The reality is many businesses wait until they are in crisis before they work on realigning their brand with their clients.
Crisis tends to drive change. It is built into the human psyche that we need to be shaken out of our routine before we start looking for another way. A crisis focuses us to understand the problem, to rally together, to come up with creative solutions, to make a decision, then to take action. Crisis leads to clarity.
Think back to when you started your business – you hopefully had a "moment of clarity" where it was very clear to you who your clients would be, how you would be different, and why you are a broker. At this point all elements of your brand are in alignment. There is focus, hope, optimism and an amazing energy.
Then change kicks in. New competitors enter the market, you add a new product or service, one of your partners leave, you change aggregator. What was clear, becomes foggy. Time passes and your team can no longer clearly communicate the value that you provide to a prospective client. New business drops, clients leave and you are in crisis.
This approach can be inefficient, confusing, costly and very stressful for business owners.
What holds us back from change? Once you get your business running, it is often a big ship to change direction. Processes and logistics are all pushing in one direction and people's behaviours are set. There is also a big anchor pulling you back to what you know.
Many businesses don’t have clear visibility of the factors that impact them. They have no tool to keep an eye on areas of brand misalignment, so they can then manage through the organisation and drive focus.
Keeping your brand in shape
I want to share a simple tool – a dashboard of sorts – to help you manage your brand, and identify where there is misalignment.
There are three key parts of your business you need to keep aligned.
1. The brand community
These are the people that interact with your brand. For a broker these include your potential clients, existing clients, your referrers, prospective referrers and the media. It may also include key influencers in your market.
Strategy is an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions your firm in the industry. The goal of strategy is creating sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition. There are a number of external elements that will impact your strategy and these fall under political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal groupings.
This includes your leadership team, team culture, and the products and services you offer.
Your goal is to have all of these three segments aligned. Put simply, your strategy needs to align with the needs of the people that interact with your brand, which needs to align with what your business is delivering.
Make the dashboard your own - but the key is to use some form of tool to make your brand visible and a topic of conversation when you review your monthly performance.
We recommend you review the dashboard each month – flagging parts of the brand out of alignment. Then making many small steps to maintain clarity and focus.
There are two changes I'd like to focus on that are currently impacting the broker market.
CHANGE 1: Relationship shift
The big banks are getting better at creating and maintaining relationships with their clients. The closer a bank gets to your client, the higher the risk that the relationship moves from you to the bank.
As a broker this is a challenge. How do you keep relevant and useful between the transactional stages in your relationship. After all, a client may only refinance a few times in their life, yet they are transacting with a bank every week.
The key word is useful. You need to look at how you can be useful to clients when they are in between using your services. Start with what knowledge or insights you have that may genuinely help your clients.
This trend also highlights the need to ensure the time you have with a client is exceptional. This includes every "touch point" you have with your client – from first contact, through to follow-ups after the loan settles. Consider how your brand is signaled to the world in four ways.
1. Visual signals: your visual identity
2. Communication signals: the way you communicate and the channels you use
3. Physical signals: the way your people look and your workspace
4. Behavioural signals: the way you behave, your attitude and approach.
CHANGE 2: Information Scarcity
Forget information overload. Despite the deluge of data, consumers show no signs of info-fatigue, taking every opportunity to check, track, set up alerts, play with, and scrutinise information.
Personal finances are a key area of interest to people.
Financial brands who make data fun, social or even encourage positive behaviour will benefit in today's market. How about encouraging customers to save by awarding them thrift badges, or helping them flaunt their financial savvy when beating spending targets? After all, while individual data might not be meaningful, allowing users to compare their position to others can add value.
Look at ways to visualise financial information in a simple way, or benchmark their life against others.
How can your brand change in the next 90 days?
A great quote from Winston Churchill sums it up nicely – "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." It is a matter of embracing change, and managing it, and using it to your advantage. Your brand will go in and out of moments of clarity over time. Simply starting with a clear and simple dashboard on your brand alignment is a good starting point to managing change, and looking for opportunities.