Brand isn’t only for the Coca~Colas, Nikes, and Apples of the world. Every business has a brand; every individual has a brand.

The term “brand” probably originated from the branding of livestock, to differentiate one rancher’s cattle from another. Thank goodness we don’t have to go through that painful process, BUT establishing the right brand for your insurance agency does take a lot of intentional, and sometimes difficult, work.

Your brand is way more than a logo or profile picture. Those are simply a visual representation of your brand. Your brand needs to be a strategically developed personality of you and/or your agency; it needs to convey some unique way in which you deliver value and help your audience understand how they would benefit from working with you.

Are you a Rush fan?

If so, you know the lyrics, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” This includes your brand decision.

Again, we all have a brand. Unfortunately, for most, their brand isn’t intentional, it’s simply the result of what people think of them after an interaction. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad brand (I’m sure you are a nice guy/gal, and I’m sure you know a lot about that insurance stuff), but it likely means you missed an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition in a truly meaningful way.

We humans are a strange bunch

We all like things to be predictable, we like to categorize things by labeling them and putting them into a “box”. This includes your prospects, especially when it comes to meeting you. They want to know what to anticipate and expect when they meet you. Maybe it’s part of our cave-man past?

By nature of what the interaction is, most of the time, prospects are meeting you for the first time. To prepare, they will go out and use “the Google” (that makes me laugh every time, sorry) to see who you are and what you’re all about; they look at LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and your company website.

Based on what they find or don’t find, they will develop a clear picture in their minds of who you are and what their meeting with you will be like. This will also determine if the meeting even takes place.

Now comes the big day

Did I mention that we humans are a strange bunch? Not only do we try to put things into a nice, neat box, but, we want to prove ourselves smart by validating that our expectations were spot on.

During their meeting with you, the prospect is looking for validation that you are exactly who/what they expected. Their “validation radar” is on high alert. Here’s where the danger AND opportunity come into play. Their predicted profile of who you are may only take up, let’s say, half of the interaction with you. BUT, because it is what they are looking for, it is the half they will use to make up the whole of the brand they assign to you.

Stranger danger

The danger isn’t in them expecting/experiencing something unfamiliar, it’s that they expect and experience something WAY TOO FAMILIAR.

If a prospect, when doing his/her pre-meeting online research, can’t get a clear picture of who you personally are and what makes you different, then they assume you are just like everyone else in your agency.

If they can’t get a clear picture of who you are and what makes you different as an agency, they will assume you and the agency both fit the stereotype of the industry.

Unfortunately, most of the time, your online presence very clearly tells them you fit the industry stereotype. Who wants THAT?!

If you’re not active online, or if you are not actively discussing ideas that stand out from what everyone is discussing, then you are placed into the “just like every other broker” bucket, even if you’re not.

A defined marketing strategy and a well-executed marketing effort based on the strategy will help you demonstrate to readers what your version of “different” and “standing out” look like.

Back to that strange bunch thing

You may be more innovative, forward-thinking, and non-traditional than 90% of your competitors, but most of it will be lost on your prospects if, based on their research-established expectations, they aren’t prepared in advance for what makes you different.

Remember, they want to prove themselves right. They are looking for those stereotypical indications that you are like what they expected – everyone else. Even if you only spend 25% of your time discussing the same issues as others, it’s that 25% that will stand out because it reinforces what they expected. It still forms your brand in their mind. And perception is reality. In their minds, your brand is “typical insurance broker.”

Quick example – Even if you have never ridden in a Volvo, how do you think you would describe one after a test drive? Do the words “safe”, “solid”, or “reliable” come to mind? You probably didn’t think of “sophisticated”, “luxurious”, or “fast” did you? Even though all six are accurate, most will look for the first three, the stereotype of Volvo we’ve come to know and expect, and will look to reinforce it through their experience.

Turn on their “Something’s Different” Radar

Knowing prospects set expectations based on what they read online, then your online presence is your single biggest opportunity to establish a brand that stands out from your competitors. The key is that you have to be intentional. Use your online presence to set new expectations with your prospects.

Discuss issues outside of the insurance industry stereotypes. Discuss the problems your prospects are likely struggling with every day. Tell stories of the impact you have made on the business of clients. And, don’t be afraid to be slightly controversial and make them feel slightly uncomfortable.

It’s only when a prospect becomes uncomfortable that they start thinking about their situation in a new light. When they start thinking about their situation differently, they will find a new perspective. And, for most, it’s that new perspective that opens them up to new expectations and change.

And, here is where you come in

Now, when you show up, their “this guy/gal is gonna be different radar” is on. They now expect you to be different. They are looking for the conversation clues to prove themselves right. Even though “different” likely won’t be 100% of your interaction with the prospect, it will be the part they remember. You are going to leave with a much stronger brand than your “stereotypical competitors”.

No better time than the present

The good news about your online presence is that you can start changing it today.

Start by defining your desired brand. What is it that you would like prospects/clients to say about you and their interactions with you?

Do you want them to say thing like:

  • “He is one of the most innovative thinkers I know”
  • “She has had a more meaningful impact on my overall business than any other partner I have.”
  • “They have this special gift of insight into problems I hadn’t even considered.”
  • “(Insert other nice stuff here)”

If you want them to see you that way, then start discussing innovative, impactful, and insightful ideas online. Discuss them early and often. And make it so regular and frequent that it’s what they expect when they meet you.

Photo by Hans