Standing out in the new advisory landscape
We asked Brett Davidson of FP Advance and Mode FP and Nick Bamford of Informed Choice: Just how can individual adviser firms create differentiation for their brand?
Rob Kingsbury: How can adviser firms ensure they stand out from all the other firms around them in the new RDR landscape?
Brett Davidson: This is the $64,000 question I get asked all the time. There is so much involved in how firms do this for themselves but there is no doubt that the 21st century way of marketing has to involve putting out content regularly and continuously that tells potential and existing clients what we think about the financial landscape and the values that we stand for. People receive this information for free and if they have values aligned with the adviser’s values then there’s the potential to do business with them. There’s clear evidence that people who make purchase decisions through the internet do so after conducting research by looking at websites, reading blogs, and in the advice market seeing whether they like the person or the firm before they pick up the phone. If you are putting out content in this way then potential clients can get to know who you are, what you think and whether they feel they could do business with you before they even meet you.
There’s a great video on YouTube by Simon Sinek about businesses finding their Why. He argues that we do business with businesses that have the same values as us. If as a business we clearly state why we do what we do, then customers can relate to us more easily. So people buy Apple because it stands for something in an otherwise commoditised market, it has values they can relate to and buy into, and that they will buy into at a premium.
Standing out means differentiating yourself and here the visual design of your business is very important. Invariably when my marketing team has developed a range of different designs for a firm, the owner will pick a very conservative design often in blue. My thinking is that every one in finance looks like this, so let’s get a bit weirder and whackier with this because in marketing you want to stand out and look different from all the rest. Then you can support it with great content. If all you do is look like the 20 or so other financial advice firms in your area what’s going to draw a client to you rather than any of the others? Where’s your differentiation?
Nick Bamford: Our marketing drive has been around how we differentiate ourselves, how we drive our brand forward and we have had some success with this interaction between our website and using social media. It is about sending out lots of good quality information and really saying to world ‘here we are if you want to come and talk to us and engage with us’. That engagement has become an integral part of our brand. I think of brand as everything you say you are going to do for somebody. If you deliver it and you do it well, that adds value to your brand. Likewise, if you do something badly it detracts from it.
Marketing in the advisory sector has often been famine and feast. Firms do some marketing, generate some enquiries, deal with those enquiries and then go back into marketing. I think marketing should be constant. I’d say about 20% of every day for Informed Choice involves some kind of marketing activity, whether that is using social media or the more traditional methods.
BD: And this is where outsourcing can come in. Bringing in a specialist firm for a day a month is going to cost you bugger all but it can drive things forward 20 times faster than is happening at present. If you’re a bigger firm find an out of work marketing graduate who’s just come out of university; they will be able to take your business forward and they are likely to be absolutely on the ball with social media channels and advances in technology. Sometimes we’re guilty of not pushing the boat out hard enough and not treating marketing with the respect it needs no matter what our size of business. If you can’t find enough good quality people to talk to then that’s going to be a huge hurdle to your business in the future because by the time you are ready they’ll have gone to someone else.
Another thing – and if I hear this from an adviser firm again I’m going to cry – so many firms say to me: ‘Yeah Brett, but if we got 20 leads we couldn’t cope with them.’ My advice is turn away 19 if need be and just take the best one. You want a pipeline that is absolutely chocker block full of leads and if then you want to spend some money on upscaling and improving your system to deal with more of those, well great, but please don’t wait until you’ve got everything perfect before you start employing a marketing strategy that gets you more leads. The worst thing that can happen is that you have to say no to a number of prospects and you only pick the best leads.
NB: This is where business models are changing. Saying no to people will become more important to the success of a financial firm in the future. The historic model has been to say yes to everybody and that’s where we’ve all made some mistakes.
RK: If you had just one piece of advice to give advisers looking to grow their business what would it be?
NB: Embrace change. Don’t think that what you are doing today is going to be good enough in 24 months time. The core of your business, the way you treat people with honesty and integrity, is going to stay with you but the way you do things is going to be different. You can’t be resistant to change. You have to be saying to yourself constantly, ‘How can I get better at what I do?’
BD: I think it’s finding the big idea for your life. I would encourage everyone who’s running a business to think bigger than perhaps they have been thinking. It’s a constant challenge to do that. One of the adviser’s I’m working with asks clients to write their own obituary. How do you want to be remembered, what’s your legacy? What do you want the paper to say about you? I love that as a concept.
Financial advice done well absolutely has the capacity to change the world, that’s what I believe and that’s part of what gets me out of bed every day to help firms do their job better. Those firms then directly influence 200 people or 500 people or however many clients they have in their business.
Find the big reason that gets you out of bed every day because, I believe, when you find that then everything changes.
[First published in T4B Magazine]