As a marketer, I love helping advisers launch a new brand and watching it take flight. In our industry, the teams coming out of the wirehouses to form their own independent firms nearly always seem to be exceptional marketers — once they've escaped. And although each new firm may use different tactics to grow, they all seem to go through three similar phases on their way. Here they are:
Phase 1: Building a brand once again
Make no mistake — top teams have already established their own brands, even if up until now, they've been sitting in corner offices of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management or UBS AG. Day in, day out, they have built their own brands as they have deepened their relationships with their clients and worked toward achieving their clients' goals. But above all, as they have secured their clients' trust.
However, when it comes to establishing a new brand identity that they actually own, teams can struggle. For many, working under the shadow of a tarnished wirehouse brand, and constantly having to apologize, has taken its toll. The freedom they now have can be almost overwhelming.
Where should they start? Before anything else, and honoring that trust, teams must take the time to agree upon both the values and key messaging pillars that each member truly believes and can articulate. They must also develop a visual identity for themselves, one that really conveys who they are, from the colors to the imagery and style. After all, each one of these components will carry across all marketing channels from their new office space to their website and other client-facing communications. More than anything else, they need to feel proud of their new identity.
Phase 2: Reactivating loyal clients
Highly successful teams have gotten to where they are because they have established very deep relationships with a loyal client base.
In the early days of forming new firms, teams focus on bringing these clients on board. Because their clients trust them, the best teams can successfully take with them well over 95% to 98% of those clients. These teams are elated when they find that clients are only too delighted they have, at last, “taken the leap” and set up one their own. In addition, smart teams can leverage this positive buzz further to attract new clients. Oftentimes, a well-planned open-house event, along with positive public relations, can kick-start that natural referral engine.
Phase 3: Turbocharging growth
Typically, new teams forming independent firms have had so many of their great ideas nixed that it takes them a bit of time to recognize that they now have the freedom to market themselves just the way they want.
When they realize that the possibilities are endless, the new task is to discover which key activities are best suited for them to power growth for years to come. I have seen firms drive tremendous growth pursuing new segments, such as the ultrahigh net worths, not only with new offerings but also by engaging in new activities such as blogging with target publications to generate continuing exposure. Over time, many hire an in-house marketer to take over some of the behind-the-scenes work, freeing up the rainmakers to go out and do what they do best — bring in assets.
The early days for any new firm are long and hard, with new challenges around every corner. But exceptional teams always find they wouldn't have it any other way.
Every moment spent rebuilding their brand, and evolving new business development strategies and tactics, can bring benefits for years to come. And the best part? The advisers come to work with open minds and excited about all the possibilities open to them. No longer do they have to ask for permission only for it to be refused — yet again. No longer do they have to run from those wirehouse brands they've had to shield their clients from.
Now there's nothing to hold them back, and that's just the way they like it.
Jennifer Geoghegan is vice president of marketing of Focus Financial Partners.