Last week we took a look at the situation of a startup founder I mentored that had credited all of his first cash’s success to his personal image rather than to the merit of his product.
We discussed the influence personal relations have always had in the acceptance of products and services, and how substantial it is for your customers to deal with people and humanized companies. Plus some real-life examples.
This week we’re picking up where we left off and tackling how you should start building your personal brand, and to what extent should it lead your startup’s image.
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.
First, we need to address how you will position yourself in the industry. It’s imperative that you build a personal brand where you teach people your industry and how things work in it—educate them and showcase what you’ve developed. They will then have the tools themselves—thanks to you—to identify how the product you created satisfies those needs and fits into their field.
So for you to be able to figure it out, lay it out for them and educate them on how this came to be—in a way they can better understand their own experiences—will definitely assert you as the “go-to” person. This way, whenever you provide a solution to those needs, you would have already built the necessary trust to get your startup going.
Create and maintain an accessible and reliable platform
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 backup 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; but then again you get all the wrong kind of attention when you scream into a megaphone that you know all the answers but don’t take any time to actually give them.
You need to work the proverbial room, make yourself noticeable, not only by claiming you know your stuff, but by giving that knowledge in a selfless way. Yes, you still need to make a living. But every industry has its basics, its nuisances, its average user cases and its miracles. You won’t give away years of experience in a TED Talk or in a helpful weekly video to the point it could replace your actual paid service. If that were the case, you need to learn more and become more of an expert.
Make sure you are providing quality content—bits of knowledge that actually serve your customers for the better in a real, measurable way. Get feedback and design your content accordingly. Your startup and the service it provides is 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
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. But to avoid finding yourself in the same situation as the startup founder I mentioned in the previous post, your product’s image should start from you, but also be reinforced by your product’s performance and quality.
Let me put it this way: 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.
People want to know who they’re doing business with. Especially in this digital age where we are constantly interacting with screens, it’s essential that you seek a deeper connection with your customers. Sometimes it’s enough for them do business with a company they’ve known for a long time, as long as the company represents certain personal ideals, but reliable and knowledgeable people take the proverbial cake. When building your own company, you should have an expertise in your industry and build a trustworthy image for yourself around it.
Your name will in turn be associated with values, professionalism, quality, clients, etc. There’s no difference between the recognition a company name or a personal name might be able to get. So prove your brand useful by connecting your customer’s needs to a solution, 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.
I hope you liked this article. If you found it useful, feel free to share it. You can also check out more articles and videos about startup tech management on my other blog posts and my video series AskMyCTO, and my step-by-step online courses will dive in deeper into certain topics (with worksheets and templates included).