Your personal brand is based on two things: You and Your Target Audience.
You need to know a lot about both.
Identifying and understanding things about yourself: your personality, your strengths, your weaknesses, your signature, is a lot of work. It is work that can be done through introspection and consultations with trusted confidants.
Learning about your target audience requires conversation — and often cold contact — to do it right.
To craft a highly effective personal brand, you need to identify who your target audience is. You need to understand what is challenging them and what success looks like. You need to know the vocabulary that resonates with them and how decisions are made.
You need deep, meaty information.
Informational interviews, the easiest way to build your brand
It can be extremely intimidating to talk to your target audience, whether that is people at a company you would love to work for, people who do yoga at the place down the street, rather than your studio or someone that you admire and aspire to.
They are structured conversations that enable you to learn and understand your target audience while enabling you to build relationships that lay the groundwork for your career success.
Informational interviewing will get you hired
One of the first things that I tell job seekers is that they need to get out there, and start talking to people.
But, once they tap into their immediate network, many job seekers get stuck, and they don’t know what to do. This is really normal – we aren’t taught how to quickly expand our network in highly targeted ways.
But when you understand how to conduct informational interviews, it becomes easy.
Not only do you get to meet the people in charge of doing the hiring, but you get the inside scoop on what companies you want to work for — and which ones you don’t. You’ll know how to present yourself in the interview, because you’ll know what their main points are and what type of boss you have.
And, best of all, you’ll be totally exposed to the “underground job economy” where 80% of job offers are made.
Informational interviews will get you new customers
Talking to your ideal customers will get you more business.
You’ll learn what they need and what they are worried about. You’ll learn what phrases connect with them and which fall flat. You’ll come to understand what pushes them over, what makes them buy and why they think they need your service.
But reaching out to potential customers can be intimidating. It can feel like you aren’t offering anything in return and that no one would want to talk to you. Not to mention, you want to learn, but you’re also building a relationship with a potential customer: how do you balance that?
Informational interviewing gives you a tool to collect information AND build relationships at the same time.
Informational interviewing will help you find what you want
But what if you don’t exactly know who your target audience is?
Yep, informational interviewing works for you too! In fact, it might help you the most.
If you don’t know exactly what you want to do — what job title you’d love to have, company you’d love to work for or service you’d like to offer — you need to start talking to people. Now.
Informational interviews are great ways to explore your options. You’ll be able to learn what decisions you can make and what the outcomes of those may look like.
You’ll be able to meet people with personalities like yours, and find out if their career would be a good choice for you.
You’ll be able to learn about all kinds of companies and customers and even education to find out where you will thrive.
Informational interviewing belongs in your branding toolbox
Deeply understanding the needs of your target audience is a cornerstone of your personal brand.
And, anytime that you want to advance your career — in a job, with a new product — you need to discover the forces at play in that arena.
You’ll want to know what their biggest challenges are. You’ll want to have relationships with the key players. You’ll want to know exactly what success looks and feels and tastes like to them.
Informational interviews are an extremely powerful tool to help you accomplish this learning and advance your career in the exact direction you want it to go in.
You can find more strategies on informational interviewing here.
Rebecca Rapple has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, Keith Ferrazzi’s My Greenlight and more. You can learn more about the fundamentals of a remarkable job search on her site, The Resume Revolution.