Personal branding is a hot topic among entrepreneurs these days. A Google search of “personal branding” and “entrepreneurs” returns nearly 2 million results. Rooms about personal branding on Clubhouse run at all hours of the day. Even the former chief of staff to Princess Diana and the former director of global engagement to former US President Obama are now giving talks on personal branding.
We know that people are increasingly more interested in the person behind the company than the corporate brand:
- Elon Musk’s Twitter following is double that of SpaceX and Tesla combined.
- Richard Branson’s Twitter following is 10X that of his Virgin brands.
- Sara Blakely has 20X the following on LinkedIn compared to her SPANX brand.
People are becoming less trusting of corporate brand messaging; interest in the stories and lives of the entrepreneurs behind the corporate brand is on the rise.
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But what does a following actually do? Do all entrepreneurs need a personal brand? What good is having a personal brand beyond vanity metrics?
Here are four main reasons you may benefit from having a personal brand.
1. Sales and marketing
Strategically expanding your network translates to an expanded pool of prospective clients. As the saying goes, “People do business with people they know, like and trust.” Being the “public face” of your business allows you to build trust with potential and existing customers―even if you’re not speaking to them directly.
“I do podcasts; I do interviews; I do webinars; I do seminars; I speak at larger conferences; I speak at smaller conferences; I speak on panels; I’m part of different organizations. People get to know me, and if they trust me, they’ll trust the company.”
2. Position yourself for a pivot
As entrepreneurs, our businesses are often closely tied to our identity: they are us, and we are them. After an exit, many entrepreneurs find themselves faced with an identity crisis. Having a personal brand―separate and distinct from a corporate brand―allows you to pivot faster and more effortlessly.
Michele Hecken, owner of Alpha Global Experts and EO Edmonton member, is now heavily focused on building her personal brand. Her only wish? That she would have begun clarifying and building it years ago―prior to the sale of her business.
Erez Zevulunov, owner MIT Consulting and EO Toronto member, concurs. He is building a personal brand and sees it as a safety net of sorts: “I come from a background of M&A. Every time there is an acquisition, the founder walks away half the time not knowing what they want to do with their life. My brand will either give me the credibility to land a position within a larger organization, or it’ll give me a transition to another career where I am the product. And so it gives me portability, whereas right now, if I were to sell the business, I’d have to build something from scratch, from zero, with nothing to go on, and it would take time.”
3. To be recognized as a thought leader
Entrepreneurs are intrinsically motivated―but also want to be recognized. Research shows that people prefer validation over singular achievements. It comes back to basic human psychology: We want to be recognized as experts. Professional validation, in a way that is authentic to us, matters.
Personal branding helps achieve recognition in two ways: By having your accomplishments recognized and by building your reputation as experts in our domains.
Fran Biderman-Gross, Founder of Advantages and EO Toronto (former EO New York member), says it is one of the key reasons she has put time and attention to intentionally build her personal brand: “This is the right time for me to focus on myself as an author and thought-leader, to find my voice and my place in the world with my life’s work.”
4. Inspire others and make an impact at scale
The biggest need we have as human beings is a desire to become all that we are capable of becoming.
Portfolio entrepreneur Kate Holden, owner of De Luca Fine Wines and Flaunt, and member of EO Winnipeg, began building her personal brand for that very reason. “I want to inspire people to do better and be better. I want to inspire other women to define themselves instead of being defined by others. And I want to show others that we can all dream bigger.”
Whether it’s to drive sales, position yourself for a pivot or be recognized as an expert, one thing is clear: A well-defined, compelling personal brand allows us to connect with others like us. That makes it easier to achieve big goals as entrepreneurs, mentors and contributing citizens of the world.
And if your goal is to inspire people at scale and make a significant impact on the world, the only questions you should be asking yourself are “What am I waiting for?” or “What’s holding me back?”