Most financial advisory firms understand the potential value of a powerful brand. One challenge I often see though is the problem they face in understanding and positioning Brand ROI within their firms. Unfortunately, most advisory firms are focusing on filling their prospect pipeline rather than ensuring the prospects are the “right” ones.
The basic and prevailing mindset around Advisor Brand ROI (LEADS ) is that “Number of Leads” is the key goal. This mindset is wrong painfully wrong.
Advisory firms, and many marketers unfortunately, focus on “Number of Leads” while “Quality of Leads” is an after-thought. It hits advisors once they realize their leads aren’t good – in that they aren’t ready to do business and don’t reflect the type of client they’d prefer to work with. I’d argue that Lead Quality is much more important and much more in line with what advisors really want – better clients. Most marketing vendors aren’t good at Lead Quality, they usually only know Lead Quantity. Your Advisor Brand ROI depends is a product of quality and quantity of leads.
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The Real Benefits of a Strong Advisor Brand
There are essentially FOUR key benefits financial advisory firms gain from developing a compelling brand; a brand that helps them be seen as different, better, and more valuable than their competitors.
Details on these four benefits follow.
#1: Clarity & Focus Breed Confidence
Have you ever struggled to introduce yourself to an ideal prospect or COI and feel less than confident that the way you articulate your value is compelling and intriguing enough to advance the conversation? You’re not alone. Most people I speak with have the same challenge – lack of clarity and focus with their advisor brand and ideal audience.
A good branding process will help you overcome years of fumbling through “who am I, how do I differ from my peers and why am I better for you”.
When advisors are asked the right questions and put on the spot to provide out-of-the-box answers, they should easily slip into what sets them apart: how, why and for whom. It’s really an incredible process of enlightenment and one you need to enter into sooner rather than later. If you’re not 100% confident in your value proposition and your financial brand, you should find out what branding process and partner can do to help you figure this out. All of your marketing hinges on how compelling your message is.
If your “why, how and for whom” answer is something like “I provide comprehensive financial planning for and always put my client’s best interests first. They trust me to do what is best for them”, then you are right in there with what 99% of all other financial advisors are saying.
#2: More & Better Referrals/Leads
I’ve told this story many times and it’s important enough that I want to share it again with a specific example.
Here’s the story: Joe ‘s clients, Mary and Bob, are ideal for his practice. They are 55 and 57 respectively, their children have started their own families and both Mary and Bob are in their high-income earning years. Their portfolio is >$1MM and they have robust financial and estate plans in place. Joe would love to clone more clients like Mary and Bob. Like most advisor-client relationships, Mary and Bob have a deep personal affinity for Joe and what he does for them. Joe feels the same personal connection and commitment.
We all know Joe yearns for and needs Mary and Bob to refer him more ideal prospects. That’s a given.
Picture this if you can. Bob is mowing his lawn. He and Mary live in an affluent neighborhood but they take pride in maintaining their own property. This is part of what makes them ideal clients in Joe’s mind. Bob’s neighbor Ken approaches and begins complaining about the investment market. Bob suggests Ken consider his advisor, Joe. Ken asks what Joe is about (as a financial advisor). Bob describes Joe as trustworthy, has integrity, always picks up the phone, hard working, puts their interests first and so on. Ken nods his head as if he’s interested but in his mind, he isn’t. Bob just described the last two advisors Ken has worked with. “They’re all the same” Ken contemplates. Bob then offers to provide Ken with Joe’s phone number when he can find his business card. Ken kindly accepts but knows he’ll likely never contact Joe, and if he does out of respect for Joe, it won’t be an engaged conversation; you know how those end.
Here’s how this scenario changes when a thoughtful brand message and marketing foundation are in place.
Ken, I used to worry about the market too before I met Joe, he’s specializes in helping 50-somethings plan for financial possibilities – he has a podcast you might want to listen to called FiftyWealth™. You can access his podcast, papers on financial planning when you’re in your fifties and more on his website at FiftyWealth.com. Everything you read and experience at FiftyWealth.com is exactly what it’s like to work with Joe – he’s a fee-only advisor, will only start working with people when they are in their fifties and his approach gives me the peace of mind to enjoy mowing the lawn even when the market is crashing.
There’s a monumental difference in these scenarios. A strong financial brand means more and better referrals – that’s as powerful an ROI as there is in this business. How many – that’s up to you and the next phase of your Blueprint for Exceptional Financial Marketing .
#3: More Engaging & Effective Marketing
When you and your marketing team don’t have a clear brand or message, every marketing piece is a new project. That direct mail piece: what will it be about, how will it grab someone’s attention, and what if it doesn’t get them to act? Is there any gain or benefit your firm can derive from them seeing your piece?
Without a strong brand, every marketing piece is an isolated one-off challenge. Each piece is more than likely disconnected from others therefore there is no continuity of message and any possible brand awareness gains are minimal or even negative in the consumers’ minds.
Branding breeds uniformity, focus and clarity not just for you, your team and your designers. Your audience loves uniformity – humans need clarity, uniformity and relevance to truly appreciate you, your brand, and your offer. In other words, branding is marketing and if you haven’t formed and nurtured a concise and consistent brand, your marketing suffers tremendously.
Let me put this to you another way. For every $10,000 you spend on advertising (direct mail, seminars, ads, PR…) you waste most of it if you haven’t first defined a compelling brand. It’s a painful truth, one I deal with regularly when we meet with financial firms, “I wish we had met you 15 years ago, we’ve wasted so much money ( add the usual expletive here ) on average marketing and we’ve tried many ideas trying to find that elusive silver marketing bullet”. All you need is the right approach to significantly enhance your marketing effectiveness. There’s no magic, just a good branding and marketing strategy that gets implemented.
Imagine a direct mail post card in front of you right now; in fact grab one off your desk. Is there an intriguing message…design? Do the message and call-to-action resonate with you? Does it make you want to engage their offer or brand? If you do decide to take the next step, is the supporting marketing (likely their website or landing page) as good? Does it have the same message? Does is have design continuity? Does it look like they’ve taken the time to impress you? Is it easy and risk-free to get to know more about them and experience what they are capable of?
Strong and clear advisor brands are more engaging and they ultimately result in more effective marketing.
#4: More Energy & Momentum
How many times have you and your marketing team started and stopped marketing?
When you perfect your brand, you are inspired to do great marketing. There is no magic there; it’s easier to market your practice when you have a clear brand; when you know exactly what to say. The branding process also challenges you to develop deeper value in your business and that in turn means you have new ideas and concepts to present to your audience. When you’re armed with a great story and concepts to back it, marketing is so much easier.
Let me revisit the example from above re FiftyWealth.com. In going through the process of defining James E Wilson’s trademarked brand, FiftyWealth ™, we created his Financial Life Timeline, a chart that depicts the life stage implications of financial planning. This chart was derived from the branding process and it simplifies his thinking and pitch so clearly it’s easy for ideal prospects to appreciate and see applicable value. The branding process also conceived the idea of James sharing his ideas via a podcast – his FiftyWealth podcast.
Branding gives energy to your ideas and your marketing. And, when you start implementing your brand and your ideas it creates momentum in your business. This momentum also feeds your energy and your marketing dedication grows and grows.