Posts

Three Simple Ways to Tell Your Brand is Stuck in Groundhog Day

Most companies spend time on their brand when they launch their business. They might focus on their logo and possibly a brochure, leaving the heaving lifting of messaging, value proposition and brand experience to a later date.

Fast-forward ten years. While their business has changed – significantly – many firms still have the same logo, same visual branding, and are still without a value prop or client experience plan. They’re doing the same thing over and over again, with the same messaging, wondering why they’re not getting different results. They’re stuck in a branding version of Groundhog’s Day.

The Groundhog Day movie provides some great lessons that can be applied to branding, and how to create a meaningful brand. After living the same day over and over again – some estimates put it at about 12,395 days – Phil (Bill Murray) learns secrets from the town’s residents, seduces women, steals money, gets drunk, drives recklessly, and gets thrown in jail. And he tries to manipulate Rita (Andie MacDowell) into loving him. After multiple times attempting suicide, only to wake and relive the same day, his experiences change him. He learns French. He learns how to play the piano. He befriends everyone in town. He saves lives and helps people. And eventually he is a changed man and wins the heart of Rita.

While originally panned, Groundhog Day is now considered a self-improvement parable teaching the need to look inside oneself and realize that the only satisfaction in life comes from turning outward and thinking about others rather than concentrating solely on one’s own wants and desires.[1]

Wowza! That is exactly the basis for a brand.

When we work with organizations to develop their brand and brand messaging, we often ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What is it that you uniquely do to help people around you – your clients and your community?” Answering these questions, along with 50+ more, provides the basis to create a meaningful, differentiated brand.

These questions, this outward facing consideration should be revisited every years. Your business has changed. The world has changed. They way we all buy has changed. As such, your brand must change. Has your brand evolved, or is it stuck?

Here are Three Simple Ways to Tell Your Brand is Stuck in Groundhog’s Day:

  1. You think a logo is a brand. Brands encompass each and every experience people have with you and your organization.
  2. Your collateral and website feature old, out-of-date photos – possibly including the same guy on the front page as your competition. Your retiree images are limited to just people golfing or following passive past-times. (Even worse, most of them look like they’ve been taken from a Cialis commercial.)
  3. You don’t have a value proposition that resonates in today’s marketplace – or no value prop at all. (Read this research by Mass Mutual regarding the need for a value-prop to succeed in today’s marketplace.)

If any of these points apply to you, or if you are ready to take your branding out of Groundhog’s Day, read Create a Magnetic Brand, Build Margin. (Yep. A powerful brand does build margin.)

___________________________

[1] Source: Thank’s Wikipedia! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day_(film)

Create a Magnetic Brand, Build Margin

Several years ago, I attended my second National Speakers Association Annual Conference. My objective for attending was to rub shoulders with successful speakers and take away a handful of ideas to jump-start my speaking practice. Hence the first evening, I stopped at the lobby bar for a beverage and a bit of mingling.

While enjoying my Grey Goose and soda – with three limes – I met Chris Mercer, CEO of Mercer Capital. Chris is one of the leading business valuation experts in the country and author of a plethora of books for business owners. Being a 401k nerd, I questioned him about Employee Stock Ownership Plans and the challenge he sees in valuing firms. (Seriously?! Who would discuss ESOPs over cocktails? Obviously, a geek like me.)

I very much wanted an expert opinion on a theory that I’ve long held: An organization that builds and executes an effective brand brings additional margin to the bottom line. Of course, I already knew the answer, “Yes.” But Chris said, “No.” So, I bought him another drink.

Let’s back up and lay some groundwork. You’ve likely seen marketers and brand experts trot out Starbucks, Apple, Coca Cola, or Target as examples of well executed brands. And, many large multi-national organizations do track their specific brand equity. In fact, the firm Interbrand tracks brand values and the associated changes in brand value from year to year. As an example Coca-Cola retained the No. 3 position on Interbrand’s esteemed annual ranking of most valuable global brands for the second consecutive year. Coke’s 2014 brand value is estimated at $81.6 billion, up 3 percent from 2013, more than four times that of the nearest beverage brand on the list.

Many advisors and small business owners don’t have the necessary capital and staffing to compete on a global level and therefore likely have zero brand equity to discuss during the sales process. Hence, Chris’ answer.

However, after some additional discussion, we came upon the answer I did want to hear: “Yes, in a way, a powerful brand can bring more margin to the bottom line.” Because a well branded organization increases the perceived value of their services. I’m going to say that again: an effective brand and well-executed brand can help increase the perceived value of services. (Thereby eventually bringing greater margin to the bottom line.)

Unfortunately, many local and regional advisors neglect their brand. They see their brand as simply a logo slapped on a business card, brochure and website. Your brand encompasses the full experience your prospects and clients have with you and your firm; from how you answer the phone to the quality of your business card and everything in between.

Your brand can be an intentional piece of your business development effort. As an example, we recently redesigned the ShoeFitts website. It was the third iteration in as many years as we have been in business. The ShoeFitts Creative Crew expanded the use of the pimento red color specifically to imply sophistication and power. Now we are evaluating our client onboarding and welcome process because first impressions last forever. In fact, we have an ongoing audit of our brand and client experience. As you move into the New Year, consider an audit of your visual and experiential brand; here’s a starting point: Brand Touchpoint Audit.

Forget social. Focus on Sales.

 

Ten or so years ago, at the beginning of the social craze, the marketing rally cry was “Join the Conversation!” Experts pointed to the benefits of brand engagement, community interaction, and the once in a lifetime opportunity to go viral.

Value in the social world was associated with followers, likes and retweets. Frankly, that put a lot of folks off. How does this rah-rah cocktail party atmosphere create sales? Sprinkle in the regulation and compliance issues we face in the financial services industry and for most of us, social was a non-starter.

Even now, a fairly large group of financial professionals are only able to have a static LinkedIn profile. Guess what? Even if all you do is maximize your profile and use LinkedIn to help grow your connections, you can rock your sales with Social Selling.

Social Selling 1

When I speak and teach on the world of social, I start with LinkedIn for a variety of reasons:

  • A LinkedIn profile is easy to create and maintain
  • The pace is more manageable than Twitter
  • The site is very Googleicious (meaning it aids in search engine optimization)
  • Over 30 percent of American adults with annual household incomes over $100,000 use LinkedIn (check out this source for more amazing LinkedIn stats)
  • More than 300 million people have a LinkedIn profile; one out of three professionals on the planet has a LinkedIn profile
  • Business people use the site, and 35 percent of users access LinkedIn every day
  • Finally, most broker/dealers allow for, at minimum, a static profile!

I know, some of your are saying, “but what about compliance, Sheri?” My response: Don’t let compliance get in your way of some awesome competitive information; just create an optimized LinkedIn profile, run it by compliance, and then do what you can to grow your network.

In other words, pretend LinkedIn is a series of rolodexes. You don’t need to do the social stuff. Do sales instead. Then dive into the Advanced Search function. You can always take your activity to the next level, but for now, don’t worry about doing everything.

Take baby steps. Because, frankly, if you don’t engage just a little bit in the digital space you will get left behind in the dial-up world. Like it or not, some of your competitors are taking full advantage of Social Selling.

So don’t bury your head in the sand and hope social media goes away. Don’t point to compliance worries as a barrier. Do make the leap and try out the waters. I promise, you won’t drown in the deep end of the social media pool!

Social Selling to Rock Your Sales

Okay, I am a digital native. I used my first Mac word processor in 1984, sent my first email newsletter in 1998, and coded my first website in 2000. I’m a digital geek; I’m a social networking nerd.

What about you? You don’t have to be a techie to dip your toe into the social space; LinkedIn makes it super easy to get started. And, if you followed the steps in last week’s Getting It Right: Top Tips for Your LinkedIn Profile tip sheet, your profile is fully optimized and ready to rock. Next step? Tap into the power of your LinkedIn presence and your “social” world to include social selling. Yep, social selling; that simply spectacular way to grow sales in today’s digital world. (I like the word spectacular.)

Social selling is all about growing your business by using social media and other online resources to identify and maximize your connection opportunities. Meaning, your LinkedIn presence isn’t just about a great profile, it’s also about using that platform to its fullest potential to find and make quality connections and then lay down the path to get your foot in the door.

Don’t confuse social selling with social media marketing. The latter is the big digital marketing umbrella that includes social selling but also encompasses brand identification, perception and awareness, public relations, thought leadership, and engagement.

Whew, a lot to consider, right? Well yes and no. In the next few weeks, I will explain the ins and outs behind social selling, and even include a few tidbits for cybersleuthing on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Expands Features and Analytics

Social media sites are valuable tools in the retirement plan industry and LinkedIn is one of my preferred connection resources. The professional networking site is not the answer to business success–nothing is that simple–but it does offer some pretty nifty features to make your life easier. And lucky for all of us, it keeps getting better!

Within the last few days and months LinkedIn has reacted to member wants and concerns by offering better data collection and search features, dropping the character limit on posts, and providing more customization options with your settings. Read on to discover the must-have updates for LinkedIn marketing for financial services.

Read more