Thoughts on startups by investors that
fund them & entrepreneurs that run them

You are the Best One to Build Your Startup Brand

As an entrepreneur, it’s never too early to start selling yourself and your idea. I hear lots of excuses from startup founders, like “I’m too busy,” concern over IP security, can’t afford an agency, and it’s too early. The result is they get no feedback, no credibility, no visibility, and no investors until months later than they expect.

I’m definitely not lobbying here for promising things you can’t deliver, or hiring a publicist before your first programmer. I’m talking about doing some real networking to test your elevator pitch, and get to know some potential investors before you ask them for money. How about talking to some real customers to see if they are as excited about your idea as you are?

You don’t need an agency and you don’t want a third party to be involved at this point. You need to do it yourself. Here is a list of ways that you can use public relations to benefit your startup, even before it is started:

  • Make yourself a spokesman for your domain. Start writing a blog, speaking at local groups, and conversing at networking meetings about the need you see in the marketplace, before you pitch a solution. People will soon see you as an “expert” on solar power, as an example, so your later solar power offering will have credibility by default.
  • Practice your message. Publicists always tell you to stick to the crafted message, which was probably wrong anyway. If you start early, you can improve your message with every cycle, until you have an elevator pitch for your startup that resonates with the right people.
  • Even bad coverage is better than no coverage. It’s better to push the limits, or be a bit controversial, than not to be visible at all. Because of human nature, controversy gets people’s attention much more quickly than total agreement. People forget your early mistakes if they haven’t bought your product yet.
  • Be unabashedly aggressive. Don’t wait for journalists to find you; they all publish their email addresses, and they’re looking for something interesting to write. Give it to them. Start forum discussions on LinkedIn and Facebook, and send out regular tweets on your direction. Comment on other people’s blogs, as well as writing your own.
  • Hand out memorable business cards. When you leave your business card with another person, your memory and impact is tied to that piece of paper. Make it professional and unique, with a visual image that conveys your message, even without the words.
  • Keep in touch with your audience. One networking introduction will likely not leave a lasting impression. Be sure to follow-up with key people by writing thank-you emails, asking for a personal meeting over coffee, or adding them to your monthly newsletter distribution.

At any point, hiring a professional to generate your PR may be well worth the cost, but it’s not required. Try to think like a reporter, editor, or producer, analyze their audience, and come up with “the hook.” Don’t forget your personal story as a possible hook – what you have overcome or left behind, and why you decided to become an entrepreneur.

Perhaps your product or idea addresses a social issue or event. If the hook isn’t obvious, create one by orchestrating an event, holding a contest, or donating something to charity. The earlier and more you learn about marketing, the more effective you will be later. In a startup, you are the brand. Start building it now.

Written by Martin Zwilling

user Martin Zwilling Founder and CEO,
Startup Professionals

Martin is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and angel investor. He is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners.

prev next

You might also be interested in

Co-founder Equity Split: A New Framework to Objectively Divide Startup Ownership and Get Back to Building a Business

We’ve just released our free Co-founder Equity Split tool. It’ll give you a fair and objective recommendation about how to divide your startup’s ownership, so you and your co-founders will have a sensible, real starting point for this notoriously hard, crucially important conversation.

Many startup founders find themselves lacking clarity and direction when it comes time to divide their

Read more >

From Accelerators to Venture Capital: What is best for your startup?

With startup growth up 61% since 2014 and more investment programs emerging, it can be overwhelming for founders to know just where to jump in. As the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet, MassChallenge has helped 835 startup companies around the world, who have raised over $1.1 billion in funding and created over 6,500 jobs. We have seen startups at

Read more >

Valuation Part I: Peeling the Onion, or How Top Investors Value the Startups They Invest In

Update 2017: To help you understand how your startup will look to investors according to this methodology, we’ve created a fundraising feedback tool that will give you investor-level insight into your startup’s performance. In just about 15 minutes, it will tell you how much money your startup is likely to raise, where you can find that capital, and what to

Read more >

Starting a Startup as CTO / Head of Product

After less than a year, Glassbreakers is now a team of 10, we have thousands of active users on our free product, we’ve expanded into enterprises with paying customers and raised over a million in seed funding. After a few of my Glassbreaker matches inquired, I started to reflect on what it’s like to build a startup

Read more >

18 Ways to Make Your Financial Model Stand Out to Investors

The median investor looking at your proposal is in her 40s. Her eyes are going, not to mention her brain. I look at a lot of spreadsheets and analytic reports, and way too many are difficult to read and therefore hard to understand.

In an effort to make my life easier, I’ve summarized here the steps that will

Read more >

Comments

One thought on “You are the Best One to Build Your Startup Brand”

  1. Elliot Dwennen says:

    Thanks for sharing Martin, conversing about the need in the space is a great note I shall takeaway. Now to work on some new business cards!