Time to tackle branding in an online world

Nov 4, 2012 @ 12:01 am

By Kristin Andree

In the world of financial services, standing out from the masses is more important than ever. It's not enough to simply be good at what you do. In today's crowded marketplace, you have to bring more to the table.

Thanks to the vast amount of resources at their fingertips, clients are more educated on financial topics than ever. In addition, they have the opportunity to learn a lot about you and your practice well before you meet face to face. Clients and prospects frequently research their adviser prior to meeting with them. This is why developing and managing your brand online is a critical component of any marketing strategy.

Take a minute to Google yourself and explore what you find. This is precisely what prospects are doing before they decide whether to give you a call. What information will clients and prospects find? Whether it be your website, blog or profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or the like, you must be mindful to create a consistent brand message that lets people get a sense of who you are. Here are a few tips to ensure you get off to a solid start.

Don't be boring. For some reason, advisers seem to lose all sense of normalcy when beginning to talk about their business, or about finance and investments in general. It is almost as if they begin to use, as my young daughter refers to it, their “work voice” and revert completely to dry, benign conversation. When branding yourself and your firm, it's critically important to put yourself out there as you would in normal face-to-face conversation. Read your content out loud — if it sounds too dry and sterile, it probably is.

Avoid trying to be all things to all people. Advisers who excel at branding do one thing very well: they know their markets and speak directly to them. It is impossible for one adviser to have the knowledge, experience and depth to be everything to everybody. As with all marketing, the more targeted you are in your efforts, the better your results. Taking time upfront to clearly identify the market segments you work with will allow you to craft content and commentary that speaks directly to constituents in those segments and to educate them on topics and challenges they actually want to learn about.

Find common ground. You are more than a financial adviser — you have interests and hobbies, a history and a family, community involvement and passions. Talk about who you are as a person and what you enjoy. You will find that prospects and clients feel more connected to an adviser when they share a commonality.

Set yourself apart. Not all advisers are created equal. What do you bring to the table that your clients would appreciate and benefit from? Be sure to promote any credentials, educational accomplishments, unique business models or niche specialty areas.

Don't fill your site with industry jargon. Finance and investments can be complex subjects, and people look to advisers to simplify things for them. They want someone to “be real” and speak to them like a human being. Too often, when reviewing websites and social-media profiles of advisers, I find them loaded with too much industry jargon. Take a look at your website and social-media profiles. Are they written so a layperson can understand who you are and what you do — or does your technical lingo require holding a securities license to decipher? If in doubt, ask a friend outside the industry to let you know whether they feel your site is too technical or boring.

Always keep your promises. Online or off, this one is crucial. You are only as good as your kept promises. If you tout stellar customer service, then follow up on all inquiries promptly. If your primary focus is to educate your followers, then provide great free resources — no strings attached!

Consistency is key. Your brand reaches across many channels, so consistency is key. Start by capturing three to five key messages you want prospects to know about your practice and ensure these messages are present in all your profiles. Also, find three adjectives to describe you and use these words to paint a picture of yourself across your social-media channels.

When clients and prospects get a sense of who you are online — and that persona matches what they find in person — you will know you are on the right track. Be consistent, be transparent and, above all, be authentic to who you are as a person and an adviser.

Kristin Andree (kristin@ andreemedia.com) is president of Andree Media & Consulting

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