Elon Musk has always been a divisive figure. After buying a large share of Twitter in May 2022, Twitter users called his random and questionable tweets and business decisions a midlife crisis. Thus, the richest entrepreneur’s image began to deteriorate.
According to a New York Times article, Musk’s behaviour and online presence even damaged Tesla’s image as stakeholders and investors questioned his leadership skills.
The controversy highlights why and how your image plays such an important role for entrepreneurs and their companies. How do you avoid a damaging image?
In this article, we explain the importance of your image as an entrepreneur and give you a few pointers on how to create a good reputation for yourself.
What’s an Entrepreneur’s Image and Why Is It Important?
In business, the public’s perception of you and your company can make or break a career. This is particularly important when you think about how your employees’ livelihoods are on the line, along with your own financial security.
When we talk about an entrepreneur’s image, we are referring to what your customers, stakeholders, and potential investors think and feel about you and your company. As a business person, if you have a poor reputation, people will remember and perhaps be hesitant to engage with your product or service.
Your image is linked to the trust your target audience puts into you and your company. When they associate negative headlines or reviews with your business, they’ll be less likely to spend their money on you. As a consumer, you wouldn’t want to waste your hard-earned income on a product from a company that has a bad reputation. If Elon Musk continues to receive public ridicule because of his comments on Twitter and his questionable business decisions, his companies will continue to lose the public’s trust.
Image As the Result of Marketing
Given its connection to your target audience, an entrepreneur’s image is closely tied to marketing and branding. As it is difficult to measure your brand and its reputation, you need ways to quantify your target audience’s perception of you and your company.
Brand equity, brand awareness, and brand recognition all play major roles in that.
Brand equity describes the value of your business brand. It serves to measure your companies’ worth in terms of the public’s opinion. In more practical terms, that means brand equity concerns how well your customers or stakeholders perceive the different marketing components. One of those components is your image.
Brand awareness plays into brand equity and marketing as well, but it rather focuses on the very first step of marketing your business: Putting your name and products out there. Your image starts right there. People, without being aware of your company and what it does, none of your work matters. Your business needs to be profitable in our capitalist society, and an ever-growing customer base is key to that.
After making customers and competitors aware of your presence on the market, focus on brand recognition. This part of the process closely links to an entrepreneur’s image in that it describes, as the term itself suggests, to what extent your customers recognize your brand. For example, you might associate a distinct shade of blue with Facebook’s logo, even if you aren’t a user on that platform. That recognition can be positive or negative, which then directly links to your image.
What Factors Influence an Entrepreneur’s Image?
Thus far, we have made the distinction between your image and the image of your business, and what general marketing factors play a role in that. Unless you are a famous entrepreneur like Elon Musk or Oprah, most of your customers won’t know your name even if you are the CEO and founder of your company. That recognition depends on how you market yourself and your products.
That general observation isn’t the only distinction we want to make. In order to paint the full picture, we will discuss six of the most important components that influence your image:
Easily the most important factor in your image is customer experience. Your image depends on how your customers perceive your staff, customer service options, and their experience with your products.
Reviews and Ratings
Your customers look towards what other people have already said about your product and company. This happens through personal recommendations or online feedback options such as star rating systems. Customers seeing this feedback has the potential to sway their image of you.
You don’t want to be known for making poor investments, tax-related incidents, or the reasoning behind your pricing. The public and stakeholders view Musk buying Twitter for $54 billion as a poor financial decision. This perception has a negative impact on his image as an entrepreneur.
You can’t market your products or services without social media, a website, and good content on both. Make content marketing one of your priorities because customers will take note of subpar quality. If your Twitter administrator doesn’t deliver good work and your website design is unpleasant, it’ll damage your image.
Despite our technological advancements and impersonal digital structures, most people still value authenticity in the products and services they’re consuming. If your company markets itself as environmentally aware and focusing on sustainability but the labels of your products or reports show this is not entirely the case, customers will question your intentions and credibility.
PR work’s importance cannot be overstated. In fact, consistently good press will strengthen your image whereas bad press and scandals will damage it significantly. Use the press to your advantage and make sure your name or company is out there in frequent intervals.
How to Create a Strong Image for Yourself and Your Business
The goal of this article is not only to give you useful theoretical information on what it means to have an image but also to guide you towards building a strong image for yourself in practical terms.
Step 1: Evaluate Your Status Quo
The first step to improvement is always to see what the status quo is. In other words, what’s the current situation, and does anything need to change. Evaluate your image and all its contributing factors before you set goals in areas that you want to improve.
Step 2: Know Your Target Audience
This step can be part of step one. Without knowing your target audience, you won’t get the results you want. Marketing needs to be as specific as possible to work effectively. A great way to do this is to use empathy maps or customer personae to analyse what your target audience thinks and feels about you and your product.
To learn more about these two useful tools, visit our posts “How to Take Advantage of Customer Personae in Business” or “Empathy Maps and How to Use Them Effectively” on our blog.
Step 3: Know Yourself
Brand identity is as important as your target audience to build a good image. Figure out why you do what you do, how you do it, and what it is you’re offering. If you can answer each of those questions in a concise and simple sentence or two, you have effectively described the image you want to have.
Step 4: Analyse and Implement your findings
This final step is the most extensive and practical one. Once you know your target audience and your key messaging, implement those ideas into every aspect of branding and marketing to influence the public’s perception. Every area of your business then has to reflect that brand as well. This includes your brand’s name, events, web design, logos, awards, customer experience, and many more. Consistency is key to create a good image for yourself as an entrepreneur.
How Do You Fix an Entrepreneur’s Bad Image?
Imagine putting in all that work to continuously build a good image for you and your company only for one mistake or misfortune to render that work useless. It sounds dramatic but the reality of our ever-connected and sensationalist modern society means that one incident can have a major negative impact on your business.
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” — Benjamin Franklin
It’s easy to lose a good reputation and difficult to rebuild it. Overcoming an incident, bad press, and therefore a bad image doesn’t have one simple solution. It’s a case-by-case issue that is best solved with a competent team of marketing specialists and advisors you trust. It might not be as easy for entrepreneurs to regain the public’s positive perception of them as it is for celebrities who have public scandals, but it’s not impossible.
Every single (potential) customer will have an opinion of you or your company. It’s your job to make sure that their opinion is positive so that it appeals to your target audience. An entrepreneur’s image directly translates to the trust your customers and stakeholders put into you and your work. Don’t take that trust for granted and use it to its fullest potential to build the strongest reputation possible.
Working hard towards securing a good reputation and image for yourself is not just desirable for personal feelings of content. Avoiding mistakes and building your marketing strategy around the public’s perception of you are crucial to secure your financial future and success.