Branding Dilemma: When to Use Your Own 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.

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