Position yourself with brand strategy to grow your engagement

Natalie Hales smiling
Personal branding is a must for financial advisors who want to sustainably grow their book of business. Here’s how to do it.

A guide to digital marketing and lead generation for Financial Advisors


 

 

Personal branding is a must for financial advisors who want to sustainably grow their book of business.

It’s all too easy to mistakenly think only big financial advisor brands can afford to invest in branding, when actually, the reason these brands are so successful is because they’ve invested in branding. 

Here’s my practical guide on how to use branding and positioning to attract more engagement and the right leads.

Chapter 1: Why branding is crucial for engagement marketing

What is a branding strategy? And how does it differ from a marketing strategy?

Branding strategy

The best way to walk you through brand strategy is to start by defining what it isn’t. Let’s dispel some myths straight up:

  1. Building a brand is more than just messages and logos. It’s a strategic process to influence the RIGHT people.
  2. Personal branding for advisors involves more than just ‘being yourself’. It encompasses lots of strategic decisions about your niche and your identity as a business owner.
  3. A strategy is not complicated.  It’s a set of guiding principles that can be simplified to ensure consistency. 
  4. It’s not a tactical financial advisor marketing plan. It’s a process with defined goal posts.

Brand strategy is a long-term plan that defines a brand’s unique positioning and identity, values, messaging, personality, and overall approach to building relationships with its audience. It  establishes the foundation for all marketing efforts and helps a brand show its unique and special qualities to people, making them like and trust the brand more than others.

To achieve this, you need to understand your target audience, your brand’s purpose, and its desired perception in the market. You also need to define what your brand stands for and how it’s different from competitors. 

Since every audience is different (with different buying triggers, places where they hang out, and different levels of market sophistication), who you serve will impact the branding strategy you ultimately choose. 

Brand Strategists help you develop distinctive brand assets. They conduct research, delve into the language of symbols, and create positioning statements and narratives.

Without this solid foundation of brand strategy, you won’t be able to attract the leads, engagement and business growth you desire.

Marketing strategy

A marketing strategy, on the other hand, is a focused operational plan that outlines specific actions and tactics to achieve the brand’s objectives in the short to medium term. It involves decisions related to product/service offerings, pricing, distribution channels, and promotional activities. 

The marketing strategy aims to reach and engage the target audience, increase brand visibility, drive sales, and meet specific performance metrics. It outlines clear-cut goals and precise SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) objectives to measure your success. 

For your financial advisor marketing campaigns, you’ll want to track KPIs that give you a good idea of your visibility and traffic, your engagement levels, the conversion rates and your acquisition numbers. Every tool usually has the ability to track traffic and engagement, but the true value of success is in the stats for acquisition and retention. These metrics will help you make decisions to refine your marketing strategy over time.

Do I need both a branding strategy and a marketing strategy?

Yes. You need both to sell. 

Your brand strategy is the foundational guide for how you want to be perceived and what you stand for, while your marketing strategy focuses on the practical steps to achieve your goals and objectives.
I connect the two together to provide advisors with what I call ‘The Winning Strategy’.

Why is branding important for financial advisors?

Your brand isn’t just your reputation (or your firm’s). It’s everything that goes into the end-to-end experience you provide to your prospects and clients — whether they’ve signed with you yet or not. 

Why is branding important for financial advisors? For one thing, it creates differentiation. Many people see financial advisors as all the same. To stand out in your niche as unique, your brand strategy should tick three boxes:

  1. Reflects your personality
  2. Reflects your values
  3. Resonates with your ideal clients

If even one of these elements is missing, your brand strategy won’t align and could even conflict with your marketing goals. 

Second, branding fosters trust and credibility, which is crucial when dealing with other people’s finances. A personal brand can build your clients’ trust in you. 

Finally, branding creates emotional connection. Since financial decisions are often deeply personal and emotionally charged, people are more likely to choose an advisor that supports and understands them. 

Taking a holistic, branding-focused approach to digital marketing for financial advisors will help you meet your people exactly where they are in their journey. 

As a business owner, you need to look at what strategies or systems you have in place to anticipate the needs of those who have placed their trust in you. And how that information can be used to nurture the other 97% not ready to buy immediately. 

This is how to balance your brand strategy so it gives value AND you get business.

Chapter 2: Creating a unique and memorable personal brand as a financial advisor

How can financial advisors use personal branding to differentiate themselves and their services for success in a specific market?

It’s a good question. To answer it, let’s delve into the facets that make up your brand strategy.

Defining your brand character

Here are the core elements that make up your brand character.

Your internal brand (vision, mission and values)

Put simply, your internal brand – your vision, your mission and your values – is the foundation and anchor for your entire business and marketing strategy. 

Your inner brand impacts your business in two ways: 1) how it will feel to work with your brand (for clients) and 2) the culture within your brand (for employees). 

Your vision and mission will guide how you make key business and marketing decisions. And your clients will sense and judge if your values align with theirs by what you do and say.

Your brand personality

If you could 1000 times your personality, what would it look like?

Your brand personality is the essence of your brand.

Of course we’re dynamic human beings, but what is the side that you want to be known for? How can you play to your strengths as you create a distinct online persona? Are you a natural relationship builder? What systems and processes do you have in place? Are you someone people come to for big picture thinking?

Your brand personality should highlight something you’re keen to make people understand about you, so you can attract the right people who are looking for the exact thing you offer.

Your brand origin story

Pop quiz, dear advisor: What do you think is the most impactful type of content for building trust with a new prospect, quickly?

Answer: Nope, it’s not educational (though education should play an important role in your content mix. 

Ready to guess again?

Origin stories. It’s all about being relatable. Never underestimate the power of your personal story in building a connection with your audience. 

Check out this Top Advisor Marketing podcast episode for more on why sharing your ‘Why story’ will help you win new clients (plus, the story that attracted $1.5M in AUM within a week).  

In fact, using storytelling as a branding tool to connect with your audience should always play a role in your marketing, though of course, the ratio of educational vs personal branding content should evolve as your business grows. You can find more on the right content mix based on your business’ stage of growth here.

Not just any old origin story will do, though. Your origin story must include your Why. 

There are actually seven core ingredients that make up a compelling origin story. But to keep it simple, let’s just focus on your Why. 

Here’s how to create an origin story that explains your Why to your ideal client in a few easy steps:

1. Be specific

When I was (age), I (experienced something). Explain what happened. Where were you? Who were you with? What happened, and why did it matter so much to you at the time? Share how you felt

How did the experience play out in the rest of your life? How did it impact other things? Did you think about it often? What did you and your life look like before, and what did you and your life look like after?

2. Explain why it matters

Why did you want to share it? What’s the final morale you want the reader to be left with? How can they learn from your story and apply those learnings to their own life?

Nervous about getting personal with your audience? I hear ya. Here’s how to grow a connection with your audience (it doesn’t need to involve crossing your personal boundaries!)

  1. Discuss the experiences that led you to the financial industry, emphasizing your commitment to excellence.
  2. Share inspiring anecdotes about how you’ve positively impacted your client’s financial lives.
  3. Identify shared goals with your audience, such as financial security, retirement planning, or saving for college, and explain how your why aligns with helping clients achieve those objectives.
  4. Focus on your professional journey, client success stories, and common goals.

Remember, sharing your ‘Why’ story is about building a meaningful connection with your audience. You don’t necessarily need to divulge private details.

Creating your brand strategy

Here are the elements that make up your brand strategy. 

Your positioning

When it comes to marketing for financial professionals, positioning is a crucial ingredient in your success. 

Positioning is a set of strategic decisions at the core of your brand. It’s how you take your brand character and use it to enhance your differentiation and improve sales.

When crafting your positioning (including your positioning statement), don’t forget to define and analyze your ideal customers and your competitors. Only once you know this landscape can you dig into what sets you apart — your differentiation.

Your audience profile

It’s not enough to simply know who you’re targeting. Every memorable personal brand has one thing in common: they deeply understand their audience.

What are your ideal clients’ characteristics? These are the distinctive qualities, features, and behavioral traits that define your ideal clients. 

What are their demographics? What is their age, gender, ethnicity, income, and education? What does their lifestyle look like?

What are your ideal clients’ motivations and interests? What do they care about and what goal do they want to accomplish?

What are their communication and information preferences? How do they like to interact with you? 

Finally, what are their challenges and pain points? What could you help them solve?

This data allows you to put consumer insights at the heart of everything you do.

Your differentiation statement

The financial advisor industry is competitive. So how can you carve out a space that you can own? 

Answer: Your differentiation statement. This is to encourage you to focus on your unique selling point.

I recommend packaging your entire business around your differentiation and what makes you a go-to authority in your chosen niche

Here’s a helpful shortcut for figuring out your differentiation:

I’m the only [job role] that offers [specific service or product] for [specific clients] who want to [solve a relevant and specific problem] in [this specific location]. 

Showing your differentiation isn’t easy. But it pays off when you can clearly answer one question: Why should I buy from you? 

To figure out your strategy for differentiation, lean on your understanding of your ideal clients, then follow these steps:

  1. Know your differentiation
  2. Map out the perception you want to build
  3. Create touchpoints for each step of your client’s journey
  4. Embed your differentiation into each interaction.

Remember, brand is the entire experience. Determining how you’ll show up in each interaction is how you get customers to FEEL your differentiation. Show, don’t tell.

How do I differentiate my brand from competitors in a crowded market?

The way advisors did top of mind marketing is dead because anything that makes a client feel like a target instead of a person is over. These days, consistently visible usually translates into consistently ignored. 

What will truly make a difference? The ability to empathize with your ideal customers more than your competition. 

Instead of staying top of mind, focus on highlighting the unique aspects of your business and the value you provide to clients. This can include the services you offer, your approach to financial planning, and your personal values and expertise. 

Here are 3 more sources of differentiation that financial advisors can use to build their competitive advantage:

  • Specialized expertise: Highlighting your expertise within a specific niche specialization in financial planning
  • Technology and innovation: Using cutting-edge technology and innovative tools for seamless client experiences
  • Client-Centric Approach: Providing personalized and tailored service that addresses your individual clients’ needs and preferences

But don’t skip the empathy. It’s a must.

Your transformation statement

60% of investors say all advisors make the same promises—making it hard to tell the difference. So how can you help your audience understand what makes you different?

There’s a very simple (not scary) exercise that has completely changed my relationship with clients. Not just mine, but thousands of advisors in our community.

It’s the transformation statement. 

Without it, your branding will be vague and your stories will lack personal relevance to your ideal clients. You might be able to get clients to the table, but you’ll keep getting the same questions you think you’ve answered. That is, until you explain how your offering will TRANSFORM their life. 

Here’s the gist of what a transformation statement includes:

“I [action word] [my avatar] how to [do what they want to accomplish] so that they can [have the result/transformation].”

It’s about getting into your audience’s mindset and clarifying what your services mean for people just like them. In marketing, we call this empathy mapping

There’s a bit more to it, obviously. But the above is a good start to convey what someone can expect from your offering.

Your brand voice

Your brand voice is part of your positioning. It helps people instantly connect with you. 

To decide on your brand voice, ask yourself three simple questions:

  1. Who do you want to be for your audience?
  2. Who do they need you to be?
  3. How can you elevate this in your online persona to the nth degree?

The way you’re going to be successful by being a leader and by being empathetic. 

Once your brand strategy is established, stay consistent in your tone and approach across all of your marketing and customer experience touchpoints. Otherwise, you’ll risk losing your audience’s trust. 

Often, this means strategically repeating the same messages. 

Some financial advisors ask me, ‘What if people get sick of hearing the same thing over and over again?’ With marketing (especially now with our fractured digital marketing landscape), repetition is good. Otherwise, people might fail to associate you with your main solution or brand promise. 

It’s not easy to maintain message consistency across all your channels, materials and platforms. But it’s made much easier with a branding guide.

Designing your brand experience

Your value proposition

Your value proposition is what you bring to the table – this is where what you do, who you do it for and why it matters needs to come together. It’s meant to clearly explain why prospects should do business with you.

To define your true value prop, ask your clients what outcomes they want to accomplish and what value you bring.

Your signature process or approach

Your signature process or approach (often articulated as a framework) demonstrates to your clients that you are an expert with a unique methodology. 

Your process or approach supports your value proposition so you can consistently deliver on what you promise.

Your signature offer

This is meant to explain how you and/or your process provide transformational results, but where do you start?

First ask yourself: What is the initial problem or opportunity your ideal clients come to you with? This is what I call your ‘appetizer’. It’s the first service you offer to help your client with the goal they know they want to accomplish. 

This doesn’t necessarily have to be about fixing something or solving a certain problem. Your audience profile might be interested in achieving a particular goal. 

Then ask yourself: How can you turn your offer into your ideal clients’ dream outcome?

Whatever your signature framework, your process should give your audience confidence that they are well-poised to achieve this outcome with you. Make it clear how this appetizer will help them accomplish their top priority or quick win goal.

Your visual identity

Your visual identity is an important part of how people experience your brand, but it’s only one part of your strategy. This is what most people think of when they think about branding. It’s your logo, your brand photography, and the visual expression of your brand experience.

Your lead generation strategy

Your lead generation strategy impacts your ideal clients’ first impression of you. 

I’m going to level with you here: There are many lead generation and marketing engagement strategies that nurture and convert leads to sales. 

But the ones that connect with most success? Zero of them involve full automation. 

If you want to convert your online engagement to acquired clients, stop being lazy and trying to automate everything about your marketing. Only automate if and when it gives your prospects the experience of more personal attention.

There’s no substitute for personal attention. Genericity through automation does not work. 

With that being said, here’s how to nurture and convert your leads into loyal clients with your content:

  1. Figure out your niche’s ideal outcome. 
  2. Come up with ALL the objections they have around not being able to make it happen. This includes objections around their time, energy, money and likelihood of success.
  3. Write these objections down in your audience’s voice. And answer them using yours.

Your discovery conversations

People only buy for two reasons: who you are and what you offer.

If they’re only coming in for what you offer and you’re not giving them the opportunity to build a relationship with you, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. 

What are some proven sales techniques for building trust and rapport with potential clients on discovery calls?

  1. Send a pre-call video or email with all the typical objections broken down. This helps reduce no-shows and builds the know, like, trust factor.
  2. Enter each discovery call with the goal of listening. Let your prospect talk and listen deeply. Share your expertise only after you’ve listened and mirrored back what you think you heard so you can be sure you’re seeking to solve the same problem. Then be honest about how you can help.

It’s really that simple.

What are some common branding mistakes that advisors should avoid?

Don’t copy other financial advisors’ messaging

Resist the temptation to copy another financial advisor’s messaging just because they have a similar niche. 

Trying to shortcut your marketing this way won’t work. You want to be distinct in your messaging. 

You do have unique things to say that will resonate with your people — you just need to dig a little deeper. 

And remember, you are not competition because you serve the same niche. You are each other’s tribe.

Your content strategy can strengthen your referral marketing

If you don’t have a content strategy, I hate to break it to you, but you have a lot of referrals going to waste.

A content strategy isn’t just for directly attracting leads. It makes people feel closer to you so other people — maybe even other financial advisors — can refer new leads to you.

Natalie Hales sitting in a sunny window
Natalie Hales boasts more than a decade of financial marketing experience on both sides of the border. She specializes in helping advisors discover their niche, craft their positioning, and tell their stories to attract dream clients. Her unique expertise was honed through her work with renowned companies like Canada Life, and her superpower lies in crafting personalized brand strategies through her signature framework, The Niche FunnelTM. Personally touched by the transformative impact of financial guidance during a personal tragedy, Natalie is devoted to amplifying advisors’ potential and establishing them as unrivaled experts for their target audience.

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