I hear from startup founders often. Specifically, I get unsolicited (but real/serious) connection requests from one-off entrepreneurs trying to build something from nothing.

Props to them for being aggressive, but I see so many make the same basic mistakes in their approach and personal branding. Here are some practical tips based on the most common mistakes I encounter.

  1. Be concise, always. If you’re sending unsolicited requests to connect, make them just that: requests. Not a sales pitch. Not a long-winded explanation of who you are. Ask for one thing, and make it simple. Less “We’ve set out to change the way people like you do business.” More “Do you have exactly 10 minutes this week for me to show you what my product can do for you?” Let them decide whether you’re “changing the way people do business.” Just get them on the phone first. And when you have them, or anyone, on the phone, remember—no one cares about your story because your story won’t help them. Stick to your product/service and how it solves problems. The second someone feels you’re wasting their time, you’ve lost them forever.
  2. Fix your domain. A huge turn-off for in-the-know potential customers and investors are company URLs that end in .wordpress.com or .wix.com. This signals a company’s unwillingness to invest even a small amount of money to make their online home their own. It yells “lifestyle blogger,” not “professional business services provider.” It’s so cheap and easy to get your own custom domain, like companyname.com. There is no reason not to, unless you truly don’t have $50 to spare (in which case, you need to re-evaluate you’re overall plan).
  3. Keep your site simple. If you’re just starting out, don’t fill your website and/or LinkedIn with pointless fluff. Get to the point. You don’t have testimonials, you don’t have success stories. So instead, put your one-sentence pitch front-and-center, and let the professionalism of your website theme and design do the rest. And link, somehow, to information about you and the team. There are too many fake websites out there selling crappy products. Three sections: What We Do (your one- to two-sentence pitch), Who We Are (about the team), and Contact (how to connect). That’s it. For design tips, just use what works—don’t try to build something from scratch. Pick a top-10 most popular site template from whatever platform you’re using.
  4. Get a real email address. Nothing says “amateur” like companyceo@gmail.com or companyname@yahoo.com. That’s fine for a church or community group, maybe, but not for a company that will be using that email account to send and receive client-confidential information, links to payment gateways, and correspondence with potential investors. Get a real email address. Something like first.last@company.com.
  5. Make it personal. People like doing business with people, not “platforms” or “companies.” This is especially true when you’re first starting out, and your brand/platform has no testimonials or reputation. You absolutely must become the face of your brand. Your “About Me/Us” page will be the most-visited area of your site. It’s vital that you back up the claims of your product or brand with a real name and face—someone customers can trust to answer the phone if anything should go wrong. You can’t afford not to become the face of your product or service.

I realize it’s not always easy to know how to do these things (like, where to get a custom domain). But there are so many possible answers, I can’t really give specific advice to a general audience. So if you have questions like this, message me here.