How important is branding in your buying decisions? The last time you purchased a car, did you select your choice based on fuel economy, insurance costs, and price? Or did you buy your car based on how it made you feel? Our personal brand is no different; it’s based on the emotional response we elicit in our clients and prospects.
For all products, including smartphones and automobiles, people buy personality, not the product or service. But in financial services, that is doubly true. People hire you because they like and trust you, so they believe you’ll do a good job taking care of their money.
Your Branding: Who You Are, Not What You Do
One of the most common mistakes advisors make in their personal branding is to emphasize that they’re the best at what they do. Unfortunately, people don’t care if you think you’re the best money manager in the country. People care about who you are, so your branding needs to evoke your values and personality.
The idea is to embody a core value that people think of when they think of you. In personal branding expert Tim O’Brien’s book, “The Power of Personal Branding,” he explains that your brand should be the singular and unambiguous word that comes to mind when people think of you. If your photo was in the dictionary, which word would it be next to?
A good listener?
I work with an advisor who exclusively serves anesthesiologists and helps them with not only personal financial planning, but also running their practices. He’s known throughout the anesthesiology industry as the advisor to see. Is it because he knows the industry better than anyone else? Or because he creates the best financial strategies for anesthesiologists? Perhaps. But I suspect the real reason anesthesiologists flock to him is because his wife is also an anesthesiologist. When they describe him to others, they lead with “He understands us.”
Ask Your Clients
When I conduct Client Satisfaction Surveys on behalf of advisors, I ask their clients “Why did you choose to work with this advisor, instead of another advisor?” This usually lends some very insightful information. Then, we ask, “What one word or phrase describes your advisor.” This becomes their personal brand. The feedback is always interesting.
One advisor who focuses on helping women who are going through a divorce has always led with his wealth management services through his marketing. After reviewing his client feedback, we realized the word that came up over and over was “advocate.” Women hired him because they wanted an advocate on their side during the difficult decisions they were making during the divorce and while investing their settlement assets. We adjusted his marketing to reflect this important attribute.
What’s Your Personal Brand?
What is the one thing that you do better than anyone else? It may be financial planning, creating portfolios, or choosing investments. But what is the one thing you do better than anyone else that really matters to your clients? It may be educating them about the options available to them, explaining complex concepts in a way they understand, or providing an understanding ear when they’re going through a difficult time.
Combine that quality with who you serve best and you have your personal brand. Think about not only the type of clients you work with most often today, but who you most enjoy working with. These are your ideal clients. Consider the folks who you are best suited to help and personally like serving.
One advisor I was speaking with was surprised when he answered this question. He revealed, “To tell you the truth, the clients I really like working with just happen to fall into two groups. The first are LGBT couples and the second are Jewish.” He was surprised because he isn’t LGBT or Jewish. But his clients cited that they work with him because he’s “approachable,” “friendly,” and “warm.” In his area of the country, there can be hostility towards both communities and they value his caring and friendly approach. He has become known as the go-to personal for both groups within his community.
Help Others Refer You
By embracing a concrete personal brand, you help your clients, your network, and even those who don’t buy to refer you business. Financial advisors are a dime a dozen, so you’ve got to give people a memorable way to explain who you are.
If you think your clients refer you to their friends and coworkers by explaining, “He’s an independent, fee-based, fiduciary wealth manager,” you’re wrong. You need to give people a tangible, emotionally-driven way to introduce yourself to others. Here are some examples:
- Doug helps business owners pursue true wealth
- Tom does faith-based financial planning for families
- Linda helps widows make their money last for the rest of their lives
- Rick helps university faculty make the most of their benefits package
- Larry helps dentists catch up for retirement in a hurry
What’s your hook? Who do you serve and how do you help them? That’s your personal brand. Once you identify your personal brand, your work isn’t done — it has just begun. Embrace your brand and begin working to be the go-to person for that need.
Consider which skills and resources you need to add to be even more exceptional within this niche. Develop your service and offerings around your target group of clients. Join groups and write content for your specific area of specialization. But most importantly, introduce yourself consistently to everyone using your personal brand.
Take The Pressure Off Networking
One added bonus to having a distinct personal brand is that it takes the pressure off networking and asking for referrals. Who hasn’t felt uncomfortable when they meet someone socially who is obviously trying to network new business? Whether it’s a financial advisor or a mortgage broker or a real estate agent, we have all clammed up when someone we meet is sizing us up as a prospect.
Having a distinct personal brand relieves the pressure of networking because people understand exactly what you do and who you serve. When you meet someone socially and explain, “I help high-capacity donors make tax-efficient investments,” they no longer feel like a target. They are free to ask questions and naturally think of their friends who belong to the group that you serve as people you may be able to help.
Embrace your personal brand and try it out to see how it feels. I guarantee it will make networking, finding referrals, and bringing on new ideal clients much more natural.