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Summary:

Making the choice between promoting your business using your own name or that of a company is a very personal decision that sometimes takes a lot of consideration. The most common option is to brand yourself under a company, which works well when your company name […]

Making the choice between promoting your business using your own name or that of a company is a very personal decision that sometimes takes a lot of consideration.

The most common option is to brand yourself under a company, which works well when your company name is unique, brandable and broad enough to encompass a variety of products and services. This option works well for technology companies, for example, like Google and Apple.

Another option is to brand yourself under your own name. This is the way I ultimately decided to brand myself, but coming to that conclusion wasn’t quick or easy.

How It Works For Me

In years past, I tried to identify and promote each of my business ventures individually, but more recently, I asked myself what my main mission was for my work and business. I was able to succinctly say that my goal was to be a resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Once I realized that I had that one central objective, I saw that it really served as an umbrella for all that I do.

All of my work in some way supports small business owners and entrepreneurs. I have one site that provides articles and podcasts on issues related to small business owners, as well as products and services to help them along their way. I have a radio show that covers topics relevant to this same group, as well as a web design company that serves, for the most part, solo entrepreneurs. And, of course, I write for sites like this one on topics relevant to the group.

That unifying thread of serving small business owners and the entrepreneurial crowd shows itself in everything that I do, and usually, clients who work with me through one of my sites end up working with or following me through one or more of the others, so I decided to simply introduce myself under my own name. I changed my email signature, Twitter handle, Posterous handle, etc. to my personal name (or a shorter version of it), and now, when I introduce myself, my business card points people to my main web site (the domain is my name), which then links them to any of my business ventures that fall under the umbrella of what I do.

Instead of trying to wrap my mind around all the different products, companies, or spin-off sites that I develop, which will likely be an ever-growing and changing list, I now focus on thinking about what I personally want to represent and be known for: helping small business owners and entrepreneurs through a variety of resources, products, and services. People start with knowing me and what I do and then figure out which of the sites under that umbrella might help them.

Other Successful Examples

Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, and Gary Vaynerchuk are examples of successful entrepreneurs who identify themselves by their own names rather than those of their companies. They each have two or more sites, books, or companies underneath them and are considered experts in a particular area or niche. Seth Godin is known for marketing, Chris Brogan for social networking, and Gary Vaynerchuk for parlaying passion into business. Their followers know the niche that they serve, and they know them by their individual names first then that of their companies or products.

Michael Port is another example. He has his main, personally-branded site, MichaelPort.com, which directs visitors to any of his books and programs. People know him as a marketing expert, or maybe as the “book yourself solid” guy. They don’t necessarily remember every one of his books or products, but they know him and his name, and they know what he represents.

When to Go With Your Name

I think that if there’s even a remote chance you’ll start another business, sell your current one, or change directions, it’s probably better to go with your name over that of your company. This option works well for entrepreneurs and writers especially. If you think that you’ll start spin-off companies, products, or services and want to be known as an expert on a particular topic, then going with your name might be the easier choice when it comes to branding and promotion.

For me, it’s been much easier to promote myself, definitely, but I’ll also say that it seems to be a lot easier for new contacts to wrap their mind around what I do as well. They immediately see that I do a variety of things, all geared to help them as small business owners. It has made things easier to manage, and I’m much more confident in my marketing efforts as a result.

How do you promote yourself, as your name or that of your company? What made you decide to go that way?

Photo by Flickr user Frogman!, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

  1. Biggest mistake about naming my site after me? It’s worth money and I can’t really sell it, can I? Well damn. I could sell WebWorkerDaily.com if I’m OM and it’d work just fine.

    See what I mean?

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    1. Great, great point, Chris, and I should have clarified on that. When I introduce people to me, I give them my “virtual business card” site (my name), but my personal site doesn’t house content, products, or services. Those are all under the company brands. If you had all your content and services under your personal name and eventually wanted to sell it, that would be a big problem, so great point.

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  2. The difficulty is when there is a famous person with your name.(Christine Taylor is an actress and is married to Ben Stiller.) Google my name and you may see me nude. :) I have used @chrisgtaylor on twitter and people think I am male. Christinegrogantaylor on LinkedIn but that is a mouth full. Any ideas?
    Identity crisis

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    1. I actually struggled with that, too, Christine. Women are at an unfair disadvantage here, too, but I decided to stick with my maiden name for the most part, and I’m transitioning to it 100% where I can. That’s who I know I’ll be for the rest of my life. It can be a sticky and hard choice to make, but it’s what I personally decided to do. I have found, too, that there are other people who have my name out there, but we aren’t focused on the same things in life, so we haven’t crossed paths or had any confusion there so far. It’s a tough thing to figure out, for sure, which is why I decided to write about it. My solution won’t work for everyone, but if it helps someone in some way, it’ll hopefully save them a little of the frustration I’ve had around the topic for the last several years, or maybe it’ll at least provide some perspective on the situation.

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  3. You really don’t know how helpful this was. I’ve had analysis paralysis over my branding for some time.

    Great stuff thanks!

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    1. I know just what you mean, William. I seriously struggled and debated about this for years, and I was so glad when it finally clicked for me. As I mentioned in my comment to Christine, it won’t work for everyone, but if it gives you a starting point, great! I’m glad it helps.

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  4. Oh, I agonized over this for months. I ended up calling my business “Copylicious” because I was just starting out and no one would remember my real name anyway. If I did ever decide to start another company (nooo!), hopefully I could just invest some of the proceeds from selling “Copylicious” into better marketing to make up for my unknown, ordinary, very forgettable name.

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    1. I know, Kelly. It’s a tough decision to make sometimes, and I know that’s not the case for everyone, but I certainly had issues with it.

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  5. It is a dilemma. I’m still stuck. Most folks who know me, know treypennington.com or @treypennington. Almost no one knows my “company” name (thepenningtongroup.com). As I’m now beginning to make most of my money from speaking, @treypennington seems to work okay.

    I think all of us know Chris Brogan as chrisbrogan.com, the blogger. When I want to tell people his company name, I have to stop and look it up. I just don’t remember it.

    Another smart blogger is Amber Naslund. Most of us probably know her as @ambercadabra, a quite memorable moniker. Her blog is called Altitude. She works for Radian6. When we talk about her at conventions, we nearly always say, “ambercadabra.”

    Maybe we’ll all get well enough known to go by something as simple as Prince, or Cher, or Michael, or Madonna, or Elivs, or even Sir Richard. All we have to do is be incredibly remarkable, willing to offend those who don’t “get” us, in order to so fascinate those who do. That’s all.

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    1. It really is a dilemma, Trey, and I think it’s not always as straightforward as we’d hope. I haggled with it for a long time, but finally feel that I’ve found a solution that works for me.

      I absolutely love the way you put that, too, “All we have to do is be incredibly remarkable, willing to offend those who don’t ‘get’ us, in order to so fascinate those who do.” Well said, and I couldn’t agree more.

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  6. This is exactly what I’ve been struggling with since going out on my own in September 2009. I truly feel inspired. Thanks for the great post!

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    1. Thanks, Jay! I’m glad it helps. I understand what you’re going through, but you’ll eventually figure out what will work best for your situation. Good luck!

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  7. Thanks Amber, this was such a wonderful article!

    I have http://corettajackson.com, http://businessethos.com and http://toddlerscholar.com. Sometimes I struggle with how to brand my sites effectively on a budget- even though I believe I am developing some sound brands.

    …researching new hosting packages, themes and will revamp my sites from there ; )
    I welcome tips—-

    Thanks Again!

    Best,
    @CorettaJackson
    @ToddlerScholar
    @businessethos

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    1. Thanks, Coretta! I’m glad you liked the article. You hit on another concern that has to be a consideration for business owners, too, and that’s money. It’s not always affordable to think about adding pieces to the marketing puzzle. Great point. Good luck with your revamp!

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  8. I’m in the middle of this thing now, it’s really hard to decine, but I don’t wanna rush into anything. Good read, thanks.

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    1. I agree, Michal. It’s definitely hard to decide what to do, and it took me quite a while to figure out and was something I really wanted to consider and not just rush into. You’re doing the right thing by waiting a bit.

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  9. Interesting discussion. I’m working through this decision with a client and one of the considerations is whether using one’s personal name as opposed to one’s company name is more inviting in a social network setting.

    In other words, are people more likely to follow back or friend a person than they are to follow or fan “ACME PR company”?

    This particular client is a small firm that wants to engage B2B, but also with consumers (moms, green folk, et al) as a way of listening to what people think about issues. Also, they want to engage followers interested in some of the kinds of campaigns they work on.

    Would love to know your thoughts, Amber, and those of your readers.

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    1. Interesting thought about the social network side of things, Kenneth. I guess from my perspective, I’d say that it depends. I certainly don’t mind following a company I trust, but if it’s a new company to me, I might be a little more hesitant to follow him/her, simply because I don’t want to be spammed with all kinds of marketing messages. Then again, there’s always that pull between looking professional in B2B situations and being approachable and more personal.

      It’s, I think, a deeply personal decision and one that should reflect your own personality and style. I always err on the side of being real.

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  10. This post is so relevant. I’ve been amazed at the decisions I have to make as an entrepreneur; some I clearly realized and some I really never considered. It’s amazing!

    As for branding, my feeling currently is to brand a company name – Solution Explorers in my case – but instead of a biz logo use my headshot, since folks are doing direct business with me. It’s been my experience that very few logos, even professionally designed ones, truly tell others much about your company. I wonder if this is just another form of your idea or completely different though. Thoughts?

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    1. I know, Keith, this never crossed my mind or even occurred to me to be a consideration I’d need to make when I first started out. When you sign up to be a business owner, you just have no idea what all that entails! It really is amazing.

      It’s interesting, too, how we approach all the little nuances of our branding and marketing. Do I use my name or the company’s? The company’s logo or my headshot? There are so many parts, and I think with all the different social networks, it makes it even more complicated.

      No, absolutely, I think even the logo (and when to use it) is a consideration. I’ve found that, for me, my use of the company logos depends on the situation. Sometimes, like on the company Facebook fan pages and Twitter profiles, I use the company logo, but on my personal profiles, I use my photo.

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