What do Gary Vaynerchuk, Sean McCabe, Nathan Barry, Jason Fried, Brian Clark, Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley, Chase Reeves, John Jantsch, Brennan Dunn, Krista Stryker, Cliff Ravenscraft, Dan Martell, John Lincoln, Rebekah Radice, Sarah Cooper, Travis Wright, Adam Preiser, Ryan Deiss, Dave Jackson, Dan Cederholm, and Sujan Patel all have in common?
Well, first of all, let me add that I could go on. I could add another 50-75 marketing gurus I’m aware of who do what I’m about to talk about really well.
Despite how different some of their backgrounds and areas of expertise are, they all have companies or brands separate from themselves that they are wanting to grow.
Gary Vaynerchuk has Wine Library and VaynerMedia
Sean McCabe has seanwes
Nathan Barry has ConvertKit
Jason Fried has Basecamp
Brian Clark has Copyblogger
Joe Pulizzi has Content Marketing Institute
Ann Handley has MarketingProfs
And so on…and no, this isn’t an effort to mention these folks in order to earn attention and clicks!
But here’s the thing.
I somewhat jokingly call them ‘marketing gurus’. That has a bad connotation.
But the thing is, while each of these experts has a company that is separate from him- or herself, they all have strong personal brands as well. And that doesn’t simply mean you know who they are, like you know who Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos are.
They share distinctive, personal business perspectives. They open up about their lives, in some cases. They share what they like about this or that. They express personal opinions about life outside of their expertise.
They manage what I call “personal marketing platforms” to share that expertise and those opinions beyond their companies.
Those personal marketing platforms sometimes take the form of a separate brand where they are still featured. But they also take shape as, very literally, separate branded .coms where the person is the central feature.
This approach to attracting clients and customers based on factors that are entirely separate from, but leveraged in addition to, a set of product or service features and benefits isn’t new, but it is a powerful way small businesses can now market themselves successfully in this age.
Case in point: Jason Fried and Basecamp
Jason and his Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson have long-published a blog, Signal v. Noise. That blog has not only featured their product updates and news, but their very specific, personal thoughts on business, growth, marketing, sales, design, and customer service.
They also published a book I find myself going back to time and time again, called Rework. In that book is this powerful excerpt on making marketing more personal:
“A strong stand is how you attract superfans. They point to you and defend you. And they spread the word further, wider, and more passionately than any advertising could…
“For everyone who loves you, there will be others who hate you. If no one’s upset by what you’re saying, you’re probably not pushing hard enough. (And you’re probably boring, too.)
“If what we make isn’t right for everyone, that’s OK. We’re willing to lose some customers if it means that others love our products intensely.”
Wisdom. And sure enough, if you explore the personal writing—the personal marketing—of the people I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you’ll find they follow this approach, whether they’re friends with Jason, fans of Jason, or users of Basecamp’s products.
You hear this all the time:
People do business with people they know, like and trust
…and then, as founders and small business owners, we hide behind our company names and let the company do the marketing. Why is this? It doesn’t make sense, does it?
We separate ourselves from our businesses. For some unknown reason.
We put all of this blood, sweat, and tears into a business. We sacrifice time away from our families. Sometimes we sink money in before we can prove it will come back to us multifold.
And then we let the company be the representation of what we believe, rather than building our own personal brands.
I’ve done this as well, on a lesser scale than those I mentioned. On one hand, I wanted NextRestaurants to have its own brand and identity and I pushed that as much as I could. I wanted to serve a specific community with very little personal gain to come from it.
On the other hand, I wanted it to be clear that Brandon Hull was the guy behind it. In hindsight, despite what benefits and gains it delivered for me as a terrific side project, I would have done more to build a personal brand alongside NextRestaurants, the brand.
This is a killer secret weapon for solopreneurs and small business owners
I’m convinced that this is a tremendous opportunity for you if you’re freelancing or if you’ve started your own small business and want to energize your marketing with truly unique material.
I’m uncomfortable with how quick we are today to scorch others who don’t think the way we do or believe what we believe, all under the demands of tolerance or love. But I do know this: You attract people who think like you when people know where you stand.
When you put a personal stamp on your business, the right kind of people will gravitate to you. I don’t mean this in a Law of Attraction or The Secret sort of way. I mean that people are much more likely to trust their money to someone whose values, beliefs, and even their personality, are similar to theirs.
We like being around people who reflect what we think we project.
So…how do you do this?
Continue building your business, your products and services, and their features and benefits. But in parallel, build a personal platform that highlights you and your personality. Let people get to know who you are, what you stand for, what you think about what’s going on around you in your industry, in business, or if you’re really ready to make waves, in the world.
Share opinions and ideas frequently.
Talk about your business and your worldviews.
Write like you talk.
Push this content to numerous outposts.
Funnel readers, listeners, or viewers, to your company.
You’ll find the effort well worth it. There’s a reason those who we look to for fresh thinking on business, sales, marketing, design, and more, have a platform other than the companies they represent.
Why should you be any different?