Branding Lessons Learned from Suze Orman

Critical lessons women can take from Suze Orman’s playbook for branding success in the marketplace

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Say the name “Suze Orman” and you immediately know what you’re in for: tough, honest, plain talk about how to get your finances back in order—whether you’re reading one of her bestselling books, watching her on TV or listening to her on your drive-time radio hour. You also know what you’re NOT getting: you won’t get a fashion line, you won’t get her latest single, you won’t hear about how she’s taking acting lessons or going into rehab.

You’ll also get something that’s hard to come by these days: authenticity.

Says Orman’s literary agent, Amanda Urban, about her decision to hire an unknown how-to author when she didn’t represent how-to authors, let alone unknown authors, at the time,:“She had such an authentic voice, and that’s because she completely cares about what she is doing…”

Orman, whose story of going from struggling as a waitress on $400 a month to becoming the author of nearly a dozen bestselling books on personal finance is the stuff of legends, has helped millions of personal investors—most of them women—through her various television, radio and live events all over the country. The little girl who, because of a serious speech impediment, never thought she’d amount to anything, the former waitress who, after getting customers at her restaurant to invest thousands of dollars in her idea for opening her own eatery lost it all to an unethical financial broker, has succeeded in becoming what Investor’s Business Daily calls “one of the most popular self-help financial advisers in America.”

She is also one of the most popular personal brands on the market today. And she is not alone—many modern, successful women today are also very modern, successful personal brands. From Oprah Winfrey to Martha Stewart, from Condoleezza Rice to Nancy Pelosi, from Madonna to Beyonce, women as brands is nothing new.

There are, however, three critical lessons we take from Suze Orman’s playbook for branding success in the marketplace.

Brand Strategy #1: Compassion. I have always believed that people do not care what you know until they know that you care.  Make sure that people understand why you do what you do.  If your colleagues and clients can relate to you, they are more likely to trust you and want to stick with you.

Brand Strategy #2: Credibility. Never underestimate the power that increased education can have in reinventing your brand, especially if you are making a career change.  Education can come in many different formats, but it is important nonetheless.  Suze clearly worked diligently to develop her skill set and expertise.  Passion, while important, is not enough.  You must invest the proper resources in order to become an expert in your space.  If you want to earn more, learn more.

Brand Strategy #3: Consistency.  Understand exactly what it is of value that you bring to the marketplace.  The “it” that you bring forms the foundation of your brand equity.  From there, make sure you evaluate what you do, say, and offer through the filter of your brand objectives.  Suze Orman is very consistent with the nature of her brand message.  When you become more consistent in what you deliver and how you deliver it, you actually teach others what to think about you and the value of your personal brand.

To learn more strategies about how you can develop a compelling and profitable brand in the marketplace, please check out ME University: The Ultimate Business and Branding Bootcamp, sponsored by Black Enterprise.

In the interim, what other brand lessons can you glean from Suze Orman’s career and personal story?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Marshawn Evans is president of ME Unlimited L.L.C. and a weekly career advice columnist for BlackEnteprise.com. Connect with her online at Black Enterprise’s BE INSIDER, at www.marshawnevans.com, on Twitter at @marshawnevans and on Facebook at ME Unlimited by Marshawn Evans

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