If there was ever an example of pure passion and sweat equity transforming into success and a viable business, Gary Vaynerchuk is it. With his inaugural book Crush It, (first of a ten book deal with HarperCollins), “Gary Vee” comes into his own as an authority on taking what you love and developing it into something remarkable.
Crush It is a book about the internet, social media (Twitter, Facebook, et al.) and about the incredible opportunity that these tools provide for those of us who don’t have the privilege of running Fortune 500 companies with virtually limitless resources. As Gary puts it, the internet has levelled the playing field. Money is no longer the key factor in building awareness and brand equity. With a $150 video camera and a little creativity, anyone can have a hit internet show on their hands. If you love grilled cheese sandwiches, and you want to blog about it 3 hours a day, you can turn that into a million dollar business. If you’re not deep in the social media world right now, that may sound nutty or farfetched, but it’s true. And people are proving it true every single day. Vaynerchuk tastes 3 wines a day on an internet TV show (tv.winelibrary.com) and turned it into a multi-million dollar business. Seth Godin writes about his passion for marketing and generated $50,000 in one day. Tara Swiger is making a killing selling hand-dyed, organic yarn (blondechickenboutique.com). People are out there crushing it – using their passion to build empires. The fact is that the internet allows you to connect with so many people, for such low cost that you can build a viable business around virtually anything. The concept isn’t new. In fact, we’ve discussed it recently in both The Long Tail and Purple Cow. Gary’s got a different angle though. The overall message of Crush It is on personal brand.
“Everyone – EVERYONE – needs to start thinking of themselves as a brand. It is no longer an option; it is a necessity.”
Crush It, page 9
Gary believes (as I do) that the virtual world is incredible at creating transparency. Everything we do, every interaction we have and job we complete is documented, cataloged and easily referenced with a quick Google search. Physical resumes are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Why would a potential employer or client take your word for it, when they can look you up on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter and see what people are really saying about your work? Entrepreneurs and dedicated employees alike need to start thinking about their personal brand, and the reputation associated with it.
It honestly doesn’t really matter if you think Twitter is “stupid”, or Facebook is “for kids”. Your personal opinion is a non-factor. More and more, people are looking online to find out the “real story” about who you are, how you work and whether you’d be a good fit with their organization. The sooner you get on board with the idea that you have your own brand (whether you like it or not, whether you’re conscious of it or not), the sooner you can start taking ownership for it and making sure the right message is being portrayed. There’s a couple key points that can help you do that effectively:
Authenticity, the Key Ingredient
“Watch me for two seconds and you know exactly who I am and what I stand for. Authenticity is key.”
Crush It, page 31
Arguably the single most beautiful element of the online world is that it allows you to connect with millions of people who share your same passions and interests. Everyone can connect with everyone, making the world a much smaller place. This is a double edged sword of course – it’s great in the sense that you’re now able to find companies (both potential employers and clients) that have a passion for what you do more easily than ever before. It also means that the competition can find them more easily too. So how do you differentiate yourself from the masses? Sending off a paper resume – one that looks exactly like the 400 other resumes they received today? No. Absolutely not. Do something unique. Do something uniquely you. Most likely as a result of the inundation of information we have all had over the past 14 years (since the public birth of the internet), we have rapidly built incredible BS-filters. We know when someone is being authentic, and we know when we’re being sold. There are a lot of unauthentic people out there – people doing what they “think” they should be doing, and saying what they think you want to hear. Genuine authenticity is refreshing. It stands out. More than finding someone with the right skill sets or experience, people really just want to connect with other passionate, genuine human beings. It’s amazing how far you can get by being genuine about who you are.
Take a chance this week – let down your walls and speak openly, honestly. Be raw and imperfect. People will respond to it. Just watch.
Give ‘Em A Wagon To Jump On
“For all my charisma and entertainment value, if the content I was putting out wasn’t any good and couldn’t be trusted, no one would be watching. No one.”
Crush It, page 32
Personal branding is about knowing what you stand for. It’s about having a set of values that you can clearly state, a passion you can clearly state, and an area of expertise that you continually dive into. You can reinvent yourself all you want, but at any given time people should be able to identify what you do, and have confidence that you do it well. We’re in information overload, man! You need to be able to define yourself in 5 seconds or less or people will move on. It may not be fair, but it’s the result of the ADD world we’re living in. If you’re authentic, people will want to connect with you. That’s the emotional side of business (and human for that matter!) interaction. Now you need to give them the rational reason for them to jump on board with whatever you’re doing. Be relevant. Have high quality, trustworthy content, work your guts out, and people will find you.
What’s your content? What’s the area of your job/life/hobby that you love so much you’re happy to be associated with it and you’re willing to work like crazy to become the “go to” guy (or girl) for it?
Work your guts out. Crush It is not just a book, it’s an attitude. It’s an invincible, “try and stop me”, taking on the world with a raw passion sort of mentality. You have to know your stuff. You have to be clearly branding yourself in a way that people can relate to. But at the end of the day, it’s all about who works the hardest. If you want to make a name for yourself, if you want to get ahead (and stay ahead) of the massive competition base, you need to be willing to (in Gary’s words) “work ‘till your eyeballs bleed.” That’s how you get to be number one. And in this glorious online world of ours, number one (or #2-7 for that matter) is a highly profitable place to be. Personal brand is everything. But it’s nothing if people don’t know about you.