As the number of startups continue to grow, companies are finding innovative ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Many are turning to personal branding efforts, myself included.

Here are my three key takeaways on how to leverage your own brand to increase business.  

1. Focus on your message. As our company has started to grow, I’ve noticed more people making assumptions about our team and mission. While I don’t think all the assumptions are accurate, I have learned that it is important to understand what people think of you when you’re not in the room.

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Take time to ask yourself what you want to be known for. This exercise was vital for me to understand my passion about entrepreneurship and helping other business owners. Too many people say they want to be thought of as “honest” and having “integrity” yet they fail to share with the outside world what they truly care about. Don't make that mistake. Aim to be the go-to person for one or two things your passionate about and then spend time developing your personal brand around those areas.

2. Start writing. Whether you're able to have your work published in an industry magazine or a book, it is key to start sharing your thoughts and passions with the world. This will not only help develop your communication skills but also position you as expert in an area. The Internet, along with the explosion of social-media platforms, has made it easier than ever for you to let your voice be heard, something not enough entrepreneurs utilize. 

When we launched my company Alumnify -- an alumni-engagement platform -- it always bothered me how young alumni were constantly ignored by their schools. So I started blogging about it and sharing my thoughts. Over time, many of our clients have come from people who resonated with my opinion.

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It’s important to know that the strategy of hiding your idea from the outside world is one of the worst ways you can build your company in today's entrepreneurial ecosystem. More people want to help and hear your message, so look for as many ways as possible to spread your voice.

3. Build your network. It is important to constantly look for ways to grow your personal and professional network with people who can help you build your brand.

One way I’ve learned to do this is to write down the name of every person I meet who is in my industry or shares similar goals as me. I then make sure I contact them in some way at least once a month. While it can be time consuming, I have seen too many times relationships fizzle because of inactivity. Relationships take work and constant communication is key to fostering relationships. 

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