We’re talking about the important but often misunderstood topic of branding and how you can use it to help shape your practice.
Matt Lobas: We’re talking about the important, but often misunderstood, topic of branding and how you can use it to help shape your practice. I’m Matt Lobas, and this is The Essential Practice podcast.
There are many key aspects that go into the creation of your practice, but an often overlooked one is your brand. In this episode, I’m talking with Colin Harvill, Chief Executive Officer of Creative Ventures, who will provide some insights on the do’s and the don’ts of building your brand.
Welcome to today’s broadcast, Colin.
Colin Harvill: Thank you so much for having me, Matt. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Matt: Now before we get into the discussion, Colin, could you let our audience know a little bit about Creative Ventures and what your firm does?
Colin: Absolutely. So we are a strategic planning and consulting firm. We develop strategies in-house, based on the 35 years of experience we have with our doors being open and the various industries we work in, to solve some of corporate America’s more pressing problems. We package those in digestible formats, and we sell access to those strategies primarily in three different forms.
One is presentation, so we’re either going to a large conference and sharing these strategies on the stage with hundreds and thousands of people; or we’re working corporate education, doing small workshops to kind of refine the skill sets of their most valuable resource, their human capital; or we’re working hands on with these companies to implement these strategies on a business level and gain traction around them in that manner.
Matt: Excellent. Let’s move into the subject of branding. For the people that are listening to this podcast that are unfamiliar with the term, I wonder, Colin, if you could give a high-level definition of what a brand is and why you think it’s sometimes misunderstood?
Colin: Sure. Books and books are filled with what branding means. You can go to any college and any business school and they can beat your head against the wall with what branding means. But I’m always fascinated by where it started, and it actually started on cattle ranches.
So the first brands were actually brands on cattle and back in the day, it was an arduous task. You had to gather up the cattle, get them in small spaces, work really hard, and then take that hot iron and put it on a cattle and the smell was terrible.
And to this day, minus the smell, it is equally difficult to develop your brand.
At its core, it really just represents two specific things.
One is a promise from the company, whether it’s the promise on how you execute your business, the consistency with your product, or something along those lines, and then it’s some sort of emotional connection.
I always look at brand kind of like a vision statement. It’s an aspirational goal. This is what we would love to be seen as, but what’s really misunderstood is how much control you actually have over your brand and how your clients and the people who consume your products think of you.
The front end is pretty simple. You have, as a company, the opportunity to put some strategic thought into defining what you want to represent and how you want to be viewed. But at the end of the day, your brand is defined by consumer perception. You don’t get to call yourself a champion. That belongs to other people.
So one of the bigger problems that I see that companies have is thinking that they are in complete control of their brand and that their brand only exists in one realm.
So there are various things that people miss the boat on when it comes to branding, but I think more than anything that represents a promise and an emotional connection to what you do.
Matt: So let’s take advantage of that 35 years of experience that your firm has and talk specifically to some of the people listening to our podcast, that being financial advisors. What in your view are some of the best practices for a financial advisor who wants to build their brand? What should they be thinking about doing?
Colin: You know, it’s a great question. We always start with some very simple exercises to get the brain going.
One is to start thinking of some of your favorite brands, which is always hard for some people, but it really boils down to where do you spend your money and why? So if you start to develop an inventory of the brands you really like to shop and why you like them, you start to develop an idea of what your brand could look like and what’s really important to you.
And from there, you have a whole bunch of wiggle room, but it all starts by really defining what is fundamentally important to you and how those play into your goal structures.
Matt: I appreciate you sharing that, but flip it around for a moment, Colin. What things should you avoid doing in terms of building your brand? What are the watch-outs that our listeners should not do?
Colin: Deciding on your brand is a high-level strategic decision. It’s a defining decision for your business.
One of the missteps that we see a lot of companies make is that they front-end all the work that goes into building a brand and then kind of step away, as if to say it’s going to run itself.
But what really needs to happen is it needs to be front and center of every decision you make at a company. You need to ask yourself anytime you make a pivot point, any time you make a large scale decision, does it align with our brand and how does it make our clients feel? Those two things should go hand-in-hand with every decision you make, because there’s nothing worse than defining a brand and then starting to move away from it, so at one point, your brand and your process and service don’t align. It confuses not only the people within your company, but the clients that you’re going after.
What we say is it should always be one of the main filters that you have when making these decisions. And branding, in its ideal execution, permeates from every level within the company. They need to have that brand permeate out of them, and it needs to define their action on a daily basis, so that it’s consistent and it aligns with everything else that’s going on in the company. It really does endear consumers to the businesses they do business with.
Matt: You know, Colin, I’ve heard a lot about the fact that people say that we are all brand ambassadors, whether it’s of our firm or whether it’s of our team. And when we’re out talking to our customers and our clients out there, we are the living example of that brand. Do you subscribe to that?
Colin: I do. You know, it’s not just about the individual, but it’s about the collective, right? So you might be doing business with 50 people your firm doesn’t know about, but the entire time you are representing something larger than yourself.
And you need to make sure that you’re doing justice to everybody involved in that when you’re having those high level conversations and building those relationships.
Matt: That’s great insight. Thank you for that. Let me ask you one final question, and that is when you’re building your brand, do you need to be concerned about demographics? You know, in terms of the types of audiences or the types of prospects that you’re trying to talk to? And if you do need to be concerned, how do you deal with that? How do you prepare for those different types of demographics that are out there?
Colin: You know, this is kind of where branding and marketing coalesce. This is all about communicating value.
Obviously, the main thing you don’t want to do is cater to changing trends and let the brand kind of suffer inconsistencies over time.
What you really want to focus on is building that strong core brand and then adjusting marketing efforts, and more than anything and one of the things that we really focus on, is how you communicate your brand through story to make sure that you are going after different segments without sacrificing the value of your brand.
So that can take on a whole lot of different forms. First and foremost, it’s identifying which markets you want to go after and then you can do a lot of things to kind of hone in on that.
Matt: And as we wrap up this episode, I’d like to let our listeners know that if you’re interested in learning more about Creative Ventures, you can visit them at www.creativeventures.com.
In addition to that, we at Wells Fargo Asset Management have built a program called Power of Your Practice. Power of Your Practice is something that your regional director or regional consultant can share with you to help you build your brand and to come up with practical ideas that you could use both in terms of your prospects and your existing client base. So please feel free to reach out to us. Visit our website at www.wellsfargoassetmanagement.com, or contact your local regional director or regional consultant. They’ll be more than happy to share the program with you.
For now, we appreciate your listening and, again, Colin, thanks a lot for being with us today.
Colin: I am extremely grateful for the invitation to be on the show and be a part of what you’re building, and I just want to say thank you one more time to everybody who’s listening.
Matt: I’m Matt Lobas. Thank you for listening to The Essential Practice podcast.