Branding for Entrepreneurs

You hear a lot about the importance of personal branding. Probably too much. Unless you’re a true extrovert — and even most entrepreneurs aren’t, despite all the glad-handing required to build a successful business — you prefer promoting what you’re building to promoting yourself.

Good thing you don’t have to promote yourself to craft a personal brand that stands out and helps advance your company’s interests. At least, you don’t have to promote yourself directly. Try any of these six strategies to earn a better brand for yourself.

1. Donate Your Time — Lots of It — to Up-and-Comers

Can you get ahead by giving back? Absolutely.

That’s what serial entrepreneur Kris Duggan did in 2018, when he donated dozens of hours of his (valuable) time to more than 100 founders and key startup employees.

The hook was simple: no-nonsense conversations where the entrepreneurs pitched Duggan on their ideas and talked through their top problems. Duggan would give his honest opinion for the founders to take or leave.

Duggan did a lot more for the founders he spoke with than for his own personal brand. But it never hurts to be seen as helpful after you’ve achieved real success. His founders certainly won’t forget it.

2. Become Synonymous With a Cause

Even before Patagonia founder and longtime CEO Yvon Chouinard gave away the company to fight climate change, he was the face of “conscious capitalism.” Chouinard and Patagonia were mission-driven before it was cool, and the results speak for themselves: a multibillion-dollar company whose free cash flow (about $100 million per year) is now earmarked for planet-saving initiatives.

3. Honor More Than the Bottom Line

You don’t have to become synonymous with a cause to show you care. Sometimes, it’s as simple as tweaking your business model.

Well, maybe not simple-simple. But if you’re willing to put in the work, formally certifying your company as a B corporation is the most impactful thing you can do to say, “I get it” — and mean it.

4. Tie Your Company to Better-Known Brands

“Strategic partnership” is often code for “the company that will eventually acquire us outright,” but increasing your chances of a successful exit isn’t the only reason to associate with brands your customers already know.

These associations enhance your credibility. Both your company’s, for obvious reasons, and your own, at least to the extent that your credibility is tied to your company’s. There’s a reason businesses trip over themselves to be recognized as “official xyz vendor” or “proud partner” of major sports leagues — millions of people hold those leagues in high regard, for better or worse.

5. Be Known for Best-in-Class Pay and Benefits

Catered lunches and foosball tables are so 2011. Above-market wages — even for remote employees in lower-cost cities — and quality benefits are in right now.

Like aligning with a cause and associating with popular brands, this might seem at first like it matters more for corporate branding. But we’ve seen time and again that founders and CEOs bear the brunt of bad HR decisions while benefiting from good ones. Just ask Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz, who was lauded for his baristas’ pay and benefits packages until he wasn’t anymore.

6. Be Radically Transparent (For Real)

Some would say “radical transparency” is so 2011 also. They have a point — it has been a thing for a while, so long in fact that some (perhaps the same people) would say it’s no longer a thing.

Then again, much of what passed for radical transparency back in the day was anything but. Founders and executives claimed to be open-book, but few bothered to check their work. That’s how we got Theranos.

If you’re going to claim to have nothing to hide, walk the walk. Yes, it’ll be a tough road, but you’ll have few fellow-travelers and earn more than your fair share of press for it.

Don’t Be a Dime a Dozen

You’re not the only entrepreneur doing their best to stand out right now. Like you, your peers (and competitors) know that separating yourself from the pack is the best way — other than focusing on product quality and execution — to generate buzz for whatever you’re building.

It might not come naturally. You might not enjoy it. But it’s absolutely worth the effort. And if you’re successful, you won’t have to do it forever.

Review Personal Branding for Entrepreneurs — 6 Strategies to Stand Out.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *