Published April 29, 2021
What’s in a brand? Might seem simple at first. But, your brand itself speaks volumes about YOU, and yet, when was the last time you thought about your company’s name, your logo, or even your overall identity?
At its core, a brand is defined as an identifying symbol, mark, logo, name, word, or sentence that a company uses to distinguish their product or service from others. A combination of one or more of those elements can be used to create a unique brand “identity.”
We’ve all heard about branding and how important it is, but why is that, really? Why does branding yourself or your company really matter? And is it even relevant in today’s world? Doesn’t the quality of my RIA’s service and advice take precedent?
Now let’s be very clear from the outset – establishing and promoting your brand is more important than ever. Post-pandemic, investment advice is far less of a commodity and much more a trusted, personalized service to investors. That fact puts a major premium on differentiation, and that is the very essence of a brand’s ethos, defining what makes YOU different and valued.
Competition and Opportunity
Let’s say you are either a veteran investment advisor, running your business the way that you have for 20 years, or, you might be a newly-minted RIA, finally breaking away from your broker-dealer and making the big move to join the independent realm.
With either scenario, today you face a multitude of challenges that did not exist even as recently as two years ago before the COVID-19 pandemic became a global challenge. You have to admit, you face more competition from larger broker-dealers, advisor networks, and even other independent RIAs than ever before. And the wave of consolidation that has swept through the industry is not likely to slow down anytime soon.
But your time is precious, and branding may not be at the top of your to-do list. According to a recent survey of advisors by Kitces.com, advisors only spend between 3 and 5 hours per week on marketing and business development efforts, with the majority of the remaining hours directed towards client needs. So how can you build more brand recognition without cutting into the time you need to spend supporting existing clients and prospecting for new ones?
To solve this dilemma, many independent advisors use a turnkey asset management platform (TAMP) like GeoWealth -- with its white-labeled portal and data-rich reporting capabilities -- so that they have more time to focus on marketing and growing their business. Plus, they can promote the differentiation a TAMP offers, such as a branded client mobile app or collateral for model portfolios.
Emerging from this pandemic may be one of the most crucial times in your corporate life, a time full of immense challenges, but perhaps just as importantly, enormous opportunities. Advisors who prepare for the future NOW and extend their brand to new audiences and potential clients will be the most successful in the decades ahead.
Branding and Differentiation
Simply put, your brand is all about what value you offer clients, and embedded in that value is how you differ from other advisors, and how clients value that difference. In a world full of more and more noise, your challenge is to quickly and succinctly communicate your value proposition in a consistent tone and voice that is uniquely "you."
Think about your top competitors – if you haven’t lately, it might be time to do so again. Take a complete audit of your brand from a fresh perspective. Think about conducting surveys or research with:
- Your clients: What is their opinion of you? What are you doing best? What could you improve?
- Your employees: Give them a chance to provide input with their own ideas on how to best position the firm’s unique value.
- Your competition: Are they effective at communicating their value proposition online or through their marketing collateral?
Promoting Your Brand
You only have a precious few moments to make a great first impression, and you better make them golden. This is why it’s so important to be sure your brand is embedded in everything you do. That means every communication (every email, phone call, or client meeting) should include a bit of your own corporate DNA within it.
Consider simple branding elements like your logo. Could it use a refresh or a redesign? Is this the ideal time to start over with a new look to coincide with some bold new marketing program or expanded client service?
Think about your website and how important your site has become as a result of the pandemic. In lieu of traditional face-to-face client review meetings, your clients rely more heavily on electronic communication today (think Zoom) and so your website is the front door to your business. You want to ensure your site is optimized for search engines so prospects can find you when they have very specific needs or questions.
How about social media? Are you connecting with your clients where they live, online, and on the social platforms they use? To keep your brand top-of-mind, you need to post consistent content that engages clients and prospects and continues to draw them back to your website. The secret here is being ever-present by posting and sharing content frequently.
Time to Get Started
Whether you decide to create a new brand or refresh an aging brand, the first and most important step to take is deciding to do the work and increase your brand awareness. Make sure your branding tells the same story that you tell when you meet a prospect for the first time. Your time is your most valuable asset, but you can lay the strongest possible foundation for your practice’s future by focusing on your brand and how it communicates and reinforces your value proposition to both your existing and potential clients.