Is your business lost in a crowded marketplace? You may be overlooking something that could differentiate your business from all those other competitors: YOU. Personal branding can be a powerful marketing strategy for small businesses, allowing an entrepreneur to capitalize on personal expertise and know-how to attract customers.

Personal branding shouldn’t be the sole growth strategy for your business. But it fills a unique niche in an overall marketing plan, particularly if you have an aptitude for connecting with people via social media. The first step: get a social presence. Launch a Facebook page. Build a LinkedIn profile. Learn how to talk Twitter-style. But keep this in mind, cultivating a personal brand should never turn into a self-aggrandizing “look at how great I am” sales pitch. Also remember to aim for consistency in your online branding and your printed materials.

Personal branding should not consist of an effort to emulate those marketing campaigns crafted by large companies. Although Madison Avenue-style marketing attracts lots of social media followers, it lacks a personal connection that’s so important to cultivating a local, trusted persona.

So how do you stand apart from the crowd? Build a personal brand with a commitment to humility. (This is why we didn’t use a superhero for our photo.) Start with an attitude that readily acknowledges you are not a self-made success story. There are and were many people in your life who contributed to your business and helped your enterprise grow. Remember the neighboring businessman who gave you that first big break by referring you to a business-oriented network? And don’t forget about the customer who took the time to share the story of the excellent customer-service you provided in a time of need.

The next step is to envision what kind of brand best fits you. What effect do you typically have on others? Is it a calming influence or are you a live wire who crackles with energy when you enter a room full of people? Do you see yourself as a hero, or a humble servant? Remember your personal brand should be built upon your authentic self. Never try to foster a brand that is counter to your basic nature.

Above all, let others see your personal brand as you interact in your community, through high-quality printed materials, fun swag and consistent branding through all of your promotional collateral. Have fun with it, get out of your comfort zone and be willing to play up the part — zany, caring or flashy — as opportunity knocks. And definitely share your personal brand through social media channels. If you’ve always been one with a great sense of humor, you’ll find your personal brand may catch on like wildfire among your followers.