How to create a personal brand that blends with your company brand? Jelle Verdoodt, founder of studio sunday joins the sales acceleration show to discuss building community, creating brand DNA, storytelling and staying true to yourself.
Resources mentioned in this episode
book: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Episode 45 – Guest: Jelle Verdoodt
“Building community to scale your growth”
Michael: Welcome to the Sales Acceleration Show. My name is Michael Humblet and I’m the founder of Chaomatic. In this show, we discuss how you can accelerate your business through sales and marketing. Today we’re going to talk about community. So I’ve invited Jelle and we’re going to dig really deep and I immediately have a big question, but before we go there, tell our viewers, who are you? What do you do?
Michael: Keep it short please.
Jelle: I’m going to keep it short. Hi, my name is Jelle. I started out eight years ago. I started my first business, which was an online career platform for the sports business and built it up to about 70,000 visitors per year, which is nice. Then I shifted to social media marketing, and right now I’m actually doing digital storytelling.
Michael: Digital story telling.
Jelle: So I’m a digital storyteller.
Michael: Video? Photos? Content doesn’t matter? Everything?
Jelle: It doesn’t matter. We try to take, grab the story of our client, who can be a normal person, an entrepreneur, a visionaire, an activist, organization, doesn’t matter. We grab the story and we try to translate it to social media content but not short bits or not one-shot things, but for a longer period.
Michael: Yeah. So we’re circling around it, but in essence it’s community building.
Jelle: Yeah. It’s community building.
Michael: So if I’m a business and I want to start doing it and probably I have some community, what will be your advice? Where do you start?
Jelle: Yeah, so the main thing about community building is building trust. Building trust is not something that you do by making one video or just making a big commercial-
Michael: Our video guy Peter, which you’re not seeing now, he always talks about, “Consistency, Michael, consistency keep it up, keep going, keep going-
Jelle: Consistency. He’s right. He’s right.
Michael: “… Even if nobody’s watching just keep doing it.”
Jelle: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He’s absolutely right. Consistency is a big part of storytelling. You have to find your story and then bring it consistently. So you got to find your storylines and your teams and then you got to bring that message consistently. When you’re consistent, you build trust. You build with the customer of course. Yeah, you build some-
Michael: Do you have like pragmatic advice when you [crosstalk 00:02:28]?
Jelle: Pragmatic advice?
Michael: Where do you go? Make it a bit tangible?
Jelle: Wow, okay, good.
Michael: Because most, I mean otherwise we stay very [inaudible 00:02:34] and I want people-
Jelle: Yeah, yeah.
Michael: … to feel and say, “I can do [inaudible 00:02:37]”
Jelle: But it depends actually what your goal is.
Michael: Yes of course.
Jelle: Mainly what I suggest for everyone to do, if you’re a scale-up or you’re a starting entrepreneur, you’re a independent professional, whatever, you need to find your brand’s DNA, where you stand for.
Michael: The core. Yep.
Jelle: The core, which is your personality, your facts and your values. That’s the first thing we do with all our clients. Find the brand DNA. When you find the brand DNA, everything else that follows, you have a kind of checklists to see if everything fits in your brand DNA so that everything you do will fit into the brand DNA and you will-
Michael: You around like a designer. They always have the same thing [inaudible 00:03:21] make it consistent and …
Jelle: Yeah, the thing is, everything starts with that DNA, that brand DNA and staying true to yourself as an entrepreneur, as a person, as a sales professional, you got to stay true to yourself. So that’s the main thing. Then find your big teams and then start going deep in to that. When we go very practical at the end, make some content concepts for whatever social media platforms that you’re using and go in depth into them.
Michael: Do you have a preference on social platforms? Probably depends on the type of business and-
Jelle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Michael: [crosstalk 00:04:00] to be [inaudible 00:04:00]. I agree.
Michael: [inaudible 00:04:02] some consistency where you say, I mean if you’re listening to some of the girls, they will say, “Facebook, Facebook. Facebook.” Just curious.
Jelle: I’m really fascinated at this moment by Instagram.
Michael: I’ve seen, I’ve been following you.
Jelle: Yeah. Yeah. Because-
Michael: What’s your name so they can follow-
Jelle: My handle?
Jelle: It’s just @jelleverdoodt. Just my name.
Michael: How do you spell the last two letters?
Michael: We’ll put it in the description.
Jelle: Very important, but everybody, who will look at jelleverdoodt, whatever way you-
Michael: [crosstalk 00:04:39].
Jelle: … write it down, you will find me. Because that’s one important thing that I advise my clients. Choose one handle, use it everywhere.
Jelle: Yeah. Don’t make any switch-up like his talks or [inaudible 00:04:53] or underscores, whatever. No. Find one that is the same. If you don’t find the one that you really want, well bad luck. But you got to use another one.
Michael: It should in turn be the brand name because you’re doing … So one of the problems I for instance, which I see more and more is when you start to grow expertise, I’ve been doing things on my name, Michael Humblet, and not have my company name. The problem is now people want Michael and not the company, which gives enormous limitations on scale.
Jelle: Yeah, yeah.
Michael: Because I mean there is only one me of course.
Jelle: No, that’s right.
Michael: So, but you’re doing the same thing. You’re taking your own name as on purpose?
Michael: But what do you advise your customers?
Jelle: Depends on which business you are. If you’re like let’s say if you’re a team leader or some kind of startup tech startup like that, it’s a different story. But when you start out, it’s always used as the most important one because you have the vision.
Michael: So the founder [inaudible 00:05:52].
Jelle: Yeah, the founder has a vision, the founder is the leader, the founder is the one who sets the level or the, yeah, how people want to work, what the values are. So at the start and continuously throughout the growth of a company, maintaining the vision and showing the vision as the leader of the company, that’s the most important thing.
Michael: Then later on you flip it to the brand?
Jelle: You don’t have to flip it.
Michael: Ah, you keep-
Jelle: No. Yeah, you just expand. At a certain moment, you have a lot of content, which is also a big reason to not start out with a company account with lots of content on it. At first people will follow you because of your vision and then find you, get trust and then get to the company. At the later stadium, it just hearsay, “Well, I work with this. I work with that. I work with that company”, though it depends because team leaders, [SAS 00:06:53].
Michael: They souse scalable.
Michael: [crosstalk 00:06:57].
Jelle: That’s a different thing. But where there’s people involved like in RC, it’s so important for us to build our own brand and push it.
Michael: No, I know. I say to a lot of companies, “Put faces on your website because people trust in people. People believe in people.”
Michael: So you have to put faces and you have to do a lot of … and that stuff. That’s why we’ve been making these movies actually also because we wanted to give a voice to the people. So if I can pull you back to community … No, I’m going to actually take you back to, because you didn’t answer the question on which type of channel, because you said it depends, but is there any preferences? Say you can scale the [inaudible 00:07:32] on that channel?
Jelle: Let’s see. I’m a big fan of Instagram because of the attention it gets at the moment.
Michael: Yeah. In a certain area public.
Michael: But for B2B, it’s a tough one honestly.
Jelle: It’s a tough one but-
Michael: I believe in the personal brands-
Jelle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Michael: … but for B2B, yeah. But I mean, as a brand, it’s a difficult one.
Jelle: As a brand it’s very difficult. So you have to be on Instagram as the leader of the company, as the face of what you stand for. Then it doesn’t really depend on which platform you are. If the platform suits or has your audience on it, you have to use it and you have to use the ad possibilities.
Michael: Ad. Invest in yourself?
Jelle: Yeah, get your message out there. It’s more like direct sales or yeah, advertise your vision on your [inaudible 00:08:24] because there’s no easy way to scale a company’s social media.
Jelle: I don’t have any idea if a player like Team Leader has a good social media following. I don’t think so.
Michael: I don’t know.
Jelle: I don’t know.
Michael: I know that YouTube could be having a lot of subscribers. That’s a different story but-
Jelle: Yeah, that’s right because if you have a very specific solution and you know that your target audience is interested and has a lot of questions yeah, you’ve got to go for YouTube.
Jelle: Because yeah, search engine-wise and-
Michael: I agree fully.
Michael: I see a lot of companies not having a YouTube strategy and I’m thinking, “Guys, come on. You have to do this in the right way. I know we have high-end content. We put it on a Vimeo platform. [inaudible 00:09:11] it has no [inaudible 00:09:12]-
Jelle: Not at all. Not at all.
Michael: … powers like YouTube.”
Jelle: I advise people to use Vimeo, but it’s only to put their videos up there that they can embed on their website because of the quality difference that YouTube kind of [inaudible 00:09:25]-
Michael: You wouldn’t put YouTube on the website?
Michael: Because to have the views and all of that SEO-wise, again, it’s better. It doesn’t matter.
Jelle: It depends on your end goal. What is the end thing in your sales funnel that you want to reach and it doesn’t help you … Well, not always. I think of it as people are on social media, so their attention is there. You got to take them there and bring them to your platform where you can convert them to a customer. But it’s not always good to get people to your website and then lead them out to your other things.
Michael: Yeah. Okay, so you really want to stick that then?
Michael: Because of course once you get to the landing page you can funnel them down [crosstalk 00:10:11].
Michael: You could [inaudible 00:10:12] with everything you got.
Jelle: But you really got to think about your end solution, the end goal.
Michael: Yeah, start with the end in mind.
Michael: It’s like samurai. [inaudible 00:10:21] dress like a Zen Buddhist.
Jelle: Yeah, yeah.
Michael: So community, community.
Michael: I of course know. Community. So when you do community events, you start building [inaudible 00:10:31]. I mean there are many, many ways of doing it. One of the things I was wondering is at a certain stage, do you charge for it or not? I give you an example. I was with a good friend of mine, CEO. He had 60 people in a room. Real community, didn’t want to charge for it and after a while he started. He had to ask something because it was just costing him a lot of money because they were all guys and they were drinking, they were emptying his fridge, which you know [inaudible 00:10:55].
Jelle: Okay. Okay.
Michael: So give me some feedback. What do you think on this community? Should we charge money? Should you do it … How would you construct it? How can you scale the community?
Jelle: How can you scale the community? I strongly believe in scaling the community by giving more, by giving as much as you can, which is possible, within the limits of your possibility. I had the same thing. When I started out with my first platform, I organized network events where I connected young professionals with experienced people. Put them in the same room, got about five, six, seven or even eight experienced-
Michael: Like speed dating type of stuff [crosstalk 00:11:41]?
Jelle: Yeah. It’s like a big networking meetup. Just come by, grab a drink, have the possibility to talk with … Like for instance, my first one I had Tomas Van Den Spiegel, basketball player who became the [inaudible 00:11:55].
Michael: Yeah. Smartest guy in the world [inaudible 00:11:58] in Belgium, yeah.
Jelle: Yeah, that’s right. It was before that. So he’d just got back to Belgium and I got him there. So it was kind of a unique thing. Got some other people around in the sports business who young guys don’t normally find it easy to meet. Now we had all these people in the same room [inaudible 00:12:18]. It was nice and it was completely free. I even gave them some drinks and stuff, but it was at the bar and they had to buy their own drinks afterwards.
Jelle: But I shifted to a more paying event like make it a little more, yeah, drinks all in, add some food.
Michael: Pay €20 upfront.
Jelle: Pay €20, €30, €45 upfront.
Michael: You see I’m in B2B [crosstalk 00:12:45]-
Michael: … or B2C €20, like okay. Yeah.
Jelle: Yeah. Right. It shifted. It started shifting. Suddenly at the first events I had 110-30 pre-subscriptions. I had 100 people showing up, which was a great success, but then it shifted and it started changing and I was starting to attract other people. So I made this mistake. Actually it was a mistake.
Michael: Because you were attracting the wrong people?
Jelle: Yeah, and I was making it smaller.
Michael: You were thinking, “I’m paying so … “
Michael: Yeah, yeah.
Jelle: Looking backwards, I was like, “Damn, I should have just continued using the same formula-
Michael: [crosstalk 00:13:26].
Jelle: … and attract more and more and more people.” Because at another point in that professional project career, it would have been more easy to use that big audience that I’m building. But now I was holding myself back.
Michael: So biggest advice … ?
Michael: Get as much as you can.
Michael: Scale the hell out of it.
Jelle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Michael: Okay, good.
Jelle: Yeah, the most important thing about that thing was I started thinking about profitability too soon.
Jelle: Yup, and that was a mistake I made.
Michael: I agree. I mean, the reason why this show is for free, I don’t get sponsorship, I don’t do anything is exactly for that reason. I just wanted to give and then one day, let’s see what happens.
Jelle: Yeah. Is the most important way.
Michael: One of the things we do near to the end is we always ask some tough questions.
Jelle: Good. Yeah. Bring it on. Bring it on.
Michael: Question number one is, how do you say no?
Jelle: To who?
Michael: To potential customers.
Jelle: Wow. Hey, that’s an easy one.
Michael: Just say no.
Jelle: I figured it out. Yeah, I figured it out a few months ago. As soon as you get your brand DNA covered, and you know what you want and what you need, it’s easier to say no to clients and you can … what’s the right word? You can explain it why.
Michael: Yup. That’s a really good one actually. Because then it’s easy to say no. So how do you focus?
Jelle: How do I focus?
Michael: Because there’s always so much stuff going on.
Jelle: Yeah. I started out … What I noticed for myself is that I need an overview. So it’s good to have an agenda on your phone, but it’s so small or on your laptop but it’s dismal. So what did I do recently? Figured out, let’s print my agenda, put it out there. So then I have certain overview because when you’re locked into your screen to check your agenda, there’s all these things coming up and it’s like, “Damn, I have all these things and I don’t have any time anymore to do my other work and not focus on that.” But when I print it out and see that I have this block before this meeting-
Michael: And then you know.
Jelle: … and this block and this block and I see this possibility of time and then it helps me focus. I’m not stressing about [crosstalk 00:15:49]-
Michael: To have a visualization of your plans [inaudible 00:15:51].
Michael: That’s a lot of advice I give to marketing. I say, “Show me in a quarter what are all the big steps you’re going to do [inaudible 00:15:56]?” Where do you get your inspiration? Where do you go? Do you have like one that you can share and say, “Guys, you need to watch this. You need to watch this guy. You need to read this book.”
Jelle: Okay, that’s a tough one to pick one. To pick one? That’s really tough. That’s tough.
Michael: Or two. You can pick two or three, yeah.
Jelle: Okay. Good, good, good.
Michael: We’ll put it down in the description.
Jelle: My favorite ones that I go back to are, let’s see. So I got into one part, one vertical of my personal brand is self-development, what we all need to be doing to become a better professional, a better human being. I got interested into stoicism as a philosophy. So if there’s one thing I should advise everyone to read is like the book of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
Michael: That’s an old book. Yeah.
Jelle: It’s very old, but it’s very practical.
Michael: It’s not big. It’s [crosstalk 00:16:58]-
Jelle: No, it’s a good read. It’s a good read for every leader, every entrepreneur, every creative professional. You have to read this. Then there are people who are here, guys that made my professional career jump up are Gary Vaynerchuk.
Michael: I like Gary T too, yah.
Jelle: Definitely. Definitely.
Michael: [crosstalk 00:17:18].
Jelle: He has a vision.
Michael: Keeps inspiring, gives you [crosstalk 00:17:20]-
Jelle: Massive, massive.
Jelle: A personal favorite of mine, less known here is Louis House.
Michael: House. I don’t know [inaudible 00:17:31].
Jelle: He’s a guy who started out as a national football player, got injured, had to stay on the couch at his sister’s place, found a mentor, dove into Linkedin, became a Linkedin trainer, dove into Webinars, did that, and now he’s growing his thing and he has this thing called School of Greatness-
Michael: School of [inaudible 00:17:55].
Jelle: … where he inspires [inaudible 00:17:56] man.
Michael: Yes I’ve heard of that. Yeah.
Jelle: It’s so awesome.
Michael: So what’s like the biggest mistake you’ve ever made? In business.
Jelle: The biggest mistakes in business, yeah. Okay. That’s good. I was going to go very individually, personally, but the first time that I, yeah, when I just started out, I had this idea, I wanted to do it. I didn’t really want to become an entrepreneur. So at this moment, I don’t call myself an entrepreneur because entrepreneurship is like building businesses, selling them, growing it dah dah dah. I’m more of like a craftsman. Yeah.
Jelle: When I started out, I had this idea about this career platforms for sports business professionals. I went out to find someone to make my website and I actually spent almost 12k on my first website because I didn’t know anything about it. Yeah, because I thought that I had to have this website that has this search engine to find whatever piece of content on my website. This back end, this thing where employers and employees and people could have their own account-
Michael: You went full corporate.
Jelle: Man, it was absolutely not lean startup, because the thing that I actually had to use was or had to have was a simple blog website where I put up my content-
Michael: More landing page.
Jelle: … and just push that on social media and that was going to be even, yeah.
Michael: More than enough.
Jelle: More than enough.
Michael: I did exactly the same and I’m a now at my, in two years’ time, my fourth website or something and it changes all the time.
Jelle: It gets simpler. It gets …
Michael: Yeah. No, let me ask the question.
Michael: Where can people learn more about you and your company?
Jelle: About me and my company? I just tell them, “Go find me on Instagram or whatever platform that you’re on.”
Jelle: That’s right on Facebook, on Instagram, on YouTube, on Linkedin, on Medium, on Snapchat.
Jelle: Everywhere, but mainly Instagram. That’s where everything starts. You have the link there in bio, of course.
Michael: Yep. So thanks Jelle Verdoodt.
Jelle: Michael, thanks a lot.
Michael: [crosstalk 00:20:17] to Sales Acceleration Show. If you like what you’ve seen, give it a thumbs up. If you want to see a lot more, subscribe and yes, we will put all the links and all the books that we’ve talked about in the description. See you next time.