This article first appeared in The Holland Times.
The vast majority of startups fail, so as an entrepreneur, it’s not necessarily a great idea to solely be known for your business. You might run a software startup now, but later down the line, you might want to move into education tech or health tech. At this point, your personal brand comes into play, helping people know what to expect, and serving as an external qualifier. People who work in companies have personal brands too, but it’s more likely to be tied up in their company: if someone knows you used to work at Google or UBER, for example, that immediately qualifies you as someone who probably knows what they’re talking about. Entrepreneurs usually have to work a little harder to build their personal brand from the group up.
Your personal brand helps set you apart from everyone else, which is critical in saturated industries. Depending on what you do, it can position you as an expert, and help you secure brand partnership deals that will benefit your business. If you’ve got an exciting or interesting backstory, this can also help you attract media coverage. There’s also the element of trust: we’re more likely to want to work with people we know, even if it’s only through mutual connections.
Whether your company offers an Instagram scheduling tool or a money-saving app, chances are there are tons of other options on the market.
Why should someone choose to buy from you?
Your personal brand as a founder can help you out. We choose to support companies that share our values - 2021 is the year of putting your money where your mouth is. Some choose to support women- or black-owned businesses, while others only shop at companies who give away a portion of their profit to charitable causes. As a founder, aligning yourself with the causes you believe in can help encourage people to buy from you, rather than from the competition. If you’re looking to start working on your own personal brand, follow these easy steps to get you started.
1. Decide your goals
Any good strategy begins with getting clear on your goals and KPIs (key performance indicators). What are you trying to achieve by building your personal brand? Do you want to get booked as a speaker? Do you want more brand awareness? Decide what you actually want to get out of having a strong personal brand, and pick some benchmarks or indicators that will help you determine if you’re achieving your goals.
2. Nail the basics
Personal branding involves consistency, and projecting an air of professionalism. It’s not the time to cut back: invest in getting some great headshots done that show off your personality. They don’t have to be ultra corporate and dull if that isn’t authentic to you: consider relaxed shots of you at home in casual clothes if you decide that’s how you’d like to be seen. Identify your unique selling point (USP) and come up with a snazzy elevator pitch. No more stumbling when you’re at a dinner party and get asked, “so, what do you do?” - be ready with a one-liner that explains what you do, and why you’re unique.
3. Get visible
It’s time to start showing up on social media. Amongst marketing for your company, include photos of yourself, and communicate your personality to your followers. Start talking on camera, sharing behind the scenes of your day, or things you’ve learned during your career to date - anything that helps people get to know you.
Don’t just keep it offline. There are plenty of ways to build your personal brand offline, too, and a combination of approaches is the best way to move forward. Consider reaching out to industry networks. Show up as the person you want to be. Make connections on Instagram and LinkedIn - and then try to meet those people for coffee in real life (or for now, via Zoom). Look for ways to expand your personal brand, like appearing on podcasts and attending industry events. The options are endless, but most important of all, have fun with it.