Brand reputation is another way to protect a financial advisor’s practice and ultimately ensure that client relationships aren’t jeopardized.

And in today’s digital world, a positive online presence is crucial to the success of an advisor’s brand and reputation.

Much of the negative or wrong online information can be laid at the feet of advisors themselves as many of them don’t devote the necessary time to develop corrective measures, brand experts say.

‘HARD TO BUILD BACK UP’

“Looking after your online reputation is a lot like looking at your credit score,” says Brad Johnson, vice president of marketing at Topeka, Kan.-based Advisors Excel, a consulting firm that helps advisors brand themselves.

“It’s easy to knock down, yet hard to build back up,” he says. “It’s better to build your own reputation; therefore you can be in control of the content.”

Johnson suggests that advisors Google themselves or the names of their firms.

“What you see is what your prospects are seeing when they consider doing business with you,” he says.

Advisors who aren’t happy with the image on display should try to obtain positive press, use social media proactively and in extreme cases, hire “someone to go in and clean out the debris that does not fit the perception you are trying to create,” Johnson says.

CLIENT ENGAGEMENT

Jerry Murphey, co-founder, president and chief executive of FolioMetrix, a tactical asset manager based in Portland, Ore., faults advisors for not giving their brands and reputations more than minimal attention.

“Advisors are out there winging it most of the time,’’ he says.

Murphey thinks that there is more to building a brand than just creating a website.
He has developed a method of connecting with clients he calls the four levels of client engagement, which are as follows:

1. Introduce yourself to clients and go through a process of discovery and presenting solutions.

2. Construct portfolios that do away with fallacies existing in asset allocation, that, for example, say you must use a style box approach (made famous by Chicago-based research firm Morningstar), and come up with better methodologies to diversify portfolios that address both up and down markets.

3. Review portfolio performance that adopts current investment objectives and loss thresholds.

4. Include an independent feedback session that deals with how the firm is doing as a whole to satisfy clients’ needs.

‘CREDIBILITY MARKETING’

Still another way that advisors can build their brands and reputations is to embark on a public relations program, which can sometimes mean hiring a professional.

PR can be described most simply as “credibility marketing,” says Jason Lahita, founding partner of communications firm FiComm Partners, which has offices in Los Angeles and New York.

Matt Matrisian, senior vice president of practice management and strategic initiatives at independent consulting firm AssetMark in Concord, Calif., which serves the advisory community, sums it up by saying, “Reputations can take years to build, but without proper nourishing, just nanoseconds to destroy.”

Bruce W. Fraser is a financial writer in New York and contributor to Financial Planning magazine. He can be reached at brucewfraser@gmail.com.