If you asked your clients to describe you and your practice in two sentences, would you like what they have to say? Would they even be able to describe you or your practice in two sentences?

If not, you probably need to spend some time working on your personal brand.

As chief marketing officer for Ameriprise Financial, I constantly study brands – both corporate and personal. Obviously, I watch how our brand sets itself apart in the industry. But I also look at what other brands do in the marketplace and how they connect with consumers to see what works and what doesn’t. Based on what I learn, I work with our advisors to help create, develop, maintain and strengthen their personal brands.

Now, I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with you, and I hope to provide actionable strategies and recommendations to advance your marketing efforts. I promise to keep it short and to the point – each post will take less than five minutes to read – with my goal being that you will walk away with at least a couple ideas to put in place right away.

Your personal brand is critical for marketing success. Your brand is the foundation of your practice; it defines you, what you do, why you do it and what makes you different from everyone else. You’re looking to create a personal connection with your current and prospective clients. So much of our business is about trust, and your brand is a powerful representation of the relationships you’ve spent a career growing.

When looking to build your personal brand, there are four cornerstones that can serve as the foundation of your efforts. These are:

1. Your digital and social image is just as important as your offline image. This year will be the first year that Americans spend more time online than watching TV. So, you should ask yourself the following:

  • Are you where your clients are? Do you observe where your clients are on social media?
  • Have you researched yourself online? Do you like what you have found?
  • How often do you update your website? Updating your website can keep clients coming back to your site as they seek information.
  • Is your LinkedIn profile consistent with your website and other marketing materials such as your bio or marketing brochures? Make sure there is one consistent message about you in the marketplace.

2. Community presence. Clients and prospects want to see their advisors as part of their community. Ask yourself what you are passionate about.  Advertise in your church bulletin, participate in charity or community events, or network at the corner coffee shop. Folks naturally trust those they know and see in the community.

3. Client communication plan. Clients want to hear from you. Do you have a communications plan to meet their expectations? Have you asked them for their preferences? In my experience and from all of the research I’ve read, one thing is clear – clients want to know that you’re paying attention to their interests and thinking about their needs. Be the advisor who is there first and often.

4. Be more than an “advisor”. Celebrate your clients’ successes and milestones, including their retirement, a birthday or an anniversary, when they buy their first house or when their children go off to college. Being in touch with your clients’ lives – being a part of the family – will go a long way in building your practice.

After evaluating and implementing the four steps above, ask your clients to describe you again. Would they talk about how you spend time getting to know them and their families and how you are deeply involved in the community? Would they describe how you check in with them when they most want to hear from you or how you take the time to learn about social media so you can communicate with their kids?

In today’s world, branding is increasingly important and powerful – especially because of social networks. Brands connect people and help us identify what matters to us. For advisors looking to step up their marketing game, there are few more important tasks than creating your personal brand. I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation.

Kim Sharan is the chief marketing officer and the president of Financial Planning and Wealth Strategies for Ameriprise.

Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. Some products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions or to all clients.

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