I am so surprised when I look at a web site for a startup company and they have little or no information about the people behind the company.
Frequently there is no “about us” type of page and sometimes no contact information either. I think people make this mistake for several reasons, but I’d like to explain why these details can help you grow your startup.
Connect the real people with your startup
Some startups want to appear bigger than they really are. They think that the buyers for their product or service are looking for a big company to work with. They worry that if the prospect realizes there is just one person or a few people who make up a company, they will flee. Therefore, many startups avoid putting any information about the people behind the brand.
Luckily, I think this perception is falling. On the whole, there is some truth to the idea that big companies work with big companies and small organizations work with other small organizations. But we are all humans, and we like to do work with people we know and trust. It’s hard to trust an unknown brand, most especially if they are a new, unknown entity.
Your own reputation will be critical to closing many of your first deals. It may be previous employers, colleagues or friends who initially use your services, or invest in your company, and that’s OK.
To Do: Include the names and bios of all key members of the team. Demonstrate that you have relevant expertise and are trustworthy based on your experiences outside this startup.
Give the “why” behind your startup story
People want to know why you started this company. How did you realize that you had something new to offer, and how it could help people?
This story may fill out the “about us” page of a web site. Many startups get anxiety when they think their “about us” page must start with the phrase “founded in the year xxxx.” How long you have been in business can be important qualifier, but at this point, telling a compelling story about why you started your business will be a much better place to start.
If you want some inspiration, watch Simon Sinek’s 18 minute TED talk about the importance of Starting with Why
To Do: Add an About Us page to your web site that answers why you started this company. Hint, it’s OK to write this in the first person!
Put a face on your brand
An additional step is to put a face to the brand and to your founders and team members. Now that you’ve listed the key personnel, have everyone get a professional headshot and show your face(s) to the world. Just like adding details about your work history, adding your photo may make a prospect realize that they know you.
Even if they don’t know you personally, a face is an important way to build trust. As humans, we are hard wired to make connections by looking at other people.
Many new entrepreneurs that I work with tell me that they hate having their photo taken and that is why they don’t have a headshot. A good, professional photographer will take a better photo of you than any friend can with their cell phone. It is much more likely that you’re going to like your photo taken by a professional. Getting a headshot taken is not that expensive, and you’ll find that once you have it, you’ll use it frequently: on your LinkedIn profile, any time you speak or submit an article etc.
To Do: Get a professional headshot and add it to your bio on your web site.
Show where you are located
Finally, many startup web sites don’t list any real contact information.
Often this comes from the fact that the business owner is working from home and doesn’t have a separate business address. As long as you feel comfortable doing so, I’d go ahead and list your home address. Working from home is so common these days, it no longer has a stigma attached to it. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, get a business mail box that is not a PO Box and list that. You can usually get addresses that list your address as a suite number, this is better than a P.O. Box, if possible.
Having a real presence, especially in the US for American businesses, is essential. People are skeptical about fly-by-night organizations and adding real contact information is a simple way to remove this obstacle.
Your personal brand is your startup brand
I cringe when I hear the words personal branding, but it really applies here. At the beginning, your startup’s reputation is closely connected to the reputation of the founders. If the person or people behind a startup are hard working, show integrity, or are perceived of as bright or eager or resourceful, all of these traits will improve the likelihood that someone will take a risk and work with you, work for you, or invest in your startup.
If you appear faceless, transient or unknown, you’ve added hurdles to making that connection. If you’re able to tell a real story as to why you launched your product or service you’ll connect with prospects or investors and move your company forward.
Startups: Why are you avoiding putting information about you and your team on your web site?