Building Your Personal Brand

Every adviser dreams of the day when they can kick back and just wait for the leads to come rolling in effortlessly. Sure, there are some advisers who love the thrill of the chase, hunting down clients, but the majority of advisers I know would rather spend their time doing what they are good at – providing advice and looking after their clients.

The hunter/farmer categorisation has been a long-standing one in sales environments. Hunters are people who love to network, enjoy being out of the office looking for prospects and are always on the look-out for new opportunities. They like to multi-task and manage several leads at time but they are sometimes not the best at client retention.

On the other hand, farmers take a steadier approach. They prefer to work with fewer clients and nurture their prospects over a longer period of time before closing a deal. Farmers get to know their clients well and therefore can be better at cross-selling, up-selling and client retention.

The big debate is who performs better over time – the hunters or the farmers? Successful practices tend to have a combination of hunters and farmers who complement each other. But in today’s sales environment, a number of questions arise:

  • Is the distinction between hunters and farmers still relevant?
  • How is prospecting best done?
  • Does new technology change the skill set required for prospecting and advice?

There is no doubt that social media have changed the prospecting process, making it easier for farmers to bring in business. The concept of sales funnels has changed everything. The goal now is to create a ‘holding pen’ of prospects who can be gradually cultivated and drawn ever closer to the point of sale. To a large extent the processes involved can be automated. List generation and management is everything. From a wide database, targeted marketing can be used to filter out those most likely to purchase and to build their trust and develop relationships. This is a process in which farmers rule!

There is still the issue of how to attract prospects into the sales funnel. The way to do that is to build your personal brand. Whether you like it or not, in the advisory profession your personal brand is much more important than your company brand. People will come to you because of who you are and what you stand for, although the company you work for will influence how you are perceived. An adviser with an established and powerful personal brand will attract prospects almost effortlessly. The effort comes in building the brand rather than prospecting.

So what is a brand and how do you go about building one? Here are a few useful definitions:

“A brand is the promise of an experience and an ongoing relationship between supplier and customer, made up of tangible and intangible values that provide security of demand, and therefore of earnings to its owner” (Alexander Isley)

“A brand is a network of value associations that exist in the mind – feelings, knowledge, experience” (Giep Franzen)

“A brand is the promise of a bundle of attributes that someone buys and that provides them emotional satisfaction. The attributes may be tangible or invisible rational or emotional” (Tim Ambler)

A good brand will differentiate you from your competition, position a focussed message in the hearts and minds of your  target audiences, persist and be consistent in all your marketing efforts,

Whether you are developing a brand for a business, a product or a person, the starting point is the same: values. You need to clearly articulate the values you stand for, and these need to relate to your vision and mission. Values can be rational or emotional. Rational values meet functional needs, while emotional values meet higher level needs. There is a long list of possibilities:

What you stand for: integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, professionalism, authenticity, competency, fairness, loyalty, transparency, service

How you go about your business: ethical, helpful, conscientious, competent, adventurous, compassionate, knowledgeable, respectful, balanced, creative, responsible.

From these, the core essence of your brand can be distilled. The core essence is the heart of your brand- it is what makes it unique and defines its true character. It is the distillation of all the other values and should stay consistent over time. For example, in my own business, my core values are: personal, results, care. My brand promise is that I help people enjoy life more. Hence you will see the words ‘enjoy life’ on all my marketing material.

To successfully build a brand it needs to be embedded in absolutely everything you do and it needs to be communicated with consistency. Your personal brand pervades every area of your life. There is no distinction between your personal life and your business life. You will be judged by everything you do that is in the public domain. That includes the posts you put on social media, the car you drive, the clothes you wear and the house you live in. To have a credible brand, you must live up to it at all times. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”.

I had an interesting experience a few years ago. I used to drive a bright red sports car to travel between my two offices. For some reason, red cars always seem to go faster! One day, a rather cautious client came to see me and said “I was driving behind you as you went into the city the other day – I sure hope you don’t manage my investments the same way you drive your car!” Needless to say my next car was a much better fit with my brand.

Your brand can be enhanced by aligning yourself with key influencers who share the same brand values. The company you work for and the strategic alliances and partnerships you make will influence how you are perceived by others.

Just like a good wine, a brand takes time to develop and mature. It requires persistent and consistent effort over a long period of time. Be clear on who your target audience is, what your brand promise is, and deliver your message clearly and quickly through the channels that will reach your audience. Act with confidence and put yourself out there. As they say in real estate, ‘you can’t sell a secret!’


Liz Koh is an Authorised Financial Adviser and author of Your Money Personality; Unlock the Secret to a Rich and Happy Life, Awa Press. The advice given here is general and does not constitute specific advice to any person. A disclosure statement can be obtained free of charge by calling 0800 273 847.