Broker’s Corner | The art and science of branding

Jan 5th, 2015 | By FCT

Second of three look-aheads for 2015

Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of MAD MEN might have a healthy skepticism about branding—the practice seems lightweight, smoke-and-mirrors. But the fact of the matter is that branding is the root of any conversation you’ll ever have about your brokerage business.

Why? Because your brand isn’t yours. (Not even Coke or Nike “own” their brands, despite the billions they’ve spent: you do.)

Your brand is the sum total of what a customer or prospect thinks (or, worse, thinks they know) about you, your business and the very tangible “key performance indicators” like reputation, integrity and delivering on promises.

A brand is expectation: the story people tell in their heads when they encounter you or your product or service. Fail that expectation…and they’re gone, likely to slag you elsewhere. Ouch. Meet that expectation? Likely there’ll be good word of mouth and not much else.

Exceed expectations? That’s the motherlode—you’ll win in word of mouth, spin off great stories in the media and have folks singing your praises at cocktail parties—or that other cocktail party on Facebook and Twitter.

So how do you build a brand without spending zillions? You don’t need fancy consultants or thousands spent on advertising (that least of all.)

First off, you need to understand and state—in as few memorable words as possible—what your brand is. TV and filmwriters do this when they’re pitching a series or script and call it a logline; in Hollywood, it’s an artform and makes the difference between a sale and a script on a shelf.

You don’t want to be the script on the shelf. So here’s how you generate a simple brand statement.

Here’s the best process piece for developing a “brand essence” for your brokerage, simple and to-the-point: you ask at least five of your customer/lenders three questions about the benefits of working with you and your team. The grumpier and more skeptical the folks you ask, the better—you want the truth, not a kiss for luck. They’ll be happy to tell, believe me: they’ll be tickled you asked.

Again, it’s not about you, it’s all about them. Here are the three questions:

1/ name the most important psychological benefit you get from doing business with me (ex: what do you think about the overall process and its impact on you through working with my team and me?)

2/ name the most important intellectual benefit you get from doing business with me (ex: what do you know now that you learned through working with my team and me?)

3/ name the most important emotional benefit you get from doing business with me (ex: how does all the above make you feel about working with my team and me?)

Now you boil these three sets of “brand benefits” down to three key words: let’s say it’s knowledge, trust, empowerment, in your case. From these three words—your ‘brand essence’—you have the basis of every marketing and PR communication you do…and, just as importantly, these are the unnamed values that you and your staff live every day in your business life.

So now you’ve named your “brand essence,” share it with staff, debate it, discuss it, make sure they’re a fit. Confirm they’ve bought in; share stories over a coffee or a glass of wine with each other about how those values inspire them.

Then you know you have a brand: your own people believe you.

Branding isn’t some concept: it’s the values you live. Sit with your three word “brand essence” until our next blogpost, part 3 of our 2015 lookahead, where we’ll not only apply these values but ask how, without a customer relationship toolkit, you’re going to take your brand public.

Categories: EXPERT/ease
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