By Pete Muckley
Your brand—if carefully managed and properly developed—can be one of your business’s most valuable assets. It can be the key to accelerating growth and profitability and essential to building long-term business value.
Most financial advisors today are so busy trying to run a successful business and deliver financial planning services to clients, they don’t have the time, resources or energy to think about their brand. That could mean that in some cases, 10, 15 or more years may have gone by since the brand was first introduced.
Yet the financial services industry is constantly evolving, and you can’t afford to be left behind. Increasing competition, changing client demographics and disruptive technologies are continually altering the dynamics of how your business is perceived in the marketplace.
As always, clients are looking for an advisor’s experience and expertise to meet their needs and solve their financial challenges. But they’re changing how they search for solutions. Yes, they still ask for referrals from friends and family members, but they also access online resources via web searches and social networks. They are now typically looking for convergence—that is, referrals from multiple sources in multiple channels.
Is it time for you to rebrand? As you consider this question, ask yourself and your staff these questions. If you answer “yes” to two or more, it’s probably time to take a hard look at your current brand.
- Are you getting fewer leads than in the past?
- Has your firm’s growth slowed?
- Have new competitors entered the marketplace?
- Does your visual brand look dated or stale compared to the competition?
- Do you struggle to describe how your firm is different?
- Has your firm evolved significantly since you launched your current brand?
- Do your marketing materials, website and client communications no longer accurately reflect what you do?
- Do you have staff members who don’t seem to embody your firm’s value or mission?
- Do you want to take your business to higher levels of success?
Key Ingredients for Successful Rebranding
Your brand is the totality of how your clients and prospects see, talk about and experience your firm. Your brand is your promise to your clients: what they can expect from you and how you are different from other options. There are four key elements to consider when rebranding:
- Strategy. Your brand should involve a clearly stated vision that explains how your business will attract clients, including the answers to how you are different and what powerful need you solve in the marketplace.
- Messaging. It’s important that the messaging that conveys your strategy, vision and mission is easy to understand, believable and relevant to clients and potential clients.
- Visual identity. The logo, tagline, colors, typography, and design that’s aligned with your brand strategy should be relatable to your ideal client, be professional and consistent throughout the client experience and create a strong emotional connection.
- Staff. Your people are your product. How they embody your brand will help determine the success of your brand. They need to share your vision. As a result, it is critical to hire the right people, train them on your brand strategy and provide consistent communication and training over time.
Seven Essential Steps to Rebranding
- Start with a business reason. Make sure you have clear business reasons as to why you want to rebrand. These reasons can be tied to your answers to the nine questions posed above on whether it’s time to rebrand.
- Survey your firm and your ideal clients. Have you ever taken the time to define your target market or your ideal client? And not just the facts, but seeing below the surface to their emotions, needs and desires? Has your ideal client changed over time? It may be useful to have an employee brainstorming session. Then, survey your clients. Find out why clients like your firm and what they value about your services.
- Use positioning and messaging to capture your brand strategy. Using your survey data, develop a brief description of who you are as a firm and who you want to be. Outline your key differentiators as to what sets your firm apart from your competitors. Identify your ideal client. Articulate your firm’s core values. Review and update your value proposition and put it in writing. Using this information, develop a concise brand positioning statement.
- Build your brand identity. These are the visual elements, logo, tagline, colors, typography, design, etc., that will embody your brand positioning statement. You’ll want to make sure they are professional and consistent throughout the client experience and are relatable to your ideal client.
- Update your website and online presence. Your website may be your single most important business development tool. It’s a convenient place where you can tell a compelling story to your target audience. Make sure your website and social media platforms are regularly refreshed and consistently reflect your new brand.
- Update and develop new marketing materials. It’s important that your marketing materials are professional, consistent and firmly anchored in your brand strategy. Hire a firm that specializes in financial services marketing to help you develop the materials you need.
- Develop a plan to build your brand. How are you going to make sure your new brand gets out to the world? How are you going to make sure your staff knows, understands and believes in your new brand? You need to develop a plan to make sure it happens and all your work doesn’t just go into a folder in your desk to gather dust.
Your brand is essential to your success and the key to differentiating yourself. Rebranding forces you to look more closely at who you are as a firm and where you want to take the business into the future. A successful rebrand can help you attract new clients, differentiate your business and support referrals from clients. It can also help attract top advisor talent and inspire staff. If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken a critical look at your brand, 2018 may be a good year to do so.
Pete Muckley is the Vice President of Marketing at Trust Company of America.