From about 2007 to 2015 I was all about the personal brand of “Yaro” and the teaching business that ran behind it.
Like so many other online teacher entrepreneurs, self-promotion was my marketing strategy.
I wrote about how much money I made and how I made it.
I shared pictures and videos of me driving the BMW that my blog business paid for.
I talked about buying property and traveling the world and shared all these behind-the-scenes stories from my life and my business.
This is, of course, not that different from what is considered ‘normal’ on social media today.
We live in a narcissistic online world, yet you can’t deny how compelling it is as a marketing technique.
I Used To Be An Entrepreneur
When I started out online I felt like a pure entrepreneur.
I wanted to build something that created value, made money and perhaps sell it one day.
That plan had nothing to do with my personal brand or talking about myself.
For a good few years I was an entrepreneur, building an e-commerce store and content site focused on a card game, and then an essay editing business.
As the story goes, I sold those previous startups to go all-in on the business of ME.
My personal brand focused teaching business turned out to be highly lucrative, yet on some level it didn’t quite seem as entrepreneurial.
To be fair though, I loved a lot of it.
I enjoyed teaching, being a minor-celebrity, having people respect my knowledge, and most of all, watching as some of the people I taught went on to succeed online.
It’s Not About Me Anymore
In 2017, with my co-founder Claire, we launched a startup called InboxDone.com – a people powered email management company.
The roll-out of this business was powered by my personal brand.
All our initial customers came from knowing me. They found out about us via my blog and email list, or through connections I had made as an information marketer.
For the first year or two, the business of Yaro was very much the marketing channel for InboxDone.com. Even today it still makes an impact.
Yet, something changed along the way. I no longer had to be the face, the person always out there online talking about myself as a means to make money.
This became very apparent in the kind of clientele we began to attract at InboxDone.
We had lawyers, doctors, venture capitalists, concrete builders, restaurant owners and real estate agents all become customers.
Amazingly enough, none of these people had heard of me!
Of course they did speak to me on a discovery call before signing up, but I was just the co-founder of the company, not ‘Yaro’ the personal brand, that blogging guy they knew from years before.
This experience has been refreshing and exciting, yet also confusing at times.
I say confusing because for so many years I’ve been used to waking up and essentially being a narcissist marketer.
Now instead I wake up and promote a great business, selling a highly valuable service, but without needing teach anything to do with making money.
The Business Of Business
It’s easy to live in ‘bubbles’ online.
If you’re in the business of information marketing, it won’t take long before you’re seeing ads and posts from people talking about how much money they make using all kinds of tools, techniques — and of course, the power of their personal brand.
This echo chamber will grow to the point where you start to believe that the path to success must be to get out there and talk about yourself.
Over the years many of my students asked if they too had to ‘get on the stage’ and talk about their life.
I told them how powerful it is to share your own story, to explain how you did something as a way to market your teaching and coaching.
I still believe this.
However, I also told them that there are far more businesses out that DO NOT follow the personal promotion path.
You never hear about all these entrepreneurs because they don’t have to self-promote as marketing.
They sell goods and services and software — and while they no doubt share case study stories from their customers — the founders don’t have to be self promotional to make their business work.
The industry of teaching how to make money is unique in that to prove your legitimacy, you need to tell stories about how much money you make.
This is why it frequently feels like a pyramid scheme, with everyone seemingly making money from teaching something to do with making money…and the cycle repeats.
Incidentally, if you do want to follow this path, read this blog post first: How To Make Money Teaching People How To Make Money.
What About You?
My advice to you, no matter what kind of business you have, is to remember that stories sell.
For some businesses, that story is from the founder or the personal brand influencer.
For other businesses, it’s the customer story or the product creation story, or the science story… whatever is compelling enough to draw in attention.
Last year at InboxDone.com, we produced what we call a ‘hero’ case study video. You can watch it here:
We plan to do more of these types of videos with our customers because it tells the story behind our service better than any other medium.
For you and your business, decide what story is the best to share and then share it using whatever mediums and modalities you can.
If your personal story is the one you want to share, and you like the idea of waking up each day talking about yourself, then go for it. Marketing is marketing.
For me personally, I still have my coaching business so I still remain a personal brand.
Like many entrepreneurs, I also enjoy being part of the business conversation online, so I will continue to share parts of my own story where I feel compelled to do so.
However, in all honesty, I feel a sense of relief when I look at what other business coach style entrepreneurs are doing today, and I know that right now, my business doesn’t need me to do that.