advertisement
advertisement
The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Why growth-stage executive brand-building is critical to your company’s future growth

I believe highlighting the people who drive your organization’s brand should be considered a strategic investment in the future of your company. It’s no less important than pitching, R&D, product development, etc.

Why growth-stage executive brand-building is critical to your company’s future growth
[Olivier Le Moal/Adobe Stock]

I believe the best and worst things about launching a startup are the choices available. When it comes to positioning and strategy, I’ve seen most founders focus on “what we do.” That’s the products or services, this feature or that one, this offering or that one. It’s understandable.

advertisement
advertisement

When it comes to communicating “who we are,” however, executives tend to focus heavily on the “fun” choices like brand colors, company logo, or website design. Things with more immediate, visceral impact on who you are as a brand. (Or, more accurately, who you present yourself to be, because brand ultimately comes down to what your audience thinks of you.)

So, what is your audience supposed to think if there’s nothing beyond the bells and whistles? Without indications of the thinking and the people behind the marketing, how are people supposed to realistically shape their ideas about your organization’s brand?

WHY AN EXECUTIVE BRAND AND WHY NOW?

advertisement

I can’t stress enough why focusing on the visibility of your founder or key executives is so important in the early stages of building your organization’s brand. Especially these days, the human factor is more important than any feature or flash you can offer your audience. Putting a face to a brand is not new, but amplifying someone who is real and relatable in their own right has become critical.

Recent surveys of consumers and B2B buyers confirm the increasing trend in independent due diligence. Before they even engage with you, they want to find out who you are, not just what you do. With consumers, there’s the added incentive to determine if a brand’s values match their own. That includes finding out who the decision-makers are and what they have to say.

Unlike other aspects of startup operations, building an executive brand is not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants endeavor. In fact, whether it’s for an individual or an organization, building brand awareness is a long game. Start early and your brand visibility can mature along with your product and audience.

advertisement

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were a record-breaking 5.4 million applicants for new businesses in 2021. If you wait to make a name for yourself in the hopes that instead “If you build it, they will buy it,” you’ve likely relegated yourself to being a faceless entity in a growing sea of other hopefuls.

THE COST OF DOING NOTHING TO BUILD YOUR EXECUTIVE BRAND

Over the years I’ve known many executives who understand the importance of amplifying their visibility in theory. But when it comes down to implementing thought leadership or media initiatives, they have a crisis of confidence that they’re not interesting, important, or disruptive enough to have a public voice. Or, they feel weighed down by expectations that everything they do should be driving a clear line of sight to revenue.

advertisement

If you’re not sure how to capture your thoughts adequately for thought leadership, unclear on what to say or how to say it for earned media, or don’t feel you have the time to figure any of it out, find a partner to help. The right marketing professionals can support you in finding your voice and expressing yourself in a way that fits you, while keeping you in step with your company brand.

When it comes to those other expectations, the “evidence” of the direct ROI of building an executive brand and visibility can be tricky. But it’s mostly a matter of perspective. Because it’s not really a question of the cost of investing in you as a representative of your organization’s brand. It’s a question of the cost of doing nothing.

• Loss of potential funding: When investors Google you as a leader, what will they find? Eighty-seven percent of global executives feel a positive CEO reputation attracts investors, and they’re right. As angel investor and Unicorn Venture Partners co-managing partner Jonathan Hung notes, “Investors like a strong personal brand for two reasons: It usually makes the strongest candidates pop up on their radar and… founders with authority and influence in the space have a higher chance of succeeding and make it easier to attract additional funding, better employees, and press to attract clients.”

advertisement

• Loss of potential revenue: Selling isn’t the sole way to achieve sales. Expressing your point of view and experiences through thought leadership can highlight the depth of thought that has gone into your product or service as it relates to the market and its trends. In fact, 64% of buyers and decision-makers find thought leadership content to be more trustworthy than marketing materials or product sheets, and 53% increased the amount of business they did with an organization after reading its associated thought leadership content.

• Loss of trust: While the hardest to quantify, trust is probably the most important influencer in the trajectory of your brand. Who invests in, buys from, partners with, or proselytizes for a brand they can’t believe in? The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that the highest levels of trust are currently reserved for business leaders—not government, non-governmental organizations, or media. It’s become incumbent on leaders like you to serve as examples of strategic thinking and measured action. The more you build an expressive authentic executive brand, the more you can prove you’re worthy of that trust.

I believe highlighting the people who drive your organization’s brand should be considered a strategic investment in the future of your company. It’s no less important than pitching, R&D, product development, etc. It contributes to growth in the same way other areas of marketing can: by raising awareness, engaging an audience, and encouraging them to learn more about what you can do for them. The important thing is that you take the next step and incorporate the development of executive brands into your overall brand strategy so they don’t just know what you can do for them, but why they should care.

advertisement

Mack McKelvey is founder and CEO of SalientMG, a strategic marketing firm specializing in solutions for growth-stage tech companies.

advertisement
advertisement