Or, according to his mantra, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”
“Branding is nothing more than the residual image left after you meet with someone,” Avrin said. “What are you known for and what do you aspire to?”
While we have no control over our brand, we do have great influence over it, Avrin said. The bad news is that nearly everyone in the industry is good at what they do. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to stand out.
So how do you build a “marketable, visceral brand identity”? Avrin has three steps for advisors.
1 Be unexpected – stand out.
Be remarkable, Avrin said. “What are you doing that is so unexpected or remarkable that people can’t help but talk about?”
Even better, to what question are you and your practice the answer to? Not just a choice, but the best choice? “What can you own – and I’m not talking about market share, I’m talking mind share,” he said. What can you own in your clients and prospects minds?
Advisors should also consider the words they use to describe their business and to differentiate themselves. “Words can be powerful or they can be meaningless,” Avrin said. “Are you speaking their language? It’s not about dumbing it down, but about speaking in a way that is fiercely relatable for whom you are talking to.”
In a “plague of blah, blah, blah,” many firms look and sound exactly the same to prospective clients, Avrin said. Nearly every firm says its people and the combined experience set it apart, or that clients come first. Even more common (and less powerful), Avrin said is the financial services adage: ‘We really listen.’ “Your competency is not your value proposition,” he stressed.
Advisor David Edwards of Heron Financial Group said he was happy to hear that his firm isn’t making some of the mistakes Avrin pointed out. “We’ve been upgrading our brand for the last four years, which includes marketing materials of course, but also the technology we use and the way we answer the phone.” Heron’s new slogan is ‘We take CARE of your financial life.’
To see just how close your branding is to that of your competitors, Avrin suggested printing out their marketing materials and highlighting buzz words. “You’ll be stunned at how similar their statements and assertions are to the ones you are making.”
He recommended the following exercise to avoid sounding so generic: Create a top 10 list of assertions (things that really differentiate you) that if someone believed, you would have their business. Then narrow that down to the top five, put it near every phone in the office and make sure no one gets off the phone until three of those things have been said.
2 Craft your story.
Once you know what makes you stand out, what differentiates you, you have to craft that into a compelling story.
Ask questions to help you craft your story, Avrin said. “Ask, what do we want them to know and what do we want them to do?,” he said. “Find real and legitimate ways to differentiate yourselves and let go of some of that old, useless language.”
3 Be very, very visible.
What are you doing to be visible in the marketplace? “The greatest enemy of success in business is anonymity,” Avrin said. He offered a few ideas for advisors to promote their brand:
- Use low-cost resources to look more professional. Examples: elance.com, 99designs.com, fiverr.com.
- Write for publications your target market reads.
- Reach out regularly with newsletters.
- Use videos, a “tangible trail of wisdom.”
- Self-publish or use a publisher to write a book.
“Everything that leaves your business, whether it’s written or video, is part of your brand,” Avrin said. “Make sure everything that leaves your firm is excellent.”