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Advisors: 4 Points Needed to Build Your Personal Branding Message

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Brand is all about what people see when they look at a product or service.  What is your brand?  What do they see when they look at you?
 
Brand identity is a mental or emotional association in the consumer’s mind.  It is initiated by the images used in advertising and by the words used to describe a product or service.  Marketers and advertisers know that by repeating these images and messages, the consumer remembers these associations.  Thus, a brand is born. For the wealth management professional this phenomenon creates both a risk and an opportunity.  The risk is that if the message is not managed properly, people may form an incorrect perception of you.  This could result in limited or even lost opportunities.  But for those professionals who carefully plan and proactively manage their branding messages, they can create a brand image for themselves that will help them create more opportunities for business with new and existing clients.  
 
Anyone who has client-facing responsibility in a wealth management firm needs a story to tell about what they do.  This message should simply and concisely communicate how they serve the holistic wealth management needs of their clients. In short, they need a Personal Branding Message.  
 
The Personal Branding Message is a series of authentic, flexible points that you can use in part or together with the intention of setting expectations for the type of comprehensive relationship you would like to have with the client.  Sharing this Personal Branding Message is the first step in shaping, or in some cases transforming, the attitudes and opinions of clients, prospects and potential referrers.  
 
Articulating your Personal Branding Message is really about creating awareness.  It is a catalyst to engagement.  The Personal Branding Message in this context can help to create a readiness for the client or prospect to engage with you in a broader wealth conversation.  The desired client outcome from this conversation should be that the client or prospect says to herself, “I understand that you have something valuable that could benefit me.  Therefore, I am willing to share my time and my information with to see just how I might benefit.”  
 
Your Personal Branding Message must align with your firm’s value proposition.  It is really your own script of how you serve your clients in order to deliver on the promise made in the value proposition. It is important to note that the scripts and phrases you frame-up for your Personal Branding Message are a starting point.  Each individual you engage is unique and each situation is unique; thus you will vary your Personal Branding Message slightly for each situation.  But, when you have your Personal Branding Message down pat, you have a tool box of well-thought-out themes and phrases that you can use individually or in combination to set the proper expectations with anyone. How you describe yourself will have a lasting impact throughout the entire client journey.  
 
In the absence of a Branding Message people will fill the void with assumptions of their own that may or may not be accurate.  With this absence of clarity, people are left to draw their own conclusions.  It happens all the time.  You see something one way and someone else sees it another.  This same thing happens with you and your firm.  You clearly see it one way, but many of your clients may see it another.  Many clients are unaware of all you can do for them.  When a client thinks about wealth management, you need to make sure that they see you and your firm as an organization that has the insight and capabilities to judge their needs holistically and help them plan for the long term.  In short, you are the first and only call they need to make.
 
An effective Personal Branding Message has four main elements.  These elements answer some basic questions about you, your firm and what differentiates you.  The four questions a Personal Branding Message answers are:
 
  1. What do you do? 
  2. How do you do it? 
  3. What are the resources of your firm?
  4. Why do this with you?
     
A Personal Branding Message can be used in whole or in parts depending on the situation; it can be shortened or lengthened as needed.  Two people with the same job function can have two different Branding Messages that are still consistent with a firm’s value proposition.  Each of the four points serves a unique purpose so the words you choose matter.  When completed, your Personal Branding Message is not meant to be read word for word in a robotic fashion; but rather it is meant to be internalized and changed to fit each unique situation.  
 
Start by building your Personal Branding Message one point at a time.  Each point is designed to generate interest and solicit more inquiry on behalf of your audience.  Breaking your message into points allows you to draw on all or just certain parts of the message, depending on the circumstances.  Your final Personal Branding Message will be made up of the phrases and terms that are rooted in  your firm’s value proposition and commingled with your own personal perception of how you add value to your clients.  The resulting unique message will help differentiate you from the alternatives and the competition in market. 
 
Remember the words you choose must be your own.  The samples provided here are meant to show “What Good Looks Like.”  You need to come up with your own unique Personal Branding Message.
 
The first point really answers the question “What do you do?”  Some might call this an elevator speech.  It is a short message that captures the essence of what you do for your clients.  Here is an example:
 
“We work comprehensively with our clients’ wealth management plans to help them achieve the goals that are most important to them and their families.”
 
If you hold yourself out to be a wealth manager then it is important to emphasize that you can help clients manage all their wealth planning needs.  This is particularly important if the legacy identity of your role or even your firm may be narrowly focused in just one area, such as private banking, investment management or even brokerage.  No doubt that as your firm and your role evolved to include a more comprehensive set of solutions in your offering, too many clients and prospects had an incorrect perception of what you could do for them.  It is likely that this still persists to this day.  You have clients that may not understand the full breath of your capabilities.  Therefore it is important to use words that capture a more holistic, planning-based, comprehensive approach to managing wealth.
 
The second point answers the question “How do you do it?”  This might have more talking points to it than the first point because you are describing, at a very high level, your process for managing wealth.  To be clear, this is not a product push.  You always want to begin with the client’s goals in mind.  However, one way to build trust and rapport is to demonstrate competence. Clearly and concisely articulating your process demonstrates competency.  Here is an example:
 
“We utilize a defined and disciplined approach to help our clients make decisions.  Our focus is always helping our clients maximize the likelihood of realizing their goals.  We have found that there are thirteen common wealth planning challenges that are likely to come up in course of anyone’s financial life.  Therefore we have built our process around helping our clients to look out on the horizon and identify the areas for focus and attention so that we can help them put in place the appropriate plans and solutions to ensure their success.  This helps ensure that clients will be able to stay on track and accomplish the goals that they have set out for themselves and their families.”
 
Be certain that in this second point you describe how you work with clients to help them address the important challenges or realize the financial goals that you have identified in your own process.  If the setting is appropriate, show an example of the supporting collateral material that highlights your process.  When you do this, you create engagement.  People are able to see the tangible areas where you can help them.  Don’t use a list of products and services here.  No one wakes up in the middle of the night thinking, “I need Trust Services”; instead they may wake up thinking “What am I going to do with my business given the fact that my kids are a mess?”  A list of challenges or goals is going to connect emotionally with the client. And that’s where decisions are made, in the part of our brain that is responsible for our emotions.  
 
The third point is to answer the question “What are the resources of your firm?”  Here you can reference the vast array of services of your firm.  Highlight your firm’s commitment to serving the wealth needs of your clients.  This may be of particular importance if your firm has a legacy identity that may be more aligned with another arena of financial services such as consumer or commercial banking.  It is critical that you appropriately position your capabilities to highlight all the solution categories available on your shelf. 
 
“Standing behind me are the vast resources of my firm, which includes a diversified suite of banking, investment and insurance solutions.  Additionally I have access to the professionals and specialists who can help you match the right solutions to your plan.  It’s important you know that all of us here are committed to some simple but important core values.  Our firm has been doing this for over fifty years with the sole purpose of providing sound advice and exceptional service to the people and the families we serve.  This is reflected in the diversity of wealth products and services that we have developed to meet the needs of our clients.”  
 
When you discuss this third point you can speak to the specific resources of your firm, your core values or purpose, the size and scope of your firm –– any of these are appropriate.  What you are really doing here is sharing some of the important credentials of  your firm.  
 
In the fourth point “Why do this with you?,” talk about how you deliver this service in a very personalized way.  If you are local, capitalize on your proximity to the client; if not, highlight the way you make yourself or your team accessible to clients.  Provide some specific examples of your commitment to providing an outstanding client experience.
 
“Best of all our entire team is right here in (use your location), and all of us our committed to delivering an outstanding client experience.”
 
or
 
“Best of all I am just a phone call away, as is everyone on our team.”
  
When you discuss your team and your client experience, share some specific promises that you make to you clients of the things that you commit to deliver consistently.  These do not have to be monumental promises.  They can be the little things.  But they are the things you know will appeal to your client.  Some examples include returning calls the same day, developing personalized communication plans for each client, and promising to each client the opportunity to develop a written financial plan and reviewing it annually.
 
“My team members and I are passionately committed to help each individual client accomplish their goals.  We recognize that information is critical and that time is of the essence, that is why we work with each client to develop a personalized communication plan, so that our clients will have the information they need to make decisions to protect their interests and stay on track to their goals.”
 
Additionally, personalize your message with some specific things about you.  One of the best ways to determine what you should say here is to reflect on the things you have heard from clients.  Think back on the times when your clients have complimented you or thanked you for the way you worked with them.  Those comments are evidence of how you personally add value.  These “endorsements” are very powerful statements when they are linked to the fact that these are things your clients have told you.  
 
“What my clients have told me they value most is that I have a clear methodology for helping them stay focused and on track to achieving their goals.”
 
The way you introduce yourself and the words you choose will have a lasting impact throughout the entire client journey.  First impressions go a long way to confirming or correcting any preconceived ideas about who you are and what you do.  And it is important to repeat the message as often as you can.  If a prospect or client does not perceive you in the right way it will limit your ability to engage them in the kind of discussions required to serve their wealth needs.  When that happens not only does it mean lost opportunity for you and your firm, it also means that potentially your client is being undeserved in an area where they may need the most help. 
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