(I just posted this on my Up And Running blog over at Entrepreneur.com. For the record, I rarely post the same thing in both places, but today, because I’m announcing this new pitch site, I’m making an exception.)
Consider yourself one of the first to know about the new Bplans.com pitch site at pitch.bplans.com. That means you can be one of the first to pitch and one of the first to get posted.
No, it’s not about putting your business in front of investors, although maybe it could be partly related to that. Instead, it’s about the art of the pitch. Free publicity perhaps too, and tips or comments. What it is about is the art of the pitch. Doing it right, doing it well, and getting yourself and your business up and showing up. (And let’s pause here to note that The Art of the Pitch is a chapter in Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start book. Click here for his reading of that chapter.)
Take your browser to pitch.bplans.com and you’ll see the “Add pitch” button you can use to upload your pitch. What follows is a page of basic information (name, address, logo, etc.) and then a second page where you can add a YouTube video URL if you want, or short texts to deal with 10 key topics.
This is all free to the users. What do you get out of it? A dedicated URL you can use to refer people to your business summary, plus the possibility of comments; this is free publicity, and publicity is assumed to be good. What do we get out of it? Bplans.com is about starting, growing, and planning a business, so we get more interesting stuff on our site.
And me? I like business pitches. That goes from the 60-second so-called elevator pitch to the 10-20 minute business pitch with slides. To me, business pitches, when well done, are fascinating. I see a lot of them. I see them in my role as a member of the Willamette Angel Conference, and I get to see them as a judge at venture competitions including Forbes and several business school contests. And I’ll be watching them on this site too.
Like they say in the commercials: do it today. Do it now. Click here.
To me it used to be about well-known experts whose names became brands in an almost-traditional business sense: Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Tom Peters; they were experts whose names sold books and speaking engagements. Lately my view of personal branding has expanded as I start following John Jantsch, Anita Campbell, and Pam Slim, for example; bloggers, tweeters, authors, and experts.
I like to think that my favorite experts, my favorite personal brands, are authentic. Guy Kawasaki really is an investor, really was an Apple evangelist, and believes every word he says. Seth Godin has built his remarkable name around remarkable marketing. John Jantsch lives for Duct Tape Marketing, and Anita Campbell for Small Business Trends. These are real people.
And, whether you like it or not, you too are a personal brand. Much as I dislike the phrase personal branding it’s not just for big names any more. It’s for just about everybody who has enough online access to be reading this post.
Whether you like it or not. Which brings me to Me 2.0, Dan Schawbel’s new book — due out today — on personal branding.
Reading Dan Schawbel on personal branding is something like a mirror image of a mirror. He has a great personal brand. He’s always on Twitter, often on major business blogs (not to mention his own) and is frequently quoted in business magazines. And he’s only 24 years old.
Like his book, and his quick career success, Dan is completely immersed in the realities that have grown up in just the last few years: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.
It may be that being young wasn’t even an obstacle, in his case, because that whole world began on college campuses (mostly) and then spread to the old folks like me. So of course he’s only 24. How could he not be?
And he’s got some very good advice to share. Beginning with his main point, the “like it or not” truth about it. Personal branding is no longer an elite concept reserved for a few big-name authors, columnists, or experts. The new world of the 21st century, with social media and Web 2.0 and Google and friends, makes it a fact of life for just about everybody. He tends to focus a lot on the Gen Y college student looking for a job and starting a career, but he would, wouldn’t he. There’s a lot of specific, detailed, real-world advice here about how to get your first job and manage your career, in the context of social media, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and friends. And a lot of what he says applies just as well to an old guy enjoying his journey into social media. I had to chuckle: what is “Me 2.0” to Dan is something like “Me 11.0” to me. I’ve been around longer.
I still hate the phrase. Personal branding sounds to me like white suits and pink ties and gold chains. I wish we’d called it personal footprint, or something like that. Maybe just engrave the phrase “this goes on your permanent record” on every keyboard.
When I started in journalism close to 40 years ago, one of the better teachers suggested that we also keep an ego file, always, of things we’d written. Today it’s almost reverse — Google and friends keep the file of things you’ve written, whether you like it or not. And Dan points out that you should think about it ahead of time, and make sure you like it.
He tells some good stories: Facebook stupidity, for example — the guy who was convicted for a crime from evidence he posted on Facebook, and the almost-urban-myth of the woman who skipped work because she was “sick” but posted her free-day fling on Facebook.
Much more important than that, however, is a well structured review of how the new world almost requires an awareness of personal branding. Unless you’re outside that new world you can’t escape it, and you can, with some good thinking and organization, manage it. Visibility is there.
Some key points that apply to me and my baby-boomer friends as we enter into social media:
Authenticity: You can’t fake it for very long. You have to actually be yourself, or the effort to be that other person is overwhelming.
You have to live with who you’ve made yourself to be in things that show up in Google and friends.
Better to think about it and organize it — like a standard profile, picture, and personal statement — than to let it be random.
It’s amazing to me that Dan is only 24 years old. But maybe that’s the point. He’s onto something.
Please, people, don’t get misdirected on this. The business planning is there for the company, as in the founders, the entrepreneurs, the people who are building and running the company. It isn’t a document, it’s a process, which begins with a document and continues forever with a live planning process involving frequent course corrections. It isn’t just for investors (or bankers) to read, and it doesn’t matter whether anybody else reads it.
Are you kidding? Do you think any successful business gets there without planning? Don’t confuse the plan with the planning. One of the investors actually cites the Eisenhower quote I use a lot, “plans are useless, but planning is essential,” although he credits Napoleon (and maybe Eisenhower got it from him).
This comes up again — and I apologize because I’ve written it a lot lately — because I really enjoyed reviewing the Angel Capital Panel discussion on the new Industry Standard site moderated by Guy Kawasaki and including three of the all-time hall-of-fame angel investors in Silicon Valley. It’s an online video at the Standard site, which I found thanks to Guy posting it on his site. The talk about how these investors look at deals is fascinating. The talk about the early days of Google is classic. This is our industry history.
There’s an underlying theme that reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink (there’s a link to it below to the right in my book recommendations) about how quickly people make important decisions. These investors say they know in 30 seconds whether they like a deal. They say they want more information, not less. Guy suggests that it’s “hot-or-not” rather than “eHarmony.” No wonder he’s in such demand, that’s a great summary.
But don’t get fooled about business planning. Too many of our opinion-leader experts are trapped in a now-obsolete conception of the business plan as an old-fashioned ponderous document that they hated doing, when they did it. So now they want to save you from the pain. What they don’t get is that business planning, done right, is not painful. And it’s not for anybody else. Like life planning, you do it for yourself.