Back when I was nine years old my beagle Cleo dragged a possum she had killed, or more likely found, through the house. It was twice her size. The muse spoke to me and I said, “I think she bit off more than she can chew.” That phrase, of course, became worldwide, though I never received credit.
It’s a statement that’s now come back to haunt me. In the July Research, I published an appeal to fill out a “Best Practices Survey.” I listed 25 skills that I considered the core group of “best practices.” But I wanted to know what you think; hence the survey. I promised to send each participant a complete report, as well as a copy of my new e-book How Referrals Happen. All of the above is coming.
My “possum” is this: I got a vast amount of data. 218 advisors filled out a monster 58-question survey. My thought was to present the list of best practices in this article. With all the data I gathered, the article would take up the entire magazine, and while my editors love me, they don’t love me that much. So I’ll be presenting the material in installments.
Let’s start with branding. My favorite author on branding and positioning is Al Ries. Writing with his daughter, Laura Ries, in The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, he said: “What is branding? From a business point of view, branding in the marketplace is very similar to branding on the ranch. A branding program should be designed to differentiate your product from all the other cattle on the range, even if all the other cattle on the range look pretty much alike.”
Let’s go a little bit more deeply into this. I have defined “client marketing” as “the sum total of all communications directed at one’s clients.”
In each of these communications, whether oral, written, visual or whatever, you are communicating something about who you are. That’s your brand. If your clients come into an office with a cluttered reception area, that tells them something about you.
There are many elements you can select to communicate your brand. My survey asked about 10 of them. The table on the facing page shows one of my survey questions on branding and a compilation of the answers.
Now hold it. Don’t just skip this chart. It tells quite a tale.
I separated my survey responses into two groups. On the left, those with less than $50 million AUM. On the right, those with more.
You will find more of the people with greater success in the industry (measured in terms of the fabled AUM) are using more of these branding elements, except the two I have highlighted in yellow Take any element except the two I have highlighted in yellow — a company Facebook page and postcard mailings. A company page on Facebook is most likely an age phenomenon; it’s something that appeals to people who are likely to be younger, and poorer.
Another branding question was: “What other branding elements, not mentioned in the previous question, do you use?” Let me hammer home my point: Advisors with more than $50 million AUM are using more of these “other branding elements” than people with less than $50 million.
I downloaded all of the text answers from my survey program for each group, “More than $50 Million” and “Less than $50 Million.” I have compiled the two lists for you. You can download them at www.billgood.com/bestpractices.
Let’s consider a few branding elements in more detail.