Okay, so you have a great looking graphic logo, maybe you even refreshed it recently. Perhaps your corporate name remains the same but maybe you changed your corporate colors. Possibly you even refreshed your web site, stationery and marketing collateral items, maybe even created a new tag line. Therefore your corporate “face” is ready to go for the New Year. Not so fast.
The fact is there are many companies in the mortgage industry that unfortunately stop there, thinking their brand is ready to go out and successfully compete with a new “face” that implies you’re better today than you were yesterday. In reality, that exercise is the least important of the four components that makes up a brand and, done by itself, has the potential of confusing your target audience, leaving them wondering why you did it and what’s changed about you that made you do it.
Let’s take a look at each component that makes up your brand:
1. See above, it is the visual appearance of how you present yourself to homebuyers, Realtors, high-producing mortgage loan originators you would love to recruit or how you present yourself as a provider of business services to those within the industry.
2. Your employee’s perception of your brand. The clarity of how employees at all levels understand what your brand represents is critical to the growth, success and competitive advantage (or disadvantage) of your company. When there is no clear corporate brand standard, your target audience will be met with employees who provide “service” that is scattered and inconsistent because they are not all serving the same master so to speak.
The experience at your touch points of sales/originations, servicing, billing, follow-up communications, marketing materials and others will be the “flavor of the day" if there is no brand clarity within your ranks. Think about those who have it right; for example, when you stay at a Ritz-Carlton, everyone from the front desk to the housekeeper to the phone receptionist to the restaurant staff all project the same high class welcoming message.
You can easily measure the internal understanding of your brand. Click here for a free, quick way you can check how well your staff perceives your brand.
3. How are you different? You may be surprised at how many simply assert their dedication to service in a variety of ways. Really? The fact is that’s the price of admission today and these are very common claims that your target audience glazes over like typical filler copy.
You must go deeper and explore the basis of your company by gaining an understanding of “who you are” and “why you exist.” That process becomes a deep dive into the crux of a company in what we call a “day of discovery” among the primary stakeholders. This retreat provides insight that will unearth a brands’ evidence of distinction and uncover positioning that a brand can deliver upon.
It is important to understand that this exercise cannot and should not be influenced by competitor’s claims or what the market wants/expects. It must be the true North of what propels a company from the inside, what it is capable of delivering better than anyone else. This process provides the clarity which is communicated internally to employees and becomes the focus of the brands’ marketing efforts for the world to see. It’s not a message created by the marketing department to “try” for the next quarter; rather it is the evidence of distinction that will drive the growth for the future.
Going back to our example above, it has driven Ritz very profitably for decades. You can say the same for Starbucks, Apple and many others that we’re all familiar with. There is no reason you can’t do the same. Is there?
4. Determining what you are capable of becoming. Once you gain a true understanding of how you’re different and have put everyone on the same page internally, you’ll be well ahead of most of your competitors. Because of this understanding, you’ll naturally drive this understanding to those you come in contact with externally. You can then confidently contemplate what your brand can become, very aspirational and inspirational as well.
All companies evolve over time. With the clarity the brand development process provides, you can now set the strategy for future growth knowing that you alone can claim the positioning you have created. And, very importantly, the communications process will become easier and less expensive, ultimately gradually lowering your cost-per-lead and customer acquisition over time!
You won’t need to experiment with new marketing messages, you won’t need new company rallies to get the staff excited about a new course, nor will you need to wonder if your competitors are adopting your messaging. You simply will need to stay the course you have plotted to the rewards that will be very achievable.
Brand development, honed from the steps outlined, will accelerate the sales process, build brand credibility and influence audiences to prefer your brand above others. It is more than a logo, tagline and color. True brand development brings brands to life and prosperity!
John Seroka is Principal of Seroka, a full-service brand development and strategic communications firm specializing in the mortgage industry. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866.379.0400. You also can connect with him at linkedin.com/in/johnseroka, twitter.com/johnseroka or on Google+.