When you have a dream, almost nothing can keep you from launching a company. Not recessions. Not political uneasiness. Not even a pandemic. Case in point: The year 2020 saw a meteoric rise in the number of startups despite the global health crisis.
Still, obtaining funding and opening your doors is one thing. Keeping your corporate machine humming is another. That’s when having a strong, well-defined personal brand can come into play.
Don’t mistake personal branding for business branding: The two are different. Sure, your organization has its own face. But as the leader, your personal brand can (and probably will) overshadow your business’s brand, especially in the beginning. Therefore, defining and embracing your brand image can make your company more appealing to potential buyers.
Whether you’re in a B2B, B2C, or some other market, you’ll want to strengthen your brand. Write it down, flesh it out, and live it proudly. Need a starting point? As Jeff Bezos famously said: “Your personal brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Ask people closest to you to help craft your brand statement, at least initially.
After you’ve solidified your personal brand, let the brand guide every decision you make for your company. That way, you’ll position both you and your startup to reap several benefits.
1. You’ll see an increase in WOM referrals.
You can advertise digitally and offline until the cows come home. And you should because it makes sense. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the power of old-fashioned word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, too. Owning your brand positions you to increase your WOM referrals from like-minded people who appreciate the values behind your beliefs.
Your vertical doesn’t matter, either. Bob Goldwater, founder at The Birth Injury Lawyer Group, calls his unique personal brand one of the best forms of PR. Sure, he’s in a competitive field that’s defined by winning cases. Yet his personal brand is to put his clients’ needs above all else, even if it means losing profits short-term. By living his brand—and sending clients to other firms when it’s in their best interest—he drives higher quality referrals.
2. You set the tone for your company’s direction.
When your business is in its fledgling years, your personal brand can serve as a blanket for its mission, vision, and values. Every time you push out messaging, you’re giving the public insight into both you and your organization. After all, corporate leaders’ brands tend to influence the overall tenor of any corporation.
Outdoor company Patagonia’s leader, CEO Rose Marcario, announced in 2018 she was returning $10 million in tax savings. Rather than keep the savings as profit, her company would put the money toward environmental causes. Her move was a personal one that reflected her brand. At the same time, it struck a chord by leaving no confusion as to Patagonia’s direction and convictions.
3. You’ll have the security to use the word “no.”
It can be very tough to say “no” to offers, particularly when you’re just starting out. Nevertheless, turning down so-called opportunities can be the right course of business. Just use your brand as your north star when you’re standing at a crossroads.
For instance, another entrepreneur may suggest that you expand your business by including her product in your lineup. Does her item make sense for your company? Is her personal brand in sync with yours? Those are questions more easily and rapidly answered if you know your brand inside and out. In the same vein, your brand can serve as a litmus test for vendors, volunteers, and board members as well.
4. Your employees can make confident choices.
Unless you’re a one-person shop, you have employees. Nevertheless, you can’t always be around to tell your employees what to do. That’s why you want them to make choices—ideally the right choices. When they know your personal brand, they can act accordingly.
Take the case of a sales representative working with a displeased customer. The representative will be in a stronger position to give an exceptional customer experience by understanding what you believe. Your team member will also know that you’ll stand behind the decision, as long as it fits the overarching brand.
5. Your personal content can help showcase your business.
Living the executive lifestyle involves staying busy. Don’t let a packed calendar keep you from taking advantage of getting content out the door. Posting guest articles on popular sites or being a podcast guest can get your company mileage. Just make sure that before you release or make any statements that you review your brand.
By taking a quick look over your personal brand statement, you can ensure that your messaging is on target. In time, your personal brand messages could translate to a lift in sales, partnership possibilities, and media opportunities. Want to get a bit advanced in your branding? Develop a list of personal brand keywords. Every time you generate published content, use at least one of those keywords. That way, people may find your company when searching for those terms online. This type of “passive” marketing funnel works and can be tracked if desired.
To the world at large, your startup is an extension of your brand. Take time to develop your personal branding statement. You’ll be more likely to achieve success—and so will your business.