Branding, Marketing, and Selling: An Interview with Scott Deming

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Branding, Marketing, and Selling: An Interview with Scott Deming

I recently had a chance to listen to Scott Deming‘s audio book “The Brand Who Cried Wolf“. It spoke about the importance of high quality customer service and seeing things from the client’s point of view. It was a confirmation that branding is about delivering value that touches a client’s life in a unique, positive way and that delivering that value to clients in the first place is so much more important than advertising.

A media-savvy speaker and compelling leadership trainer, Scott Deming is also a veteran businessman, Board member, marketer and community volunteer. He has been changing company cultures for thirty years with his unique approach to critical thinking and value-driven branding. He speaks, trains and consults with the largest and smallest companies in the world, helping them to create cultures that matter and cultures that last. At his core, however, Deming is compassionate and generous and his purpose in life is to help clients, friends and strangers make a positive change – either in their personal life, professional life, or organization. He is the founder and Chairman of Safe and Sound with Amaya, one of the original founders and past board member of Service Nation, past board member of several non-profits, graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, has four children and lives with his wife Deborah in Syracuse, NY.

Deming’s new book, Powered by Purpose, can be found at Barnes & Noble as well as on and other fine booksellers.

I had a chance to catch up with Scott Deming to interview him and ask his thoughts about what branding means.

How would you define “brand?”

In simplest terms, a “Brand” is a distinguishing mark that sets one product or company apart from others. But that definition has evolved with the growing competitive landscape and the need to truly differentiate one’s product or service from all others. After all, most everyone is selling a commodity. How do we de-commoditize? To truly be unique in a sea of sameness a company must create a powerful and positive association in the minds, hearts and souls of their customers about their product, service or company. So, the real definition of a “Brand” is a perception or feeling associated with a particular company or product, based either on a unique experience, strong marketing and even stronger word of mouth.

What is the difference between branding, marketing and selling?

Branding is the creation of a perception and feeling about a company, product or service, through positive and consistent marketing and authentic, personal, and emotional selling.

What is a common mistake you see people make in their branding?

This is an easy question for me, since I owned a national advertising agency for twenty years and saw my clients make this mistake time and again. The most common mistake is thinking that advertising is the magic bullet. If a company spends large sums of money on advertising that drives people to their place of business, they think “Game Over.” Not so. If you focus only on the message and you don’t have the culture and service to back up the promise, you’ll drive customers into a flawed service and literally un-sell your brand.

We work with a number of small business owners. I’ve never met a successful business that competed primarily on price. What is your wisdom and experience on how price factors into customer decision making?

I always ask my audiences and my consulting clients this question – “If you take price off the table, what’s left?” I believe price is a factor in the beginning stages of deciding on whether or not one can afford or even want to purchase a particular product or service. But in the end, authenticity, trust, value, relationships, and relevance will be the deciding factors. And, you don’t want to sell on price anyway. If you do, you’re merely selling commodities. People who are price shoppers will never be loyal customers. They may be satisfied, but never loyal. The definition of a satisfied customer is this – They will stay with you until the next best deal comes along.

What wisdom do you have on the differences between client acquisition, selling additional products to current clients, and client retention based on a subscription model?

First, we all know how much more expensive it is to get a new client than it is to grow an existing client. With that said, many times a client tops out and there is no room for additional products. Even with that knowledge, we try selling products to clients they simply don’t need just to grow the account. This is a big mistake. The client will feel it and wonder if they can trust you. Look at the growing needs of a client and present your products as solutions to their upcoming issues and needs. Always let the client know you’re thinking about them. If they don’t need anything new, let them know. If they do, let them know.

New client acquisition is a must and should be a constant focus. But again, be sure you’re selling something to someone who truly needs it. When the selling process is authentic and transparent, and when the focus is on the client’s needs and not your products and services, they’ll buy.

Client retention based on a subscription model is tricky. Many times, we don’t hear from our advisors because it’s either an automatic renewal, rolling over, or my advisor is investing for me. Then, I’ll get quarterly reports, and that’s it. You’ve heard of “out of sight, out of mind?” It’s more like “out of mind, out of relevance”. I don’t know if I need you anymore. I don’t even know what you do for me. Providers and advisors must figure out a way to stay in constant contact with their clients, whether it’s electronic or personally. I want to know you’re still thinking of me.

In the financial services world only about 7% are fee-only fiduciary advisors. The remaining majority who are not fee-only fiduciaries purposefully confuse consumers by calling themselves “fee based.” Other industries have similar problems with terms such as “organic.” What techniques can a brand use to break through overwhelming misinformation or mislabeling?

Keep it simple and keep it honest. Most people understand that there are hidden fees they can’t find, but simply don’t have the energy to look for, or fees that they see but don’t understand because of the language. Because of that, there’s an instant lack of trust. When someone enters into a relationship with an advisor, they will most likely have a trust issue, because they don’t understand the fees, information and jargon. Keep it in layman’s terms and as I said before, stay authentic and completely transparent.

In investing, the emotional response with which our brains are wired to react is often unhelpful, causing the average consumer to sell low and buy high. When necessary to do what is best for the client, how can a firm best communicate that the client is wrong?

By telling them they are about to make a mistake and “My job is to protect you, your money, and your future.” I’ve written entire articles on this subject. If I’m hiring you as my advisor, I’m doing so because I don’t know the industry and the landscape well enough to do it on my own. That is exactly what an advisor has to remind a client of, when they’re set on going down the wrong path. Don’t ever abuse or offend a client, but don’t ever let them make a costly mistake either. It’s your obligation as my financial advisor to do everything in your power to protect my investments, including protecting me from myself. I’ve often said to clients – “I can’t in good conscience take your money and invest it this way. I know in my heart it will not turn out well for you.” I’ve also said – “If you insist on making this decision, please understand I cannot be responsible for the outcome.” I believe that when a client sees an advisor who is steadfast in his or her recommendations and values, and if the client feels that the advisor is sincere and compassionate, they will listen and do what the advisor recommends.

One sales technique is to “trouble or worry the client” so that they will feel like they have to do something. Competitors use this technique to get otherwise satisfied customers to make a change. What thoughts do you have on helping your customers to be resistant to those sales techniques?

Just be honest. Show them the facts, stay true, and be transparent. Smart people will immediately recognize the good from the bad.

What is the best question you’ve ever been asked?

Do you want to start a family?

What keeps you awake at night?

Worrying about my family.

What gets you energized in the morning?

A new day. I love new days. It’s a chance to do something new and amazing.

What is your personal brand?

Transforming the lives of those I touch.

Where should people go to hear more from you?

Thank you for talking with us about Branding and “The Brand Who Cried Wolf!

Follow David John Marotta:

President, CFP®, AIF®, AAMS®

David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.