If you’re thinking about going independent or are ready to make the leap, there are a few important (and exciting!) steps to consider next. Of course, you might worry about losing name recognition after leaving the wirehouse. But just think about what you get to do now: create and tell your brand story for the first time. Why do you do what you do? Whom do you do it for? What support do you rely on from the new firm you’ve partnered with, and how does it help you better serve your clients and evolve as an advisor and business owner?
At this stage of your journey to independence, when so much seems uncertain, it may help to keep in mind that your clients are loyal to you. And if you tell an effective and true brand story, those same clients are likely to stay with you and be an important source of referrals, too.
The Basics of Developing a Breakaway Brand Story
There are a few important elements you’ll need to craft a good brand story. We’ve broken down the major areas that will help you take an effective one that reflects you and what your business stands for.
Formalize what you want your brand to be. The financial services industry is built on servicing clients’ needs. It’s not surprising, then, that your brand encompasses you, your clients, and your prospects.
- Identify your specialty. One reason you’re considering independence is you are confident you can make this move a successful one. In turn, this confidence likely comes from the skill set you bring to the table. Dig deep and think not only about who you are, what you do, and why you do it, but also about your overriding philosophy on being a financial advisor.
- Define your target audience. Think about your current clientele and the specific niches you hope to reach. Do you want to grow your pool of high-net-worth clients with complex planning needs? Or perhaps your target is the next-gen investor who is focused on ESG investing. When you clearly define who you want to reach, it’s that much easier to write your story.
- Pinpoint that audience’s needs. Of course, your audience’s needs may be quite diverse (e.g., legacy planning, student loan debt management, retirement planning). But whatever they may be, they should be addressed in your brand story. Clients and prospects alike want to be assured you understand those needs—and have the technology, knowledge, and flexibility to satisfy them.
Choose a firm name that fits. As you enter a veritable sea of independent advisory firms, select a firm name that separates you from your wirehouse. You may want to think twice, however, before using your own name as the firm moniker.
Advisors who choose to include their names often find this choice to be limiting. Would a seasoned advisor join your firm if only your name were on the door? What happens when you’re ready to retire? These are the long-term questions you should consider as you brainstorm name ideas. Further, think twice before using the all-too-common “capital management,” “partners,” and “wealth management.” When you’re trying to stand out from the crowd (and in Google searches), a generic firm name just won’t do.
Instead, focus on the story you want your firm name to tell. For many, the intrinsic qualities or values a firm embodies are reflected in the firm’s mission statement. Do you consider yourself agile, cutting-edge, and independent? Are you focused on client relationships, community, and service? Or does your sense of place define you (in which case you might include a geographic or natural landmark as part of the name)? Whatever you choose, be sure to test it out with those who know you best to ensure that you’ve hit the mark in terms of the message you’re trying to convey.
Consider marketing strategies. Last, but certainly not least, you’ll need to use all of the various vehicles for getting your story out there. Word of mouth can’t be dismissed, as you are the ultimate steward of your brand. There are also the standard print materials that carry your name and company information to consider, including stationery, business cards, and informational brochures. But if you’re looking to focus your efforts, there are three areas you may want to start with:
- Intelligent website design. An easy-to-use, compelling website should move your target audience to action. It is one of the most effective ways to communicate your brand and establish yourself as a resource, explaining your strengths, ideal clients, service and investment offerings, and overall approach to doing business. Remember, your social media presence can help increase visitors to your site, but it’s the content you include there that will keep them interested and help convert prospects into clients.
- Bio. Hand in hand with your website is your bio. The bio page is regularly the best-performing page on an advisor’s website, so craft yours with care. The goal is to make a positive first impression; a good bio often includes what you do, who you are (if you’re getting personal, you’re doing it right), and career achievements, as well as a photo that is both professional and personable.
- Social media. If you’re not active on social media, many clients simply won’t be able to find you. As part of a wirehouse, your use of social media may have been limited or restricted. But as an independent advisor, you’ll likely enjoy a far greater breadth of use. You will find that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram can all be powerful brand boosters—as long as they’re used correctly. So find a firm that can guide you toward best practices, such as thinking before you post, being aware of who “follows” and “likes” you, and sharing content (e.g., blog posts you’ve written or industry insights) that engages readers and drives them to your website.
Start Writing Your Story
As you can see, there are many elements that make up an effective brand story. It’s an exciting but challenging endeavor, especially when you have other concerns on your mind, such as compensation, client retention, and technology (just to name a few).
Take a deep breath and think about all the reasons why making the move to independence makes sense. You’ll be your own boss. You’ll have more control over how your clients and prospects see you. And, of course, you’ll have the chance to tell your own brand story—the way you want to tell it. We’ve given you the steps to help get you started. So, are you ready to take the leap?
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