Personal Branding works best where mass media won’t!
Doctors, Surgeons, Chartered Accountants are bound by a professional code of conduct, as are some other Professionals. In fact some are specifically barred from advertising by their apex associations.
Let’s take Financial Planners.
What makes Personal Branding an ideal vehicle for Personal Financial Planners?
I have the advantage of insights drawn from my entrepreneurial experience of over thirty years, of which eight were spent as an Independent Financial Advisor.
The nature of Financial Planning offerings is highly complex and we in India are in a transition stage when it comes to intermediaries. Expertise is at a premium and so is credibility. Although there has been a clampdown on unethical practices by Governing Authorities such as SEBI, IRDA, AMFI and RBI, there still exists a trust deficit. Market research reveals that consumers make financial and investment decisions based on advice of relatives, neighbours, office colleagues and media. Only a miniscule few refer to experts.
How can Personal Branding change this lopsided equation in favour of Professionals, whose voice often goes unheard?
1) Establishing Credibility:
As in most fields and even more so in Personal Finance, trust is key. That is main reason for the skew of purchase decisions toward friendly sources, irrespective of competence. Trust cannot be built overnight. Traditionally, repeat business from customers and references helps build trust. However, that limits the circle of influence. Personal Branding fills this gap nicely. Sharing knowledge about products, services, taxation laws and trends, establishes expertise in one’s chosen field. Testimonials and positive feedback from clients on Social Networks builds trust.
Create a brand which will be embedded in the customer’s mind. How’s that for brand recall?
2) Increasing Reach:
How effective is the pamphlet that is slid under your door anymore? Would it work for a Professional? (ethical code aside). If you are a pusher of financial products, you wouldn’t be reading this any case. An overwhelming number of consumers do research on the internet before making a choice. Even large Companies, representing almost all industries, have realised the relevance of Social Media and the Internet and are actively leveraging it. An individual; whether a Professional, Entrepreneur or Artist; has the edge because people relate to people more easily, such is the core nature of Social Networks.
3) Expanding Markets:
Another publicity tool that has been taken over by the digital revolution is the glossy, colourful brochure. Expensive to print and difficult to update information on. What about a dynamic, interactive, customisable brochure that reaches the whole world? The Website of course! With the ubiquitous QR codes, readers can directly contact you. If your firm is large sized, you could consider a Blog to go along with the website. Analytics help you accurately monitor feedback and track demographics of your readers.
4) Shift from Push to Pull:
When have you last made a purchase decision based on that cold call or message on your phone? Doesn’t that repel you? We have shifted to a world of making informed choices. How about offering all the information, knowledge, updates and advice before they seek it from a competitor? Competition for a Financial Planner comes from multiple sources, both direct and indirect. It is vital, for instance, to prevent a customer from selling off her entire equity holding during a market rally and investing the proceeds in an alternative channel. Customer loyalty is no more the norm, it is the exception.
By being accessible, establishing thought leadership you not only send a reassuring message to your existing customer, you attract new ones.
5) Human Touch:.
Trying to make your client understand complex numbers and data is always a challenge. Not all customers worship hard numbers, graphs and technicals- in fact, a majority probably don’t! Guess what would work better? Connecting with stories. Stories of your clients (with their prior permission, of course) and their successes in wealth creation- when narrated in a captivating, relatable way strike a bond with customers. Stories get ingrained into minds more easily than raw figures which fail to evoke emotions.
Even if your Profession is not finance related, you would readily agree that the basics remain pretty much the same.
So how about starting your Personal Branding journey?