Winnie Sun, is an American financial advisor, speaker, and founding partner of Sun Group Wealth Partners, a financial consulting firm. She is also a regular contributor to CNBC, Forbes, Good Day LA, and Fox News. In this video interview with Jason Barnard, she shares techniques you can use to effectively brand and grow your business both online and offline.
Online or offline, brand is key to business success. Building your brand should be one of the central pillars of your business strategy. A successful business that has the legs to thrive now and in the future relies on your ability to build a brand that resonates with your audience and engages them. But where do you start? How do you prioritise? What are the keys to balance ambition with means? Winnie Sun knows how to navigate the tricky waters of branding and business and will share her incredible insights.
Scheduled for 28 December 2021 at 17 H CEST (Paris)
The event is 100% free:
Organised by Kalicube in partnership with Wordlift.
Part of the Kalicube Tuesdays series.
[00:00:39] Jason Barnard: Now, I will show Brand SERPs. So, we’re going to start off with your Brand SERP. That’s absolutely lovely with the Twitter Box at the top. You have your Knowledge Panel logo on the right. It’s got a lovely description, that’s very rich, great photos too. You obviously take a great deal of care with the photos that you push out online and Google’s really got a grip on that and it’s showing the best photos I have seen with that delightful red top. And at the bottom, we can see, you can actually claim the Knowledge Panel and I went through to Google Search Console to check how and that’s your TV show.
[00:01:14] Winnie Sun: Yes.
[00:01:14] Jason Barnard: It’s actually that site that’s been recognized as opposed to your own site, which is ranking number one. And what I wanted to point out here is that this is a one-pager. It’s a really impressive one-pager, great branding once again. But you don’t need a massive site in order to generate, trigger a Knowledge Panel and claim it. A one-pager is fine and then I found this and I couldn’t resist because that is so cool.
[00:01:40] Wow. I watched that and I think, Ooh, that’s a proper show. Kalicube Tuesdays pales into insignificance when put next to that, so I couldn’t resist shaming myself.
[00:01:53] Winnie Sun: Ahh, you’re so kind.
[00:01:55] Jason Barnard: Right! Lovely to have you here. And that was just a bit of fun for me as The Brand SERP Guy talking about Brand SERPs. You’re talking about brands in a more general manner online and offline.
[00:02:04] I wanted to start that a lot of us think only online these days, but you can’t do online without offline. And I would assume you can’t do offline without sometimes coming online, whether you like it or not.
[00:02:16] Winnie Sun: Absolutely! I think that is so true. We need an online presence and we certainly need an offline presence. And I always say like in order to, it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg idea of which one do you start with first. And as you know, I love branding. I think it’s such an important piece of what we do for business, but I think on the back end, we got to make sure that our offline business is solid, is reputable, and most importantly, that it’s productive, efficient, and ideally profitable too.
[00:02:49] Jason Barnard: Right. Yeah. Because I tend to come from an aspect too, I just think about Google. I actually just had two meetings today where all we talked about was Google. I think as somebody from the SEO community and somebody who’s been in the digital marketing community perhaps too long, I forget there was a whole world out there and branding is much more than just your appearance on Google. I mean, where from, let’s start with offline, as you said, you gotta be a good, solid, reputable business offline. Where does that start and how do you start building it efficiently?
[00:03:21] Winnie Sun: So, Jason it is a great question, you know. When I think about offline, I think about your day-to-day business and what that reflects to, what your customers or your clients say about you when you’re not in the room or even when you are in the room. Because those are also very, very important organic relationships. And that’s your reputation, right? There’s one thing that we see online, on TV, or on social media and you can have a certain persona, but then what is the end result? If you have a business, like I do a service business, or even a retail business, you have goods and things that you’re selling.
[00:03:58] What does your client feel in that experience? I think we need to spend a lot of time making sure that we truly have raving fans offline as well as online because I don’t think you can do one without the other. And I think the offline is so important because your reputation, they might love you online, but once they become your client or customer, are they going to still love you as much? And I think we need to spend a lot of effort, focus, and really researching that and if the answer is, I’m not sure, then that’s a great opportunity to make sure.
[00:04:36] Jason Barnard: Right. Yeah. I kind of think that idea of real life relationships with our clients and our customers is actually quite, I don’t know, it’s moving away in my brain, at least someone, I think COVID’s probably made it worse from that perspective is that we’re not face-to-face quite so much. And the face-to-face we do tend to have these days, at least in my experience, has been through Zoom or StreamYard and do you think that’s detaching us from people or the people we’re trying to work with and impress or keep on board?
[00:05:09] Winnie Sun: See, it’s a good question. I have my television show, we’ve turned it virtual, but not a lot of what I do on a day-to-day basis nobody actually sees on camera and that is like you said I’m doing Zooms with clients, prospective clients. I did another meeting yesterday. I have probably another meeting today. We do a lot of meetings with prospective or existing clients and so you might think, well, that’s true. There is certain level of detach, right? Like if you’re in person, you can serve them coffee or drink and you can reach across the table, you can share statements, but I’ve been actually very encouraged because the relationships typically you would think when you’re meeting a brand new client virtually is not going to be quite the same. It might not be quite as productive. Maybe, they won’t decide to sign on with you and I find it to be not the case. In fact, I think now the recipient who’s on the other end, you know, your prospective client is now more comfortable and used to now doing things virtually. And I think it’s just in the way that you present the information and that you’re mindful that they’re not with you and how can you agree you should cross the screen? I think we spend a little time with that. It’s like when I used to work on the TV show, America’s Funniest Home Videos, right? And that’s really when I learned about connecting with the audience. This is years ago, but it still is very relevant today.
[00:06:39] So, that piece if you can learn how to transition your business virtually, it’s not even if and when, it’s that you really need to. So, get to a point where you’re able to, because what I’ve always said is if a business depends on you being face-to-face with someone each and every time for you to have new business then you’ve got a really unsustainable business because at some point we’re going to need days off for whatever reason and you still need to be able to generate income during that time.
[00:07:12] Jason Barnard: Right. Yeah. Brilliant. Wonderful point. And my next question is does branding come before selling or does selling then lead to branding or they both intermix? Obviously, if I sell to somebody and they’re a big fan and they push out there and advocate for my brand, that’s really great branding, but I need to, do I need to brand before, is that the most powerful? Can you give me a quick kind of rundown on that? I know that was a very confused question and wasn’t even a real question.
[00:07:36] Winnie Sun: I think, Jason, that’s a great question. I thought it was a really good question because actually it talks a lot about what I do. For those who have interacted with me on social, you probably be seen through the years, I’m a really big believer in not selling online. I lead by education, by sharing knowledge openly, and being there for people when they need me and lead with kindness. And I think that, if you do that and you do that consistently and you do it organically and authentically, that people will trust you and people do business with people they trust. Especially in my industry, in the financial industry, you’re trusting me with your money, your life savings, your retirement savings, so you’re not looking for someone you just met or you walked into the bank and decided to meet for the first time.
[00:08:31] You’re looking for someone who really earned your trust. And I think it’s really important to think that way is if the more you sell, I think the less business you’ll have, unless you’re strictly into retail business and you sell soda pop for a living, and so maybe that’s a great way, a very efficient way, because you’re looking just for your pure volume.
[00:08:54] My business is very different. We’re very much relationship-based, it’s very much a trust-based, and my clients tend to stay with me multiple generations and they’re trusting me with things that really, really matter, right? I just told a client recently yesterday, I said ” There’s two really important people you need in your life”.
[00:09:13] What I’ve learned through this journey with my own family and things like that. “The two most important people you need in your life are number 1, a medical professional that you trust, right? That you can go to when you have questions. And the 2nd person is a financial person that you can trust”.
[00:09:29] Everybody else is important. No, don’t get me wrong. Very, very important to make the world go round and round. But when it really comes down to the nitty gritty, those are two areas that everybody needs to have so more that they can go to for trust or just inherently have that education built in for themselves. So, yeah, that’s what I would say. I would say just try to tell your story and share and be really honest. And I think the business you’ll find will come to you.
[00:10:02] Jason Barnard: Yeah. But I mean, you were talking about people selling soda pop but as the person walks past, you smile, that’s branding, and if you smile to everybody who goes past, you’re doing a high volume but you’re branding and you’re keeping that brand on message. And it’s what you were saying, leaving a kindness which is a delightful way of putting it. So, branding is every interaction you have with every prospect and every client. And you need to make sure that you maintain brand. Now that then begs the question is can you fake that kind of personality brand idea?
[00:10:34] Winnie Sun: Jason that’s a good question. I think you can fake temporarily but I don’t think you can fake long-term. So, I think if you look at the brands and people who have been doing this for a long time, who you trust and who you know, I think it’s very authentic. At some point we’re all human and your true colors will come out at some point.
[00:10:53] So, instead of trying to be what you think people want, you might as well just get comfortable and share the world who you are. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have areas where you can fine tune, certainly through the years I’ve learned to better present. I’ve learned to improve the value that I bring to the audience. How do I say the things right? What sort of things people have an interest in? There’s always areas where you can get better, but what you can’t change is your integrity and your true spirit, right? I always say branding or just marketing is a lot like alcohol. Especially in the financial industry, we find this especially right. As someone start off with us, more money sometimes it’s sort of like alcohol too, because with more money, the true colors come out. If they weren’t a very nice person and they become wealthier, they tend to not, just be even crueler. But if they’re a really good person when they start off and they come into a significant wealth, they actually just become nicer people, more giving, more charitable. And I think the same can be said about branding. I think success will just simply highlight and really go full force of who you truly are. And so, I think for those of you who maybe had bad experience with certain people, not to worry, just focus on yourself, be the best version of yourself that you can be and everything else will fall into place and if it doesn’t, so be it, it will be fine.
[00:12:34] Jason Barnard: So, I’m building my brand. The question there is I’ve started my business. How do I prioritise? I mean, you were saying be the best version of yourself, find tune, who you are, push it out there. How do you prioritise? Because we don’t have unlimited minutes, hours in the day and we don’t have unlimited funds in order to try and move ourselves forward. So, with that limitation in funds and time, how do we prioritise?
[00:12:56] Winnie Sun: So, you prioritise being really, really, really good at your business. Whatever it may be, be the best that you can be in your business first. Then what you do is you get really smart and making sure that like if you focus on one-to-one marketing, you’ll never get anywhere. What you need to do is focus on having various realms of marketing, pushing out your content, your information so even when you’re sleeping, you actually have the potential to bring in new business. And so when I first started, I really focused on building social media reach. I also focused on what I call centers of influence, which is key.
[00:13:31] So, when I first moved into this city, I didn’t know anybody. I look for the biggest, most influential people in this area and I decided to make meetings and find ways to get to know those people. Because in my heart, I knew I was a nice person. I knew I was a good person and that they met me and got to know me, they would really like me. So, my job was to find those people. And then once you find those people, make sure that you are there for them. You know, every single one of us feels insecurities and we all need someone who we can trust and rely on, and who’s there for us. And if you become that person for whoever it is in your life, and especially these centers of influence, you will have friends for life who talk about you and share you without you even asking.
[00:14:22] And so that’s key. So you do that, but also spend a lot of time helping other people as much as you can and the right people that you help will in turn help you as well. So, really focus on I think the pursuit of kindness is what I say. Try to be there for other people without asking for favors, and I think that’s key. I think a lot of people ask for things too often. I think it’s a mistake. I like to wait until they ask when they say “Winnie, how can I help you? I feel like you do so much from you. What can I do for you?” At that point that’s when you have that permission to ask.
[00:14:59] Jason Barnard: Right. Okay. So, and, and from that perspective, I mean, you were talking about the people in the town where you are, and I don’t actually know where you are shamefully for me.
[00:15:08] Winnie Sun: It’s okay.
[00:15:09] Jason Barnard: In Westbury?
[00:15:11] Winnie Sun: I’m in Southern California.
[00:15:13] Jason Barnard: Ooh, how delightful, very sunny. And yeah, I’ve only been to California once and it was up in San Francisco and I don’t think I went to there. Anyway, that’s completely off the point. The point was back to finding the centers of interest. What did you call them? Centers of interest or centers of influence?
[00:15:34] Winnie Sun: Centers of influence so..
[00:15:36] Jason Barnard: And that’s online and offline because, sorry, you were talking about the town and that was offline. What about online?
[00:15:41] Winnie Sun: Well, I’m actually an introvert. So, I actually do lead with everything online. It’s funny. My mom said I find everything online and it’s true. But what I did is I came to the city and I went on the website and looked up different publications and I found the people I did search to see who had the most followers in the area. And then I did research on what they did for a living and a little bit about their background or bio just to see and get a sense if I felt like it would be a good match. Sometimes when you read, you get even a sense, “Oh, wow”. Like for example, I’m a parent of three children, one of the big centers of influence in my city here, she has 3 boys, I have 3 boys, right? And I read about her and she’s like has this huge blog and I’m like there may be a chance we could be friends, right? So, I figured out a way to meet and sure enough, we have a great relationship.
[00:16:39] We’re both naturally more quiet people, but we connect really well on so many levels. So, that’s what you need to do is you don’t start big, start small. Focus on finding five people that you would like to meet. Do some research on their background or business or bio. Try to find ways that you can add value to them before you reach out. Do your research ahead of time and then realise that not everybody wants to be your friend or has time. It’s not to say that they don’t like you, they just don’t know you and you don’t know what’s going on in their lives. And I’m truly believing that during COVID especially that every single one of us is suffering in our own ways. We just don’t know and they’re not projecting.
[00:17:22] So, just assume and go with empathy and assume that if it’s a no, it’s probably just a not now. If they don’t respond to you, it’s probably they’re going through something and just move on. And then once you build that relationship, make sure it’s not a one-time relationship. Try to find other ways to think about these people that you care about and find ways to add value to them everywhere that you go and soon enough, starting at 2, 3, 4, 5 will solely go to a 100, will solely go to a 1000, and at some point you’ll see even on my tweet chat, we average 150 million impressions per tweet chat, we’re the biggest tweet chat on social media and I haven’t checked the numbers recently, but that was just not too long ago, and the core group still is probably less than a 100 people, but the impressions are so large. So, you don’t need to be friends with a ton of people. It’s always going to come down to quality over quantity. And here’s the thing too, they don’t have to all be your client to be very, very meaningful to your business. And that’s something I think we always have to recognise. Most of the people that I’m connected to on social are not my clients, but they surely have very, very influential for me to get on, to bring in a whole bunch of more other clients.
[00:18:47] Jason Barnard: Right, yeah. Anton would love you for that because he’s really into the idea of helping people communicating and don’t expect to sell to everybody.
[00:18:56] You can actually just hang out with people online or offline without actually meeting. And that kind of the next part of discussion is we’ve been talking about branding and so it’s been very much about personal branding and you’ve applied it brilliantly to your company because your company is so associated with you.
[00:19:13] Now, how do you make that leap as basically saying I’ve got a personal brand and I can leverage that to my company, then my company becomes its own entity that has its own personality. How do you bridge that gap?
[00:19:27] Winnie Sun: So, that’s a good question. I think it depends on what type of business you’re in. Like certain businesses can market the business brand very, very effectively like Apple, right?
[00:19:36] My business is really about that personal relationship people trusting me. So, it is about the personal brand. It’s not so much about the company and our business has been around a really, really long time, which is very unique in our industry too, because we have a very loved brand in our client services that we’ve been doing, and we’ve always maintained small. That’s something that we’ve done by design. We never wanted to get that big cause we wanted to make sure, my philosophy was if we had a client call in and they could say “Hey, I’m blah, blah, blah. My name is Will” and then someone I might have seen, it was like, “Hey, Will blah, blah, blah.”
[00:20:10] They would immediately know the name. I felt like if someone called and they said, my name is such and such and we couldn’t tell by their name and their voice, then we had grown too big. And I felt like then we couldn’t provide the value that we were well known for. But to answer your question, I think in this day and age, if you’re running a small business, you have to have a face to that business because your name isn’t so big that it’s becomes iconic.
[00:20:37] And at some point you can pull away just like many leaders have, but I think it’s an opportunity and I’m a very much of an introverted person, a very private person. So, it was really hard for me to be comfortable with that, but I think I’ve learned that you get to decide on what you want to share and what you don’t want to share.
[00:20:56] And if you don’t become a voice for your business, then your industry becomes a voice for your business. And in the financial industry, that would be very difficult for us because when I was just starting off, Bernie Madoff would have been our voice and the people who took down Lehman Brothers would have been our voice.
[00:21:15] And I knew in my heart that that was not represented of our business and therefore I had to stand up and say, okay, I’ll do this. I’m going to start talking about what it is that we do and sharing the knowledge that we do with our clients on a one-on-one basis that we knew is very effective.
[00:21:32] Jason Barnard: Right, yeah. I mean, you said multiple things that tickled my interest. One of which is sharing your knowledge and I think some people think, well, I’ve got to keep my knowledge to myself, but after you share the knowledge, you help your community, you help your industry and the industry will then, from what I understand, and I think I’m terribly, terribly happy about that, your industry becomes a voice for you which is genius.
[00:21:52] And the other was iconic and I was thinking of Steve Jobs because you mentioned Apple. He became iconic and therefore even with the size of Apple, he grew with it. But as you say, there comes a point unless you’re going to become iconic, like Steve jobs, you’re going to have to step away at which point the company takes on its own personality. And I love the idea of the industry speaks for you.
[00:22:16] Winnie Sun: Yes, I mean I jumped on that real quick, Jason. Think about this way too. Let’s just take one moment. If say same example, Apple, Steve Jobs, we got to know Steve Jobs because of his turtleneck and his speaking, everything. If Steve Jobs had decided, okay, you know what, I’m now going to start an electric car company. I’m going to now sell soda pop. You would obviously, you would pivot as well, and you would get excited about that soda pop. So, the company is still gonna love Apple and that’s great, but there’s opportunities for there to be two entities within one entity. And it gives you as an entrepreneur so much more bandwidth.
[00:22:54] To give you example, in addition to financial industry, I’ve worked with brands such as Hilton, I’ve worked with Chase, with Intuit, with Sallie Mae, with Hyatt. Like all these different brands or Hertz Rent-A-Car. Just say all these different brands you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you think of my company. But that’s what is really interesting and what’s in a really wonderful opportunity here because as people, we’re not one dimensional. We have different interests and hobbies and loves. And who said we had to fit in a box. So, I always say if people are trying to fit you in a box, you should start creating more boxes for yourself to a point that you’re happy. So, you feel like you’re able to stretch your creative muscles a little bit to see what else is out there for you because I think if you limit yourself, you’re never going to reach your full potential and I personally, I feel like that’s doing a disservice to yourself.
[00:23:50] Jason Barnard: Brilliant, yeah and I think we tend to think of as human beings, sorry, for example, on my Knowledge Panel, it says Jason Barnard, musician. I was a musician. I still am a musician, but I’m also a business owner. I’m also a Knowledge Panel expert and a Brand SERP expert and I was a cartoon blue dog and I’ve got all these boxes and it’s incredibly difficult for me to actually kind of to manage them in terms of what people is. I think these people who meet me today think, oh, he’s The Brand SERP Guy and he deals in Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels and figuring out how Google presents brands when you search their name. But there’s much more to me than that. And you’re saying be proud and present it to people and use it as part of your personality, which is going to build your brand and help you bring your, build your company.
[00:24:37] Winnie Sun: Yes, because I would love it. I mean, I love the fact that you’re a musician. I love the fact that you sing in the beginning. I think you’re so memorable and interesting.
[00:24:44] Also, it makes you more human than just..
[00:24:47] Jason Barnard: Quite memorable despite the fact we’re wearing the same clothes and we look the same.
[00:24:50] Winnie Sun: You know, we probably planned a little bit. No, kidding. We didn’t.
[00:24:56] Jason Barnard: Well actually the graphic designer chose the red color for this episode because of your red shirt and my red shirt, and we were hoping you would wear the red shirt so were terribly pleased. And at the end, we’ve got a real red-out I think we can call it with Lidia Infante but we’ll come to that in a moment. Wrapping this up with the branding because what I’ve loved about this conversation is saying as an individual company owner use your own personal brand to drive your company’s brand. I think a lot of us are afraid to do that for fear that the company will then either not represent us or come to represent us to an extent that we then lose our own identity. Can you move that forward? I mean you’ve built a much bigger business than I have. It doesn’t happen or it hasn’t happened for you. How do you manage that?
[00:25:45] Winnie Sun: So, it’s not easy. I don’t do it alone but when I first started, I certainly did do it alone. But I have an incredible team. I think for me, I’ve been grateful, I’m very fortunate to keep my relationships in my life for a really long time. Right? I have been married over 20 years. My business partner is not my husband. My business partner and I have been business partners for over 20 years. Most of my team has been with me so long, like some of them over a decade. So, I do have a tendency to retain people in my life, relationships, friends, and everyone for a really long time.
[00:26:23] I think that’s one of the things that has helped me move forward. Because you need to depend on people who know your brand, who understand you, and can pick up things in areas that you’re not good at. So, I try to find really good people. That’s quite my main thing, find a really, really good people to work with and then everything else can be trained and gotten used to over time. So, it’s about taking care of your people, paying them well, but treating them really, really well. Treat them like family and trust them to do their job and get out of their way. And I know people talk about that all the time, but it’s easier to talk about it and so much harder to do long-term.
[00:27:03] The other thing I would say is although it is nice to do a whole bunch of things, I say one of the things I’m a big believer is knowing when to say yes. It’s important to know when to say no too. But there’s gonna be a lot of opportunities that don’t pay you or don’t see, don’t feel like it’s really exactly in your wheelhouse, but you should try and say yes a little bit more often. I mean I just did a call yesterday with CNBC. I’m doing a talk with them again tomorrow and they said, I’m so glad, that you were actually able to do this. And I told him, I said, You know, I always try to say yes, whenever I can to whatever it is that you reached out to me.
[00:27:43] And they’re like, even at your level, you could tell, we say, no, I’m like, yeah, but you needed somebody. And what makes me different than everybody else that would possibly say yes to you, right? So, I might as well say yes if I can do it. And they’re like, I’m so grateful. And that’s how you build, that’s how you earn loyalty because you’re there for people when they need you, not, when it’s on your schedule.
[00:28:05] Sometimes we just have to learn to do that and be a lot more nimble. And I think that’s a secret. People will say, oh, you’ve built a million dollar, multi-million dollar financial thing going on. You’ve got your TV shows on NASDAQ, on CW San Francisco, Amazon, Fire Roku, all these different platforms.
[00:28:28] And I said, well, it was a lot of yeses along the way and a lot of just trying to find ways. And don’t forget the only person who’s in charge of saying where you can go or where you can reach your full potential, you’re the only one who decides that.
[00:28:43] So many people through the years have told me, oh, she wasn’t good enough. Oh, you don’t have wealthy parents and you don’t have wealthy clients. So many times people discounted me all through the years and now look at me, right? It was because I never gave up on myself. And I think that’s the key when you’re an entrepreneur. There’s going be so many bad days and you need to find people in your life that can help you talk ideas too.
[00:29:11] I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them, like my long-time business accountant, like almost 25 years, my amazing publicist business manager, my amazing business partner and all my team, you know? All these people. I have bad days too. And I reached out to them and they can lift me up and then we just move forward.
[00:29:28] You need to have a team even if they’re not like your actual working together team, you need to have people that you can bounce ideas with. But more importantly, you need that emotional support and it doesn’t necessarily need to be your spouse. My husband’s incredible, but like, if it was just him, we’re also juggling three kids. You need to have other people that you can go to for different specialties that will give you an answer, that you trust is going to be the right answer so you don’t spend all your time trying to figure it out.
[00:29:59] Jason Barnard: Brilliant, wonderful stuff. That’s a great conclusion. And I now have Jim Carrey jumping around in my head being nimble yes man. I will be nimble yes man from now on. And thank you so much. That was a delightful conversation, really informative. And I just wanted to show this because we’ve gone all out red today and next year now. This is the last show of the year. So, 2021 last show. 2022, we’re going to start with Lidia Infante and we decided to use red for her episode as well. So, we went totally red and she’s going to be talking about SEO Gap Analysis: Digging Up the Gold which is a delightful topic and I’m incredibly interested to hear what she’s got to say more back on my topic in SEO and Winnie, could you possibly pass the baton from 2021 to 2022?
[00:30:50] Winnie Sun: To you Lidia, congratulations! Welcome to 2022, my friend. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. SEO is something that I always want to learn more about.
[00:31:01] Jason Barnard: Absolutely brilliant! Thank you so much. You get the outro song too! A quick goodbye to you and the show. Thank you, Winnie.
[00:31:10] Winnie Sun: Cha, cha, cha!