This is not for the casuals, for the 9to5ers or for the people who say “I don’t wanna hear about work stuff. . .I’m out of the office!”
It’s for the annoyingly passionate people that spend their free time reading, creating and sharing content for the SaaS community.
It’s for the young players in the game that are willing to clock in the hours but don’t really have a long-term vision for their career.
It’s time to invest in your personal brand!
This article and my view on personal brand started from listening on one of the Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten podcasts.
One discussion, in particular, caught my attention. What do you regret not doing from the beginning, knowing what you know now?
They both agreed that it was nurturing a personal brand.
It’s so easy to create social media accounts, connect with people from your industry and get into building your personal brand early on.
You don’t even need to create a professional blog or podcast. You just need to contribute to the conversation and network.
If you are serious about your career and you are committed to the craft then it’s only logical that you should start building and investing early on.
But you do need to have the ability to see where you would be 10-20 years from now and to realize the long-term benefits
Even if you are not planning to be the founder of a SaaS startup you’ll most likely reap the compounding benefits of creating a unique voice.
The benefits of standing in front of your brand rather than being a puppet master
It’s easy to hide behind saying you just need a great product.
I hate it when people give me as an example the same companies from a handful, that managed to make it with just a great product.
The problem with brand communication is that, no matter how much you butter it up, it’s still impersonal.
It’s harder to convince your audience that your product is helpful if you’re hiding behind a brand that tells people to sign in because they have 103,456 users around the world.
By finding and enhancing your own voice you cultivate your brand’s image and credibility.
Why the fuck would they care if you don’t care? ( you care, but they don’t know that ).
So many welcoming emails for SaaS products that are “signed” by founder names that you’ve never heard of.
Some of the most successful founders and C-level executives in the SaaS business are successful within a company because they cultivate their own personal brand and aligning it with the company brand.
Of course, there’s a diagram to explain this. It’s 2018, we have a diagram for everything.
Everybody is familiar with Simon Sinek’s popular TED talk about the Golden Circle model.
The outside circle, the “what we do”, is less complicated to communicate from an organizational P.O.V. than the mission and the vision ( or the “why we do what we do”). He explains that we need to focus on communicating from inward. You need to first make your target audience to resonate with your vision and then tell them about what you’re selling.
It resonated a lot with me the first time I saw it ( and it still does ) but I feel like it bundled up the organization and the people in the organization as a whole.
In a digital world, stakeholders have an individual identity which can help or harm the organization.
I see the Golden Circle model as a symbiosis between what’s important from a company and from a founder perspective.
The problem with Sinek’s model, from my perspective, is that it describes the stakeholders within a company as one entity that moves and thinks the same.
You can’t deny the fact that Apple and Steve Jobs were not one entity, but two entities that borrowed qualities from one another.
Apple’s “WHY” had a symbiotic relationship with Jobs’ vision and motivation.
That’s why I created a system of two Golden Circles, one for your organization an one for you and your personal brand.
Your organization is a business that needs to sell, it’s an ecosystem with many moving parts. That’s why it’s harder to communicate the vision and the mission.
At a personal level, the clearest thing you ( should ) communicate is your motivation, your passion, and your interests. That’s why the circles are inverted.
And through association with your brand, your organization can better communicate the motivation behind “Why we do what we do”.
Enough with the theory!
Let’s see some examples in the wild, from our wildest SaaS founders.
Subscription insights like no other
If you are into subscription metrics, I’m sure you’ve heard of Patrick Campbell or you’ve seen some of his analysis.
He’s one SaaS founder who’s directly involved in the Content Marketing process. From subscription teardown videos to interviews and subscription metric analysis, he’s covering all.
He tries to expand his content into a lot of areas. He does a lot of video formats, interviews, and data-infused articles.
Patrick even goes to the extent of organizing a yearly event dedicated to the subscription industry.
The most popular format they have is the pricing tearing down, a video where they collect data and talk about the pricing of different subscription-based businesses.
I like this kind of “Batman & Robin saving the churned revenue of Gotham City” type of vibe going on. I think it makes the videos more look more alive than if Patrick was just looking at a screen and talking by himself.
While I like Peter, I do think they could grow and expand the format with someone with a more active voice in the community that could amplify the outreach even further via other types of content.
While he’s focusing a lot on video content and conferences, it’s quite hard to scale this without adding more people ( and even then it’s time consuming ).
All of ProfitWell’s efforts to create a reputable image in the subscription industry made him synonymous with subscription and revenue insights. It’s something that made it easier to differentiate its product in the market versus ProfitWell’s direct competitors, Chartmogul and Baremetrics.
I like Josh Pigford from Baremetrics and Nick Franklin from Chartmogul as well, but they are not as publicly ardent as Patrick.
Even though it feels like his content is writing checks his website can’t cash, the diversity and the quality of ProfitWell’s articles/videos become more and more refined as they scale.
With such evergreen content and a recognizable personal brand, Patrick Campbell will make it easier to ProfitWell to new customers as the market evolves and expands.
Chatbots have never looked cooler
Chatbots were definitely a trend before David Cancel and Drift, but they were a harder sell than they are today.
Even if Intercom was an established leader that was pretty much synonymous with chatbots, he didn’t even blink once while carving his piece into the market.
While Drift was a solid product that offered a lot of value and never stopped from releasing new features, I think one of the biggest differentiators in going mainstream was his ability to leverage his personal brand in telling the mission and the vision of the company.
I don’t really listen to his rhetoric, just because it’s too dogmatic for his followers. But I do praise him and everyone in that company for breathing and bleeding “conversational marketing”.
Together with the talented team at Drift, they managed to go beyond solving problems and created a lifestyle.
As opposed to ProfitWell, the symbiosis between the golden circles trickles down to all hierarchical layers.
Starting from Guillaume Cabane and Dave Gerhardt, they are all personal brands gravitating around the organization. This makes it easier for the company a relatable mission and vision.
It made it impossible to not know about Drift, to some extent.
Another trait that he and everybody I’ll mention in this article have in common is the aberrant social media presence.
While every founder or C-level executive out there seems to be swamped with organizational duties, he seems to possess the unheavenly gift of being where the conversation is happening.
If it’s business or impish comments, he will make an appearance.
Regardless if you like his style or not, you definitely have a lot to learn from this conversational life coach.
Learning how to sell with the wizzard of Sales
I couldn’t finish this article without mentioning one of the people who inspired me to write this article.
Ayyy, I’m talking about Steli Efti. You can get a feeling of how dedicated he is to his content and his niche only by looking at his ProductHunt page.
Besides creating an amazing tool at Close.io, he also took it upon himself to preach the intricate ways of the sales alchemy to the masses.
He became less active in terms of social media engagement but he definitely still pushes the pedal to the metal when it comes to producing content and speaking at events.
His level of involvement in his company’s content is unbelievable. And the best part is that he’s not only talking about business related stuff.
When it comes to Steli Efti, he is not all sales. And while that’s the long way to get to grandma’s house, it does make the Close.io brand so much more durable on the long run.
You are not only buying a software product, but you are also making sure that you associate yourself with Steli’s mission and values.
While we can agree Close.io grew quite a lot in the last few years, he still finds time to be involved in the webinars.
As opposed to other founders in the SaaS world who like to delegate tasks such as webinars, I think he likes to play the role of MC.
The same as any of the people who seemed to find the resources and energy to build their personal brand alongside their company, Steli converged on a niche subject.
And they are all omnipresent in some niche of a niche. For Patrick it’s subscription metrics, for David it’s conversational marketing and for Steli it’s SaaS selling.
Before moving on, I would like to say that there are still so many great people in the SaaS world that I haven’t mentioned ( but will do in future articles ).
Want to know what’s the dilio with nurturing a personal brand?
If you’re bout dat life, you need to start investing in your future ( regardless if you want to be an entrepreneur or not ).
We all talk about being leaders and gurus but I’ve yet to see a Reddit/Quora Marketing guide asshole that has more than 100 karma points or more than 10 comments.
Find that one food you can eat for the rest of your life
Sounds dramatic and it’s probably not for the rest of your life, but as I’ve highlighted above, it’s important to find a niche and be consistent with it.
Once you’ve figured out where you are good and what you can be passionate about ( two different things, but I ‘m not gonna get sidetracked so close to the finish line ) crank that to 11.
Once you get that ball rolling you will find the sweet spot and you will converge all your attention towards
Small commitments that compound over time
It may seem overwhelming when you’re looking at what most of the people in the SaaS industry have achieved.
Some of them are even downright trash, but they were consistent with their message and networking.
You need to commit to frequent small steps. When you’re breaking down big unobtainable goals into small daily commitments, they won’t seem as scary.
Take 5 minutes each day and write about a topic you are passionate about. Or find 5 minutes to connect with peers in your industry.
You can go as far as putting a countdown on your phone. If you find that after those 5 minutes you are still enjoying what you are doing, don’t stop.
And the next day, give yourself another 5 minutes.
You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows
You need to stop reading and start writing.
The problem that I constantly see is that many passionate and zealous SaaS professionals get stuck into the reading loop. There’s sooo much content generated, even for SaaS. You’ll end up hoarding tabs of articles and podcasts into your browser.
As long as you are cluttering your mind with other people’s content you won’t be able to generate your own ideas.
If you just hoard articles and podcasts you will just mentally make room for other people’s ideas and you end up not generating nothing personal.
Compartment your time and assign a portion of the day/week for consuming content
And a part of the day to exclusively create content/comment/engage on social networks.
It’s important that you steer off the addictive path of only consuming content without adding to the conversation.
Make sure you’re shaping your own voice
The goal behind your networking, social interactions, and content creation are to create relationships.
Shallow or personal, it doesn’t really matter.
You need to separate the moments when you are representing the organization and the moments when you are representing yourself online.
You’d think there’s no difference but it’s hella corny and pushy when I come to your Twitter/LinkedIn/Reddit/Quora/whateverthefuck and it’s filled only with regurgitated shares from your company blog.
Differentiate your voice and focus on your ideas and passions. People want to follow/connect with you because of YOU.
Mark Manson, the author of “The Subtle art of not giving a f*ck” explains why people are more likely to pursue money and career – because it’s tangible and measurable.
But the irony is that, more often than not, success comes from leveraging the relationships you are sustaining at a personal level.
Feels like it went too long and I don’t feel like drawing any more doodles. And the text is already coiling into visual barbwire.
While the article has ended, the discussion is still open. There are still many things to say and still many people to talk about.
And if you have anything else to add or you feel like you want to trash my drawings or my grammar, you can easily do it on Twitter.