Marketers talk a lot about “branding,” but what does it really mean? A brand is “how the world experiences, understands and describes who you are” according to Marie Swift, president and CEO of Impact Communications, Inc. in Kansas City, Kansas. She asserts that every business has a brand, whether the owners recognize it or not, and that in the age of robo-advisors and increased competition, advisors face a “crisis of differentiation.”1
Put simply, your brand is your story: who you are, what you offer, in your own words. If you had one minute to answer who you are and what you do, how would you answer? Your confidence in your answer can affect your ability to prospect new clients and convert tax clients into investment clients.
You may think that isn’t an easy question to answer, but you might be overlooking your best resource: your clients.
Being honest with your clients makes them comfortable enough to open up to you, and clients that feel like they know the “real you” are the ones that return every year and provide ample referrals. 92 percent of advisors believe that referrals from current clients are their best source of new business, which makes the opinion of your clients even more valuable.2
Really study your client base and your office, and ask a few of your best clients, “How would you explain what we do?” You may be surprised at their answers, but there are likely common threads woven through them. Consider the following example.
Example: The Friendly Neighborhood Advisor
Ira Advisor has had the majority of his client base for over 20 years, mostly Baby Boomers close to retirement or newly retired. Their investments are getting more conservative, increasingly favoring the mitigation of risk over potential return. During his advisory client meetings, he feels like he spends more time talking about their grandchildren than their investments. He has worked out of the same office space in the same neighborhood for years, and his office is lined with personal photos and sports memorabilia.
When he asked his clients what he does for a living, most spoke on a personal level rather than an abstract one. Many of them said they felt like they were able to retire comfortably because of his advice, remarking more on his knowledge of their personal finances than his business expertise. They tended to use words like “help” and “guide” to describe what he does.
After reflecting on his client experiences and what they had to say, Ira Advisor realized that what his clients valued most was his approachability. They felt comfortable opening up to him about their finances because they have gotten to know him on a personal level.
This realization inspired him to make a few adjustments. He swapped out the mutual fund company brochures in his lobby for materials with his firm’s logo and branding. On social media, he reduced the amount of investment commentary he was posting and increased the amount of personal content. To grow his firm, he shifted his focus from advertising to referrals. He increased the number of client appreciation events and encouraged his clients to bring potential referrals, such as friends or family, to these events.
Is Your Brand Reflective of Who You Are?
You may not realize it, but where you choose to conduct business and how you style your office says a lot about how you perceive the services you provide. Along the same lines, how you approach sharing your brand should also be a reflection of who you’re sharing it with: if you send a client a congratulatory card, is it more often for their new baby or their retirement? Some clients may appreciate receiving more emails from you while others may appreciate having longer appointment times. You won’t know which clients fit into which camps until you’ve done the research.
Think about how your firm and your client base represent you, and really reflect on whether the business decisions you make align with your brand. A few small tweaks may help you improve your focus, drive business growth and referrals, and lead to higher conversion and client retention rates.
Shelley Schexnayder is the senior advisor of communications at 1st Global. In this role, she works to connect financial advisors and wealth management assistants with information that will aid them in building thriving and efficient enterprises.
1st Global is headquartered at 12750 Merit Drive, Suite 1200 in Dallas, Texas 75251; 214-294-5000. Additional information about 1st Global is available via the Internet at www.1stGlobal.com.
Securities offered through 1st Global Capital Corp. Member FINRA, SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through 1st Global Advisors, Inc.
1 “Why branding is too important for advisors to ignore.” ThinkAdvisor.
2 “2017 Financial Advisor Marketing Benchmarks Report.” OutboundEngine.