In the early years of the financial planning profession, advisors were able to effectively differentiate the brand of their advisory firms by relying on language such as “trustworthy”, “knowledgeable”, and even “fiduciary”, to distinguish themselves from often-poorly-trained broker-dealer and insurance company salespeople. But with the rapidly growing number of CFP professionals who provide fiduciary best-interests advice for their clients, built on their years of experience in providing customized financial planning advice, these terms no longer differentiate a financial advisor, and instead simply describe ‘table stakes’ – bare minimum requirements that any financial advisor is expected to possess. Which raises the question of how, with more and more financial advisors joining the industry or continuing to pivot away from products and into fiduciary advice, do talented advisors cope with this rising ‘crisis of differentiation’ and actually brand themselves in a way that stands apart from the rest?
In this guest post, Amy Parvaneh, Founder and CEO of Select Advisors Institute, explains the process she uses to help advisors develop an effective brand for their firm by identifying the valuable, qualitative factors that make an advisor (or their practice) unique, and targeting the right (not already overly saturated) client segment. By delving into these two key branding strategy elements, a financial advisor can create a strong, relevant message that can promote an individual (or their firm) and elicit client engagement from the exact type of clientele they’ve chosen to serve.
The first of these key branding elements is the firm’s “Opposing Category”, which consists of the firm’s qualities that go beyond the mere ‘table stakes’ that all advisory firms must have, and distinguishes the advisor as unequivocally unique from others, such as a unique financial planning process that the firm uses or a specific field of expertise the advisor has.
The second key branding element is the firm’s “White Space”, which includes any client segments that are underserved by other competing advisory firms, which, by definition, means there would be little competition to serve such clients (and ideally, will include clients with whom the advisor would enjoy working in the first place!).
While Opposing Categories can be identified by an introspective assessment of services offered and qualities that an advisor feels are special, White Spaces are best determined by examining current client characteristics, such as demographic criteria and less frequently examined psychographic traits (which describe a client’s habits, beliefs attitudes, and values), to spot where the advisor may have already found some White Space that can be delved into further. Once the Opposing Categories and White Spaces are identified, the advisor can then create an appropriate, personal, and impactful brand, and then use the brand to synchronize the business image, marketing messages, and operations processes.
Ultimately, going through the process of developing a brand message is crucial for advisors who want to hone their existing client segment (or shift their focus to a different segment altogether). By investing the time and effort needed to develop a relevant, genuine branding message, financial advisors will find their marketing efforts are more effective, as they highlight their specific value proposition to a specific (White Space) clientele to grow a successful practice in an increasingly competitive marketplace.