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In an era defined by the prominence of social media channels, a personal brand is a powerful tool. But can yours really make a difference to your business’s overall marketing strategy?
Jarrett Thomas thinks so, and he has the experience to prove it, having generated over five million organic views on LinkedIn and closed $2 million deals “on his couch.” As CRO of marketing agency OTB Digital, Thomas has made it his mission to start discussions, push forward conversations, and show marketing leaders the path less traveled.
Thomas’s journey began in sales and in discovering the innate, yet often untapped relationship between sales and marketing. Content became a tool for him to build relationships and turn those relationships into conversions.
On this episode of the Big Leap, Thomas talks to host Peggy Anne Salz about how he develops personal brands and what can marketers learn as they look to build their reputations in a crowded marketplace.
For a CRO who cut his teeth in sales, it might come as a surprise that Thomas’s mission isn’t to sell at all costs. He says it himself: “Even though I’ve been a sales professional for 11 years, I love marketing more than sales.”
He learned that marketing himself became a way to market his business and build reputation. It’s this mantra that he wants to help marketers learn from: “I want to shift their mindsets to let them know that they can be fun again, they can have content that resonates with a user, and it doesn’t have to sell all the time, right?”.
Thomas started on this path after discovering that his employer at the time was making most of its money through inbound leads from social media. He describes that as a lightbulb moment: “If I can do that and break the sales barrier down and show people my expertise and who I am as a person instead of Jarrett the seller, then my sales will expand exponentially.”
He started by publishing content around his work, topical news, or points of personal interest. By making his content personal, he laid the foundations for the conversations and relationships that our industry is built on.
He continues: “I just share that journey and allow people to come into that journey. And I want to do that for brands, right? What is the day-to-day like? What do you really believe in? What do you want your customers to extract from you?”
In a social media landscape saturated by corporate social accounts with “personalities,” Thomas finds that the problem brands have with using content and personal brands correctly lies in the execution.
In his experience, it’s about allowing individuals the space to be themselves, not enforcing a tone of voice that ultimately doesn’t fit: “They should want to be their own voice. And if you give them the opportunity to create their own voice, tell their own story, and you empower them, you’re going to have an employee that’s going to stick longer, that’s going
to be more happy in their role and is going to be willing to go above and beyond for you.”
So in a fragmented social media ecosystem, where’s the best space to build that brand? Thomas is something of a LinkedIn evangelist: “LinkedIn is the biggest highway in the world,” Jarrett says. “And you get to put a billboard up every day.”
When discussing how brands can really feel the benefits of personal brands, the salesman in Thomas emerges: “The problem is, most brands don’t incentivize it.” He sees the building of personal brands, especially among sales teams, as something that should be encouraged, even gamified: “Personal brands are going to help you drive ROI, and it’s going to help their career and make them a stronger employee.”
Frequency is key: “You have to create a process in place where they are actually posting actively. So, for the first week, whoever gets the most impressions on LinkedIn this week gets a $50 gift card. Whoever gets the most engagement this week gets $150 or gets Friday off or something like that.”
It’s this sales mindset that Thomas encourages marketers to adapt to, and he recommends that marketers can learn a lot by listening to the sales team talk to their customers and hear their challenges first hand. It can inform a better marketing strategy and help marketers discover how their personal brand can have impact: “Get into sales. Most of the time we’re just shooting in the dark. Work with your sales team.”
A personal brand is exactly that: personal. While promoting the brand and acting as an online ambassador, Thomas believes in the importance of being yourself. It’s a lesson he’s learned first-hand: “For me as a Black professional, I always had to hide who I was. When I stopped that and brought my whole self to work, I came up with better ideas.”
It’s the cornerstone of one of his key pieces of advice while building a personal brand: “Bring your entire self to work. Bring your experiences to work because that’s what’s going to help you come up with that campaign that goes through the roof.”
To hear much more of Thomas’s thoughts on building a personal brand, and how it’s an unmissable marketing strategy, listen to the episode in full.