Just how effective is your personal branding?

Branding appears to be the new buzzword in marketing nowadays. At first, I thought it was just more hype about not very much. But when I heard Prof. John A. Daly from the University of Texas really explain the significance of branding, I realized just how essential it is for financial advisors.

In a presentation at the recent IMCA Practice Management conference in Vail, Colorado, Daly asked a packed room of advisors: “What does a brand get you?”

According to Daly, a brand gets you the following:

*Immediate recognition and attention;

*Loyalty (customers stick with a brand; once they choose a brand, they generally won’t switch to another product unless something is really wrong);

*The brand-holder has the ability to charge a higher price or fee;

*A guarantee of consistency (brands offer predictability;

*Preference for the brand (they create forgiveness and recourse).

In fact, Daly says, “brands allow you to extend your business in some directions but preclude you in others.”

For advisors, creating a brand not only means the reputation of the firm but the image of the individual as well. And, for that you have to build trust, which is absolutely essential, Daly says. Advisors have to follow five steps to create that level of trust.

First, be reliable. “Learn to master your very small commitments,” Daly says.

Second, honesty really does work. Daly recounted the story of when he was a teenager and just got his license. He drove the family car and got a huge dent in it one night. He decided to wait until the morning to tell his father. But his father found the dent first. He got in a lot of trouble. But when his sister smashed up his father’s prize Volkswagen, she called up crying right away that she had wrecked the car and the parents were much more forgiving. That was a lesson in honesty that Daly never forgot.

Third, be faithful and build good will, Daly says.

Fourth, be vulnerable. “Trust only happens when people feel equally vulnerable,” Daly says. Studies done during the financial crisis showed that most people didn’t think that the big Wall Street firms could be hurt. And, that translated into: “Why should I trust the Street?”

Finally, be competent.  Offer consistent business performance and deal effectively with your clients’ problems, Daly says.

By building trust, you create a formidable brand that will keep you on top of your game.