conditions force your competitors to scramble for bottom-feeder clients.

Here are five tips for making the most of branding:

* Clone Yourself. Branding gives you the chance to build equity and salable value for your business that doesn’t depend on your sweat. By hiring the right staff to perform revenue-generating tasks that don’t involve you, you’re freeing yourself to create the most possible revenue, and you’re building a business identity that has resale value, just as physicians and dentists do.

* Watch Your Competitors. See what other people in your industry are doing, and do the opposite. Most of them will make silly marketing mistakes, but they’ll try to take you down with them. Resist the temptation and stick to Personal Branding principles.

* Use Your Name. Build your brand by using your name (Charles Schwab, Donald Trump, and Oprah did it). You want to build a practice with enduring value around your persona, and your name captures that idea better than anything else. Remember, your clients do not make decisions based on what is rational — it is the emotional connection they will have with you personally that will impact their decisions.

* Publish. If at all possible, write articles, write a book, create a website. Having published information available to the public enhances your brand identity and increases your equity.

* Saturate the Marketplace. When you think everyone in your area is sick of hearing your name, do another mailing. Research shows it takes the average consumer up to five strong exposures to a brand to even recognize and remember the name of a person or product! So even if you think people are sick of you, they’re not. Keep pushing your brand.

Personal Branding is radical to some people. But we’re working in radically changing times. In an age of free information, Web service companies, and corporations that deliver rubber-stamped services, entrepreneurs who realize that they, not their products, are the real commodity are the ones industries will look to for leadership. And, during a time when far too many competitors are equal, a brand that sets itself apart in the perceptions of the customer will become the most successful.

Focus on your Personal Brand — your experience, your character, and your skills. Turn YOU into a “brand” in this brand-driven society and use your Personal Brand to generate better results, more clients, and greater profits. Peter Montoya is president of Peter Montoya Inc., the world’s only Personal Branding agency.


Try this demonstration of great branding and prove it for yourself. Can you match these slogans to their companies?

“Just do it” “Don’t leave home without it” “The ultimate driving machine” “We bring good things to life” “Finger-lickin’ good” “Be all that you can be” “It keeps going, and going, and going …” “Our repairmen are the loneliest guys in town”

|Energizer| |GE| |Kentucky Fried Chicken| |Nike| |Maytag| |American Express| |BMW| |United States Army|

What powerfully simple slogan identifies your brand? Would your customers or clients be able to recite your slogan?

Marketing your Personal Brand to a specific sphere of influence.

Most Personal Brands are marketed to domains — spheres of influence. And this target marketing, or niche marketing, isn’t a sacrifice. It’s an asset. You can use it to work with the clients you want, and effectively bypass the clients you don’t want.

Niche for Growth
Want proof that target marketing works? Look no further than Steven Wolfe, a Registered Investment Advisor based in Orange County, California. Wolfe expects his business to grow more than 400 percent over the next three years, from 35 clients to more than 150. What’s more remarkable than his growth rate is how he’s achieved it: by marketing his Personal Brand specifically to families who own automotive dealerships.

“I have immersed myself in their world, and I know their potential financial pitfalls better than they do,” Wolfe says. He directs all his resources to this market segment, or “niche,” using such methods as exhibiting at the National Automotive Dealers Assn. trade show, advertising in the industry magazine Automotive News, and allying with more than 60 CPA firms and law firms specializing in auto dealers.
Wolfe offers a select menu of services: succession planning, investment management, estate tax planning, and trust agreements. Through research, tailored marketing messages, and a constantly promoted Personal Brand, he’s built a thriving practice with few competitors. It’s a perfect example of successful target marketing.

What Is Target Marketing?
Your target marketing should be a tightly focused Personal Marketing effort, using messages directed at a specific domain. Many independent professionals use the “trawl net” method of marketing: They drag their “net” over a huge area and hope they catch someone — anyone. Sadly, casting a huge net takes a lot of money, and the catch is usually bottom-feeders, not trophy fish.

Choose Your Audience
To target market, you must reject the “all things to all people” model and narrow the scope of your prospecting. You must instead market your Personal Brand only to those people, companies, and organizations likely to value your leading attribute. With consistent effort and quality tools, you can get most — if not all — of your business within this domain.

Objections Overruled
The concept of target marketing is often met with protests from independent professionals who are confused or fearful. Here are two of the most common objections and why they’re faulty:

Objection: “If I market to a niche of potential clients, I might be overlooking hundreds of other potential clients.”

True. The idea of excluding large groups of people from a sales effort seems counterintuitive. However, even if you wanted to, you can’t possibly service all of the people who could potentially become your clients. It’s far better to brand and market yourself to your sphere of influence, not the world. It saves you from worrying about people who probably won’t become your clients anyway.

Target marketing is a very effective scalpel — not a net or a sledgehammer. There’s no need to expend great effort for meager results. The effort is precise and controlled, and the results are what you intend.

Objection: “How can I make the income I need from a small group of prospects?”
Don’t settle for an undersized domain. Define your domain based on its ability to generate the income you need.

About the Author

After graduating from the University of California, Irvine with a degree in political science, Peter Montoya went to work for a nationally recognized sales trainer. During the next five years, he lived in 25 major cities and performed over 2,000 training sessions in every industry. Then he was hired by an advertising agency to offer seminars. These seminars focused on a radical new concept: personal branding. When steadily increasing numbers of service professionals began attending these seminars, Peter realized the entire country was begging for a personal branding revolution. Soon, he left to start his own firm - Peter Montoya Inc.. Peter Montoya Inc. has met every conceivable marketing challenge for an impressive collection of clients - with thousands of clients representing every type of profession. Through public seminars and private presentations, Peter educates tens of thousands of professionals yearly. He delivers more than 100 speeches each year and spends half the year on the road interfacing with clients. Peter is a busy man. In addition to running an advertising agency and performing over 100 seminars per year, he is also the publisher of Personal Branding magazine and is conducting further research on the personal branding phenomenon. But his true passion is leading the personal branding revolution, transforming armies of service professionals from mere salespeople to master marketers.

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One Response to “The Brand Called YOU”

  1. Vikram Rajan on August 7th, 2007 7:58 am

    I highly recommend Peter Montoya’s book. It is a wonderful resource for entrepreneurs looking to develop a personal brand. William Arruda has been getting recent attention for his Career Distinction, which may be good for career professionals… but Peter gives specific case studies of general business owners.

    ~ Vikram

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