Financial advisors are famously clueless about marketing — and that’s too bad. Because it is your brand — your firm’s unique signature — that keeps clients coming back.
As financial services marketing expert Peter Montoya puts it: “Today, marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. It feels like good practice management. How are you going to run a successful business without good practice management?”
Against that backdrop, forward-thinking advisors are currently taking a deep dive into brand building, an exercise that involves not only a critical self-inventory but also outreach to top clients. What is it, exactly, that clients like about you and what you do for them? The answers may surprise.
In Venice, Calif., for example, John Koudsi, CEO and chief strategist of Core Financial Partners, rarely wears a suit, meets with his 80 entrepreneur clients in a kicky modern loft, and pretty much personifies his firm’s corporate slogan: “You don’t fit in a box and neither do we.”
A client who is a graphic designer created Koudsi’s logo and helped him brand the company with a new website. Another client, an architect, designed the loft offices.
“Who better than a client to turn to? They are my target market,” says Koudsi, whose branding effort coincided with his departure from Ameriprise for Charles Schwab Institutional. “Our clients help project our image by the nature of who they are and what they do. I’ve always said I’m a pretty creative guy in a non-creative business. The most exciting thing about being able to brand ourselves properly is that we get a lot of benefit by really being able to express who we are. Referrals today are exactly in line with our target market.”
Likewise, David B. Armstrong, co-founder and managing director of Monument Wealth Management in Alexandria, Va., looked at brand archetypes to determine the personality of his clients and his firm. The clients: individuals who have started or sold a successful business, along with some corporate executives. After much study, Monument Wealth Management decided to build its brand around the “explorer” archetype.
“We’re the people searching constantly for a better way to do something. We’re all about independence and fulfillment. My clients’ personalities are built exactly the same way. Freedom and possibility, that’s what they’re all about,” said Armstrong, whose firm is affiliated with LPL Financial. “If my brand personality doesn’t match the personality of my clients or potential clients, they’re not going to stick around for very long.”
Monument Wealth Management, meanwhile, has wrapped its brand around the logo: “We believe in being different.” This spring, it launched a new website using documentary-style videos in place of static corporate bios with head shots. The website also features a cutting-edge concept called video scribing, which overlays voice with a visual explanation of, say, investment strategies — something you’re not going to encounter on many advisors’ websites.
Here’s a brief look at what others in the industry are emphasizing when it comes to brand creation:
Do the homework. Find out first what your existing brand is in the minds of your top clients. As Scott West, head of consulting for Invesco Van Kampen Consulting, notes: “An advisor might want to become a customer services specialist or a market guru. The problem is that’s not why your top 10 clients love you. My advice is: If you’re successful, let’s do more of what you are already inherently good at.”
When he works on branding cases, West and his team typically interview an advisor’s top 20 clients. Often, he says, the advisor discovers he already has a brand. “They tend to think they attract more of a diverse base than they do, when in fact they don’t. They tend to attract people like themselves,” he said. “They already have a sweet spot.”