The brand of youArticle added by Mark Satterfield on January 13, 2012
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Mark Satterfield

alpharetta, GA

Joined: August 21, 2010

Branding doesn’t need to be complex, nor does it have to be expensive. If we remember that ultimately it’s all about being remembered by those who matter, then the strategy shifts from logos, fonts and image to stories.

As the new year dawns, many producers start to think about how they can brand themselves. While branding is a highly effective way to differentiate yourself from the competition, if we’re going to create a branding strategy, it’s first helpful to know what we mean by the term.

Here’s how Entrepreneur.com defines it: “Your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

That last sentence is particularly important, and underscores one of the primary reasons why so many branding strategies undertaken by financial services producers fail to achieve the results they desire.

If the goal of the branding strategy is to become very well known by those who can hire you or refer you business, then your logo, website banner and the colors you choose for your marketing materials take a definite back seat. Unfortunately this is where many people start and spend the majority of their time.

Perhaps it’s because these areas are fun or don’t require an enormous amount of mental heavy lifting. Regardless, they’re not where you really want to spend the bulk of your time if you’re truly serious about building a brand for yourself and your business.

Quite frankly, you just don’t have the marketing muscle and the financial resources to imprint a new name or a logo onto the consciousness of your market. So does that mean that attempting to brand yourself and your company (and I’m using these double terms deliberately) is a fool’s errand? Not at all.

Rather, what I’m suggesting is that you approach branding from a different perspective. Remember the last sentence of the definition: Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.

A branding strategy has two distinct components to it: The story about the company and the story about the person behind the company. It’s the stories that get remembered, not the logo, not the name, not the font — the stories. It’s a two-pronged strategy.

First are the stories about your company. These would include the stories about the problems you solve, your case studies and your successes. Remember that these need to be actual stories, not three paragraphs which give a bare bones problem/result summary. Nobody’s going to remember those. And that’s what branding is all about — getting remembered by those who matter.
Flesh them out. Tell them in an interesting way. Make the reader or listener want to know what happened. If you engage me, not only will I remember you, but I’m also likely to tell your story to others.

Ted Irwin is a financial planner in St. Louis. He told me that his referrals went from three a month to over a dozen. For him, that’s a huge jump. What did he do differently? First, I’ll tell you what it wasn’t.

It wasn’t any new system, software, social media or marketing method. Ted get’s almost all his business from speaking.

The change was that Ted shifted from telling audiences what he did, to sharing stories about the success that clients achieved. That got him remembered. That got his name passed along. That’s what quintupled his referrals rate. That’s branding, but it’s only the first part.

Back once again to the definition: “Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

The second area (and personally I think that this is the most important) is creating a brand around you. How you got into the business, how you experienced the pain your clients face and what you’re like as a person.

Judy MacDonald is a producer outside of San Antonio. She’s been in business for 12 years and says her best year was 2009.

2009? Wasn’t that the year the financial free-fall occurred? When the unemployment rate went through the roof? When companies cut back on spending on anything deemed non-essential? That was her best year?

It turns out that Judy made a shift in her marketing and branding strategy. She says, “I remember one thing you told me that you can’t out-McKinsey, McKinsey.Meaning that if you’re not a big firm, there’s no point in trying to be perceived as something you’re not. So I decided to take the opposite approach. I embraced my smallness, which meant that I started telling the Judy McDonald story. Turns out that it resonated with people. It’s a unique story that only I can tell and it breaks through the clutter of all the "me-too" solution providers that I compete against.”

Branding doesn’t need to be complex, nor does it have to be expensive. If we remember that ultimately it’s all about being remembered by those who matter, then the strategy shifts from logos, fonts and image to stories.

Well told stories about both your company and yourself. That’s what gets you known. That’s what builds your brand.
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