“If you want it to be professional, if you want it to sound good, if you want it to be something that has maximum value, because people aren't distracted by you stumbling over your own words, then you're going to have to invest in yourself. You're going to have to take time, and you're going to have to sacrifice.” --Greg Martin

Building a career isn’t just about staying loyal to one employer for 30 or 40 years anymore. It’s about creating and refining a personal brand. And it takes work and investment.

Greg Martin, Consultant at The Entrepreneur’s Banker and Commercial Banker at Truist, joined James Robert on the Banking on Digital Growth Podcast to discuss the importance of delivering value through a personal brand and how to get started.

But Greg has also created an entire library of killer LinkedIn content that grew and fostered his own personal brand. And in his experience, the thing that made all the difference for him was investing in himself and in his personal brand.

Why Personal Branding Matters in the Financial Industry

Thanks to the rapid adoption of technology to keep up with the COVID-19 crisis, there’s no question that the financial industry is going through a period of transformation, and bankers need to be prepared to keep up.

They need to take steps to go through their own internal transformation.

And internal transformation begins with two things:

  1. Telling the truth about the status quo and where growth opportunities lie
  2. Getting the training, education, insights, and clarity to understand what the future could be

In this post-COVID-19 digital world, personal branding as a banker is poised to be more important than ever. The rapid speed of digital transformation will make interactions with banking faster and more digitally-based than ever before.

As a result, these interactions will be fast, quantitative, and intuitive, not personal or human-based. Greg explained. “When that day comes, then if the only value that a commercial banker is to clients is a conduit to cash, or a lunch, or a golf outing, if that's the only value that happens, then I'm dead. I'm worthless.”

It’s time for bankers to craft their own personal brands.

Finding a Niche

No one person can be all things to all people—and that’s okay. In an industry stacked with professionals and innovators, finding a niche can be the ticket to securing a personal brand; it establishes credibility and expertise.

After all, content is about delivering value, and niches are more valuable than generalizations.

It’s all too easy for those working in the financial industry to want to be all things for everybody, but the reality is, that's just not possible—nor is it sustainable.

Greg built his own brand by connecting with entrepreneurs who can get the most value out of what he has learned and what he has to share.

He created his own niche, and in an industry that’s more digital than ever before, “niche” is the new “local” for banks and credit unions.

Niche interests are how bankers can connect to the communities they serve and create their own growth opportunities.

Some may be concerned about industry regulations and reputation risk; that they may say something that could be misconstrued and harm their business, and they let this excuse hold them back from branching out and forming their own brand.

But Greg argues, “Well, I would ask, what advice are you giving them? Because the advice that I give is, pay down debt, hoard cash, be flexible, don't overextend yourself. If you go bankrupt doing those things, then we have got much bigger problems.”

It does mean that those who are looking to build their personal brand need to understand their institution’s social media and publishing guidelines, but these fears shouldn’t be the things that keep those in the financial industry from building their brands.

Greg also isn’t creating personally-branded content about loans and checking accounts. He’s not selling; he’s creating content about a larger philosophy or empowering and serving entrepreneurs and making them the hero.

And often, that does the selling for him.

Appealing to a niche market hasn’t narrowed his community, it’s actually opened Greg up to a wider, yet more specialized group of entrepreneurs across the country.

He’s not competing with other local brands or local experts for every loan or investment out there; he’s reaching a specific group that’s hungry for his kind of expertise and will pay more to get it.

When those in the financial industry create and define their expertise, they can charge more because their clients understand the value.

Compare doctors who go through medical school and become general practitioners to those who go on to receive more specialization and become renowned heart surgeons with a focus on one procedure or one ailment. The general practitioner has 3,000 patients, they feel the churn of working with countless patients each day, spending very little time with each one and laboring for hours on end to meet all their needs.

On the other end of the spectrum, the heart surgeon works with a very specific niche of patients. They likely work fewer days each week and charge far more for their services because what they do requires far more expertise. And if a general practitioner moves to the other side of town, they may lose their patients, while the ultra-specialized heart surgeon will have patients fly across the country for their advice and care.

It’s the same with building a personal brand. It’s essential to pinpoint a niche that has value. It’s easy to fear losing opportunities by focusing on niche markets and committing to that niche, but a personal brand appeals more and has more value for a smaller group of individuals.

As Greg explained, “The thing about finding a niche is that you find a niche that gives you joy and life.” He continued, “You're going to attract the things that give you life, that give you a sense of wellbeing beyond a transaction.”

Just Dive In

Greg now has several years of experience in amassing content that has helped hone his personal brand; hundreds of pieces of content, videos, articles, and podcasts.

And it’s taken time.

Those starting out may struggle through roadblocks, writer’s block, and other challenges on the road to creating a personal brand and a niche that feels authentic and valuable.

Greg’s advice is to just get started.

“If you're going to do this, just do it. It's not that difficult.” It starts by writing one post or shooting one video. He continued. “You're going to have to invest a little bit in written content work, and you're afraid of being on video, just hit record, and do an audio, a one-minute segment, or two minutes, ‘Hey, here are some quick tips about how you can be more financially strong today,’ whenever that is.”

However, it does take more than “just do it” to build a professional brand though. As Greg explained, sounding professional, building expertise, and offering value? It takes investing in a personal brand.

Along the way, the personal brand will grow, evolve, and expand, but it requires starting. It requires putting the work in. Greg spends nights and weekends batching videos to edit during the week. He writes content after his son goes to bed. But he does it to invest in himself and in his brand, to create content that adds value to the lives of this niche audience.

It also means not getting discouraged if a podcast or blog post doesn’t hit the top of the search results page on Google on day one.

Greg admitted when looking at his first article his first thought was, "Man, that was really, really bad," but, he continued, "it was out there.”

Anyone can make the commitment to do this. It's a commitment in one’s self, and the continuous commitment to create content, to help educate, empower and elevate others that makes all the difference.