Why founders should invest in personal branding – and three ways to get started

At first sight, personal branding might seem mystifying – maybe even a little narcissistic. This is especially so if you’re a first-time startup founder, driven by the all-consuming challenge of launching your product, building your team, and attracting your first customers. With an endless to-do list, the task of elevating your own profile probably won’t rank that highly. But the benefits are greater than you might think – investing in a personal brand can be key to your overall brand recognition, building trust and credibility in your new venture before it’s even launched.

To clarify: what is a personal brand? Essentially, it should define your online and offline reputation as a founder; a personal brand is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that you want your potential customers to see. In the words of Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos: “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”.

The importance of a persuasive personal brand isn’t to be underestimated. For one, a personable reputation will help build trust in your brand; a key hurdle for any startup at the beginning of their journey. But by building up your own expertise, your new status positions you as the go-to expert in a specific industry, helping you to attract more of your ideal customers. When you’re positioned as an expert, it’s easier for people to trust you – and by extension, your product.

A strong personal brand can also strengthen your startup’s overall employer brand, helping to attract the right talent to your startup. Founders with credibility, passion and personality will attract talent – particularly so in tech, with a choosier talent pool. Investing in your brand can showcase these traits to your dream team, attracting team members who truly share your vision.

Finally, the old saying exists for a reason: investors invest in people. How better to showcase who you are as a person than to build your brand? Whether you’ve already secured some cash or are actively looking to raise more funds, ensuring your values are broadcasted widely can quickly highlight a good match with VCs who share them.

Overall, your personal brand and startup should complement one another, to the benefit of your ideal customer, dream employees, and potential investors. And getting started doesn’t need to be time-consuming:

  • Publish and curate content on social media: Creating and distributing accessible, valuable content is one of the most effective ways to earn the trust of your target audience, positioning you as the authority in your industry. And the more specific, the better – for example, fintech might be bigger than ever, but is your startup solving a specific problem within that field? Focus on that. Publish your takes on recent news developments, your advice for consumers, and engage with others doing the same in your industry.
  • Network! Yes, even in the age of coronavirus, it’s possible. Consider how you can increase your own visibility through other people’s platforms; whether it’s through guest blogging or appearing on Zoom panels with other industry experts. Embrace all opportunities to leverage the communities of others to increase your own.
  • Build your own community: Speaking of communities, ensure your focus is on building one around a specific niche, rather than a large, broad audience (bigger is not necessarily higher quality). You could create a private LinkedIn group for your audience, clients, or even early onboarders for your product, giving you the opportunity to interact with them on a daily basis, as well as for them to interact with each other. While hosting your own in-person events might be out of the question right now, you can still also host virtual meetups, workshops or mastermind groups, so you can remotely build valuable relationships with your audience – who could in turn become your first paid up customers.

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