Eager to develop their technical skills, advisors may overlook the marketing side of the business. But once they launch their practice, branding takes center stage.
Successful planners build a brand based on a consistent, captivating message. They ensure that every aspect of their operation reinforces their value proposition — the key deliverables that appeal to their target clientele.
Crafting a clear message sounds simple, but it’s often challenging for advisors who lack experience in marketing and self-promotion. They may assume that their knowledge speaks for itself and their background and credentials establish their expertise.
“The actual services that we’re providing, no one’s creating the wheel here,” said Devon Klumb, an advisor in Cincinnati. “We’re all kind of doing the same thing. For us, branding is looking different than everyone else.”
When Klumb entered the business a few years ago, he followed the basic playbook in describing his firm’s services. But he soon realized this approach failed to set him apart from other advisors.
“It was ‘we work with individuals and families’ and other standard nomenclature that every advisor uses,” he recalled. “We learned we needed to change that” and strike a more distinctive tone.
Rather than focus on how they help people address their financial planning needs, Klumb and his colleagues positioned themselves as professionals who could relate well to their clients. They wanted to emphasize that they shared their clients’ age, outlook and sensibilities.
“We shifted our philosophy so that we’re more like our clients,” said Klumb, 26. “We’ve learned to present ourselves more like the people we’re meeting with. We don’t wear suits. We’re relaxed and casual. We say our job is to listen to you and not put you in a box” as opposed to segmenting clients and making assumptions about each group’s aspirations, concerns and preferences.
At its best, branding enables advisors to communicate whom they serve and what differentiates their firm. It’s not enough to pick the right niche; the real test is connecting with that target audience and assuring them that you’re ideally suited to address their needs.
Using images that engage your niche heightens your connection. If you seek to attract physicians, for example, you’ll want to lace your website with symbols of the medical profession.
Yet some advisors mismanage their attempt to reach the type of consumers they covet. Rather than stick to a clear message, they strike discordant notes by including a mishmash of photos or testimonials from clients who fall outside the scope of their desired niche.
“A big lesson I’ve learned is the importance of narrowing in on a niche and reinforcing your brand,” said Samuel Deane, a New York City-based advisor. “Our niche is millennials so we reinforce that brand by online onboarding” that’s designed with young go-getters in mind.
Deane, 26, says a key to effective marketing is crafting a brand that appeals to your niche. This includes tailoring every aspect of the client experience — from newsletter content to personal outreach — so that it drills home the appropriate themes through evocative imagery.
Eager to win over millennial clients, Deane says that his goal is to “provide financial services better, faster and cooler” to them. Beyond harnessing technology to maximize convenience for his clients, he also aims to add an aura of luxury to their perception of his practice.
Upon establishing a new client relationship, he writes a personal card welcoming them to his firm accompanied by a gift: a bottle of Champagne.
“People drink Champagne in a celebratory moment,” Deane said. “It makes them feel good and look forward to their luxurious future with an advisor.”
Knowing that millennials place a high value on making a social impact, Deane highlights the role of philanthropy as it intersects with financial services. He promises to donate 10% of his firm’s revenue to provide pro bono financial planning to low-income families.
“It’s a message that resonates with our niche,” he said.
Another element of his marketing strategy involves educating millennials on money matters. In early 2018, he wrote a short e-book with 10 steps for young professionals to enhance their financial planning.
He says that nearly 1,000 people have downloaded the free e-book, giving him a rich source of prospects to contact. Through his follow-up emails, Deane has gained around 12 clients to date.
“We know a lot of millennials don’t have life insurance or an emergency fund set up,” he said. The e-book cost Deane less than $200 to produce, making it an effective educational and marketing tool.
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