When I work an RIA to craft their marketing plan, the advisors inquire about client attraction techniques, as they eagerly want to know how to grow the business. Tactical discussion about blog posts, social media, networking, and SEO consume the conversation. I put these talks on hold as I explain that it is pointless to dive into those details until we have agreed upon the brand strategy. Whether you have been in business for 30 years or you are early on in your existence, clarity on your brand strategy is the essential foundation to enable marketing decisions that drive your firm’s growth.
Before you can build your brand, you need to be able to articulate it. The easiest way to formulate your firm’s brand strategy is to key in on three elements.
The three key elements in your firm’s brand strategy:
1. People – Define the client that you want to attract
You cannot be all things to all people, or you will end up in the miscellaneous ‘generic financial professional’ mental file of the people whom you want to attract. When the trigger event occurs in their life that makes them want to hire a financial advisor, you will not come to mind. They will have trouble recalling who you are or what you do, if they ever knew in the first place.
Often described as your niche, this specific target audience will be a critical part of your brand strategy. If you’ve been in business a while, you will want to go beyond niche and describe your high-value hyper-target audience. This is the group who will appreciate your value and with whom you most enjoy working. You have to know who you want to respond to your acquisition marketing efforts before you can determine what marketing is right for you.
When I had my financial planning firm, I started first by defining my marketing target audience. Here it is:
Expectant parents, new parents, and families with young children, defined as having one child in home under the age of 5. New parents having their second child became my high-value hyper-target after a few years.
Some of their characteristics:
- College-educated or advanced degree; (former) professional, possibly turned SAHM – confusion over career path post-baby
- Major Struggle with knowing how to make the trade‐offs of where to allocate what money in which order given their resources.
- Overwhelm from many decisions to be made during pregnancy, early child stages—many of which require money or have a financial impact of some kind.
- Aspire to start saving for education, what to provide completely for their children, what to feel secure
- Cultural Creative mindset
- Love Whole Foods
2. Positioning – Carve out your corner of the market
Positioning differentiates you and claims your unique spot in the market. Where do you want to carve out your corner in the vast financial advice space? Many fee-only financial advisors assume that “fee-only” or “fiduciary” is the positioning. This one aspect of your positioning differentiates you from many financial advisors who use the title in the industry. Yet, it is only one point of differentiation.
In the world of fee-only fiduciary financial advice, where do you stake your claim? Is it your location, the way you deliver your service, your approach to planning or your investment strategy? These specifics help, but it will take more than that to define your difference. You also want to consider your values, your target audience, and the unique benefits you offer. The overlay of these inputs helps round out your defined slice of the market.
Your positioning is usually one or two lines that describe what problem you solve for a particular audience and how they benefit. You may only use the statement(s) internally to drive decision-making, but stakeholders should be able to identify where you fit in the mix through the brand experience you offer and your messaging. As an example, here is the positioning I used when I launched my (former) financial planning firm in 2006. My positioning combined my experience as a trained coach and my desire to deliver fee-only financial planning devoted to Bay Area new parents at a time when no one else provided this service.
VitaVie Financial Planning is the ‘Go-To Resource’ for navigating the financial change from partner to parent. We are the only* financial planning firm to focus exclusively on the needs of new and expectant parents, delivering financial advice through a consultative coaching approach for a fee. We help Bay Area parents learn, grow and make decisions that fit best for their changing family (*now, the first).
3. Personality: Bring your brand to life as a person.
Your brand is the person you want to represent in the market. This does not necessarily mean your brand is the same as the individuals in your firm or that it mimics your target audience. Your brand has a distinct personality that resonates with and appeals to a certain type of person: your target audience. When you describe a personality as you may a profile for a dating website, you can make your brand come alive. Tap into attributes you would use to illustrate a friend or a relative personality: down-to-earth, formal, funny, serious, practical, flexible, grateful, respectful, reliable, positive, forgiving, affectionate, loyal, enthusiastic, kind.
The brand personality I developed for my financial planning firm was one of a coach. I described her as:
Nurturing but not condescending; empathetic to the overwhelm new parents face; empowering, inspiring, and genuine. Willing to admit mistakes and share, she is able to relate to what they are going through and provide a safe environment to confide and share fears. She balances ‘conversational’ with ‘professional’ and advocates for their best interest. By blending the seriousness of financial planning with the softer, fluid, artsy side that comes with coaching, she makes the work accessible and interesting to clients. She appreciates wellness, health, and fitness, self-care, and relationship care.
Once you have these three elements spelled out and documented for your whole team to internalize, you can begin to build your brand with confidence. I will share more on how to do that in my next post!