You’re an entrepreneur. You have a great idea, and the product tests show that masses of customers agree. You begin your business with substantial investments. And yet, after an initial groundswell of support, the business fails.
You’ve been running your business for 10+ years. But somehow, at some point, you’ve hit a wall. Market share is plateauing, and even beginning to drop. You cannot get beyond that ‘small business’ label.
The truth is that the answer can differ widely. After all, there is a reason that 70 percent of businesses fail to make it past the introductory stages and years. So why make it harder on yourself by failing to engage in your own marketing efforts?
We tend to look at business marketing as a regular business function. As soon as you have the funds, you hire an employee or perhaps an outside firm to conduct promotional efforts for you. The hope is that the attraction you gain is enough to translate to sales, revenue, and business growth.
Unfortunately, that approach has a number of flaws. Most notably, it treats marketing as a subject that is entirely removed from you, the person who started it all. How is your audience supposed to relate to a faceless product it had no idea about just a short while ago without knowing the face of it?
The Dangers of Staying off the Radar
I’ve worked with plenty of entrepreneurs who are great people. And yet, many of them approach business marketing all wrong. They build a business and try to let it speak for itself. As soon as I suggest personal involvement, they run the other way.
These entrepreneurs don’t want to put their image on LinkedIn. They don’t want to build business connections through social media. Their photo stays far away from any promotional opportunities or collateral for their business. In other words, they stay in the shadows even while hoping for the sustainable growth of their business.
Here’s another example: an entrepreneur has a great idea, and immediately starts working with the right people to get it to market. In the process, they lose touch. They don’t even lift a finger to help establish and grow their business, putting their trust in the experts instead.
But these experts don’t have the same personal stake as the entrepreneur. They don’t know the personal story behind introducing the business, and they cannot possibly be as passionate about it. The result, far too often, is the failure of a great idea that never actually crystallizes into a great business. Even if that business succeeds internationally, it will sooner or later hit a wall.
That’s why staying off the radar is not just a missed opportunity; it can actually threaten the existence of your business. Whether you simply not feel like putting yourself out there, or you want to leave it to professionals in good faith, neither path works as well as active involvement. The reason is the inextricable connection between the entrepreneur and their business marketing efforts.
The Connection Between an Entrepreneur and Business Marketing
Faceless brands benefit no one. When you think about UnderArmour, chances are Steph Curry pops into your head. When you consider Apple, Steve Jobs will always be the first personality to connect. I don’t even have to mention examples like Air Jordan.
Sure, most entrepreneurs aren’t that famous. Nobody will expect you to become Michael Jordan overnight, or even within 10 years after you start your business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the same basic concept. I’m talking, of course, about the fact that people will always relate to other people over faceless businesses or brands.
That reason is exactly why the personal brand of any successful entrepreneur is so closely connected to business marketing. It’s why you know names like Mark Cuban and Elon Musk. You might not know CyberDust, but don’t you think that, when the social network was new, Mark Cuban put every bit of his personal brand into marketing it?
The same lessons apply for startups of any size and in any industry. The founder will always be the main salesperson of the business, whether it is to investors or the millionth customer. You cannot afford to lean back and let the professionals do their jobs. Instead, they depend on you to guide them, share your passion, and become the face of the brand.
It blows my mind how many entrepreneurs are unwilling to take advantage of that connection. Sure, it’s natural to sit in the background. But if you are truly passionate about your idea and business, and you want to see it succeed at all costs, you have to put yourself out there. You have to leverage the inextricable connection between entrepreneur and business marketing.
Finding Business Marketing Passion
I’ll be the first to admit that all of the above is easier said than done. After all, chances are you are not a professional marketer; that’s why you hired one (or more) in the first place. I’m not saying you have to do everything yourself. But you do have to be willing to put yourself out there and provide the face and personal brand your new or existing business so desperately needs. You have to translate the passion that you already have for your business into a passion to help market and sell it.
That starts with understanding just how you and your business can benefit from this type of crossover. But of course, you will also need to take further steps. A recent article on Forbes.com illustrates some of the ways in which entrepreneurs can accomplish this feat:
Attach a persona to your company. Don’t be afraid to share personal stories, images, and posts on your social media accounts. Doing so actually humanizes your brand and helps your audience understand the passion that is the driving force behind the business.
Live your company’s mission and vision. If you are fighting poverty, allow your life (and its public-facing side) to reflect that truth. If you want to advance an industry, show your personal expertise in that industry. The more your personal brand can reflect and highlight your business goals, the better.
Leverage your support system. Both first-time and long-time entrepreneurs likely have a network of professionals within their industry. So why not leverage that? Connect with the right people on LinkedIn. Share your thoughts and expertise, and ask them to promote your business. Of course, it all comes back to a simple truth: you cannot be afraid to become the face of your business. If you are, you might as well pack it in. That sounds harsh, but is unquestionably true. It remains true whether you’re just starting out or have been running your business for 10 or more years.
And yes, that means having to go all-in. It means sharing your passion with everyone who’s ready to hear. It means unabashedly connecting your personal and business social media accounts, but not losing your humanizing touch in the process. And of course, it also means working actively to amplify your brand messaging in a variety of ways.At the risk of being blunt: don’t pocket those extra dollars you make at the end of the month, just to get a bit more profit out of it. Don’t leave work early because you feel like it on a nice weather day. Instead, invest more in business marketing. Use that time to make a new social media post. Do as much as you can to make sure that every decision you make actually benefits the business on a marketing and sales level.
That sounds complicated. I’m not about to deny that it’s tough. But that doesn’t make it any less necessary. The more you can ensure that you truly are all-in on marketing your business, the higher your chances of success. That way, you don’t end up on the pile of failed and forgotten startups. You might just rise above the crop to become an established presence in the marketplace.
Are You Ready to Go All-In When Marketing Your Business?
You might still be hesitant. That feeling is only natural. After all, we aren’t all born to be marketers. So I’ll leave you with one final piece of advice: seek help when needed. Going all-in doesn’t mean having to do it all yourself. It does, however, mean understanding just how important the marketing piece truly is in growing your customers, revenue, and business.
Even the most skilled marketing experts are outsiders. If we work together, I will not know nearly as much about the business and what drove you to start it as you would. Even a partnership of 10 years could not get me to that point.
And yet, partnership is the key word here. You can be all-in on marketing without knowing everything about the subject. A marketing firm or expert can be all-in on your business without knowing all of it. Only working together can bring out the best of both worlds, building a successful strategy that leverages your personal strengths and brands as much as more general best practices in the field.
Are you ready to go all in? Are you ready to actively participate in all aspects of promoting and marketing your business? If you are, it’s time to communicate that fact. It’s time to take advantage of the connection between personal and business brand that so many startups still fail to recognize. It’s time to do everything in your power to drive the business forward, ensuring long-term success for both yourself and the organization you are building.
This article first appeared on Jefflizik.com