How important is naming, branding, promoting and marketing my firm?
For some independent advisors who came to independence from larger employee advisor models, you will recall that at your previous firm, you may not have thought as much about your brand it was essentially built-in thanks to the company you were with.
As an independent firm in a growing and increasingly competitive landscape, its important to recognize that you are building a brand as much as a business. Whats a brand? In short, its the embodiment of your reputation, the overall emotive response when clients and prospects hear or see the name of your firm. Pretty important to cultivate a great one.
Who Are You?
If you are starting a new RIA firm, branding and promoting your new firm is key to achieving several goals: It establishes added legitimacy in the minds of existing clients; facilitates prospecting for additional clients; and lets the industry in general know you're a serious new business. The transition of your business will raise a number of questions in the minds of your clients, and having expert guidance in the naming, branding and logo design of your new firm will prove money well spent.
For your new business, your branding/marketing efforts are essentially a three-phase process: Pre-launch, launch and ongoing. Youll need to create marketing and client communications strategies and calendars. Even the most marketing-savvy advisors may find the best way to do this is to work with an experienced marketing and public relations provider who knows the independent space. At Dynasty Financial Partners, we were having such broad-based demand from our advisors, we added a marketing and PR business line internally and its been one of our most active businesses with almost all of our advisors working with them. This further provides evidence of the importance for those who are not thinking about these issues and that your peers (in some cases, competitors) are certainly focusing attention in this strategic area.
The goal is to make your firm "real" to your clients and prospects on day one. We recommend working with a marketing/PR firm for six to twelve weeks prior to launch on your branding, website, PR and overall marketing materials. This will ensure that all of your materials are ready and coordinated with each other. For example, your press release will direct readers to your website to read more about your business philosophy and services. Your clients will be sent welcome packages with all the forms, FAQs and information they will need to simplify transition of their assets to your new firm.
Dynasty highly recommends promoting RIA launches through carefully directed public relations campaigns. We work with advisors on establishing a detailed PR strategy, including carefully crafted press releases announcing your new firm, coordinating media contacts including local, national and trade publications - and setting up exclusive interviews with national and local reporters. This is a cost-effective way of getting immediate publicity, and an opportunity to establish yourself or your firm as "subject matter experts" available to answer future media requests and generate exposure. It is important to get in front of clients with an institutional-quality brand and explain why independent advice is in their best interest. To that end, customized marketing collateral and a mobile-optimized website will give you the real estate to tell your story, provide your credentials and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. At minimum, a "client welcome kit" and a "why" brochure will help clients understand your rationale for independence, what it ultimately means for them and how to become a client of the new firm.
Put new technology to work and go where the clients are. Leading independent advisors have embraced social media very effectively to hone their online presence. While advisors need to conduct their business in accordance with SEC and state guidance, hubs like Facebook and LinkedIn are essentially free portals to a wide world of prospects and an easy way to build a vast network of contacts. Since content is king, a blog is still an essential tool to create relevant, share-able subject matter that will help drive readers to your site or attract media requests. And dont forget the power of video.
Free or low-cost email providers like Constant Contact and Mail Chimp let you stay in touch with clients via short blasts or newsletters, and Twitter lets you share opinions or updates in microbursts. Services like ZoomInfo let you tap highly targeted databases to generate leads and integrate with your own CRM program. Of course, coordinating these communications with your legal and compliance team is important to ensure your message is consistent with your regulatory obligations as a RIA.
Keep the Conversation Going
On an on-going basis, media relations activities give you the opportunity to showcase your expertise in specialized areas or on relevant topics and allow you to maintain a high profile. Topics may include investment management, asset allocation, investment opportunities, financial planning and estate planning issues. PR initiatives may include writing by-lined articles or participating in media interviews on your areas of expertise.
Once your website is launched and a calendar of events is established, you will need to provide your clients with regular updates on your business through newsletters, client seminars, white papers and social media postings. Having a good marketing firm can help you source and write interesting articles, provide updated product and service guides and plan targeted marketing events.
Be the Brand
The advantage of having your own firm versus being an employee with a firm supporting thousands of advisors from a marketing perspective is that you realize that your materials can become far more personalized and targeted to your clients and prospects. When you market to HNW business owners, you can shape the communications to their specific demographics, types of businesses and region of the country. The connection you make will be far stronger and more personal than sending a generic piece.
Remember the old adage about only having one shot at making a first impression? Make it count with the right brand.