Your Personal Brand Is What Sells Your Product

The Right Way To Start A Business With No Product

Paul Scott Jr
The Startup
Published in
7 min readSep 26, 2018


“woman holding balloons” by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

“Here’s my definition: A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” — Seth Godin

When people first think of starting a business, the first thing they think about is coming up with something that people will buy — why else would they go into business if they didn’t have anything to sell, right?

They think they have to come up with some new “state of the art technology” or that they have to create the next big social media platform that blows Facebook and Instagram out of the water.

Very few people actually make it out of the brainstorming phase, to bringing their concept to life in the form of a prototype that they then go on to mass produce.

They then go on to market and advertise their “brand new baby” like crazy, creating a website, blogging about their new innovative product, and spending money like crazy on advertisements for their social media handles — to be met with crickets or random trolls hiding behind profile pictures of their favorite celebrities.

It isn’t that their product isn’t useful, and it isn’t that their new invention isn’t timely.

They’re trying to compete for customers in a market thats already over saturated. The same customers that they have in their “cross-hairs” have already been served by other industry “giants” and startup businesses that made it to the market before they did.

Their storyline behind their brand isn’t as compelling because they’re saying the exact same thing that everyone else is saying — sometimes even better — but it makes no connection because their primary focus was on selling a product to be in business, as opposed to building relationships and finding products that serve and meet the needs of real people.

Failing Businesses Seem To Think That Humans Are Extinct

“You don’t need to save up the goodwill and encouragement you offer to others. It will be automatically replenished, and it pays dividends along the way.” — Seth Godin

You have to see “people” first, before you will ever see your first customer.

Before you’ll ever find customers that are interested in buying your product, you have to see the humanity in people and focus on making a genuine connection with them. You have to be interested in their needs and what they have to say, because thats the only way you’ll be able to find or create something that forges a market for customers that want what you have to offer— your aim should be to find or create products that meet needs, not products that make money.

At the heart of every successful start up and Fortune 500 business, is people — and without them, customers don’t even exist. No matter how good the product is, how many employees work for you or how “decorated” the board of directors are, no business exists without people who buy the product.

Nobody “sets out” to build a business — we set out to meet the needs of others, and to create an experience for people — and those people turn into the customers that build the business for us.

Their dollars build the physical location of the business, they pay the employees, fund expansion and the restocking of the product when ever merchandise runs out — but none of this would be possible without first building relationships with those people who tell us what they want by sharing their stories and experiences with us

The “Hubris” Of Caring

“Caring is expensive, but it also generates loyalty and word of mouth…not to mention that caring makes us all more human. Worth it.” — Seth Godin

What will your product be known for, besides being the next cool gadget or the next big thing that everyone uses to define the culture by?

Well — it won’t matter unless you give the customer something first, something thats free, something that they can connect with.

Todays market is changing like never before and now, people buy real human stories and real human interaction before they will buy anything that you have to offer them — no matter how stylish or trendy what you’re offering may be.

People actually buy your story, when you aren’t trying to “sell” them something.

People want vulnerability, they want to see a transparent human being that can relate to where they are in their personal lives and they want to know that somebody cares enough to listen — but above all, they want to know that you can relate them, or that you have a story to tell that ties into a solution that you came up with that they can use to get them through what ever obstacle they may be faced with.

This is why Nike is one of the highest performing sports brands of all time.

They build connections with people through their brand ambassadors.

Before a pair of shoes or any article of sports apparel is ever sold, people have already bought the stories of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo and Serena Williams. A connection is made because people can relate to stories that speak directly to where they are now.

Many people are currently dealing with hardship and adversity in their personal lives with school, relationships and making it on to a sports team.

Michael missed over 9000 shots and lost 300 games and still pushed on to become an NBA legend.

Just 6 years after not scoring a single point during a summer basketball camp, Kobe went on to be the 13th overall pick in the NBA Draft at 18 years old.

Bouncing back at age 15 from a heart surgery meant to save his career, Cristiano went on to become the most feared footballer in the world.

Serena proved the naysayers wrong by demonstrating that even the worlds greatest tennis player can be female and come straight out of Compton California.

These are the stories that people can relate to, because it speaks directly do them, and this is why the story is always bought before any product or service is ever sold.

Your story is your personal brand and people don’t care about what you have to sell until they know you’re story and what you’re about.

They want to know about the problems you solved for yourself, others and the hardships you’ve over come to make it to where you are now. They want to know how you did “it” so that they can be empowered to do it too.

When we share our stories, we make a connection with people. All human relationships are built on the ability to tell a story so captivating and truthful that others want to be apart of it — because we’ve shown that we can relate to them and that we are empathetic about who they are and what their experiences are.

Telling relatable stories, shows that you care.

Emotional Labor Will Make You A Fortune

“I have a hard time believing that people can’t care. I think that they often don’t see. They don’t see what we see, or interpret it differently. Or if they see, they see something you don’t see. But if they saw what you saw, and it was related to how they saw themselves, they’d act differently.” — Seth Godin

People have to care in order for a connection to be made — but first, they have to know that “you” care.

People can’t connect with stories that don’t resonate with them, and if they can’t connect with you, chances are likely that they won’t care to make a purchase from you either.

People will buy from someone that they can connect with before they buy some “state of the art” gadget thats ahead of its time, just because of what the latest ad in a magazine or a scientific study says.

Your personal brand is the connection.

Your “grooves” have to complement someone else’s.

You can’t force building blocks to fit together that don’t have edges or surfaces that don’t fit nicely together — our personal brands must be viewed from that same lens, as it pertains to connecting with people that we want to serve through our products and services.

People go with what they know to be familiar, not with what's popular, and thats why people will buy something thats more expensive over something thats half or a fraction of the price of the same product — because the story behind the brand of the more expensive product is more familiar to what the individual is currently experiencing with their own personal story.

You don’t need a product to start a business, you just need to care enough to listen to people in such a way that your response will be a story that shows you listened, that you can relate and that you have a solution to their problem.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by + 372,390 people.

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