When people think about personal branding, they think celebrities, social media influencers, keynote speakers, authors, etc.
They think about people who want to be "known" for something.
But to say that personal branding is only for entertainers, or people who want to "put on a show" is to entirely miss the point. It's not just about having an audience, or standing out.
Personal branding is about increasing the amount of value you can provide.
Let me give you an example.
You're an investor.
No, you're not a Shark on Shark Tank. No, you're not a reality television star.
You're a smart investor with a good track record.
A hot new startup comes across your desk, and you want to invest.
"I'm willing to write you a check, right now," you say.
The two startup kids, the ones sitting opposite you, shrug and say back, "That's what every other investor has offered us. What other value can you provide?"
You respond with the same sort of things most other investors would say: "I can introduce you to the right people. I can show you how to scale your company."
"We've heard that too," the startup team says. "You all sound the same."
And out the door they go.
Here's a different scenario.
This time, two startup kids walk into your office.
You sit down opposite them and say, "I'm interested in your company. I think I can deliver a lot of value."
Before you say another word, one of them speaks up.
"I've read all your stuff. Your articles and the insights you share taught us so much about business when we were first starting out. Honestly, working with you would be an incredible experience."
They're already sold. In fact, there wasn't any selling on your end that even needed to happen. They came to you.
I have been in the personal branding game for a long time, and for an audience that prides itself on making smart long-term investments, it confuses me why so few investors and venture capitalists see the value in building some element of thought leadership for themselves.
Here's why I see having a personal brand, as an investor or VC, as being one of the most important investments you'll ever make.
1. You're in the business of finding companies to invest in. Imagine if those companies came to you.
I have a very strong personal brand on the Internet. Google my name, and I own the first five pages of Google--and I've never spent a dollar on advertising.
I launched my first company, Digital Press, four months ago. And every single day, I open my email to inbound leads, people who read my writing and want to work together as a result.
Our highest ticket client was inbound. Heard me on a podcast, read my writing, and then reached out.
My writing and personal brand online is how I have been asked to speak at events, asked to hold advisory positions for companies, asked to consult, asked to do all the things I would love to do--and would otherwise have to spend time looking for.
There is no shortage of companies looking for funding. But the ones that are worth investing in have founders that are doing their homework. They're reading, they're learning, and they're looking to people like you to act as mentors from afar--until the time is right and it's time to raise.
By positioning yourself as that go-to resource, you'll be the one they want to work with.
And instead of having to seek them out, they'll come to you.
2. There is a lot of opportunity to stand out.
I have always prided myself on being willing to do things nobody else has thought to do--or has the guts to try.
Take writing, for example. Writing is a very solitary craft. Most writers hide away from society, putting out a book every few years and keeping the rest hidden.
I didn't want to be that kind of writer. I wanted to show people the power of writing, and I wanted to give aspiring writers (I remember those early days) someone they could look to as an example.
If you take a second to look around, there are so many industries still untouched by this way of thinking. Old industries that have not yet adjusted to the vast opportunities provided by the Internet and its ability for anyone to become a thought leader to audiences they otherwise wouldn't have access to.
I see investing and venture capital the same way I see the craft of writing.
And there is so much opportunity for you to stand out--because very few people think this way (yet).
3. If you have an audience, you can immediately bring attention to every investment you make.
Let's say you build a following around your weekly insights on varying industries.
One day, you decide to invest in a real estate tech startup.
You then write about that industry as a whole, and talk about why you chose to invest in that startup in particular.
Your readers now get a chance to learn from you, see how you make the decisions you do--and at the same time, you've now brought exposure to that company you just invested in (which is always good for business, and simultaneously good for your investment).
It amazes me how many investors and venture capitalists fail to realize how valuable their perspectives and insights are. Whenever I'm fortunate enough to spend 10-15 minutes talking to a well-known investor, I feel so lucky. I feel like I'm getting to learn from the source, and understand how and why they make the big decisions they do.
And if they told me, "I just invested in this company," I would immediately go look that company up. I would want to know what about that company prompted them to write a hefty check.
Readers are the same way. People who want to learn, want to learn from you.
And they want to know why you make the decisions you do.