Executive Branding. It’s a hot trend in B2B marketing and something your bank or credit union should consider.
I say it to clients and in seminars every week, “As financial institutions, we don’t sell checking accounts and loans, we sell trust.”
As the population is increasingly overrun with a demographic who grew up on social media and mobile information, the marketing control has drastically shifted from “if you build it, they will come” marketing. Today, the control is completely in the target’s hands (or back pockets … or wherever they keep their phone). The power is with the individual and they are increasingly used to building relationships with their preferred brands … and with the people behind them.
The following is from a January 20, 2017 Forbes article:
“Grant Wickes, an executive branding specialist, says, ‘Senior executives must create and develop their personal brand. Buyers want to know the ‘why’ and trust the leaders behind the companies they do business with. Some companies have adapted to this evolution, but many have not. And executives are most guilty of not embracing this new paradigm. Some feel there is no need, but 2017 will mark a watershed year for executive branding.’”
Steve Olenski , Forbes Contributor, 13 Marketing Trends For 2017 That B2B Marketers Need To Understand
It’s funny. When we conduct brand research for community banks and credit unions, we try to build a persona for the institution. To give it a human personality. We ask staff and customers, “If XYZ Bank/Credit Union was a person, what would they be like? What would they look like?” Much of the time, when we piece the puzzle together, that persona looks very much like the person sitting in the corner office with “CEO” on their door. If your CEO is your brand persona, maximize it. Don’t hide them away … showcase them! It can:
- Differentiate you in a way that no other bank or credit union can duplicate.
- Build personal trust.
- Move your brand promises away from being faceless, and give it credibility.
- Position your institution as subject matter experts.
Remember, we sell TRUST. And it is always easier to trust an individual than it is to trust a group or organization. That said, this Executive Branding strategy should extend beyond your C-Suite. Do you want to own each local market? Brand your branch managers. Do you want to be top-of-mind with local business owners? Brand your local business development or commercial staff.
How Do You Executive Brand?
Just like branding your company, when you brand your people, you want to mold the community’s perception and be consistent. They need to come off as likable and smart.
When you brand your company, your Marketing Department talks to the world. When you brand your Executives, THEY do the talking. You should have an Executive communication plan.
Create content where your branded executive showcases their knowledge. This could be in a weekly blog that gets emailed to your target (kind of like whet you’re reading now!). It could be monthly whitepaper. Nirvana would be an ongoing, consistent segment on local media (digital or print) where you provide tips, advise and knowledge.
Remember this content is not meant to sell (directly), it’s meant to show the world how smart your executives are and what good things they do.
Take your financial expertise on the road. Are there Chambers, non-profits, business organizations or other communities that would benefit from your executive’s knowledge? Get them in front of the podium.
Your institution can’t get out to shake hands and kiss babies, but your executives can! Networking goes beyond putting on a grey suit and going to Chamber events for dry chicken. Be creative. What centers of influence can your executive hob-knob with? They can “network” with a hammer in their hand while building a Habitat for Humanity home. Simply get out in the community in meaningful way.
In 2017, networking doesn’t even have to be face-to-face. Make sure that your branded executive is tied into (and contributes regularly to) the right local LinkedIn groups or other relevant social media.
Ongoing, quick-read content is great but being an author will propel your executive to another level or perceived expertise. Talk to them about their comfort-zone and passions. The book doesn’t, necessarily, need to be about banking. Are they an expert on local history? Do they know the potential pit-falls of starting a new business? Can they share the traits that make them a successful CEO? Whatever.
Once the book is written, share it with as many people in the community as possible. The goal isn’t necessarily book sales or to make the New York Times Top 10 list, but to get in front of as many people as possible.
I can tell you, first hand, that Executive Branding works in B2B … its MarketMatch’s new business model. After all, you’re reading part of it right now. I’m confident that it can help brand your institution too. Or at least, brand specific business lines.
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