One Step Ahead. The newsletter for busy key account managers

Why Smart Key Account Managers Build a Personal Brand

More and more companies expect their key account managers to be thought leaders. If you're smart, you'll start building your personal brand now.

Here's how.


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Why key account managers need a personal brand

I've been collecting job descriptions for years. Even though I may not want a new job right now, I like to know what the market is looking for.

I have to say, I was surprised when I stumbled across a couple that expected key account managers to be thought leaders. As if the job wasn't difficult enough! 

Here are some examples:

  • Director of Strategic Customer Success, Tableau Software. “Serve as a thought leader in the Customer Success organisation by keeping up to speed on the latest best practices and available tools.”
  • Account Director, Key Strategic Accounts, Refinity. “Recognized as an external thought leader."
  • Director of Account Management, Conduent. “Represent Conduent as an “industry thought leader” within the Technology space”

(You can download the complete job descriptions here).

Are you put off the idea of personal branding?

I used to think it was about being an "influencer" - a complete turn off.

And it felt overwhelming to start, and time consuming to continue.

But it doesn't have to be.

Think of personal branding as how you present yourself to the world. Your digital reputation.

And smart key account managers are taking control.

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The KAM CLUB

You’re only seconds away from the essential training, advice and support you need for an exceptional career in key account management.

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Why I started to build my personal brand

I hit a career roadblock in 2017.

I was working for Expedia and had tried and failed more times than I could count to get promoted. It seems I was stuck managing a team of key account managers and that was where I’d stay.

My boss said to me, “You need to improve your visibility.”

I’d been there 6 years! How much more visible could I get.

But thinking about it, I realised I’d been lazy. I did my job and did it well, but I didn’t pay any attention to what people thought about me, my experience and my skills.

Most people wouldn’t know what I did let alone how I did it.

I didn’t have a reputation for expertise or excellence in key account management. At least not with anyone outside of the 10 people I managed.

So I decided to do something about it.

Why Smart Key Account Managers Build a Personal Brand

Step 1: Figure out your personal brand

I scoured the web and found a lot of different ideas on what personal branding meant. and settled on a definition that made sense to me: to control my digital reputation.

And then, by good fortune, I stumbled across two books:

These books changed the trajectory of my life (no exaggeration).

Both laid out a complete blueprint to share your knowledge and educate the market on your value by understanding:

  • Core values
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Unique value proposition
  • Personality and image attributes
  • Leadership attributes
  • Positioning
  • Competitive differentiation.

I did some soul searching. Here’s some things I observed at the time:

  • “I can come across as aloof or frosty to strangers. People in my organisation for much less time are better liked.”
  • “I am a subject matter expert on lots of topics. People always come to me for advice.”
  • “I operate on a basis of trust. It’s assumed.”
  • “I get my hands dirty. Sometimes too much. It distracts me from big picture goals.”
  • “I’m strategic. I instinctively know what to focus on and how to guide the team there (my motivation suffers though).”
  • “I not need only to address my target audience’s problem, but why I am the best person to deliver that solution. I need a clear view of my expertise, a plan to close any skill gaps and know exactly what sets me apart”

I needed to do some work to double down on strengths and close the gaps.

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Step 2: Create a personal branding plan

I followed the advice of Branding Pays and CareerKred and came up with my value message based on what I do, the context and value, and supported it with evidence.

And I put it into action.

  • Start with LinkedIn. It’s the social platform for professionals and has a range of publishing tools from video, to articles to social posts. You don’t need to post daily, but you do need to post consistently. Download my eBook, The Secrets to Getting Noticed on LinkedIn for a complete action plan, based on what I implemented for myself.
  • Engage. Personal branding isn't broadcasting. You want to meet like-minded people. Learn from other creators by following them. Comment on their posts with insights, questions, and suggestions. If appropriate, take the conversation offline via chat, email, or conference calls.
  • Blog. I started a blog, but setting it up is a lot of work. Unless you’re fully committed to the long term, I recommend you start out on a done-for-you platform. LinkedIn has articles, but the reach is terrible and their not very well organized and disappear quickly. I recommend Typeshare. They focus on atomic essays (under 300 words). It’s super easy. Check out this short essay I wrote, which I was able to publish to Twitter and LinkedIn (and it automatically created the image for me).
Typeshare essay

Typeshare is an easy, free way to explore the world of blogging, and effortlessly connect it to LinkedIn and Twitter. And if and when you’re ready, you can upgrade to their Premium service for hundreds of templates and themes and more customisation.

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Step 3: Become a student of personal branding

Become a student of personal branding. Observe not just what people say, but how they say it. Keep refining your message and adapt your approach as you understand more about what makes you special and how it helps others

Join the Personal Branding Playbook

I’m so excited that my original mentor, Ryan Rhoten, author of CareerKred, has just launched a brand new course, The Personal Branding Playbook. It’s a step-by-step process to define and build your personal brand – even if you don’t know where to start – so you get recognized for your expertise.

I have just enrolled myself because I’m always learning how to improve my message and there’s no one better to learn from than Ryan. It covers everything from defining your personal branding goals, communicating your brand effectively and expand and build meaningful relationships with your network.

Why not join me! We can go through the program together.

  • The course is normally $199 but Ryan has kindly offered One Step Ahead subscribers a massive discount of $100 off. You can get the course for only $99 if you use the code AMTIP at checkout.
Join me for the personal branding playbook course
Why Smart Key Account Managers Build a Personal Brand

In other news

+ Slack Frontiers Europe. Slack is hosting their flagship conference in London on October 13th. It's free and a great opportunity to network and practice your personal brand message. And there are some great speakers sharing business growth advice. It's the reason I'm going. I hope I see you there (let me know if you decide to go).

+ Profile Pic Maker. If you want a social media profile pic that pops, check out Profile Pic Maker. All you do is upload a photo. The app will automatically remove your background and replace it with your choice of dozens of templates. Edit color, shadows and other settings to get an instantly generated profile pic and matching background cover.

+ How to Curate Content for Your Social Media Pages to Boost Engagement and Save Time. Curating content helps you build your personal brand without requiring original work. Share other people's content to boost engagement and visibility. This old article explains how to curate content for your network. It mentions social media marketers but don't worry, everyone can use their strategy.

+ Quillbot. Online paraphraser tool. This helps me turn wordy paragraphs into simple sentences. I write freeform and copy+paste into Quillbot to shorten. Useful for social media posts, emails, proposals, executive summaries, etc. I recently upgraded because it's an essential tool for me and I use it daily.

Why Smart Key Account Managers Build a Personal Brand

Quote of the week

"The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear." ― Socrates

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Have a great week

Warwick Brown

Warwick Brown


Warwick Brown is one of the leading key account management experts in the world. Through The KAM Club, a global membership community for key account managers, his blog that reaches 20,000 people every month, and a range of training and coaching services, Warwick has helped thousands of key account managers get better results, faster.
Go here to read Warwick's story from key account manager to entrepreneur. If you want to send Warwick a quick message, visit his contact page here.

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