Lynette Khalfani-Cox is known as the Money Coach, with a mission to increase the financial literacy of individuals worldwide. In addition to authoring a series of  books, she blogs on personal financial topics at askthemoneycoach.com.  Her appearances range from Oprah to the Today show; but Saturday morning March 1st found Khalfani-Cox at the Chase Center on the Riverfront speaking at the Coalition of Organizations for Delaware Entrepreneurship (CODE). As CODE is an initiative of the Delaware Financial Literacy Institute you might expect the keynote to reflect a financial theme. But you would be wrong.

“What is your brand”, she challenged the audience. “Do you know what it is?”

Lynette Khalfani-Cox, "the Money Coach" on March 1, in Wilmington

Lynette Khalfani-Cox, “the Money Coach” on March 1, in Wilmington

It is how people perceive you, the authentic you, how you make them feel. It sums up your reputation, your business, your connections. Ok, so the key to business success is developing an effective brand message that will cause people to buy. Simple, right? Wrong again, but do not despair, here are some thoughts that Lynette Khalfani-Cox shared with the audience.

Be authentic- people connect with the truth and see through the phony.  Much of Khalfani-Cox’s success has been built on failure, and moving past it. Part of her brand is overcoming debt, sharing her experience and learning from it. People love a comeback story, so look at what you have overcome for ideas. People like the aspirational; focus on the positive not the negative.

Reputation counts- Don’t mistake what you want to be for what you are. The key is how other people see you, what they believe about you, how you make them feel. Google yourself, other people will. What does it say? If there are customer reviews on the web, these are critical.  Ask your customers about their perceptions, ask people to find out for you if you think you will get a more honest reply.

Consistency is critical. What you say and what you do have to be consistent. If you say you are all about customer service, but no one answers the phone at your business, what are you really saying? You have to consistently reinforce your key brand features, focus on a few things that you do well, not a scattershot of buzzwords that don’t mean anything. What if what you are doing isn’t working? Reinventing is good, revolving door brand is not. You need some consistency with what you are known to be expert in so you can leverage it.

Connect, connect, connect. Partnerships are key, people want to work with winners, people who are perceived as a success. They will look at the number of connections on linkedIn, followers on twitter, likes on facebook. If a lot of people like you, others will think they should too.

Content is king. You have heard the overused phrase, but what does it mean? You have to create content that showcases your expertise. Starting out you have to pay some dues, maybe do things for free to show what you can do.Content is your website, your blog, your column in the magazine, Podcasts, videos, books. Workshops you give that you can load to your website.You need a variety of content and platforms. Consider your reach, what goes out with consistency. Develop brand ambassadors- people who promote you. You can’t be everywhere, these people can defend you or promote you.

Just getting established and need some help? How you can step into the authentic you?  What are you passionate about, what have you always wanted to… ? Now go.