What does “The independent financial advisor” conjure in your mind?

I would hazard a guess you’d expect their advice to be completely unbiased and in their clients’ best interest as they don’t sell their own financial products or pocket commissions behind your back.  And if you were worried about the various financial planning scandals concerning banks in Australia, you may well call them.

This is the power of branding.

So what is branding?

Simply put, 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.

Are you the innovative maverick in your industry? Or the experienced, reliable one? Is your product the high-cost, high-quality option, or the low-cost, high-value option? You can’t be both, and you can’t be all things to all people. Who you are should be based to some extent on who your target customers want and need you to be.

Branding is more than a name and symbol. A brand is created and influenced by people, visuals, culture, style, perception, words, messages, PR, opinions, news media and especially social media.

Your goal in branding is to have your market immediately recognise what you stand for.  Your values, ethics, beliefs and respect for your clients.

A common misconception is that branding is only about logos, colours and letterhead.  It’s not.  While a consistent, well-crafted look and feel is important, it’s the deeper values you portray in your market’s mind that’s important.

A great brand makes it exponentially easier to acquire clients as prospects already trust that your solutions work.  You don’t have to individually work with each prospect to build trust.  Your brand already conveys that promise.

This is especially true if you’re a professional consultant.

As a corollary, should you wish to sell your business, a strong recognisable brand makes it a more attractive proposition.

How do you go about determining your brand?

It starts with a decision.  What you want to stand and be recognised for.  What your organisation’s values are and how your organisation’s culture guides your actions.

Here are a few starting questions…

  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What is your mission?  How would you articulate it in terms that your prospects understand?
  • What are the benefits of your products or services and the outcomes your clients get?
  • How would you want your prospects and clients to think about you and your organisation?  What words and feelings would you want to evoke?
  • What qualities do you want them to associate with your company?

A brand is a living thing.  It will evolve.  And like trust, it will take time to cement.

Once you’ve decided on it, communicate it… everywhere!

And finally, a recognisable brand in combination with direct marketing promotions is the “secret sauce” because your prospects trust you, facilitating the sale.

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