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In a business as competitive as insurance, having a personal brand can make all the difference. Here’s how to build your own.

William Arruda is credited with nothing less than turning the concept of personal branding into a global industry. The marketing guru, author and founder of Reach Personal Branding spoke with Insurance Market Source’s Michael Voelker and explained how to go about uncovering and articulating a resonant, appealing personal brand.

Why focus on “personal” branding in the insurance business?

William Arruda: Today there is no longer a bright line between our personal and professional lives. We are always connected. We bring work home with us, and we leave work to deal with personal matters. So part of building your personal brand is focusing on you, which will also help you be better at the work/life blending that is a reality today.

How does building a personal brand benefit brokers and agents?

WA: The benefits are incredible. Competition is fierce, so branding helps differentiate you and ultimately flip the typical insurance sales process by driving ideal clients to you, rather than having to go out and find them. In fact, effective branding can lead to your customers being ambassadors for you. Think about Apple. Not only do we pay a premium for Apple products because of what we perceive to be their brand value, but their customers are intensely loyal and promote Apple products to anyone who will listen.

What is the most important thing people need to understand about a personal brand?

WA: You don’t create a brand, you uncover it. Your brand must be authentic. The strongest brands in the world are great at figuring out who they are, then creating a message around that and presenting it to the public so customers will choose them for it.

So what are some examples of the strongest personal brands you have seen?

WA: Richard Branson comes to mind. He’s not your typical CEO. He’s never in a three-piece suit. His number one passion is adventure and he is fearless in taking calculated business risks. Everything is consistent with who he is and what he’s known for. Ellen [DeGeneres] is another example. Mention her name and her brand of trust and approachability immediately comes to mind. She is who she is, she’s authentic, and it’s incredibly compelling.

Is trying to create, rather than uncover, a brand a common mistake?

WA: Yes. People say, “It would be great if my brand were this,” so they try to be that. It’s like wearing a mask, and it’s bound to fail. The second mistake is trying to promote your brand to customers before you have a clear vision about what it is. You need to create that clarity first.

What are some tactics brokers and agents can use to uncover their personal brand?

WA: The first is introspection: identifying what’s important to you, what your values and passions are, what you do better than anyone else. The second is getting feedback from others because though branding is rooted in authenticity, what people think about you matters. If they don’t mention the attributes you think are part of your brand to describe you, you don’t own those attributes. We have a tool called 360°Reach that helps people gain that feedback.

Besides achieving the business benefits you mentioned, what are other reasons brokers and agents should uncover their personal brand?

WA: It can ultimately lead to greater satisfaction in what you do and how you do it. The process will help you focus on your brand strengths and guide you toward doing more of what you do well and enjoy, and that’s extremely fulfilling.

The Arruda File

William Arruda’s personal branding methodology has been used more widely than any other — and by executives at 20% of the Fortune 100. He writes a column for Forbes about personal branding and has representatives in 45 countries across the globe.

Age: 53

Native of Boston

Lives in New York City. “I love skyscrapers — anything urban.”

Interested in TV advertising. “The Super Bowl is one of my favorite events.”

Latest read that left an impression: Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. “It’s amazing what’s happening out there. We live in an incredible period of innovation.”

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