The Professional’s Branding Challenge: how to look different while blending in (& why it matters)
Professional Services & Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Value Proposition

The Professional's Branding Challenge: how to look different while blending in (& why it matters)

January 12, 2018

by Tony Vidler  CFP logo   CLU logo  ChFC logo

Be different...while blending in!

Be different…while blending in!

When it comes to creating a personal brand as a professional, the irony is we have to look different – while blending in and looking the same.

One cannot afford to look any less professional than your peers or competitors.  So to a large degree degree there is a market expectation that you WILL look the same…behave the same…have the same expertise…the same qualifications…have the same ethics and values….and this means that to a significant extent you have to actually look just like everybody else just to be credible as a professional don’t you?

So on the one hand we have a professional requirement to effectively appear to be the same as our peers and competitors.

Yet on the other, we have a need to stand out from the crowd in an increasingly competitive and noisy marketplace.

Just how noisy and competitive is it?  Are we – the professionals – actually just really poor at marketing ourselves to an abundantly large population of potential clients?

I think not.

In this part of the world we have a nice little barely populated couple of islands. Only about 4.7 million people – so for readers overseas think of the following example as being your city, and I suspect the general conclusions will be similar for (say) Sydney as they would be for this entire country.

Of the 4.7 million people who comprise “the market” here, some 3,821,000 are of working age, but only 76% of them are working.  Let’s not go into why that is….but anyway, we have a working population who are earning money of 2,903,960 apparently. We could call them legitimate prospects for our services.

There are apparently some 8,000 financial advisers looking to work with these consumers, along with tens of thousands of bank and institutional advisers or product retailers (because they aren’t being counted in the adviser population).

That would suggest that there is potentially an average of 363 prospects in the country for every adviser.  Now clearly the banks and institutions do get some of them…quite a lot in fact.  And then there is a fairly sizeable proportion of the population that just do not engage in any way with professional services of any sort, relying instead on the largesse of government departments & social welfare systems or karma.  It is probably fair to say that at least 50% of those prospects aren’t actually prospects at all for professionals….leaving a grand total of:

182 prospects per adviser (on average).

Realistically, the market is not actually as big as many people think it is.  Not the “market for professional services” anyway.  The market for financial products is substantially larger than the market for professional advice I would suggest….and that presents a challenge for us when the momentum across the financial services sector from regulators, professional bodies and consumer groups is to separate advice from product and to essentially shame “product sellers” into oblivion in favour of “professional advisers” who will somehow extract fees directly from consumers who do not even wish to engage in the advice process to begin with.

This all suggests that “professional advisers” are going to struggle to build much of a business or a livelihood over say a 5 year period if they are merely average marketers, and they only get “their share of the market”.

Compounding the problem further is that research suggests that these same 182 prospects who are each advisers average share are in exposed to about 3,000 advertising and marketing messages each day.

I think it is fair to describe the professional services marketplace as noisy and crowded.

A professional’s marketing matters more than ever before in other words….and so we come back to the challenge of looking similar enough to the rest of the profession – or blending in – and yet being able to stand out in that noisy and crowded market to the point where more potential clients choose you.

There are three parts to creating that personal brand that will help you stand out.

  1. You must have a personal value proposition that is totally centred on a client benefit – or an outcome that potential clients want.  A strong personal value proposition that plays to your skills and your “passion”, that results in an outcome your target market wants is what is required.
  2. That value proposition must have its own “identity”, or something that is relatively easy for your potential customers to remember and place.  An identity does not have to be a corporate brand or logo (though they may be part of the identity) – the identity can be corporate or personal in reality as long as the target market associates it with you, the individual professional.
  3. You have to adopt a position in the market.  It is a certainty that you will be lost in the noise and the crowd if you try to be all things to all people.  You have to identify the place, the position, in the market that you choose to focus upon and become well known in.

Any individual professional who is able to create that value proposition which clearly conveys a benefit that their ideal target market wants, and can position it in the target market in a manner which resonates and is memorable, will rise above the noise.

They will be seen as different – a brand in their own right – while remaining a credible part of their professional community.

You might also be interested in this related article:
Identifying Your Uniqueness As An Adviser
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