Entrepreneurs are all brands onto themselves because they are judged based on their reputations. I remember speaking to Jeff Taylor, the founder of Monster.com, about how he got funding for his new social network, eons.com. He explained to me that based on his previous success, he was trusted with millions of dollars in support of his next venture. He also noted that he had to still earn future investments after the “grace period” where his reputation had an impact. Not everyone is Jeff Taylor, but there are lot of strategies that you can use to build your personal brand, so that angel investors, venture capitalists, and perspective employees and partners want to work with you. Here are ten things that you should know, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, about personal branding:
- Your personal brand is based on your ideas, and they have to be unique if you want to stand out in a crowded marketplace. This goes with your company too. If you’re working on a business plan for something that’s already been done before, you won’t attract much attention.
- You need a platform for your brand, so that you can build trust with your constituents, and have an audience that can be early adopters of your company (or at least provide you with feedback). I recommend you start a blog in order to showcase the concept behind your idea, and keep people updated with how your business is doing.
- Join social networks where other entrepreneurs are gathering, including Entrepreneur Connect, PartnerUp, StartupNation, and others. By connecting with other entrepreneurs, you’ll learn more, you’ll have more resources at your finger tips, and you can form strategic alliances.
- Don’t ask for funding, unless you can prove your worth. It’s much smarter to try and launch your product on your own and build it’s popularity, rather than just asking for money based on an idea that might not be feasible.
- Don’t let your personal brand get in the way of your company’s brand. As you start building your brand and becoming more well-known in your niche, don’t forget that you’re in this for your company. Your companies name should appear more than your own if that’s what you’re trying to build.
- On the other hand, you should focus on your personal brand because it’s transferable and if your company fails (like many do), you don’t want to be taken down with it.
- Personal branding is nothing new and entrepreneurs have been using their brands to leverage new business deals and companies for a long time. Look at Richard Branson. Who hasn’t heard of him, even though the Virgin brand is quite strong? He’s able to meet with CEO’s around the world, which you wouldn’t have access to because of who he is.
- Don’t invest all of your time in the online world. Most business that gets conducted occurs offline, so just use online to start the conversation.
- You’re always being judged based on first impressions, so be careful what you say about your company, employees, and other stakeholders online.
- Attend networking events to meet entrepreneurs like yourself, like those hosted by TECH cocktail.
Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Dan Schawbel. Dan is recognized as a “personal branding guru” by The New York Times, is the bestselling author of Me 2.0, a national speaker, and the publisher of both the award-winning Personal Branding BlogPersonal Branding Magazine. He is the youngest BusinessWeek columnist, and just started his own company called Millennial Branding, LLC. You can follow Dan on Twitter: @DanSchawbel.