We are in the midst of a DIY revolution. In fact, it’s been going on for some time. For Gen X and Gen Y, for the kids who come after them, even for some baby boomers, DIY has become synonymous with authenticity, low cost and self-sufficiency. There is so much information available today on the web that you can teach yourself almost anything—emphasis on almost.
Yes, it’s true. There are some things it’s probably best not to try at home. Financial advisors know exactly what I’m talking about, and they tell me so often, with their hands waving about, their mouths pulled into a scowl. Do-it-yourself investors? Who do these folks think they are?!! How could they possibly think they have as much or more savvy about the market as a seasoned professional, a financial advisor who has been designing portfolios and preparing financial plans and drawing up estate documents for a decade or more? Do they know how easy it is to buy high and sell low, to get caught up in the latest market hype or panic, make giant mistakes when they’re managing their own money? No, they can’t possibly. Sound familiar?
The funny thing is, so many financial advisors do the same thing when it comes to their own marketing. Their efforts, to be frank, often resemble a bake sale instead of a high-end bakery. They’ve got a few lopsided cupcakes with too much frosting and a poppy seed cake without any poppy seeds that were thrown together in a cramped kitchen and set out on a loud plastic table when what they really need is a high-end display that showcases a artful arrangement of color-coordinated and exotically flavored cakes and cupcakes and fudge brownies, all created by professional chefs from time-tested recipes and baked to perfection. We’re talking about the difference between selling one’s wares in a high school gymnasium versus in the polished glass window of a storied Parisian bakery.
To bring this analogy closer to home: I’ve seen too many wealth management websites that look like they were lifted directly from a template, that do nothing to differentiate the financial advisor from every other financial advisor in his market, that say nothing about the real value he or she can provide. Worse, I’ve met with too many financial advisors who don’t even know what their so-called “value proposition” is—or at least, they can’t put it in to words. They have no elevator pitch, no short pithy statement that describes who their ideal clients are and what they can do for those people whose business they so covet. They don’t know what they’re selling or who they want to sell it to. They have no brand.
And this is only the beginning. Branding and marketing are an art and require almost as much strategy as putting together a good portfolio does. You need to not only have a good idea of what you are selling, but know how to express it in a way that is both clear and grabs attention, and you need to know where and how to spread the word. You need to understand how to make the Internet work for you instead of against you. You need to know what rules govern what you can and cannot promise to clients and potential clients. You must know how to ask for referrals without alienating your best clients and professional contacts. You need to know how to encourage clients and potential clients to trust you and feel at home with you. Your business is at stake. Don’t try this at home. Turn to a professional.
April J. Rudin, Founder and President of The Rudin Group, is a financial services marketing strategist.