Like many, I travel often for business. While airline travel is not typically easy, Southwest Airlines always impresses me as being one of the best carriers in business today. Every time I fly with them, I am amazed by how pleasant everyone is and how the staff makes you feel like a welcomed guest. Even Southwest's change policies and baggage fees are improvements on the industry norms; if you need to rebook a flight, you don't have to pay a hefty change fee in addition to any difference in the ticket price. Since plans always seem to change at the very last minute, Southwest has created a superior mobile app and website to ensure that their customers can quickly and easily make travel adjustments. 

Southwest has also created a unique brand identity.  Next time you are in an airport, look at what makes the airline so instantly recognizable.  One significant element: their logo and colors are different from any other airline.  Whether parked at the gate or 10,000 feet in the air, their planes are highly distinctive.  Even the employee uniforms stand out from the rest.

I often wonder about the extensive research Southwest must conduct on their client base; perhaps this includes looking at the psychology of their buyers, measuring customer satisfaction, and then putting those results into action with service and technology.  I also try to draw connections between other client relationships and customer experiences, and brand that Southwest has created. How well do you leverage your own partners to create favorable client experiences? 

Many marketing firms and consultants aspire to help financial advisors create quality client experiences, comparable to Southwest's; however, the technology component is especially challenging to manage since it evolves so rapidly. Nonetheless, it's vitally important to give clients a technology experience that communicates your message, extends your brand, and makes your firm easy to access. 

Over the years we have addressed these technological challenges to help advisors communicate their messages to clients and prospects; having a mobile app in the Android and Apple marketplace is one great way to do this. For example, mobile apps and branded portals can give clients access to their financial data.  These apps let clients stay up to date with current values, performance, gain loss, and even push messaging. Mobile apps also provide your clients with a self-service option, should they choose not to depend on email and phone conversations with customer service. 

Think about the experience of making an airline ticket change through customer service vs. doing so right on your smart phone.  With the app, you control the timing; there's no need to stay on hold to speak with a representative or wait for a reply to your email.  We've helped more than 50% of our advisor clients deploy their own branded mobile apps.  An interesting stat that has emerged from these conversions is that 38% of the activity that used to transpire through traditional web browsers now takes place through the mobile apps. This is a strong indicator of the appeal and convenience people find in mobile apps.

Most advisors have a website that clients can visit, but the key to standing out from other advisors is using other technology to help extend your brand. Video segments, for example, can provide updates on market conditions, explain how portfolios are performing, and highlight new services you are offering.  These videos can be hosted on your home page, delivered as part of e-statements, or viewed on mobile devices.  You can also provide your clients with an easy way to pass the videos onto their own contacts, thus expanding your pool of potential new business.

Adding new technology to your marketing channels lets you extend your brand exponentially.  The innovative use of intuitive and convenient technology is now an integral piece of our daily lives.  Using these forms of technology to communicate with clients and create branding opportunities should be integral to your business plans.

Jon Reiners is Vice President of Institutional Business Development for Orion Advisor Services, the premier portfolio accounting service provider founded by and for investment advisors. Jon oversees the Orion Marketing, Sales, and Technology Consulting teams.

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