Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine. Alone, these ingredients mean nothing, but attach the name Coca-Cola and hundreds of images are instantly conjured up: the smell of summer barbeques when you were a kid, the rush of caffeine while trying to stay awake and write that paper in college, the infamous Diet Coke guy commercials in the ’90s. All of these feelings are the result of one thing: branding.
While providing financial advising services may not evoke the same kinds of memories, building your brand is just as important. In order to be successful, you must distinguish yourself from an immense number of competitors. But if you all offer relatively the same kinds of services, how can you make yourself stand out?
What’s in a name?
Webster’s defines a brand as “A trademark or distinctive name of a product or manufacturer.” But a human being does not necessarily fit this definition.
Miki Dzugan, president and principal consultant of Rapport Online, an online marketing planning company, defines a brand in two parts. “There are two things we generally refer to as a ?brand.’ One is the physical representation – the company logo. The second is the bundle of qualities that we hope people have in mind when they see our brand image or think about the brand name. For example, 3M equals innovation, major corporation and high quality products. The second brand is not wholly under our control. For example, Enron equals …” Dzugan says.
You, as an advisor, have the unique opportunity to build yourself as a brand. Your name is your brand and you control the things associated with it through the kind of service you and your company provide. Quality service should become synonymous with your name. This will earn you more than referrals – it will also keep your existing clients happy. They will spread the word of the good work you’ve done for them and the personal touches you added, such as handwritten thank-you notes and consistent contact, and that will burn your name into their minds.
Why build a brand?
Building a brand creates an identity for your business. Mark Brown, of Denver-based financial planning and investment advisory firm Brown & Tedstrom, says it’s important to build a brand because it allows a firm to create a personality that attracts people to it.
“It identifies those attributes we want to communicate to our clients.”
Brown says the best way to build a brand is through reputation. “In our business, our brand is our reputation. It has to start there. And if you damage your reputation, it won’t matter how many ads you run or where you run them.”
He cautions that building a reputation takes time and one of the biggest mistakes advisors make is expecting an immediate return.
“Brands are built over time,” he says. “Another big mistake is not targeting your message to the specific audience you are trying to reach. Trying to be everything to everybody is just not possible.”
Maintain a narrow focus and branding will become easier. Use avenues that seniors can relate to and that will help develop and maintain personal relationships with the client, which often lead to referrals.
On Call PR Public Relations Director Linda Hamburger says the senior audience is different from latter generations because they’re more interested in the information than the presentation.