I’ve seen it time and time again — startups that fail within their first year or two. Many of these startups offer amazingly innovative products and services. Some of them even target the right audience at the right time. There is still something, however, that eludes them: their reputation.
If you look at these failed startups, or companies that fail to raise funds through crowdfunding, you’ll see viable business ideas and plans. You likely won’t find anything about what the founder and team bring to the company. Not building and managing your personal brand is one of the biggest oversights that cost you the most early on. Building your personal brand is not a hard thing for entrepreneurs and founders to do, but it is extremely valuable to their reputation, as well as the reputation of any brand that they build.
A few years ago, I was working with an exciting, fresh company in the fitness apparel world. The product was fantastic — great fabric, great patterns and colors, great design, great construction — everything that you would want in high-end women’s fitness apparel. The founder had put a few years of personal and borrowed funds, time, sweat, and tears into her brand. She had developed a great mission, strategy for building her team, and seemingly had enough ducks in a row to bring in an investor early on. It looked like everything was going right.
When I came on board, I tested the market and discovered that potential buyers were less-than-receptive; they thought that the products were beautiful and they wanted to try them, but the founder was someone unknown in the industry with no personal reputation to stand on, therefore, despite how much they wanted the products, they couldn’t justify the risk of buying them compared to their current favorites. The reason the products wouldn’t sell came down to reputation and personal branding.
This was a huge wake-up call to me — in my dozen years experience in consulting, I hadn’t seen a brand that had almost all of the right elements, but couldn’t overcome a lack of reputation. In the fitness world, as well as many industries, the successful brands are driven by founders who have established themselves as an influencer in that industry before launching their company. For new companies, many founders establish reputation quickly by creating and sharing content to show that they are an expert in their field. Many times, trial and error help entrepreneurs develop their personal brand, adding credence to their character over time.
So how do you build a personal brand?Reputation building takes time, but there are great resources to streamline the process to set you up for success. In today’s connected world, it’s easier than ever to make your name known within a specific circle, and even easier to connect with people who want what your brand supplies. Social media, email marketing, and content sharing sites help business owners and enthusiasts alike share their knowledge, passion, and ideas quickly. After working with my client last year, I developed some great tools to help startup founders build their personal brand.
How have you built and managed your personal brand or reputation?
What strategies have worked best to make you an influencer in your industry?