Practice Management
Four ways to build your retirement brand
Jonathan Young
Senior National Accounts Manager

In a crowded marketplace, what makes your retirement practice stand out? Your brand.

What’s so important about having a retirement brand? Many investors may think all financial professionals are pretty much the same and that they say the same things. Branding allows you stand out from this “sea of sameness,” helping you attract and retain more retirement plan clients.

This graphic titled â  Sea of samenessâ   shows a diver swimming in the ocean amid a large school of similar-looking fish. The headline says, â  63% of investors agreed financial professionals â  all say the same thing.â  â   Source: BNY Mellonâ  s Pershing, October 2018.

Source: BNY Mellon's Pershing. October 2018

The four D’s of building a better brand

Even if you already have a brand in place, revisit it frequently to ensure it is performing at its best and helping you stay ahead of competitors. Consider the following four steps to help refresh your brand:

1. Define: A clear, definitive statement about what you do and why is a critical first step to break through the noise and showcase yourself and your team with retirement plan clients and prospects. If you have a value proposition, make sure it is targeted to the needs of retirement plans. Consider the following questions:

  1. Why retirement plans?
    • Why have you chosen to add retirement plans to your business?
    • What is the most satisfying part of working with retirement plans?
  2. What services do you provide retirement plans?
    • What do you do for plan sponsors? For plan participants?
    • What is unique about your practice?
  3. Whom do you serve?
    • How would you describe the plans you serve today?
    • What kinds of plans are the best fit for you and why?

2. Differentiate: To help build your retirement plan business, you need to be able to effectively describe the specific ways you serve plan sponsors and participants. While being a 401(k)-plan professional is itself a differentiator, you can distinguish yourself further by:

  • Identifying the types of plan sponsor clients you serve
  • Communicating to plan sponsors that you truly understand the unique challenges of their participants

When describing your differentiating qualities, use language you are comfortable using in everyday conversations, avoiding jargon. For a more personal touch, include some background about how and why you became involved in the 401(k) business.

3. Demonstrate: Today’s most successful brands demonstrate on a daily basis that they remain laser-focused on understanding customers’ needs. Once you’ve defined and differentiated your brand, demonstrate it by showing how much you value your clients. This starts with listening. Initiate conversations with plan sponsors to help you uncover gaps between the service you provide and your clients’ expectations. To understand your client’s needs better, we suggest you:

  • Ask clients why they chose you and why they stay. For those who left, ask why they did so.
  • Survey a subset of clients to find out what they value most about your relationship.
  • Ensure your firm’s marketing materials convey that you understand plan sponsor and participant needs.

4. Digitize: If you do business by smartphone or tablet, you need to have an effective digital presence. Make sure you’re not neglecting these important areas:

  • Make your virtual meetings successful: Since the coronavirus pandemic, many plan sponsors and participants have continued to work remotely, so virtual meetings are likely here to stay. But even in this home-office environment, your brand is still being represented, so make sure your surroundings reflect that. While it may sound like common sense, simple things like having an uncluttered background and technology that works properly will convey your seriousness and professionalism.
  • Revisit your social media bio: If you haven't refreshed your social media profile or website bio recently, it's time to give it another look. Use your responses to the above questions to write a refreshed bio that helps you stand out as a retirement plan professional and use it across your social media channels and website. 
  • Make your social media truly social: Merely having a strong profile is not enough. It's also important to post relevant content and engage your audience. According to a recent blog from 401(k) Marketing, "Retirement plan advisors who want to increase their online visibility and reputation should post a minimum of once a week." Of course, use of social media for business purposes is subject to home office approval, and financial professionals should seek approval before engaging in any social media practices outlined here.

Here are some best practices for showcasing your brand online:

  • Ensure your team profiles are consistent across digital platforms.
  • Connect with clients on social media by sending personalized invitations.
  • Develop a weekly plan to post and share content through social media.
  • Segment your social media content strategy based on specific needs of plan sponsors and plan participants in your network, keeping in mind that both groups will see your posts.

Putting it all together

Competing in today’s retirement plan marketplace poses increasing challenges. A brand that speaks to the spoken and unspoken needs of retirement plan sponsors can make you stand out in the sea of sameness.

Jonathan Young is a senior national accounts manager with 34 years of investment industry experience (as of 12/31/2023). He holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Old Dominion University, and he holds the Professional Plan Consultant® designation.


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