Personal Branding- it’s a common buzzword. But do you know what it means? And why it matters? (and it does, so keep reading)
If not, or you feel you need more information about personal branding, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find plenty of resources to help you understand what personal branding is (and what it isn’t), the creation of my own successful personal brand The Insurance Goddess and its usage within the insurance industry, basic steps to create your brand, and some juicy tidbits for my favorite group- insurance agents.
Let’s start with my definition of personal branding.
The process of differentiating yourself in your field by communicating your unique value proposition (why you’re different than everyone else and why that’s good for the customer). Your brand helps establish why people should do business with you or pay attention to you versus someone else in your industry.
Another way you can think about branding is this: It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
Branding is critical
You can quickly see that branding is the jumping off point for about everything you do in your business. From website design, marketing materials you distribute, interactions you have with customers, all the way to invoicing your clients- the branding you’ve established and communicate to others should be consistent throughout your organization.
Think about it like this: If your brand screams “We are easy to do business with”, then each step of your process needs to live up to this brand. From the copy on your website to employee attitude to easy-to-read invoices, you need to project the same message.
My approach to branding
As you read my articles, talk to me or work with me, hopefully two things become clear:
- Individuals and small businesses are my focus. Let’s face it- big business has more resources at their disposal. More money, more access to marketing professionals, the list goes on. As a small business owner myself, I get it. I understand the challenges. I’ve experienced them.
- I don’t believe in pie-in-the-sky theory. I believe in writing articles that are based on reality. Most of my articles are taken from my own marketing and branding activities and experiences from my insurance agency. I share what works, and what doesn’t. It doesn’t get any more real than that.
How Do I Know So Much About Branding and Its Importance?
In 2009, I created a character called the Insurance Goddess. Since it’s creation, the character has been written about in industry publications, and I’ve participated in a few podcasts discussing its creation and usage. You can visit the Resources page to see the articles and listen to the podcasts. You can also read articles I’ve written for industry publications as well.
There was no grand plan in my launch- I just did it. But here’s why I think my character has been successful:
- I was adding personality to a subject that tends to have little personality.
- I was humanizing the industry- an industry that is regularly viewed as boring, tedious and impersonal.
- I was poking a little fun at myself to prove a point: Insurance doesn’t have to be scary, boring or tedious because there are real people who are trained to help.
- It’s very memorable (go on, I dare you to forget it 😉
- It’s just plain fun.
I continue to use the character in a variety of ways, including:
- Visits to local businesses
- Raising money for charity
- Speaking engagements
- Participation in community events
To build a successful brand, you MUST do two things:
- You must have a clear message
- You must differentiate yourself from your competition
Yes, my message and differentiation comes from wearing a costume, but costumes aren’t for everyone. And that’s OK. You don’t have to go the same route as me. But, you DO have to choose the path I described above: establish and present a clear message and differentiate yourself from the competition. Otherwise, your branding will fail. And for you insurance people, you’ll end up another commodity in an already highly commoditized industry.
Small Businesses have special challenges in creating a brand as well
Let’s face it, if you’re a small business like me, you don’t have a marketing department. My marketing department is me. Yep, just me. So, there’s a resource constraint (people and time) working against me (and you, I imagine).
But you know what? You don’t have to have a full-time department to establish a brand. You can do it on your own. How?
Here’s how you and your small business can create a brand
Talk to your customers. Ask lots of questions. Why do people do business with you? What do you do better than your competition?
I know- sounds all too obvious right?
Your customers are a wealth of information. When I first started at my family’s insurance agency, Alan Galvez Insurance, I decided to do a customer satisfaction survey and send to all our customers. When I read through the returned surveys, it was eye-opening. I discovered several things we did very well, and several that needed improvement.
If you’re starting to panic because you think you have to create your brand from scratch, STOP. The exercise taught me that the brand you have now doesn’t necessarily need to be scrapped. Instead it can become the things you do well- you just have to put it into words, educate your staff, and communicate that brand through your actions and marketing materials.
Note: if you also gather your employees together to brainstorm what you do well and what differentiates you from your competition, you will get a very useful list. It takes the pressure off you to come up with everything (because we know how crucial time is to the time-strapped small business owner). And, employee contributions help establish buy-in of the brand. If they have “skin in the game”, it’s much easier to believe the message. I did this with my own staff, and their input became the basis of our Galvez Guarantee.
Insurance Agents this section is just for you
I started in insurance in 1996. Got my licenses within the next year and have been in the trenches ever since. In 2009, I kept hearing the words “social media” and had no clue what it meant. Our local joint vocational school offered an Introductory class and I figured Why Not?
It was like a bolt of lightning. Listening to the speaker, I realized social media was no different than what insurance agents do on a daily basis- communicate and make connections. But, instead of face to face, it was all online. And because it was all online, the audience was limitless. Imagine the possibility that your message could reach thousands of people where in the past it may have only been hundreds.
So I joined Facebook, and decided I would also begin blogging. Blogging about insurance of course, because what else would I write about? But knowing people would rather stab themselves in the eye than read insurance articles, I knew I needed a hook- something to entice them. So I named the blog Confessions of an Insurance Goddess (and from this name the character was born as well).
By writing consistently over several years, reading other blogs and connecting with others who knew way more than me about blogging, I started getting traction after several years. Yes, I said years. Note- this stuff takes time. There’s no way around it, so don’t look for it. You have to put in the work.
People were actually reading my work. They were leaving comments. They were responding to the “voice” I was developing in my writing. They followed me online and eventually the industry got wind of it and expressed interest in finding out more.
I spoke at Brand Camp 2013, a conference devoted to insurance industry professionals to discuss digital/social marketing, branding and technology trends.
I appeared as a panelist at the next Brand Camp, where the biggest takeaway for me was that insurance agents are still struggling to humanize their brand. And humanize it we must or risk missing creating emotional connections with our customers. And with insurance, we’re selling a piece of paper and a promise. You’ve got to connect on a deeper level than that. You have to tell a compelling story.
Connecting with others online, humanizing a product or experience, telling good stories- these all add up to building your insurance agency brand. And when I say insurance agency, I mean independent insurance agency- because if you represent only one insurance company, then that company’s brand becomes yours.
For the independent insurance agency, you have to create your OWN brand, based on your agency’s characteristics and beliefs.