I believe the best and worst things about launching a startup are the choices available. When it comes to positioning and strategy, I’ve seen most founders focus on “what we do”. It’s the products or services, that feature or that, that offer or that. It’s understandable.
When it comes to communicating “who we are,” however, leaders tend to focus heavily on “fun” choices like brand colors, company logo, or website design. Things that have a more immediate visceral impact on who you are as a brand. (Or, more specifically, who you show up for, because branding ultimately comes down to what your audience thinks of you.)
So what are your audience supposed to think if there’s nothing beyond the bells and whistles? Without guidance on the thinking and people behind the marketing, how are people supposed to realistically shape their ideas about your organization’s brand?
WHY AN EXECUTIVE BRAND AND WHY NOW?
I can’t stress enough why it’s so important to focus on making your founder or key leaders visible in the early stages of building your organization’s brand. Especially nowadays, the human factor is more important than any feature or flash you can offer your audience. Putting a face to a brand is nothing new, but amplifying someone who is real and relatable in their own right has become essential.
Recent surveys of consumers and B2B buyers confirm the upward trend independent due diligence. Before they even engage with you, they want to know who you are, not just what you do. With consumers, there is an added incentive to determine whether a brand’s values align with their own. This includes finding out who the decision makers are and what they have to say.
Unlike other aspects of startup operations, building an executive brand is not a light undertaking. Indeed, whether for an individual or an organization, the notoriety of a brand is a long-term job. Start early and your brand visibility can mature with your product and your audience.
According to the US Census Bureau, there has been a record 5.4 million candidates for new companies in 2021. If you wait to make a name for yourself in the hope that instead “If you build it, they’ll buy it”, you’ve probably relegated yourself to being a faceless entity in a growing sea of other hopes.
THE COST OF DOING NOTHING TO BUILD YOUR EXECUTIVE BRAND
Over the years, I have known many executives who understand the importance of amplifying their visibility in theory. But when it comes to implementing thought leadership or media initiatives, they have a crisis of confidence that they are not interesting, important or disruptive enough to have a public voice. Or, they feel burdened with the expectation that everything they do should have a clear line of sight to revenue.
If you don’t know how to capture your thoughts adequately for thought leadership, if you don’t know what to say or how to say it for earned media, or if you think you don’t have time to understand anything or, find a partner to help. The right marketing professionals can help you find your voice and express yourself in a way that works for you, while keeping you in tune with your company’s brand.
When it comes to these other expectations, “proofing” the direct ROI of building an executive brand and visibility can be tricky. But it’s mostly a matter of perspective. Because it’s not really about the cost of investing in you as a brand representative of your organization. It is a matter of cost to do nothing.
• Loss of potential funding: When investors Google you as a leader, what will they find? Eighty-seven percent of global executives believe that a positive CEO reputation attracts investors, and they are right. As an angel investor and co-manager of Unicorn Venture Partners Notes by Jonathan Hung“Investors love a strong personal brand for two reasons: it typically puts the strongest candidates on their radar and…founders with authority and influence in the space are more likely to succeed and facilitate attracting additional funding, better employees, and tapping to attract customers.
• Loss of potential income: Selling is not the only way to make sales. Expressing your perspective and experiences through thought leadership can highlight the depth of thought that has gone into your product or service as it relates to the market and its trends. In reality, 64% of buyers and decision makers find thought leadership content to be more trustworthy than marketing materials or product sheets, and 53% increased business volume they did this with an organization after reading its associated thought leadership content.
• Loss of trustworthy : Although the hardest to quantify, trust is probably the most important influencer in the trajectory of your brand. Who invests, buys, partners or proselytizes for a brand they can’t believe in? The Edelman Trust Barometer 2022 shows that the highest levels of trust are currently reserved for business leaders, not government, non-governmental organizations or the media. It is now up to leaders like you to serve as examples of strategic thinking and measured action. The more you build an authentic and expressive executive brand, the more you can prove that you are worthy of that trust.
I believe that showcasing the people who drive your organization’s brand should be viewed as a strategic investment in the future of your business. It is no less important than pitch, R&D, product development, etc. It helps drive growth the same way other areas of marketing do: by building awareness, engaging an audience, and encouraging them to learn more about what you can do for them. The important thing is that you take the next step and incorporate executive brand development into your overall brand strategy so they know not only what you can do for them, but also why they should care. worry.
Mack McKelvey is founder and CEO of SaillantMGa strategic marketing firm specializing in solutions for growth-stage technology companies.