Blog Series: The Truth About Branding for Financial Advisors (Part 2 of 3)

by Chris Hamm

In this series about branding for financial advisors, we explore some blunders, steps to improve an advisor’s brand presence, and – for the uninitiated – where to get started.

If you missed it, check out Part 1 of the series where we discussed investing in your brand and asking the right questions.

This time we’re going to dive a bit deeper into what it means to be an independent financial advisor and building a brand around that experience. As we always say in the IFP Design Group, your brand is not your logo. Let’s continue our journey into branding with the next branding truths for financial advisors.

Truth 3: You must have a marketing plan (in addition to) a business plan before launching your independent advisory practice.

Whether they’re concrete or abstract, every successful company starts with a goal-focused roadmap and a plan of action for achieving those goals. It’s easy to buy a book of business to kick-start a business. In addition, some organic growth may occur through referrals and word-of-mouth, but what about the growth that could possibly be achieved through a developed marketing plan? Well, let’s start by answering a few questions.

Why is this important?

For some, it might seem pretty obvious that a marketing plan is important. Unfortunately, in our experience of working with advisors, it’s not all that common in this industry, especially during the whirlwind of establishing a practice. The same can be said for advisors or advisor firms that have been in business for many years. We get it – after spending the majority of your day grinding away earning new business and dealing with existing clients, the last thing you want to do is exert more effort creating a solid marketing plan. However, there will come a day when you will want to generate new business through marketing initiatives, which is why it’s so important to start as soon as possible.

I didn’t have a plan before. Why do I need one now?

We get it. You haven’t needed a plan before and you aren’t starving to death. With that said, there’s a big difference between surviving and flourishing. Just like the other divisions at IFP, we are constantly encouraging advisors to reach beyond their comfort zone to build a legacy of prosperity and greater success.

Another common preconceived notion is along the lines of business growth and generating new leads (prospective clients). Our team frequently speaks with advisors seeking to freshen up their client list as their careers have picked up and the most common feedback we get goes a little something like this: “I acquire most clients by word-of-mouth or through referrals. Why should I look elsewhere?” While it’s certainly a good way to generate new business, what happens if that well dries up? Are you diversified enough to withstand the loss of a referral network? Especially for small advisory firms, it’s incredibly dangerous to rely on such a piecemeal strategy to sustainably grow your company.

What tools do I need?

This is the part where you expect us to say you need to spend at least $50,000 to $100,000 a year on marketing and advertising to get anywhere. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As you may have discovered on your own, the Internet is a great place to find business growth, but advisors often have trouble navigating this unchartered territory. Our internal team has identified a number of completely FREE tools that can help grow your business online with minimal effort.

Google Analytics

Do you have a website? Are you tracking the visitors that come to your website? If not, we have a good place to start. Google Analytics allows you to keep track of users’ activity while on your website. This data can be used to optimize your customer retention rate, improve conversion rates, and create content that’s more relevant to your target audience. There are many other applications for this information, but we recommend you start simple and work your way up from there.

Get Started with Google Analytics >>

Google My Business

If you have a website, you’re on Google. How a website displays on Google is an entirely different matter. By claiming your Google My Business account, you gain significant control of your web appearance. Verify the firm’s business address, phone number, name, hours of operation, and photography with ease.

Get Started with Google My Business >>

Bing Places for Business

Bing Places for Business is Microsoft’s answer to Google My Business. For them, it’s competition; for you, it’s opportunity. Claim your Bing listing and get to work molding your company’s online presence.

Get Started with Bing Places for Business >>

Business Citations

Remember the days when a fat phone book landed on your front door stuffed full of advertisements with little numbers inside? Then, in the very back, you’d find the coveted yellow pages where services were listed out for your convenience. For those that don’t recall, this was a primitive version of Googling for a service you needed.

Coincidentally, there are now many Internet sources that function the same way as the old yellow pages. Better yet, they’re free! Our very own Max Griendling created a list of online citations and a brief guide to get you started. Before proceeding, we wanted to note that you need a website for this to work.

Get Started with Internet Citations >>

Your Mind

Clients aren’t dumb. They know there are options at their disposal to get free advice and tools to invest on their own terms. Despite this, they trust in your experience, background, and education to make the right decision with their money. Never forget that you are the most important tool at a client’s disposal.

How do I get started?

Avoid Superman Syndrome

We know you’re confident in your abilities, but you can’t do this alone. Especially if you are struggling to market yourself, find a consultant that can help before diving into uncharted waters.

Before You Begin

If you choose to speak to a marketing professional, begin by jotting down a list of competitors. Be sure to include why you think they’re competition, what they do different or better than you, how you differ from them and develop a persona of your current and target clientele.

In addition, you will want to perform a traditional SWOT analysis, which helps you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Whatever you can get out of your head and on paper will help a marketing consultant better assist you.

Establish Goals

What do you want to achieve with your marketing efforts? Even if you aren’t sure if these goals are correct or if they can be achieved, write them down. A marketer will leverage this information to identify the correct tools, services, resources, and budget to get the job done. They can also help you prioritize and refine these goals, making sure they are attainable and within reason.

Make a Plan and Commit

Work with your marketing expert to establish milestones and a thorough plan for reaching those milestones. Once the milestones and tasks are developed, set deadlines to complete each task, and immediately input those deadlines into your work calendar. You’re more likely to commit the time to work on your plan if it’s on your calendar. It will take a lot of time and hard work to reach your milestones, but it will pay off if you are consistent.
If you’re looking to get a fresh start in 2018, now is the time to start building out a plan.

Truth 4: As an independent financial advisor, you’re no longer just an advisor. You’re a business owner and entrepreneur. Start thinking of yourself as one!

One day you’re a wirehouse advisor, and the next you’re building a business from the ground up. Whether you knew it or not, this is the day you decided to become an entrepreneur. This also means you’re responsible for marketing your own business, which for some is a strange, uncharted world. In marketing terms, this means you need to order business cards, create a pitch deck, maintain a website, set appointments, run analytics reports on your clients, and more.

So, if you don’t have personal experience of having ever owned, operated, or run a business, put your learning cap and seat belt on; you’re about to hit some turbulence.

For example, just as a professionally trained chef can cook amazing meals, that doesn’t always equate to operating a successful, profitable and marketable restaurant. Just think about how many restaurants you’ve seen that serve delicious meals, but wind up closing their doors after only a few months of operation.

Preparing for Your Entrepreneurial Journey?

First and foremost, it’s time to change your entire mindset because you, sir or madam, are a business owner and entrepreneur! It’s time to make a strategic and intentional shift that will give you the best possible chance of success, by making some simple changes to your mindset:

Mindset Shift Chart for Financial Advisors

It’s going to take vision, time, and a strong commitment to shift your mindset. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, take it one step at a time. Start by implementing one single point of change per month in your operations, processes, or mindset depending on your level of comfort. Track your progress by taking notes on your completed tasks, on what worked for you, what didn’t, and any adjustments you’ve made at the end of each month.

Up Next

These are two more truths in the 3-part IFP Design Group series, The Truth About Branding for Financial Advisors. Stay tuned for the next article in the coming months. In the meantime, start making some changes around your practice and get those marketing wheels turning.

What Have You Experienced?

If you want to share some of your client/firm brand stories, we’d love to hear from you. Just use the contact information below. We also welcome your comments or feedback on the ‘Truth’s About Branding’ series.

About the Author

Sean Brennan is the Director of the IFP Design Group. Sean helps craft meaningful brand experiences for financial advisors in the IFP network. If you’d like to be the first to be notified of future blog posts, or if you have questions or comments about this article, simply send an email to Sean. You can also connect with Sean on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Securities offered through LPL Financial member FINRA and SIPC
Investment advisory services offered through Independent Financial Partners, a Registered Investment Adviser
Independent Financial Partners is not owned or controlled by LPL Financial

Posted by: Chris Hamm | October 10th, 2017 at 4:09pm.