Ep. 194: Rocky Buckley – Unleash Your Personal Brand Potential

August 08, 2022 | 23 Minutes

As the CEO of Swaysion, Rocky Buckley helps experts across many disciplines develop and sell specialized training programs. He is the creator of the Platinum Path and the Power Persona Project and recently collaborated with Tony Robbins and Dean Graziosi as part of their popular Time to Thrive event. Rocky joins Adam Larson to discuss the powerful benefits of understanding your personal brand no matter what your profession.


Full Episode Transcript:
Adam: (00:05)
Welcome back to Count Me In, the podcast that explores the world of business from a management accountant's perspective. Today, I'm speaking with Rocky Buckley, a personal branding consultant who helps experts maximize the value of their unique knowledge and skills. Rocky does a great job of demystifying the concept of a personal brand and explains how understanding and embracing your specialization helps management accountants and others thrive in a chaotic world.
Adam: (00:36)
Rocky, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Really appreciate you coming on to share your expertise with us today. And so today we're gonna be kind of talking about personal branding and there's so many things happening in the world like pandemics, wars and in a lot of ways you have to kind of find a way to make yourself stand out in order to show the world, Hey, this is who I am, and this is how I want to go. And so kind of, maybe we can start off. Maybe you can define what does it mean? What does personal branding mean and why is it important for us?
Rocky: (01:06)
Yeah, well, personal branding is really an offshoot of branding itself, which, in a nutshell basically is a way to take a shortcut into people's minds, right? We're in a crowded marketplace. There's a lot of noise. We're bombarded with marketing messages all day long, all sorts of different inputs and the ability to stand out, as you said, to be able to sort of penetrate through all of that noise and cut through in a way that resonates with the type of person that we're we're targeting. It becomes very important to figure out a way to do that. So on a corporate level, you know, of course, branding is sort of that company's vision mission, what they're all about. And then all of that gets crystallized into, you know, visual form. It can be a logo, it can be a style, it can be a way that they communicate their message to the world.
Rocky: (01:58)
So when you take that to a personal level, the same sort of principles apply, what we're looking to do is take all of those aspects of ourselves that make us unique, different, you know, and really connect with that kind of person that we are for that we're really targeting at. And being able to kind of create a shortcut version of that, a crystallized version that somebody can very quickly get what you're all about and get whether or not they connect with you or not. And again, we're not looking to please everybody, but we are looking for those people that we are trying to connect with to resonate with us. And so, you know, when we talk about personal branding, you know, some people just naturally come across in a way that cuts through, right. They just have a big enough personality where they resonate with people, but for most of us, you know, it requires some conscious thought and design.
Rocky: (02:48)
It's sort of like thinking through, you know, what are those elements about me that are different? What are those aspects about what I do that I really want to convey very strongly? What's that sense of purpose maybe that I have, right. That makes me excited about what I do. So it's being strategic and kind of being able to figure all of that stuff out and then being able to distill it in a way that's constructed for public consumption, right, for other people to be able to get and get it really quickly. So that turns into, you know, your messaging and your visual branding and all of that kind of stuff. But ultimately we want a snapshot of ourselves that people will be able to kind of understand really quickly that simple, fast, you know, and easy and cuts through the noise.
Adam: (03:29)
It almost makes me think of that old fashioned elevator pitch that you would say, you know, if you're in an elevator, what would, you know, what could you say to somebody in that ride on the elevator in a sense, right?
Rocky: (03:38)
Yeah. Yeah. It is that really that fast because, you know, especially now as people are moving more online and the online market, as you just mentioned, pandemics and wars and stuff, it's really made people rethink their business. A lot of people have now decided to come online much more than they ever were before by necessity or by choice, right. When you step into the online marketplace, you know, you find it's even more crowded and you're connecting people through a scroll on a phone typically, or some kind of a timeline where, you know, if you're scrolling, let's say through Facebook, I mean, Facebook can only put so many people on your timeline, and it's basically a way to compress the world into this one narrow thing that people can scroll through. And so for you to be able to actually have somebody stop the scroll and actually pay attention to you for more than a few seconds, like that's a big deal and we've gotta master kind of the art and science of being able to know how to do that. Right. And so, yeah, the online marketplace is really, really crowded and yeah, more important than ever before. And it's just going to become more so, you know, there's billions of people in the world that haven't even come online yet, you know, so like it's, and the population of course is growing and so on. So being able to construct an effective personal brand that cuts through this is sort of a master skill that I think is only gonna become more important as time goes on.
Adam: (05:07)
So what I'm almost hearing you say, it's almost like we need to make ourselves like a specialist in a way to make sure that we stand out in that way. Does that make sense to make ourselves a specialist?
Rocky: (05:16)
Well, I think being a specialist is one aspect of a way to stand out. I think that specialization is more of a conversation about business model. I think there's a reason why we would wanna specialize beyond just the branding elements of it. Specialization allows us to do things like raise our prices a lot, charge a lot more. And it really affects then everything downstream in a business model. From a branding standpoint, yeah, specialization is one of those ways that allows you to filter all of the people potentially in the market and start to narrow those down into a slice that you can target very specifically. So for example, you know, a good, good example of that might be as if you were a doctor and you were a general practitioner, you know, versus specializing in one part of the body.
Rocky: (06:09)
Right. And so therefore, you know, you're gonna basically be for those people that are looking for that one thing, you know, I have a problem with my nose or something like that. And I'm looking for a nose doctor as opposed to a general practitioner. So when it comes to something like accounting, yeah. If you can specialize and be great in that one area, you're gonna cut down the potential number of people that you're trying to reach. And the potential people that are looking for you are gonna be able to find you much more easily because you're focused on that one thing. Yeah.
Adam: (06:42)
Hmm. That makes sense. Yeah. Cuz when I think about it, a lot of times accountants have to wear so many hats, especially if you're in a small to medium size business and you're a CFO or controller, you kind of have to be a jack of all trades. You have to do a lot of different things. And so there have to be ways to differentiate yourself in a way. So a lot of times people start with certifications, you know, IMA offers a certification, certifications are one way to kind of make yourself a specialist. Are there other ways that you can kind of establish yourself in that way?
Rocky: (07:10)
Oh sure. Well, first of all, just the choice of that market niche, that's step one. So if you decide like right now, Hey, I am a general practitioner, but I wanna really reinvent myself. I wanna change what I do. I wanna be able to narrow my focus. Then there's a process of going through, you know, a really internally thinking about, you know, who are those clients that I really enjoy working with the most, what am I really good at? What am I my best at? And so there's a process of again becoming strategic about it, really thinking through, you know, what makes me different, how do I stand out? You know, what am I great at? Where have I had the most success perhaps with clients? What do I enjoy most, et cetera. So I think you kind of have to start there internally because the source of being able to really resonate with other people as a brand is your passion and your enthusiasm for something, right?
Rocky: (08:07)
So like if you really find a certain kind of accounting to be dull drudgery, you can make a lot of money at it, but you really despise it. You know, you're not gonna really wanna specialize there. You're gonna wanna find those areas that you're super interested in that you naturally love because you know, it's hard to become great at something that you don't love doing, you know? And so I always kind of start with this inner game component when I'm working with people to kind of help, to drill down into that, find that, discover that. And once you've tapped into, Hey man, you know, ideally, this is what I'd love to do. This is what I would love to become, you know, two years from now, five years from now, ideally this is who I wanna be. When you can get a clear vision for that, then you can start working back on the specialization aspect of it I think, right.
Rocky: (08:57)
You can say, then what do I have to do to get there? And that's where certifications may come into play, but there's also other ways to specialize too. Like you don't only have to specialize on the niche that you're doing. It can also be your system, your process. You may have a way to do things that's very fast or very effective and you can differentiate yourself and specialize, for example, in the area of speed. Let's say you're able to get something done much faster than everybody else. You've got a system for how to do it. You can basically be a specialist in that system, right? So there's lots of ways to slice up, you know, what you do to make you special and stand out and again, be able to charge more. I think ultimately from a business model perspective, when you can shift your pricing, that changes the game on a whole number of other levels, because you don't have to work with as many clients, right? If you have more profit margin in your business, you can do more things to advertise, promote yourself. And then when there's more profit margin, you can also bring on other team members, right. So you can start to scale. So like specialization has a number of ripple effects, you know, after that, there's a lot of dominoes that go in that get kicked off when you can start to specialize. So hopefully that helps.
Adam: (10:18)
Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So as we're talking about this, I'm thinking about like, you know, being a specialist and you're trying to figure out your personal branding, it seems like as you're trying to plan all these things out, you kind of have to get a vision and kind of make some strategic decisions around, you know, around what your next steps are gonna do. Are there certain questions we should kind of ask ourselves as we're kind of trying to lay out those strategic decisions going forward?
Rocky: (10:44)
Yeah. I think some of the stuff that I mentioned at the top, what do I really get excited about? Because I made this mistake when I first started my business 23 years ago, I saw an opportunity to make money, right? It was right in front of me and I kind of liked it, but you know, I didn't necessarily love it, but I said, okay, here's an opportunity for me to turn what I know into a business. And so I jumped into that business and I got good at it and I got clients right away and, you know, but I didn't really, really love it. And over time, that lack of passion started to play out the busier. I got, the more successful I got, the more I just found myself living a life that I didn't wanna have or I was just busy all the time.
Rocky: (11:29)
And I had no margin, no space in my life. And I really wasn't feeling like I was making a difference. I wasn't making an impact on people at a level that I wanted to, right? So for me, like I think these considerations are first the inner game part, right? They are that what do I love, what am I really good at? And then how does that start to craft into a message and a brand? So it may be, you know, mining out aspects from your life story that can connect with other people, right? So you start looking back at your life and finding those pivot points and those moments that really started you down this road and that can connect with other people, right? So you start learning about your story and aspects of your personality that you can bring out in your marketing and your messaging and so on, you know, and then you become more strategic.
Rocky: (12:14)
Like, how am I going to position myself differently? Let's look at the market, let's see who is out there, who's kind of in a similar space to what I'm doing and what are they doing? Like, what do they sound like, how are they messaging themselves? Right. And how do I now position myself as different? Ideally we can position ourselves as the first and only one who does what we do. Right? That's a key aspect of all positioning is being first and only. So if we can almost create a category for ourselves, right? How can even if it's something fairly small or minor, how can we position ourselves as, Hey, I'm the first one? Or I'm the only one who does this, right? Because that cuts right through. So those are some of the strategic aspects. And then that starts to start to formulate a personal brand.
Rocky: (13:03)
It starts to get into, okay. As I market myself, what does my first of all my visual brand look like? What, you know, the logo and all that stuff. That's what people typically think about when they think about branding. That's about logos and business cards. That's really not what it's about, but that's an aspect of it, of course. But you know, you start getting into, okay, if I'm gonna start marketing myself online, that typically means I'm gonna put out some form of content, right. It might be a podcast like you're doing, or it might be, you know, I'm gonna make videos or I'm gonna create a blog or I'm going to, you know, tweet on social media, right. I'm gonna be on Instagram or whatever. So choosing the channel that really fits your market is important. So for example, I would assume for accountants, LinkedIn might be a very important platform to be on.
Rocky: (13:48)
So let's say, you decide, okay, I'm gonna go heavy into LinkedIn. I'm gonna put out a lot of content. So that might mean every day I'm gonna make a short video or I'm gonna write a post or something like that, but I'm gonna gradually become visible and I'm gonna build my visibility and I'm gonna build my network and I'm gonna put myself out there as an expert. Well then what kind of content am I putting out? How am I framing the way that I talk about my subject differently than everybody else, that's congruent with this personal brand idea that I've created. Right? So let's say it is I'm an accountant in a specific area. And you know, my personality is such that, Hey, I'm a big sports fan, you know, outside of business, I'd love sports. Well maybe, you know, you can look at some of these aspects of your personality and start to blend those into your business, you know?
Rocky: (14:40)
So you may show up and like, you know, you start to position yourself somewhat as like a sports guy in some way, right? And you're like the sports accountant sort of person that, you know, you use sports metaphors. And so, you know, when you're talking about your business, but there're just ways to kind of create a different paradigm around yourself, the way that you look at your subject, right? So there's all these different factors that come into play downstream. As you create this personal brand, it starts to play itself out in real product. You're gonna actually put out content. You're gonna, you know, be interviewed. You're gonna, you know, all these different things that you are gonna now roll out, but they're coming from a particular point of view, a strong point of view that's clearly defined, that people get right away and then ideally either they like you or they don't right away, you know, polarizing is sometimes really good. Like, Hey, I really love this guy. Or I hate this person. That's actually a good thing. And branding, because you want people to get you really quickly. And those people that love you, you want them to really, really resonate with you, you know? And that's kind of the idea. You wanna create a tribe of like raving fans,
Adam: (15:51)
A tribe of raving fans. I like that. Yeah. So in order to get those tribe of raving fans, you almost have to kind of market yourself in a certain way. Is that the importance of the marketing is kind of getting yourself out there?
Rocky: (16:04)
Oh yeah, sure. And you know, a lot of marketing is simply mathematics. The idea is, you know, how can I get in front of X number of people per day? So for accountants, that should be, that should be fun to figure out, you know, what am I looking to build here? If I'm looking to build, let's say a million dollar business, what does that look like in terms of clients? You know, how would that shake out? What's my process for getting clients, right? So some in some way we're gonna construct some form of a sales funnel. We want people to be able to get in touch with us and then, you know, become a client with us. So what does that look like? What does that client journey look like from A to Z? You know, the person who has no awareness of who you are to the end, they sign up and they become a valuable client for you.
Rocky: (16:53)
What does that look like? And so, as you think about your business and you think about, okay, you know, who is it that I'm looking to target? How am I going to get those people to become clients? Let's reverse engineer the process backward and say, okay, how do I engineer that first contact with a person? So it may be on LinkedIn. My idea is they're gonna see a piece of my content and in my content, I'm gonna offer something. I'm gonna say, Hey, if you're interested in this subject, grab my free checklist, or I've written a report that talks about this. So come to my website and sign up for that report and opt in. Right? So now you've got a person on your email list, then you're gonna use your email list to, you know, put out content every day or every week, a newsletter, something like that, where you're consistently staying top of mind with people, right? And then you have a mechanism in place, Hey, if you'd like to learn more about working with me, you know, here sign up for a free 30 minute consultation, right? What I'm saying is very basic, but this is a process that you would ideate and you would start to put into place, you know, to get people into your world. And then again, turn them into paying customers or clients.
Adam: (18:12)
So as we kind of wrap up the conversation, you've shared a lot of great insight about the personal branding and how we can become specialists and how we can use marketing. What are maybe like three steps that somebody can take to get started on this process? They never tried this. They've never said I've never had a personal brand, they feel like they don't have a personal brand. What are like, you know, the three steps that they can kind of take to get started?
Rocky: (18:35)
Yeah. The first thing I would do is try to learn from other people. I would try to model other people. So in your market, there are probably people that you follow that are the thought leaders and experts in your particular space. I would start, you know, doing some studying of those people. I would start looking at, I would sign up for their email list, right? I would look at, have they written a book? Do they have a podcast? Do they have a YouTube channel? Right? Are they on LinkedIn? And I would start to reverse engineer what other people are doing. And in doing that, you know, you can start even over a period of time in the background as just a little sort of hobby that you do over time, right? You may be really busy and stuff, but you wanna learn about this.
Rocky: (19:21)
You're gonna create like a little mechanism so that this stuff is dripping to you all the time. So that's why I'm saying like, sign up for people's email newsletters, subscribe to their blogs or whatever it might be. And just gradually in the background, start watching and observing and learning. Right? So that would be the first thing that I would do. Look at those people that you are following, that you find interesting and so on and start to really understand what they're doing, you know, and that may mean even, let's say they have a video out or a presentation where they sell something, record that presentation and transcribe it and start to actually study the words that they use, the language they use. What do they assume about the people that they're talking to? How do they talk about those people's problems, right. Do they know their problems really well?
Rocky: (20:11)
Can they describe their problems in a way that when a person is listening to it, they go, that that person gets me. They totally understand it. That's what, right. That's what we wanna be able to do is have a person go. That guy gets me. He understands exactly where I'm at. You know, so understand how are they talking about problems? How are they talking about solutions? Do they have some form of a system that they bring people through to get them that result that they want? Right. So I would, first of all, study other people in the market and I would really learn about it. I mean, go to Barnes and Noble, let's say for an afternoon with a notebook, grab a few books on personal branding and just start understanding the space and understanding the concept. And then with that notebook as step three, I would start to look inside of yourself, what do I love to do?
Rocky: (21:00)
What am I naturally great at? Where are my gifts and talents? How can I become kind of a personality, right? What are some of my interests? What are those things as a person, just as a human being that like other people find I'm funny, or I'm interested in music or wine or whatever it might be. How can I maybe take some of these things that make me interesting as a person and start to blend those into what I do professionally to make me kind of somebody that other people wanna listen to and we'll connect with other people. So those are just three of the first steps I would take to just dip your feet in the water and get used to that.
Outro: (21:43)
This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard, and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.