Canadian Underwriter

Why Branding Still Matters

August 4, 2010   by Fortunato Restagno

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Now that the recession is out of the media, we see some brokers eager to be the first out of the gate with their marketing and communication. We also see a number hanging back, taking a more cautious approach as they recover from a challenging year.Marketing

Many brokers get caught up in the same trend as their clients do, reviewing their budgets to see where they need to cut back rather than working on their future. The broker becomes a victim of losing confidence and focus.

So what should you do and what should you focus on?

Consider brand strategy. To help you understand how this works, let’s look at two key elements of a brand strategy.

Your client communication
Many of your clients are concerned about the current state of their investments and, as a result, many are open to advice. That advice might be coming from other insurance brokers. You may have a good referral process but is it enough to retain clients? You need to keep your existing clients loyal by displaying and demonstrating your loyalty to them.

Your clients may be on the lookout elsewhere but, as you know, they are looking in a very crowded marketplace. The process of developing a successful brand strategy starts with determining your unique stand: that is, the benefits of what you provide and how you support your clients.

It is through your stand that your slogan, your mission, your promise and all your values are developed. Once your stand is determined it will set the stage for a very powerful brand. The result is that your best loyal clients will be eager to tell others they care about to do business with you. Combine this with your referral process and an intro package, communicate it within an effective Corporate Identity, and you will have all you need to bring in new business.

Your corporate identity
Your corporate identity is a gateway to your business. It’s what your clients will see or hear first when they are introduced to your organization.

This is part of your business foundation and is a very good investment for you if done correctly. Having a powerful corporate identity in place positions you and the value that you provide firmly and clearly with potential and existing clients, giving them confidence in you, and giving you confidence in yourself and what you offer, regardless of the economic climate.

Developing an effective corporate identity can be a tricky business. A client’s decision-making process is 80% emotional and 20% rational. In fact, clients will typically look for reasons not to do business with you more so than reasons why they should. This means your corporate identity should be designed to address the emotional needs of your audience as well as the rational ones, with the greater weight on the emotional side.

Here is how I typically break down the balance of needs when I’m creating a corporate identity:

  •  Logo: 80% to 100% emotional, 0% to 20% rational
  •  Slogan: 100% emotional
  •  Descriptor: 100% rational
  •  Image: 80% to 100% emotional, 0% to 20% rational

Prospective clients need to understand what it is you do. The descriptor is designed to handle this rational need. It simply describes what you do (i.e. insurance services).

But it is the slogan–the identity piece dedicated to emotional appeal–that instills confidence. Your slogan is your mini mission statement. It expresses what your clients feel and experience when you are looking after them. Words in your slogan can be used by you and your staff in talking about your business, and they also make it easier for your clients to explain the value of what you do to others.

Slogan development is a real science. It can be a challenge to sum up the emotional result of what you provide in two-to-five words. Some of those we’ve coached will come across slogans we have developed for other firms and request something similar. Sometimes brokers will research slogan ideas online. Copyright issues aside, these options may not fit with who you are, your uniqueness, and how your best client relates to you. They are definitely not a unique expression of the very distinct value that you add. Slogans should not be taken lightly.

Here are some trademarked slogans we have developed for our clients that fit with who they are and help keep their confidence and focus on track.

  •  Marlatt — Creating plans for life
  •  Barks Financial — Caring people. Sound advice.
  •  CoralLife — Discover a new view
  •  Seligman & Associates Ltd. — Knowledge. Guidance. Caring.

Brokers who have previously survived tough times are often better prepared for a downturn. By having a solid brand in place, you will be top of mind with clients whether it’s during tough times or good times.

Fortunato Restagno is a brand specialist with The Personal Coach. He is the co-founder of the MasterPoint Program, a brand strategy program designed for financial advisors.

Great gift ideas to bolster your brand

1. Choose the right promotional company.
When searching for the right promotional company, ask your colleagues, friends and family about companies they have had positive experiences with. Look for an established company that’s interested in long-term relationships and takes the time to understand your situation. Of course, getting a good price is important, but working with someone who can help you make a decision may save you time and frustration even if it costs a bit more. If the company has knowledge about your industry, that is a big bonus because it will have a better understanding of what your clients appreciate. Also, if you have segmented your clients, it can recommend appropriate gifts for each segment.

2. Give a different gift for each segment of your client base.
If you know who your ideal A-list clients are, you want to do your utmost to look after them. Giving them a nice, useful gift that stands out will go a long way. The goal is to create and maintain loyal clients.

Let’s use a mug as an example. You might give your A-list clients a stainless steel travel mug, while B-list clients might receive a lesser-priced travel mug or possibly a ceramic mug. A good-quality travel mug will not create advocates. But having a referral program in place and incorporating the promotional gifts into your program will contribute to building the right client base.

3. Know your brand.
Your promotional items must fit the personality of your business, and must be consistent with your brand. That means the look, feel and nature of the item must mesh with your brand theme. Everything from the colours to the slogans and descriptor on your promotional items must be consistent with your brand.

4. Choose the right product.
Many brokers randomly pick an item that’s the best price. They just want something that has their name on it. Before making any quick decisions, make sure that whatever you select lines up with your ideal client and the message you want to communicate. If your clients are successful business owners, you don’t want to give them a cheap pen. That is reverse branding and will push your ideal clients away.

Cards can be effective promotional items. They are a great forum for keeping in touch and can set a tone about your style of communication. For instance, funny cards will let clients see you have a sense of humour. If your cards are elegant, clients will look forward to your communicating with them in a warm and caring fashion.

Some brokers customize gifts by matching them with the personal interests and hobbies of their clients. Although this can be time-consuming, it will be greatly appreciated by clients, and they will remember you by this gift–great for relationship building.

© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the May 2010 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.