Phoenix: “How do you quickly develop a brand for your practice?” asked Mark, who then made a wild connection. “Blue Moon and Corona beer quickly captured top-of-mind-awareness with non-beer drinkers by putting an orange or lime in their beer. How can I do this as an advisor?”
My joke about providing clients with a case of oranges for Halloween didn’t go over well, as Mark was dead serious. After taking a deep breath, I explained how reality is a bit different. In the world of professional services, where you are dealing with marketing, selling, and servicing intangible financial solutions, it isn’t all that helpful to think in terms of tangible products, be they luxury goods or basic consumer products. However, it is useful to think in terms of top-of-mind-awareness, or what is often referred to as TOMA.
I explained to Mark that he should direct his focus towards other professionals who are servicing their markets at elite levels. For instance, when thinking of a cardiologist in your area, who are the top three? How about the top three divorce attorneys? The top three financial practices? And so on.
Whenever I ask some version of the aforementioned questions, I’m usually confronted with a blank stare; Mark was no exception. Why? Because TOMA is difficult to quantify in the world of professional services. If you want to continue this exercise, I recommend that you engage everyone in your practice (junior advisor, support personnel, intern, etc.) in answering these questions independently.
After everyone has created a list of top professionals within the categories you selected, you will want to meet as a team to discuss the selections. Assign one person to write on a white board and then list all the reasons for each TOMA selection. Don't worry about assigning specific qualities to a particular name; simply state the individual and professional service ¬¬¬¬— Dr. Barry Schwartz, cardiologist —and start listing all the qualities and characteristics that propelled this professional to TOMA status.
To frame this exercise properly, you can think in terms of:
• Length of service as a professional in the community;
• Quality of professional services delivered;
• Distinguishing characteristics or qualities of professional services;
• Distinguishing professional accomplishments;
• nvolvement in the community;
• Continuing professional development;
• Professional centers-of-influence;
• Personal centers-of-influence;
• Quality of client/patient friendly service;
• Level of community service;
• Degree of visibility in community;
• Level of respect amongst peers;
• Local marketing efforts (past and present).
Obviously, you will make your own list when you engage in this exercise. The idea is to fill the white board with these TOMA qualities and characteristics. Your next step is to have everyone participate in ranking your practice on a 1 to 5 scale with all the qualities and characteristics listed (1 - poor, 2 - needs improvement, 3 - average, 4 - good, 5 - excellent).
Next, select three areas that are completely within your control that you want to elevate to excellent status. Why only three? Because it’s a manageable number. Finally, create an action plan for each. Make certain everyone is on board, and create a process to inspect what you expect. Once these three areas achieve excellent status, you’re ready to tackle the next three.
None of this is rocket science, but top-of-mind awareness happens one client at a time, one COI at a time, one strategic referral alliance at a time, one community organization at a time ¬— over time. There are no shortcuts.
Our research says that there is tremendous opportunity for advisors to create TOMA simply because only a very small percentage are meeting the expectations of today’s affluent investor. So, roll up your sleeves and go for it!
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