Advisors are sensing a change in the tide. In a profession that has experienced very little competitive disruption for decades, we are suddenly confronted with a wave of factors that will forever change the way we run our businesses. Between the rise of consumer expectations and the current digital age drowning us in products, information, and reviews, the ability to stand out and be heard may sometimes feel like yelling to the person next to you in the middle of a rock concert. Even with a captive audience, you’ll be lucky to get their attention.

While we’ve become accustomed to competing with each other using “me-too” services, “more than they do” messaging, and copycat taglines, the real competitive advantage comes in the form of amazingly authentic branding.

No, I’m not talking about coming up with a clever logo or catchy phrase. I’m asking you to reflect on your true strengths, discover your differences, and exploit your one-of-a-kind purpose. Every business has something they can leverage to stand out. And, the great part is, it doesn’t have to be a BIG IDEA. Sometimes, the most notable brands are those who capitalize on the smallest of nuances in their offering or message.

In my experience, advisors often fall into three categories when it comes to how they approach marketing their firm:

  • THE DISRUPTED – Those who feel everything they do is new, awesome, and never done before. These are the advisors who are closer to a wake-up call than they realize because they’ve fallen in love with too many of their own ideas, have grown complacent with their value proposition, and have underestimated the evolution that has happened in our profession. Typically, these advisors are successful, but that past success is exactly what blinds them from future viability.
  • THE MASS MIDDLE – Those who feel directionless and cloudy on their vision, their differentiators, and their unique value proposition. Yes, these advisors are aware of what’s happening around them, but they suffer from “paralysis by analysis.” This seems to be the most common advisor we come across when consulting with firms across the country. They’re afraid of taking a strong position like determining a target market or choosing a name because they fear leaving potential business on the table. The act of inaction is the very thing that keeps them vanilla.
  • THE DISRUPTORS – Those who recognize the changing environment of their business and the fluctuating behaviors of the people they serve. These advisors are typically at the top of their game. They understand the importance of reinventing themselves and positioning their value to clients and prospects. They’re the early adopters who force the rest of the industry to keep up.

If you self-identify with #1 or #2, congratulations for being highly-aware and honest with yourself. You have some important questions to answer to help you define your amazingly authentic brand. If you self-identify with #3, then you already know the work you’re doing is never finished.

5 Questions Every Advisor Must Answer Before Rebranding Their Business

Advisors of every shape, size, and business model struggle with evolution, reinvention, and innovation. Pursuing new business, establishing strong partnerships, or even adding top talent to your team can be futile exercises if you don’t intimately understand your brand identity.

So, where do you begin examining your brand? Start by reflecting on what it is that people are looking for in an advisor. Why are they attracted to one firm over another? One thing I’m sure you’ve noticed over the past year is the average investor is becoming increasingly aware of their ability to choose, to be educated on their options, and to ask important questions.

Selecting an identity for your firm that will appeal to informed and inquisitive prospects is a mind-bendingly difficult decision for any advisor. Whether you are looking to refresh your message or you need a complete overhaul of your value story/visual identity, the questions below can provide some initial guidance to defining a more compelling brand.

1. What problem are you solving by revamping your brand?

If you’re in limbo about whether your brand still accurately represents your core values, your mission, and your menu of services, it may be time to ask, “What was missing before and how does our internal perception of ourselves differ from how others perceive us?” Other factors forcing you to re-evaluate your identity could be a name change, a new business partner, a new target audience, a physical office move or expansion, or a functional adjustment in the type of services you provide.

2. Who is your best-fit client and how can you attract them with a rebrand?

Before jumping into new names or logos, slow down and think about the ideal client profile of those you serve. What name and visual representation would resonate most with them and their lifestyle? Are you located demographically in an area where certain symbolism can be used for more impact? Are you starting with their needs in mind and addressing their most burning challenges with your core messaging? All are great questions to help you craft a client-centric brand.

3. Is there anything inspiring about why you became an advisor?

The most powerful weapon in marketing is connection. We all want to connect with something. We don’t do business with companies, we form relationships with people. The business is a product of that relationship. So, put that story that human element at the forefront of your brand by tapping into your “why.”

4. What feelings do you want to elicit from others after they interact with your firm?

First impressions are everything. Technology has programmed us to have 8-second attention spans and very little patience. Every truly memorable brand uses the same principles to establish a lasting connection in a short amount of time. They focus on feelings as a product of someone’s experience with the brand.

5. What bottom-line benefit do you deliver?

Think of your brand as a turning point in the lives of others. How is someone’s life better after working with you? If you are one of the few advisors who can very simply state what you deliver and how your clients’ lives are better for it, you are off to a great start.

While these questions may not be groundbreaking, they are fundamental to establishing a powerful brand. Without branding, there is no differentiation. Without differentiation, we’re left with noise and chaos. And, no investor is going choose your firm in the midst of noise and chaos. It’s up to you to uncover your true identity and present a story with purpose. Only then will you see the transformation of your brand from a megaphone to a magnet.

Joe Steuter is the Director of Marketing Communications for Carson Group, a national firm helping advisors grow through coaching and partnership services, and serves as a digital marketing expert in helping advisors build and differentiate their brands.

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