Startups

Advantages of a Founder’s Personal Branding for Startups

Steve Jobs

This guest column is by Vikram Upadhyaya, Chief Mentor and evangelist at GHV Accelerator

Startup founders should be aware that as heads of future MNCs they carry a lot of weight on topics of business development, innovation & technology, corporate strategies, CSR, community affairs & development. These are low hanging fruits, which a lot of founders can target to shine light on their own businesses. Have highlighted a few more below:

1. Humanizes Your Startup

A founder’s personal branding creates an image of the company in the minds of people beforehand. That’s because a brand is usually considered as an extension of the founder’s personal brand and is directly impacted by it.

A friendly face helps you to be in the consumers’ TOM (top of mind) or spontaneous consideration set. These are important KPIs (key performance indicators) for every marketing team and are crucial for a startup’s survival during its formative years.

Another key aspect is how your startup is seen because of this. Would you want to be seen as an expert of your industry alone, or a host of other associated industries that are close to your line of work?

There’s an interesting example of Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com.  He believes that he is here to deliver happiness to his customers and is always heard or seen talking about it. He has also written a book, ‘Delivering Happiness’ to further reinforce the message. So much so, that delivering happiness is now built into Zappos’ DNA and everyone there breathes it.

When Zappos had just started, they were an online retailer of shoes. Sometimes they would get orders that they could not fulfill, so Tony ensured that these customers were directed to the right retailer who could service their request. All his talk about delivering happiness attracted a lot of customers and they have successfully humanized what could have been just another corporate strategy. What Tony has successfully done is fixed Zappos as the TOM for consumers when they think of happiness. It really can’t get better than that!

2. Attracts & Retains Talent

One of the biggest challenges any organization faces is recruiting and retaining good talent. Having a founder with a lot of followers gives your startup more credibility, even when it’s fairly new. That makes potential stakeholders and prospective employees view you in more positive light, thereby facilitating in hiring good talent.

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A report highlights how an organization’s agenda, when shared on social media by its employees, is 24 times more likely to attract better talent and customers because it’s actually very similar to a word of mouth campaign.

A brand reflects the founder’s personal values, beliefs and personality. Think of how Sir Richard Branson established a cool and approachable image for himself, which his company, Virgin, mirrors too. In fact, his personal branding worked wonders in attracting the best talent to his businesses.  Every youngster in UK wanted to work for him.

3. Easier to Garner the Interest of Various Stakeholders

It’s hard to get people to work with you if no one has heard of you. When you are new in the ecosystem, bankers and investors don’t trust you with their money and vendors don’t give you a good deal as they don’t feel you are credit worthy simply because you are an unknown entity. However, if people have heard of you as an expert of a particular industry, it may not matter that you run a small business, as people feel that you are not a fly-by-night operator.

It is important to note that your vision as a founder is also what can inspire your suppliers/ vendors. It is important to convince them of the bigger picture, in person or otherwise, as these people realize that at a time when you have very few real assets, it is the founder who is the real driving force and the asset for the organization. So in essence, the founder’s personal branding is the golden ticket that makes it easier to achieve the milestones that have been set for the startup.

4. Better branding = more trust = better conversions

There are far too many products, which solve the same business problem, so how do you stand out? Ask any salesman about the secret to good lead conversions. His answer will be good relationships that are built on trust, a whopping 9 out of 10 times.

So how does this work? Building a personal brand requires that the founder be seen at the right conferences, seminars and other networking events. This, coupled with his online presence allows him to build a solid network of interested customers. Keeping these customers engaged continuosly can lead to better conversions in the long run.

The best example is of Baba Ramdev of Patanjali Ayurveda. Baba Ramdev is a much bigger star than the sum total of all the brand ambassadors of other FMCG products. He is well known in India and abroad for promoting yoga and a healthy lifestyle. So when Patanjali was launched, the ‘swadeshi’ and natural herbal products that were on offer did not take long to gain acceptance from the customers because of the trust people place on Baba Ramdev, the brand’s ambassador. And we all know how within such a short time span since its launch, Patanjali is giving FMCG market leaders like HUL and P&G a run for their money!

5. Product development

As somebody who is constantly active online and offline and in touch with the startup’s key stakeholders, getting feedback about the startup’s products/services is easier. With the advent of social media, this is one aspect that has shortened the lead-time for a company to know what is working and what is not. A founder can easily keep his ear to the ground and keep his organization aligned with the users. The most important advantage as it’s easier and faster to get feedback on your product for free rather than taking it from a market research company which could cost you a lot of marketing Dollars and take far more time.

Conclusion

For a startup to become successful, a lot depends on its branding. And there’s no simpler way to quickly build your brand than by piggybacking on the founder’s brand. The founder must, therefore, make a conscious effort to showcase the personal values and beliefs that he wants to mirror in the startup’s brand, since people normally place their trust in a person, and not really the startup, when they are dealing with them.

Image Credit – CNBC


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