‘Personal brand’ are the current buzzwords. We never used to focus on our personal brand before, so what has changed in recent years that it is now so important?

One reason is the way we search.

If you are looking for a lawyer or other professional, what is the first thing that you do? You’ll probably ask your friends via social media or co-workers to recommend one. You most probably won’t go straight to Google and enter ‘lawyer’ and your town in the search box, because that doesn’t recommend one to you. It simply pulls up a list for you to choose from. The companies that come up hope like crazy that you might pick them because something on their website resonates with you. But it’s still not a recommendation, and that is where personal brand comes in. People buy from people not companies – so does it even matter which company you work for? If a prospect doesn’t like you, they won’t do business with you. Period.

So back to our problem. When you have asked a contact to recommend a lawyer to you, then you go to Google and search for that person. You’ll spend a few minutes checking the person out, right under their nose, and they probably don’t even know you are looking. In this B2B scenario, the personal brand of the individual had better be good or they will lose the lead.

One of the first things that will come up about a person being searched for is their LinkedIn profile, such is the power of the platform. Any self-respecting businessperson will have a fully filled out, content rich and humanised page, knowing others will be viewing it. What else is there for prospects to see? Blog posts on the company website, positive posts on relevant news sites, perhaps their own blog or personal website. They all add up to showing the person as an expert in their field, educating and enlightening prospects through their work. If you have online activity like this in place, you have a huge opportunity to win viewers over and make contact with you. Nice one!

On the other hand, if the same person searching finds no LinkedIn profile or a scantily filled in one, no other listing except for perhaps a paragraph on the company’s about us page, they really have no reason to make contact. The professional’s brand has failed to impress the prospect so far, so they shouldn’t expect a phone call or email anytime soon.

Think of the same scenario for a new vacuum cleaner. There are so many to choose from you probably once again turn to your friends for advice and recommendations. Then you’ll search and research the brands you have been given in order to make your choice to purchase. Whether it’s a new vacuum or a new lawyer, a positive brand matters.

Yes, brand runs a little deeper than just what is on show online, but the point of this article is to at least show you that online search results matter to an individual – massively.

Search for yourself. Are you happy with what is online about you? If you’re not, others may not be either.

This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Linda Coles is a Digital Marketing Coach, Speaker, Trainer and Author of 3 books.

Image: A worker arrives at his office in the Canary Wharf business district in London. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh.