Marketing & Client Acquisition
12 MIN ARTICLE
Editor’s Note: Use of social media for business purposes is subject to home office approval. Financial professionals should seek approval from their home office before engaging in any of the social media practices outlined in this article.
For advisors who built their practices on in-person client interactions — and that’s most of you — the shift to digital prospecting and virtual engagement has been seismic. Done right, however, digital strategies can help put your business on more solid ground. Indeed, in Capital Group's Pathways to Growth: 2021 Advisor Benchmark Study fewer than 10% of the advisors surveyed consider themselves expert in marketing or digital marketing. Among the highest growth practices, however, advisors were 50% more likely to say they are expert in marketing or digital presence.
An effective approach goes beyond proficiency with platforms like Zoom or the ability to amass friends on Facebook, however. Engaging virtually requires a marketing mindset, and it involves positioning your differentiated brand across digital platforms, connecting digitally with clients who can promote your practice, and engaging more deeply with clients and prospects through virtual touchpoints. Here’s how to get started.
Differentiate your digital brand
When it comes to brand recognition, consistency is key. You may already view your website as a digital storefront. Now, consider each digital touchpoint as a potential franchise. With a strong brand, you can consistently project across all touchpoints the qualities and values that are most important to you and your clients. These three questions can help you hone your brand message:
Is your brand memorable?
In order for people to trust you, they must feel like they know you. What impression does your brand make? Your digital footprint should convey a coherent message about who you are, what you offer and whom you serve. This begins with your website, where you can attract the attention of clients through thoughtfully crafted messaging, a strong bio and robust About Us section — aspirational imagery and services described in plain language. Even if your firm restricts you from having a personal website, much of the work can be done through your bio alone. And once you’ve honed your messaging, profile and imagery, leverage your hard work to build out your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages.
Other simple methods for creating a consistent and differentiated digital brand include:
- Use the same professional headshot across platforms, and make sure your name and title are consistent.
- Choose a visual background that reinforces your brand, and use it on LinkedIn and other social media profiles.
- Bring your licenses and certifications forward, explaining how they enable you to deliver for your clients.
- Share something unique about yourself in your bio, or tailor your language to reflect your personality and approach to relationships.
Is your brand relevant?
Like great movies, great brands are built on stories. Regardless of how great your bio is, if you want prospective clients to see themselves in your practice, it helps to tell a brand story. And your story should have a beginning, middle and end, with the client as the hero. Imagine the investor is Luke Skywalker, and you are the Yoda-like guide. The villain is whatever your hero is attempting to conquer — perhaps a busy life, the feeling of being overwhelmed or not making progress toward a goal.
Thinking of client engagement in these terms can help you and your client see the relationship as a shared quest in which the client plays a significant role. As with all quests, this one begins with uncovering needs, obstacles and aspirations. It doesn’t need to be “Star Wars.” If you can successfully guide clients toward their financial goals, the story ends with their success.
Is your brand aligned with how your clients see you?
Your brand value is what you say you offer; your brand equity is the perception that clients and prospects have of what you offer. It’s an important distinction: Are the capabilities and values you’re attempting to communicate in line with what clients like about you? A disconnect between the two does you no good, and it can even result in a credibility gap.
One way to narrow this gap is to demonstrate to prospects and clients the ability of your practice to connect with them on a human level. In addition to the portfolio management, retirement planning and tax mitigation you employ in your practice, you are also personally connected to those you serve through the goals you help them achieve and the milestones you help guide them through.
To understand your brand equity with clients, ask them. Survey clients — from the most loyal, to those you may have lost. Ask them what they think about you, and see if you find similarities in the responses. That will help you define your brand equity, and better demonstrate in clear terms the totality of the relationship experience.
Strive to create brand loyalty
Of course, the power of a strong digital brand is that it can help you engage clients and prospects using various strategies. Businesses regularly use blogs, how-to articles, videos and other types of content to attract attention to their brands and to drive traffic to their websites through search engines. This type of digital content marketing can also help give your brand a voice, a tone and sensibility. But if you want to engage with clients and prospects more organically, social media allows you to showcase the more human side of your practice.
You may also build a following that could lead to referrals. However you feel about the rise of the influencer within the social media realm, the idea behind it makes sense: Find potentially influential advocates who will attest to the value of a product or service. Large companies pay top-dollar for celebrities to do this explicitly; for small businesses, this is not always necessary. By connecting socially with favorite clients, you create “brand ambassadors” who could potentially connect you to others just like them. This is very different than paying clients for testimonials, which would lead to regulatory violations. It’s more about identifying and engaging with those clients who can help take your referral system to the next level.
Unlike a traditional referral, ambassadors are not always aware of their role. Rather than directly asking a client to be an ambassador, you create an ambassador through the care taken serving the client. That creates goodwill and a willingness to refer.
Set the stage (and tone) for virtual events
Whether you were comfortable with the idea of virtual meetings before 2020, they have since become a reality that is not likely to change. The good news is that you don’t have to lose anything in a virtual meeting. In fact, when done well, virtual meetings offer your business an opportunity to make a strong impression.
When planning an event on Zoom, WebEx or other videoconferencing tools, your outcome for the client should drive your decision-making. Do you want them to feel more connected to you, to learn something or receive information, to network with your other clients, or to just have fun and break up their routine? An annual portfolio review may feel very different than a quick check on goals. And not every event needs to be exclusive to one client. Some advisors offer simple, 15-minute “coffee break” chats held at regular intervals. Others might hold a webinar with a speaker who discusses trends and market news — and even takes questions.
Getting across your personality and conveying subtleties requires you to be equal parts presenter and performer. Even for adept public speakers, relocating to a digital platform is not just a matter of shifting your skill set to a new medium. Rather, think of it as an actor going from the stage to the big screen (or more accurately, the small screen). The most important job is keeping your audience engaged.
These days, we have distractions of technology and phones, as well as families and TVs in the background. One way to keep the conversation moving is to ask a lot of questions, checking in with others more frequently than you normally would in person. To do this effectively, share two or three concepts, pause, and ask your client their impressions on what you just shared. Research suggests that doing this will triple the clients energy level.
Importantly, virtual events represent yet another opportunity to reinforce your digital brand. In creating your workspace and backdrop, strive to reinforce your brand equity by using the same bios, imagery and tone featured throughout your digital imprint.
With so many possibilities for digital prospecting, engagement and events, the virtual future is unwritten for advisors. By mastering virtual connections and digital strategies, you can put yourself on more solid footing for growth to come.
Perfect your virtual meetings in four checklists
With so many elements of a virtual meeting to think about, it can be useful to check and double-check them before the meeting occurs. These checklists can help you provide a seamless experience and keep you focused on top-notch virtual engagement.