Branding 101: The Stuff Your Brand is Made Of
Branding Before Marketing
When it comes to marketing your financial practice, you have to start by identifying who you are. You need to understand why you’re special and what you offer that other firms don’t. You need to know why clients love working with you, what they experience during that process, and what your firm looks like to the outside world—only then can you highlight your strengths and reach the right people in the right way.
In short, before you can market and advertise your firm effectively, you need a solid brand identity. A strong brand identity reinforces your value and creates positive, lasting impressions. It makes you appear more professional and credible—and, even more importantly, it helps clients articulate why you’re special, which makes you more referable.
What’s in a Brand?
Your brand identity is more than just a logo and a name. It’s all the pieces that work together to portray who you are as an advisor and a firm. It’s the impression people get when they interact with your practice.
There are multiple elements that come together to create your brand identity, and they fall into three categories: Visual, Verbal, and Experiential. If you want to establish a strong, memorable brand, these three categories need to work cohesively to portray the personality of your practice. Once you establish your brand identity, you’ll have a strong foundation from which to build all your future marketing efforts.
Here’s an overview of the three elements of your brand identity and how they impact your practice:
The visual components of your brand are fairly easy to identify—they’re the elements people see that represent your firm, like your logo, website, and company documents. But there are other visual elements that play an equally important role in representing your brand—like your office décor, the way you and your team dress, and your building’s signage. All these things create a direct and immediate impression of your brand, so that impression needs to be A) positive and B) cohesive. If your website is sleek and modern, it makes sense that your stationery and office décor would have a similar look. If your clients are used to meeting you in a suit and tie, your entire team should uphold that standard with the way they present themselves in the office.
Verbal elements include everything people hear or read associated with your brand. That could be anything from the words on your website to the way your receptionist answers the phone.
When it comes to written and spoken communication, your firm should have one “voice.” That means if someone follows your Facebook posts, reads company emails, and visits your website in the same day, they should feel like they’ve been interacting with the same “personality” every time. If you talk a lot about building close relationships in your website messaging, then calling your firm should feel like having a conversation with a friend.
Sometimes it helps to think of your brand as an actual person with a specific personality—when you have a brand persona in mind, you can determine the kinds of things your brand would or wouldn’t say.
One of the most important verbal elements of your brand is your brand story, or what we call your “core message.” This is the written content that explains who you are and why you’re different from other firms. (We’ll talk more about your brand story and how it can help your referability in our next blog.)
The experiential component is what it feels like to interact with you and your practice, and it’s an extremely powerful element of your brand. Creating a strong experiential brand is about going above and beyond for your clients, and when you succeed, you leave a positive, memorable impression that makes you irresistibly referrable.
Ask yourself this: Do I proactively follow up with clients, or do they reach out to me when they need something? Do people feel welcomed and special the moment they walk into the office, or do they stand around waiting for someone to greet them? Do I make it easy for clients to navigate and update their accounts, or do they often get confused and frustrated?
These little experiences create huge impressions that greatly impact your referability. Make people feel welcome, cared for, and thought of, and they will become raving fans. Make them feel forgotten, ignored, or even nothing at all, and you may not lose a client, but you won’t get a referral.
Crafting Your Brand
Think about the image you want to portray to clients and how you can convey that through each element of your brand. Financial planning is an innately personal business, so for many advisors, your brand is often associated with you as a person. That’s not always the case, but it’s something to consider when identifying what you want your brand to be. Once you have a specific, powerful brand identity in place, you can create more intentional marketing strategies and generate referrals more effectively.
In our upcoming blogs, we’ll dive deeper into how you can build a powerful brand identity. If you’re ready to get started and want some help, just let us know! We’ve helped hundreds of top advisors craft compelling brands that accelerate their practices from “great” to absolute “cream of the crop.”