By Bob Carter
Your clients are targets. They are receiving phone calls, direct mail and read market ‘intelligence’ on the Internet and follow TV and radio reports every day. These messages may conflict with yours. This all-out marketing assault requires a strong response. If you do not have a powerful, consistent and recurring message and share it with your clients, someone else will. If marketing trumps all other considerations, the question that all of us advisors must ask is: How are we marketing and branding ourselves?
How are we different from every other sales person, consultant or advisor calling on a potential client? At some point, it becomes a blur where the products and faces all look and sound alike, right down to the shiny blue suits and polished black shoes. There is a need to remain compliant with your employers’ position - but additional steps are needed to create a brand within a brand—YOUR unique value proposition.
You create a brand by artfully combining your message and persona with the means by which you put yourself out into the market. What are you doing to promote yourself as an expert in your field?
What exactly is your message or philosophy?
Promoting yourself as an advisor in the financial services industry (conventional or exempt) implies that you actually have a message of value to share. What is it? Do you have an investment process? Or do you merely sell on price and performance? Are you just a conduit to share your company’s products and position or are you adding valuable insight? Without a specific message to share, or an opinion and guiding set of principles, you fall prey to being just another sales person trying to make a buck and your business development efforts will be diluted.
Define your message so you can articulate it in a very simple and engaging way. Perhaps this will become your personal mission statement.
Your message may evolve over time, but it had better be consistent. It should show a progression of thought rather than a series of 180-degree course changes that exhibit haphazard thought and lack of conviction. Take a stand. Have a position. Be confident.
Efficient Communication: How often do you reach out to your clients and prospects?
A monthly newsletter is an excellent communications tool to share your widespread knowledge with clients. It provides you with the means to reinforce your message and remind your clients why they chose to do business with you. The challenge is finding the time to create, edit, and distribute your newsletter.
You might find a ghostwriter to help you construct your message but then you might lose some of the authenticity of your written words when they appear different from the way you express yourself in person. At worse, you may be in conflict unless you actively take part in assembling the words put to paper.
You should consider including story items of personal interest to humanize the piece and develop a more rounded impression in your clients’ minds. Sales “guru” Jeffrey Gittomer once said, “When all things are equal, people like to do business with people they know, like, and trust… when things are not exactly equal – people will still seek to do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Writing gives your clients and potential clients the chance to get to know, like, and trust you.
Your clients will enjoy meeting with you in an informal setting to listen to you share your wisdom on a topic of interest. Learning to speak in front of an audience serves to underscore your expertise and provide you the chance to ‘touch’ your clients in a friendly and non-selling environment. Make no mistake though; business may come from these sessions – especially if you ask your clients to bring a friend with whom you might start a new relationship.
Try to see things from your client’s perspectives. Including a guest speaker with information on something not directly related to – or perhaps tangentially related to your business may be a better and less threatening way to engage your audience. An example of this might be including a speaker on a related topic, i.e. “where are the best places to retire or spend extended vacations in Latin America” Help your audience design and qualify their dreams – then show them how you will help them get there.
The “micro-blog” nature of sites like LinkedIn and Twitter forces you to concentrate your message into a very short, concise statement, which provides great training in clarity. It is also a less intimidating medium for those who believe the act of writing for conventional publications is somehow impossible and beyond their capabilities.
Social media posts can even serve as a stepping-stone to create a larger public persona, set up future books and articles and promote the seminars or online webinars you might wish to run.
Twitter affords you the chance to capture immediate thoughts and impressions as they occur during the day and provide a means for instantly communicating with your followers. LinkedIn is a networking site perhaps more suited to conducting searches and reaching out proactively to those you would wish to engage. LinkedIn also provides the opportunity to share more detailed information about yourself, your background and business philosophy.
Once you start reaching out though, do not stop. Once you have become part of the public forum – you might become conspicuous for your absence, so choose your modes of communication and strategies carefully. This might detract from the sincerity and perhaps even perceptions of your own confidence in the quality of your message. Try to post a message of value at least twice per week.
There is no substitution for being in ‘print’:
Writing for online portals, local and business newspapers and social media affords each contributor with a public presence and reach well beyond their own Rolodex. The position of credibility you can create by having a recognized publication vet your opinions and philosophies as ‘items-of-value’ will no doubt help promote you as being part of your industry’s meaningful dialogue. Your public record establishes you as an advisor with a position, willing to take a stand and worthy of consideration. Make sure you understand the relationship you are building with your publication partner. If you are not being paid – make sure you retain copyright control.
What are you doing?
Be ready. Advisors tend to be natural communicators ands story tellers - develop your writing, public speaking and presentation skills by taking action – today. Consider joining groups such as Toastmasters International and Dale Carnegie. Volunteering your services to speak to groups of business owners through community service organizations can help further your presence in the community. This can also have the side benefit of making your career satisfying.
The act of presenting also helps you more finely craft the message you have to share and promotes you as a local authority. Reach out to anyone who can help you get name recognition but also be prepared to give something back and get involved with a service organization in your community. You might be perceived as being an opportunist if you do not somehow get involved.
Be patient as business may not come overnight, but recognition certainly will when readers learn your name and see your photo several times.
The goal is to have potential clients contact you when the time is right for them to act. A phone call or e-mail initiated to you, by them is the clearest signal that you have succeeded in establishing credibility and your brand.
Bob Carter has over 30 years of sales, management and business ownership experience. Bob is currently Regional Vice President of Sales with one of Canada’s leading life insurance companies. Prior to that, Bob spent 10 successful years as a licensed stockbroker, financial planner and licensed life insurance rep with a major Canadian securities firm. Bob holds several professional designations including, Group Benefits Associate (GBA), and Certified Investment Manager (CIM). Bob is a recognized speaker, published author and contributing editor to Canadian MoneySaver Magazine and Benefits Canada online and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.