“Describe your brand for me. What is it that you want people thinking, feeling, saying about you?”

How would you answer that question? Would it have something to do with being helpful? Responsive? Great customer service? Nice? Friendly?

I frequently hear those types of responses from benefit brokers and advisers when asking the question about brand. But, honestly, that’s far from enough. Not if you want to be a competitive force. And certainly not if you want to remain an independent consulting firm and outlive your competitors.

Bloomberg/file photo

You’ve got to be more. You need to take a stand around an idea and own it. And that idea must create an emotional connection with your clients and prospects.

But what is that something? The idea that should embody your organizational soul? I don’t know. I can’t answer that for you, but I can help you look for it and begin to take ownership of it.

Start with your vision. What would you like to achieve with your business? Do you want to keep working along steadily without rocking the boat? Or be acquired by a larger organization and retire happily with your earnings? If this is your goal, then just keep doing what you’re doing. Forget about brand, it not worth worrying about at this point.

But if that’s not your ideal scenario and you have loftier goals, you need to take an assertive approach to your business. Do you want to be the acquiring agency, sending others off to retirement bliss? Maybe you want to be the sole independent agency standing in your market? Or become a consulting giant in your community?

The answer is up to you. But if you don’t know what you want, it’s impossible for anyone else to know. Your team needs to know your vision as well as you do and accept ownership of it. Not until they can see it and feel it with clarity and want it will they begin to behave in a way that drives the company to that destination.

It is through this effort around a unified goal that a strong culture begins to arise. Everyone working together to achieve something much bigger than any one person could ever do on his own. Something exciting begins to develop out of a strong, unified culture like this — a personality and a drive toward something bigger.

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A brand emerges
Develop a culture reflective of your vision, and your brand presents itself. Your brand should embody the spirt of who you collectively are as an organization. An effective brand will be like a magnet, drawing people toward it because they want to be a part of what that brand represents.

It’s from this recognition that you begin to develop your style. For example, if your vision is to become a premier consulting firm, then as your brand emerges, you’ll feel a new level of confidence and you’ll market your business with smart, challenging copy and educational, assertive activities. You’ll feel confident and you’ll pass that well-deserved confidence to your clients. You’ll become the magnet that people want — no, need — to be a part of. You’ll develop a brand to be proud of and one that keeps competitors and predators at bay.

Brand can feel like an elusive idea. But when you know what you want, you can’t help but behave in a way reflective of those ideas. So instead of focusing on “developing a brand,” focus on a vision and a culture that shine like a beacon in the night sky.

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