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Beyond Branding: How to Build a Platform and Monetize It

In this post, I’m diving deeper on why just having a brand isn’t enough.
If you’re an online entrepreneur, why go beyond a brand and build a platform?

Fame, perhaps?

Of course, to get your name out there. To further a mission you might have – sure.

But more importantly, a platform is a vehicle you can monetize.

More about monetization in a bit, but first let’s talk more about this idea of building something for yourself – like a platform or, eventually, an empire.

We all have different reasons for wanting to build businesses, but – whatever your reasons – there is one thing that will kill your brilliant business faster than anything else …

Hesitation.

As an entrepreneur, you have to get really good at being quiet and listening to your inner voice – aka: your instinct.

INSTINCT AND IDEAS ARE WHAT MAKE ENTREPRENEURS. PERIOD. END OF STORY. IGNORE THEM AND YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST STAY ON THE CORPORATE TRACK OR GO BACK AND GET A JOB.

Straight up: people ignore their own ideas because they’re afraid to fail. But entrepreneurs can’t be afraid of failure. In fact, entrepreneurs know that any failure they experience gets them closer to their goal, their end-game, their objective.

We’re told all the time we can’t be afraid of failure, but – honestly – that’s a platitude and it’s ineffective. Instead, let’s take a quick look at why failure is so painful and why we avoid it.

First, we fear ridicule, real or imagined.

Taking risks is not for the population-at-large, and people who are risk-averse LOVE to warn those who aren’t.

Saying “I told you so” is their favorite past-time. Hearing that hurts – again, even if its unspoken, and just the fear of being on the business end of “I told you so” is enough to make us hesitate and wait for a better idea.

But waiting for better ideas isn’t what entrepreneurs do. They take action – consistent, relentless action.

Second, we like to take failure as a “sign” that we’re on the wrong path.

If you’ve ever spoken out against something and gotten an immediate smack-down from a teacher, a parent, the captain of the mean girl gang, or a boss, you know what it feels like for your idea to die a fiery death in front of others.

Nothing makes us want to “course-correct” more than failure – but entrepreneurs need to learn to value their instincts greater than they value discomfort.

The moral of the story here: either you get busy creating your empire, or you go back to The Matrix. Your choice.

SO, BACK TO MONETIZATION …

What are the ways you can monetize as someone with a persona-based platform?

Services. Products. Advertising. Use one, or a combination of more than one.

Services

Having a platform is critical for selling services like coaching, edesign, tarot card reading – or any service where someone likes and trusts you enough to hand over their money. People don’t just hire randoms to help them, they hire people they know/like/trust. Further, often people don’t know they need your help with something – you have to educate them by identifying the problem that’s top of mind for them and connecting it to the thing you help your clients with.

Products

Selling products is more volume-driven, but having a persona that connects definitely helps. It’s unlikely that you’ll be the only person on the Internet selling the thing you’re selling, so do yourself a favor and create an advantage with a branded platform.

Advertising

Advertising works the same way. Sure, you could create a click-baity site, full of articles written for Google – or, you could draw in readers with your perspective, increasing traffic and building a subscribership of dedicated followers.

That’s why this is important.

So, then, how do you build your platform and then attract and bond an audience to you?

THE SHORT ANSWER IS TO BE YOURSELF.

That’s crazy-oversimplified, but we have to start with you and how you best communicate.

In 2011, I started a style blog. But what bonded my reader to me wasn’t the visual material I created, it was my writing style. My brand quickly morphed from collages showing how to create outfits, to something much more inspiring and motivational.

I began to talk to my potential clients about the problems I had experienced before I revamped my own style – issues I had previously felt totally alone in. Because no one else in my space was talking about feeling trapped in the clearance section, or feeling as if they presented like an overgrown teenager at age 31, I attracted an audience who knew from the moment they landed on my blog that I understood them.

Though my topic was something highly visual, my best communication talent is in writing, so that’s what I did.

Because I’m also a great conversationalist, I eventually launched a podcast on iTunes. I created solo episodes where I would rant about conventional style advice, and I would also interview guests about how to build confidence, and it was a hit with my audience.

But not everything worked.

Briefly, I created a series of fashion blogger-type personal style posts with the help of a photographer – but it never felt very authentic to me, so I stopped. The truth was that, though I loved creating wardrobes for my clients, I pretty much wear the same things over and over – which doesn’t make for good Instagram.

And, eventually, my “Collages and Commentary” series of virtual outfits became too much of a burden to produce, so I canned it for good.

The point is, for you to create a strong bond with your audience, you need to communicate in your most authentic style. If I had ignored my instincts and remained on the style blogger track, I might have still been able to build an audience, but it’s totally possible that the bond between us never would have happened – and neither would have the very lucrative style, life, and business coaching business that was born from that audience.

And it’s that bond that’s really important if you want to monetize. But not just monetize – ideally, what we want to do is create a harmonious exchange of value between ourselves and our audience.

Simply “monetizing” means we have a solution for sale, but there’s no relationship. I don’t particularly enjoy giving my money to Target, but they have what I need: paper towels, toilet paper, sandwich bags.

A HARMONIOUS EXCHANGE MEANS NOT ONLY DO WE HAVE A SOLUTION FOR SALE, BUT OUR AUDIENCE IS HAPPY TO PARTICIPATE IN THE EXCHANGE OF MONEY FOR VALUE. THIS INCREASES REFERRALS AND WORD-OF-MOUTH ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BRAND.

Nobody talks about how much they love Target. In fact, quite the opposite; people joke that it’s an expensive addiction.

What you want is raving fans who can’t help themselves but tell all their friends about you, your mission, what you have to say, and how much they love getting value from you.

The ROI of establishing a relationship that facilitates a harmonious exchange is far more valuable than having your clients over a barrel because you’re simply the preferred outlet for commodities. The name of the game here is efficiency, which – for an entrepreneur – is the holy grail, because it means you’re profitable and you can scale.


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