The founder’s personal branding does play a huge role in startups. It’s a big topic and a leadership requirement. We’ll cover what it really means to be the face of your company.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is an individual’s identity built to transmit a coherent message.
Since customers become savvier about the products and services they want or need, it’s not recommended to heavily focus on the product solely. People look for authenticity, as well.
So, in order to connect with customers, salespeople must add their personal branding as well. Share your values and preferences, the why of something, things that will make of you a real person who they can relate with.
Personal and Product branding
Personal branding efforts are evident in companies of all shapes and sizes. For example, Morgan Stanley ranked as the 63rd largest United States corporation by total revenue in 2019, according to Fortune 500.
Their image is built upon Henry Sturgis Morgan’s and Harold Stanley’s reputations, i.e. their founders, public images. But the company’s history and reputation have long transcended its founding partners.
Stéphane Plaza is another great example. He is a famous French realtor. After hosting and participating in several real estate TV shows, he became a public figure and a TV personality.
He’s currently partnering up with M6, Bernard de Crémiers, and Patrick-Michel Khider company. They intend to create a network of 500 real estate agencies under the Stéphane Plaza franchise by 2020.
And of course, there’s Apple. They’ve kept the high-quality product and their positioning from the original founders. I’m sure Tim Cook, Apple’s current CEO, is not as well-known as Steve Jobs, and that’s because Apple products aren’t built around Cook’s image, but Jobs'.
The best play for Tim Cook is to maintain that branding for the company while integrating some personal branding of his own that reinforces the existing one.
Putting the “U” in startup
So how and how much of you should you use to represent your company? Well, for starters, a startup should be created in the image and likeness of its founder.
Your values should lead your company’s values, the startup’s vision should be an extension of your own, and its service a constant and accurate representation of your own work ethic and competence.
But this covers building your actual startup, not necessarily building its public image and brand.
It’s imperative that you build a personal brand that teaches people about the industry and how things work in it. One that showcases what you’ve developed. Consumers will then be able to identify how your product satisfies their needs!
You need to become their “go-to” person when it comes to fix a problem and get advice. This way, whenever you provide a solution to those needs, you would have already built the necessary trust to get your startup going.
Build a trustworthy relationship
To be able to place yourself as an expert is not exactly easy to pull off. You need the education, the experience and the background to back up your claims, but you also need visibility.
You don’t get much attention by whispering softly in a corner all the answers to everyone’s problems. If you scream into a megaphone that you know all the answers but don’t take any time to actually give them, you get the wrong kind of attention.
You need to work the proverbial room, make yourself noticeable, not only by claiming you know stuff but by giving that knowledge in a selfless way. Yes, you still need to make a living.
Every industry has its basics, its nuisances, its average user cases, and its miracles. Make sure you are providing quality content — knowledge that actually serves your customers in a tangible way. Get their feedback and adapt to the content.
Your startup and the service it provides are an extension of yourself and your brand, so make the latter is reputable and useful for your target audience. That will give your startup the best launching platform possible.
Let your service do some of the talking
The product’s image should start from you, but also be reinforced by your product’s performance and quality.
After you build your own image as an expert in the field and as a reliable educator, you can start considering how much of your own image will also be your startup’s. As I already mentioned, you should put all the best of yourself into your startup.
If someone were to use your product without knowing anything about you, they should be able to associate your own personal characteristics with the characteristics of the service they’re using.
The more people make use of your service, the more your service gets its own credit, and your job is to maintain and improve upon those values at every stage, every process, and every scale of your venture.
It’s not just business, it’s personal
The advantage companies have over people is that their reputation can be longer-lasting and span throughout generations. The good and bad experiences are accumulative.
So the longer a company stands, the more opportunities they have to learn from their mistakes, fine-tune their product, and showcase their values to win over more customers.
There’s no difference in the recognition of a company name or a personal name. Demonstrate how your product is efficient by solving your customer’s needs. Always identify yourself as a solution provider!
Even when you expand and get new people on board, handle their hiring process and training as an extension of yourself and the image you’ve built.
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