Entrepreneurs Need to Sell Themselves as the Brand


The days are gone when a techie or a genius could build things in his or her garage and customers would find and buy the product based purely on the “wow factor” of the technology.  New technologies are everywhere today.  People have seen so much that consumers’ reactions can range from being unimpressed to actually fearing pure technology.  They want a personable brand before they will consider the product.

Customers are overloaded by the media with amazing advertising messages.  People now realize that you can’t believe everything you see in pictures, and even videos can be edited to deliver any message.  In fact, we are all media companies now thanks to our cell phones, computers and professional-looking publishing tools.

Thus customers and partners rely more and more on personal engagement with people.  Now, some people mistakenly believe that social media, like Facebook, counts as personal engagement with the other.  But even with an abundance of social media tools, businesses and consumers are still looking for more personalization and more “me, myself and I” in the message.

David L. Rogers talks about this personal marketing in his book, The Network is Your Customer: Five Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age, and suggests some strategies to improve your perceived engagement level.  I’ve focused these more towards startups and entrepreneurs.

  • Show a personal face.  Engage customers by showing a personal side and an authentic voice in digital content rather than the authoritative voice of an institution.  That means a startup should never use the anonymous website with no names, addresses or personal pictures.  Show people you are an approachable, real person.
  • Focus on each particular segment and need.  Focus on niche audiences and their specific needs and interests, rather than trying to engage every possible customer at the same time with the same content.  Utilize the power of available tools to provide videos and interactive, highly targeted messages to each segment of your audience, and each business partner.
  • Try branding yourself, not selling a product.  Offer a story, entertainment or a compelling idea that you can link convincingly to your brand, rather than trying to sell products or services directly.  People buy from people, and in a startup, you are the brand.  Sell yourself as the expert, and business sales will follow.
  • Offer utility to each audience member.  Provide content and interaction that helps solve a problem or answers a critical information need for your audience.  Avoid the abstract value calculations that don’t apply to the segment you want.  Utilize new media to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.
  • Make it an enjoyable experience.  Use the interactive, goal-based play of online games to engage customers for fun, education, and building relationships.  People today are used to multitasking, and have very short attention spans.  Keep the messages short and sweet.

As digital media continues to evolve, you have to change your content rapidly in order to keep up.  Shorter books, for example, transfer better to phones and other modern reading devices.  Links and interactivity become more important as high-speed Internet access becomes pervasive on more devices and appliances.

The key is an ongoing strategy of engagement and producing relevant, sensory and interactive content that is at the heart of your customer networks.  So start to think of your startup as a media company, rather than an outsourcer of advertising from some anonymous experts.  These days, being able to build a product is not the only skill necessary for success.  If you can’t build a brand, you are still not ready to start a business.

Reprinted by permission.

About the author: Martin Zwilling

Martin is the CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc., a consultancy focused on assisting entrepreneurs with mentoring, business strategy and planning, and networking.

Martin for years has provided entrepreneurs with first-hand advice, mentoring and business plan assistance as a startup consultant. He has a unique combination of business and high-tech experience, and executive mentoring and connecting startups with potential investors, board members, and service providers.

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