I told them how my friend, Michael Libby, had once pointed out to me that my business card, letterhead, brochures, and promotional items all had a different look, tone and feel.
He thought I would benefit from sending one unified message. "Besides" I continued, "we are moving our office and all this stuff will have to be reprinted anyway." As soon as I said it, I knew I was in trouble. I could see it in their eyes.
I was sitting in a conference room with great minds from both the McLellan Marketing Group and REL Productions. I did not want to have to pick one friend over another and they were interested in doing some collaborative work anyway. So I became the guinea pig.
Everybody, without exception, knows somebody who is in the financial services business. It is like being a four leaf clover on a football field. Chances are no one is going to look close enough to realize that you are not just like all the other blades of grass. After nearly twenty years in the business, it was time to invest in my brand. Marketing professionals are very familiar with brand discernment; this is what it is like from the other side of the conference table.
The process is simple, but not easy.
Have you ever seen the show What Not to Wear? The participant steps into this room, which is nothing more than a 360 degree mirror, while the professionals critique her dress and style. That is kind of what it felt like. I felt like I was standing in that room, completely naked, as my business was dissected. The truth sometimes hurts, but it was necessary for me to first recognize that my brand was broken.
Here is an example. When asked "Why do people do business with Art Dinkin?" I told them about my experience, knowledge, and integrity. "That is not enough" they said, "those qualities do NOT make you unique. What is it about your practice that differentiates you from everyone else?"
They helped me discover that I am unique. I have a very relaxed style and I can explain complex financial arrangements in the everyday language which my clients understand. My brand lies within my uniqueness. The knowledge, experience and integrity are only important once the brand message is conveyed.
Drew warned me that as I learned to embrace my brand that it would become a guideline for decision making, and it has. It is easy for me to see which ideas fit my practice, and quickly eliminate those that do not.
Like financial planning, branding is a process … not an event. I started with my look and feel. Today I have a business card and stationary set which matches my brand. I am in the process of taking updating my blog and website with the same color pallet and style (I hope to have it done in a few weeks).
There are other recommendations which I have set aside for the time being. Some seemed near ridiculous to me when I first heard them, but as I have become more comfortable with my brand they seem more realistic. Thankfully I know Drew will never tell me "told ya."
Drew’s note: Art experienced what many people do when they decide they need to think about branding. It can be overwhelming and a little scary. But it can also be absolutely illuminating. Art has a great blog that makes financial decisions, information and possibilities something we Average Joe’s can understand.
Art also makes a great point — branding is not a switch you flip. It’s an evolution and he’s well on his way!