As you find ways to articulate your vision for the business, don't forget the central character – you. As the founder, your business story is compelling, and you should be prepared to step into the spotlight as the face and voice of your brand.
Sharing your vision and inspiration for the enterprise gives potential investors, employees, and customers a personal, concrete entry point into the story of your business, which can otherwise seem abstract, especially in the startup phase. And as your expertise and insight shine through, potential supporters have a reason to feel confident about your future success.
Of course, not everyone relishes the limelight; on the contrary, most entrepreneurs start a business because they're passionate about the product or service they intend to offer, not because they like self-promotion.
But in the era of social media we're accustomed to the idea that we constantly curate our lives to present a story and create different versions of that story for friends and family versus dating sites versus professional networking sites. It's essential to bring this 21st-century skill to bear on your business and find ways to share your personal story to help get the venture off the ground. Frequent practice is key; if you form the habit of sharing your business’ story, you'll not only find the right words, but you'll become more comfortable with it, too.
Among the ways to claim the spotlight:
Establish yourself as an industry thought leader.
If you are just starting your business, you may not feel like a leader in the field yet. But given the research and experience that has gone into creating the company, you have a wealth of knowledge to share. Industry insiders may view you as an upstart, but your target market views you as an expert, so don't hesitate to share your knowledge. Customers prefer to buy from well-known names in the business, so put yourself in the spotlight.
To get started, you need to build a "platform" – that is, to boost your visibility by opening channels of communication with your audience. Among the ways to do it:
- A company blog. By establishing yourself as the voice of the company, you give the enterprise's collective expertise a face and a name. A blog is also a great place to post news updates and share press mentions and other platform-building activities.
- Social media. Not only should you broadcast posts on popular networks; be sure to follow other experts in the field, comment on their posts and contribute to discussion of current industry events. In so doing, you establish yourself as an authentic expert who's in touch with up-to-the-minute industry happenings.
- Reports, whitepapers, and eBooks. With original research and writing, you prove you've got in-depth expertise that can help your target market address needs related to your business offering.
- Speaking engagements. Seminars or keynote speeches at industry events establish your credibility as a topic expert.
Get directly involved with customers
While it may not be necessary to engage in front-line sales activities such as cold calling or pricing negotiations, making an appearance during the sales process can make a difference. Your presence demonstrates that you're personally invested in potential customers' satisfaction, and also serves as a reminder of the expertise and leadership that lie behind your offering.
This technique is especially helpful in business-to-business sales negotiations, but you can find ways to apply the concept to any kind of enterprise. If you're in retail, consider showing up in person for big sales or in-store events; if you're a service provider, make an appearance when submitting a project bid.
Thought Leadership Lessons from Seth Godin
If you're an entrepreneur, then you've probably heard of Seth Godin. The online marketing guru is well-known for advice about branding, promotion, and positioning. Given his field of expertise, it's no surprise that he's made all the right moves when it comes to thought leadership. He parlayed his Internet startup experience in the 1990s and early 2000s into 18 best-selling books, is a sought-after speaker at major industry events, and offers blog posts, videos, and links to interviews via his Web site. He's also garnered a significant following on social media, with hundreds of thousands of followers awaiting his next pithy post.
The more ways you package and present your experiences, the more opportunities you give to potential customers to feel connected to your products or services through a person. Moreover, by sharing the thought leadership that drives your company strategy, you demonstrate that customers are investing in more than a single product or service; they're also buying access to your expertise.