Brand to Sur­vive & Thrive

Why You Must Brand Your­self!

Insurance - - BRANDING - by Mo­hammed Fa­rooq

With the In­ter­net rev­o­lu­tion, our world has changed for­ever es­pe­cially the way we do busi­ness. (In 2010, Malaysians have spent RM 1.8 bil­lion in on-line shop­ping – ex­pected to rise to RM 5 bil­lion by 2014. Source: MIGHT). With so much com­pe­ti­tion, it is time for you to stand out and en­able your cus­tomers and po­ten­tial cus­tomers feel proud of deal­ing with you.

The in­surance agent’s job is chang­ing dra­mat­i­cally. The in­surance mar­ket is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive in many ways:

Changes in leg­is­la­tion will im­pact di­rectly on the way you do your work.

Com­pe­ti­tion from lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies.

Merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions are cre­at­ing un­cer­tainty.

On­line in­surance will be­come more pop­u­lar. Each and ev­ery­one of us has unique qual­i­ties which make us dif­fer­ent. Th­ese qual­i­ties can en­hance your op­por­tu­ni­ties to win in the short term and en­able you to build a solid long term busi­ness. There­fore, you must dis­cover th­ese spe­cial qual­i­ties and then make them a strong fea­ture of who you are.

The brand jour­ney

Your Brand Jour­ney be­gins when you dis­cover what is unique about you and the things about you that your cus­tomers value the most. In fact, you build your brand on your strengths. A com­mon im­age of you will emerge in the eyes of your cus­tomers, and you will re­alise you have a brand. If you are happy with this im­age, then you have to de­velop this into a strong brand.

Peo­ple with strong brands re­main gen­uine (au­then­tic) – they are who they say they are and they main­tain this con­sis­tently over the long term. They clearly and con­tin­u­ously dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves and they pro­vide com­pelling rea­sons why peo­ple should be­lieve and trust in them.

Let’s take Tan Sri Tony Fer­nan­des as an ex­am­ple. He has built a strong per­sonal brand. If you ask his staff they will say he is a hum­ble guy who is ded­i­cated to try­ing to help ev­ery­one to achieve their dreams. The cus­tomers dream of be­ing able to fly, the staff dream of achiev­ing ca­reer success, the in­vestors dream of re­turns on in­vest­ment, and even ev­ery Malaysian dreams of be­ing part of one of the big­gest air­lines in the world.

So how will you iden­tify your brand and then en­sure it be­comes a pow­er­ful dif­fer­en­tia­tor for you in this crowded mar­ket?

The start­ing point is to ask your cur­rent cus­tomers a few sim­ple ques­tions about you and the way you do your work. Sim­ple ques­tions such as:

What do they like about the way you deal with them?

How could you do it bet­ter?

What do they see as your best qual­i­ties?

What are the worst as­pects of you in their eyes?

If you were a bank, which bank will they see you as?

If you were a car, which car would they as­so­ciate you with?

Once you have sur­veyed a few peo­ple, you will see an im­age emerge. This will tell you where you are now.

If you are not happy with what you hear, don’t worry, you can change it. This is just the be­gin­ning as we have some way to go yet. Re­mem­ber the brand owner is you and you can de­cide ex­actly what brand im­age you want your cus­tomers to per­ceive of you. The Per­sonal Brand Prism

Clear Vi­sion

The im­age we project con­sists of so many lay­ers.

Peo­ple judge what they see first. This is the way you dress and groom your­self (COVER). Of­ten this makes such a pow­er­ful im­pact that peo­ple de­cide whether they want to deal with you or not purely based on this.

Next is your be­hav­iour and your man­ner­isms (CARRY). We must con­duct our­selves pro­fes­sion­ally at all times, with strong ethics. You make an over­all per­son­al­ity state­ment through your looks and the way you be­have.

When you get to speak, your voice qual­ity is judged along with the con­tent of what you say (COM­MU­NI­CATE). How­ever, your body lan­guage plays a big role in your to­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. There­fore, it is es­sen­tial that you master the art of read­ing body lan­guage. Also the strength of be­lief in what you are try­ing to sell will in­flu­ence oth­ers to be­lieve it too.

You have a unique set of skills which you con­tin­u­ously work to im­prove upon (CA­PA­BIL­ITY). Pos­sess­ing unique tal­ent and strong skills in par­tic­u­lar ar­eas en­able you to stand out. Th­ese unique qual­i­ties can be the key for your brand dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.

You need to iden­tify your val­ues and then live by them (CORE VAL­UES). A sim­ple mes­sage by the Dalai Lama, “Open your arms to change, but never let go of your val­ues” sends a clear mes­sage of how pos­i­tive value is im­por­tant in de­ter­min­ing one’s brand im­age.

If we have clear goals for each as­pect of our life (COURSE), then we will di­rect our en­ergy to achieve our goals. This could be to do with our health, our wealth, our fam­ily, etc.

Hav­ing a clear di­rec­tion (CLEAR VI­SION) of where we want to be en­ables us to put the right en­ergy and fo­cus on all the ar­eas of the prism to en­sure that our ac­tions and be­hav­iours are in line with what we want to be­come.

If your vi­sion is com­pelling enough you will achieve it!

Us­ing the Per­sonal Brand Prism to cre­ate your brand

The Per­sonal Brand Prism is like hold­ing up a mir­ror and ask­ing:

Who am I?

How do I want to be per­ceived?

How do I want peo­ple to re­act ev­ery time they come in con­tact with me?

How can I be­come all that I want to be?

Build­ing this com­plete pic­ture al­lows you to see your­selves like you have never done be­fore and it builds a very strong be­lief in who you are.

Mak­ing key de­ci­sions such as what is your ‘brand’ and how to en­sure the brand lives, gets your com­mit­ment to drive your fu­ture di­rec­tion. Each level of the prism asks for devel­op­ment of habits which will en­sure a con­sis­tent de­liv­ery of your brand prom­ise. The Prism ap­proach al­lows you to look at ev­ery as­pect of your­self and then de­cide how to project your best in work, so­cial set­tings, and fam­ily life. For the pur­pose of build­ing a strong brand, the prism en­ables you to dis­cover your iden­tity and im­age. The prism looks at the to­tal brand im­age you wish to project and al­lows you to de­velop a strong con­sis­tent brand through build­ing of habits which you know are right for you and al­lows you to be unique.

Build­ing a pow­er­ful brand us­ing the Brand Prism

You can use the Brand Prism to help you to an­a­lyse your cur­rent brand and then build a brand you can be proud of.

Take the ex­am­ple of Su­san Boyle (watch her on YouTube). She ap­peared on the Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent show in the UK. As she walked onto the stage, both the au­di­ence and the panel of judges looked at her in dis­be­lief. They could not un­der­stand how she can be­lieve that she can per­form on this stage. This was be­fore she had even spo­ken a sin­gle word. They were judg­ing her groom­ing and the clothes she wore. She cer­tainly did not fit the pro­file of some­one who should be per­form­ing on TV, let alone live on stage. They started to dis­miss her be­fore she had a chance to per­form.

[Peo­ple with strong brands] clearly and con­tin­u­ously dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves and they pro­vide com­pelling rea­sons why peo­ple should be­lieve and trust in them.

The way she walked onto the stage and the way she moved her body when she was asked ques­tions made her sit­u­a­tion even worse. She did not carry her­self well. And in­creas­ingly the au­di­ence grew im­pa­tient, ex­pect­ing to be dis­ap­pointed.

When she spoke it was dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand what she was say­ing be­cause of her strong Scot­tish ac­cent. She also chal­lenged the panel and the au­di­ence by not say­ing what they ex­pected. And when she said she wanted to be as fa­mous as Elaine Paige (one of UK’s best mu­sic artists), both the pan­elists and the au­di­ence laughed at her. But they also felt em­bar­rassed for her. Based on the three el­e­ments of the Brand Prism so far, she had cre­ated a poor im­age and in their minds they dis­missed her. How can some­one who looks and talks like this sing? It’s not pos­si­ble!

How­ever, when she sang she amazed ev­ery­one. She sounded like a su­per­star. She was a nat­u­ral. She shocked ev­ery­one. She had cho­sen a song which was dif­fi­cult to sing, yet she made it look like the song was writ­ten for her. The au­di­ence changed their minds and gave her a stand­ing ova­tion. So when it came to her abil­ity, she was ob­vi­ously very tal­ented. Now ev­ery­one for­got the clothes, the hair­style, the strong ac­cent, the ec­cen­tric be­hav­iour and the fact she was 47 years old.

She had tal­ent and the au­di­ence and the panel were now on her side and ready to ac­cept her.

As she com­pleted her song she was given feed­back from the panel and she ap­peared so sur­prised that they liked her singing. She ap­peared so hum­ble. She ap­peared to dis­play val­ues which most peo­ple would find at­trac­tive and easy to re­late to. How­ever it is dif­fi­cult to judge this as­pect from the short video clip. Val­ues are usu­ally judged over a pe­riod of time and even then you have to be pretty close to the per­son. But they can be judged.

Is this the first time she had sung on stage? How long had she been dream­ing of this op­por­tu­nity? In fact she had been singing from a very early age. She has been per­form­ing in the lo­cal pubs for many years. Though her cour­ses (goals) were clear, she was un­able to make the break­through.

A short time af­ter this amaz­ing per­for­mance, Su­san sang the song with Elaine Paige re­al­is­ing dream. This shows the last part of the prism which is Clear Vi­sion.

A sim­ple mes­sage by the Dalai Lama, “Open your arms to change, but never let go of your val­ues” sends a clear mes­sage of how pos­i­tive value is im­por­tant in de­ter­min­ing ones brand im­age.

Just as we have used the Brand Prism to judge Su­san Boyle, we can also use it to judge our to­tal im­age.

Su­san Boyle has to­tally trans­formed her im­age and devel­oped a new brand for her­self. She ap­pears to have changed ev­ery as­pect. At ev­ery level of the Brand Prism she ap­pears to have re­de­fined her­self. She is al­ready very suc­cess­ful and will con­tinue to be even more suc­cess­ful as more and more peo­ple ac­cept her new brand im­age.

The ques­tion we must ask is whether she could have achieved this level of success much ear­lier if she had changed her brand im­age when she was younger? We will never know, how­ever we do know many or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als have en­joyed tremen­dous success through the ef­forts of build­ing and main­tain­ing strong brands. If you an­a­lyse suc­cess­ful peo­ple like Tan Sri Tony Fer­nan­des, you can see the Brand Prism at work. He has trans­formed the lives of so many peo­ple through the work he has done while main­tain­ing a strong con­sis­tent im­age. Even the ex­pres­sion “Ev­ery­one Can Fly” cap­tures at the deeper level ev­ery­thing about him and his work.

5 Tips to Build a Strong Brand

# 1. Get feed­back – How are you per­ceived by peo­ple

Ask peo­ple in your world, friends, fam­ily, cus­tomers and col­leagues what they think of you.

Take the feed­back and an­a­lyse what is the over­all mes­sage about your im­age in their eyes.

The sam­ple size does not have to be so large. A hand­ful of peo­ple should al­ready give you an im­pres­sion of what space you oc­cupy in their minds. Look for com­mon re­sponses. A pic­ture will emerge and you will dis­cover your cur­rent brand im­age.

# 2. Get a pro­fes­sional head­shot – A photo you can use widely

Ev­ery time peo­ple see you on so­cial me­dia or in print, you should be able to project your very best im­age. A pro­fes­sional head­shot en­ables you to project a con­sis­tent im­age which you are happy with.

# 3. Build Your Story – Share why you do what you do, let them dis­cover the in­ner you

Over the years you have achieved much success, oth­er­wise why are you still in the in­surance busi­ness? Shout­ing about your achieve­ments is im­por­tant but what is even more im­por­tant is shar­ing the rea­sons be­hind what you do. Once peo­ple be­lieve your rea­sons are gen­uine and what you are do­ing is more than sim­ply try­ing to make a liv­ing, then their trust in you and your in­ten­tions be­comes stronger. This will im­pact on your long term busi­ness success and your over­all im­age.

# 4. Get con­nected through so­cial me­dia

To­day, Malaysians are the world’s most prolific users of so­cial me­dia, av­er­ag­ing over 9 hours per week on the col­lec­tion of dif­fer­ent sites. Face­book is the most pop­u­lar. (Ref: MIGHT sur­vey 2011)

…the strength of be­lief in what you are try­ing to sell will in­flu­ence oth­ers to be­lieve it too.

Ir­re­spec­tive of the size of your agency, you can ben­e­fit from be­com­ing vis­i­ble on the net. There are many sites, so you will have to get ad­vice on which sites are right for your busi­ness and how to get started. A word of cau­tion, you will have to treat this as an im­por­tant com­po­nent in the to­tal mar­ket­ing of your busi­ness. Be con­sis­tent and be ac­tive are the two golden rules.

# 5. Work on your brand im­age like a busi­ness project

Once you get started with your new brand im­age, you will re­ceive com­pli­ments on your change, es­pe­cially if it is dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent from where you started. Let this mo­ti­vate you as your job of man­ag­ing the ‘new you’ has just be­gun. You will face many chal­lenges. The most im­por­tant of which is to main­tain a con­sis­tent im­age for the long term.

By build­ing habits which re­flect your brand im­age you will find it eas­ier to live the new im­age. The temp­ta­tion to go back to the old ways is go­ing to be very strong.

Con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tor the feed­back and ask your­self am I true to my brand prom­ise?

If how­ever, you are not get­ting the de­sired re­sponse, then you must re­ex­am­ine your po­si­tion. Use the brand prism and make changes at the ap­pro­pri­ate lev­els. The power to project the right brand im­age for you rests with you. Take the ini­tia­tive and make it hap­pen.

You have the op­por­tu­nity to brand your­self and stand out from the crowd. An op­por­tu­nity in this tough mar­ket to en­sure your busi­ness not only sur­vives but thrives! Go for it! i

Mo­hammed Fa­rooq is the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Fa­rooq Con­sul­tants whose core busi­ness is or­gan­i­sa­tional trans­for­ma­tion through mind­set change and skill devel­op­ment.

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