Most CEOs and small business owners don’t have personal websites.
And yet, there are numerous examples of forward-thinking business leaders who have turned their own personal brands into business builders, starting with a personal website, but extending to other platforms from there.
In many cases, people have used their personal website as an online resume or portfolio showcase. Artists, graphic designers, web designers, freelance writers, authors—these are the obvious specialists who we all see building personal websites to present their work.
But what about CEOs? Small business owners? Even entrepreneurs? Sometimes they are the very face of their companies’ businesses. They have opinions, perspectives, worldviews, and they even have their own personal brands whether they see it that way or not. But again, no personal website to feature themselves.
Finding CEOs with personal websites is hard
So what I’ve chosen to do here is highlight 5 CEOs or founders who set great examples with their personal websites, but attack it in different ways.
There are interesting lessons found in each person’s approach to branding themselves. And as I’ve said before, by virtue of them creating a brand that’s distinct from their companies, they’ve established their own personal marketing platforms as well.
I’ve already highlighted three individuals who have done a tremendous job in establishing a personal marketing platform on top of their personal brand. See my articles on Joseph Ranseth, Rebekah Radice, and Phil Gerbyshak.
But let’s get to those CEOs and founders.
You had to know I would lead with GaryVee. His site is all about Gary. He’s the CEO of VaynerMedia. He builds businesses. He’s written best-selling books. He’s the focal point of an online documentary called DailyVee. He sells clothing encouraging you to hustle. He has his own newsletter, separate from his companies.
His site tells you all of this. The thing is, Gary evangelizes people doing all they can to put themselves out there—and exemplifies it to the nth degree. He once said, “Watch what I do, not what I say.” Well, this is what he does: He markets Gary Vaynerchuk. It’s no wonder that brands flock to VaynerMedia to learn his voodoo.
No doubt, Gary has wisdom to share, and he does so freely across numerous channels. But what most won’t duplicate that he does well? Market their CEO like he markets himself.
Gary may be far beyond what you feel you could ever do to market yourself, and therefore your company. But watch him enough to see how he puts his personality on the frontlines every day, never afraid who he might turn off. His brashness, his curiosity, his hustle, his personality, all attract people and brands to him.
This one you didn’t expect. Josh James is the founder and CEO of Domo. He’s far more understated that Gary Vaynerchuk, needless to say. But make no mistake, Josh wants you to know who he is, what’s important to him, and how he contributes to various communities.
While Josh doesn’t update his blog much, you get a good feel for who he is in other ways. His About page is helpful here, but there’s much more depth with his Startup Rules. There are 56 of them in all. Each thoughtfully displayed and branded. Here’s an example:
Some of these rules might be interesting to spark conversations with the CEOs of potential clients, should they stumble across them. Others might be intriguing ways to attract employees. However you view them, they’re a really interesting way Josh has branded himself.
I also like that Josh pulls no punches with what he shares on Twitter. Some may be slightly alienated by it, others will embrace it. He is himself.
Jeff Flake's devastating indictment of his Republican Party, in 11 quotes https://t.co/QIpt2lBqgU
— Josh James (@joshjames) August 1, 2017
When you know who you are and what you stand for, you can be exactly that. Boldly. Unapologetically. It doesn’t give you a license to run roughshod over people, obviously, but it can be liberating in terms of how you work with and attract business opportunities.
Andrew is the founder of Mixergy. It’s funny how social media works. Both Mixergy and Andrew have Twitter accounts. Mixergy is at the hub of most of his conversations with his personal Twitter account, but sprinkled in are some retweets and shares of others’ content.
Clearly, people like what Andrew, the person, has to say, almost as much as the Mixergy brand— which, for all intents and purposes, is just Andrew. At the time I write this, there are 48K Mixergy followers, 38K Andrew followers. The point here is that most people see Mixergy and Andrew Warner as synonymous. But people seek him out almost on-par with his company brand.
As for his personal website, Andrew keeps it pretty lean and clean, but professional. Great, approachable photo for the home page. You can see he’s available for speaking (Side note: Hey, small business owners. Do you make yourself available for speaking engagements, with the wisdom you’ve amassed over the years?). You can see a cute snapshot of him with his wife and baby on his Press Kit page.
This site is a great example of how most small business owners can get started with developing their personal brand and yet use it as a personal marketing platform. You can navigate right over to the Mixergy site from Andrew’s site. Very simple, very easy.
David is the founder and CEO of Drift. He’s also the former Chief Product Officer at HubSpot. Drift is hot right now. But beyond the product’s capabilities, which are impressive, I’ve found how David markets himself, and his company, to be exemplary.
Though David’s website is no great shakes—it’s a true example of minimalist personal websites—it’s the other things he does that demonstrate the power of having a personal marketing platform, not just a personal brand. To wit:
David has a tremendous following on Twitter, with over 140K followers, and he doesn’t take it for granted. He uses Twitter powerfully with professional wisdom and life tidbits as well. And he gets great engagement.
It's no longer what you know; today it's how fast can you learn.
— David Cancel (@dcancel) May 28, 2016
He podcasts with his Drift Director of Marketing, Dave Gerhardt. The Seeking Wisdom podcast is very popular, with dozens of 5-star reviews.
He not only maintains his personal website and newsletter, he keeps regular blog going at Medium, with strong opinions on how he leads his company and other topics.
He wrote a book titled Hypergrowth for SaaS startup companies—and gives it away for free.
He wrote an extensive ebook titled Burn Down: A Better Way to Build Products for the same audience—and gives it away for free.
Word on the street is that he his heavily active in the Boston business community, giving back freely with lessons learned. I’m only scratching the surface of what David does personally, because you can learn a lot of lessons about his approach to marketing by following Drift as well.
David is himself a masterclass in managing a personal marketing platform.
5. David S. Rose
David is the CEO of Gust. He’s got a pretty straightforward personal website, with all the things you’d expect to see there. The About page, Media, an extensive bio, links to his contacts for speaking engagements and so on. It’s not groundbreaking, but it is a good model to look at.
David is the author of several books on startup companies, including The Startup Checklist, Angel Investing: The Gust Guide to Making Money and Having Fun Investing in Startups, and others. These aren’t free ebooks. They’re popular, published books you can buy through numerous outlets.
And that second one should raise your eyebrow. What a genius personal marketing idea to incorporate your company’s name and approach to doing things into a book that you sell on Amazon and in book stores. Brilliant. And they’re highly rated, with dozens of reviews.
But there’s a hidden gem in that main menu of his personal website that I want you to see, because it’s an intriguing ingredient in his secret sauce:
David is active on Quora. Let me restate that. David has written over 6,300 answers to questions on Quora. (Insert record scratch here.) Yes, over 6,300 answers at the time I write this.
He has answered questions about the best books on entrepreneurship, on investing, the minimum table stakes for being an angel investor, whether you’re personally liable for a loan when your company declares bankruptcy, the best ramen in NYC, whether Bohemian Rhapsody is the greatest song ever. He has covered it all.
Quora is its own topic for another day, because it’s been a tremendous personal marketing platform for others I know. For now, let it sink in that David, and his business, therefore, have likely garnered hundreds of thousands of views from his personal marketing work at Quora. Possibly into the millions.
Did I mention it’s free to participate on Quora?
If these five examples haven’t proven to you the value of building a personal marketing platform, along with the others I’ve mentioned, I don’t know what to tell you. CEOs and founders, you can build your business through who you are, not just through how you market your business. Yours can be your quiet little side project that you work on in stealth, or it can be the core of your marketing approach.