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What Others Say
About Founder Brand
(And Who Should Read This Book)
Today, people want to buy from people. We want to work with people that we know, like, and trust. And this is why I believe that the clearest path to success in marketing (if your goal is to build awareness for your brand) is to start with the founder. A founder with a brand gives your marketing efforts superpowers. A founder brand builds trust and conveys expertise, leadership, content, personality, and creates lasting relationships.
When you’re starting out with your business, you need every advantage you can find, and building a brand for the founder can give you an incredible wedge.
Yet, several factors block even the most successful startups from leaning into the founder advantage:
- The founder doesn’t know where to start building their brand, or who to hire to do it.
- The founder wants to create a brand but doesn’t have the time.
- The marketing team doesn’t want to put in the necessary effort because they can’t justify the ROI (Return on Investment).
- The marketing team wants to build the founder's brand but doesn’t have the time, bandwidth or the knowledge to do it.
I've been there and heard all of the objections, from the founder doesn’t have enough time to “we don’t know how to measure this” to “we have too many competing priorities”. Yet, I’ve seen this work too many times to accept those excuses. I had to develop my own framework that replicates positive results time and again.
It’s a marketing strategy that I used to help Drift become one of the fastest growing SaaS companies of all-time and achieve over a billion dollar valuation. It’s a marketing strategy that I used to help Privy get acquired by Attentive for nine-figures.
And in this book, I’m going to do my best to share that marketing strategy with you: it’s all about building a brand for the company’s founder. This is a channel that is still overlooked (and most often completely ignored).
A founder with a brand is one of the best marketing channels you can have today, and in this book I'm going to teach you how to do it.
Who should read this book: startup founders, marketers who work with startup founders, entrepreneurs, and anyone who wants to build a brand using social media and podcasting (I write for founders in this book but the lessons can be applied to your side project or your personal brand; if you want to build an audience online this is the playbook I recommend following).
Who should not read this book: startup founders who do not believe in marketing, startup founders who don't believe in channels like social media or podcasting, founders who don't have any time to commit to improving their marketing. This book has no secrets. The ideas in here are straight forward. But they will only work if you're already thinking to yourself "I know I should be doing more to build my brand and help grow this business" and you're ready to do something about it. This is not an infomercial that promises you 6 pack abs while you just sit there on the couch. In order to get the advantage that a founder brand creates you do actually need to do some work. But if that's what you're here for, then I got you.
Foreward By Hiten Shah, CEO, Nira.com
“A founder with a brand is the best marketing channel you can have today. Dave’s book teaches you how to do it for yourself.”
I am Hiten Shah, CEO of Nira.com, where we focus on keeping your company’s internal documents secure.
I have known and worked with Dave Gerhardt for six years. To understand why I would want to write the foreword for Dave’s book, you have to understand how we came to collaborate, which happened because of Drift’s founder David Cancel.
Prior to Drift, David Cancel was at HubSpot. We competed for the same clientele, and I quickly decided I would never compete against him again. Not because he was an aggressive competitor, but because he was so customer-centric that it would be hard for anyone to outdo him. I learned from his emphasis, but knew I couldn’t beat him at meeting the customer’s needs.
Fast forward to his starting Drift, and we connected again. He asked for advice on marketing, and I’d give my very blunt recommendations on how Drift should carve out their segment of the market.
Then Dave Gerhardt joined the Drift team, and the magic happened.
David Cancel asked me to talk through some of my ideas with Dave. In our conversation, the idea of promoting David Cancel as the founder of Drift grew, as opposed to marketing the as-of-yet unknown products of Drift.
Dave internalized and then celebrated the idea that David Cancel was someone who people should hear from directly. Dave used his expertise in social media and in podcasting to take David’s very clear message and profound knowledge, and publish it into the world.
By taking the time to get to know David Cancel, Dave pulled the words and ideas out of David, and used them to build the brand around him as Drift’s founder.
Those of us in the field watched this journey unfold. People who followed David’s journey developed trust and connection to him and Drift, meaning Drift had potential customers lined up waiting to buy their product when it launched. It was magic.
This model of developing the story of the founder, and using that as the basis of building a founder brand was, and still is, brilliant. It is a simple, formulaic process, but one that has the potential to reap huge rewards for a company.
In the years that have passed since Dave’s work at Drift, he has clarified and built out the founder brand framework to a point that he has replicated it with many other brands, and teaches it in marketing classes at Harvard Business School.
At the heart of the Founder Brand is human connection, which we all crave. It allows us to feel we know the founder and the reasons for the brand. When we feel we have a relationship with someone leading a brand, we are more likely to try their products. This relatively simple model requires less effort than you would think, especially once you start practicing it on a consistent basis.
I’m convinced that the only way to build a successful, large company is to use Dave’s founder brand framework.
Try it! It works.
Hiten Shah, CEO of Nira.com
PS. If you're still here, you should get on the email list. I'll send updates about the book I promise. Or tweet at me @davegerhardt and say hey.
If you're interested in buying books, booking me for speaking, consulting, or just saying hey, send an an email to email@example.com with the subject Founder Brand.