When you’re in the business of giving financial advice you have to influence people to choose your expertise in all matters financial and to trust you with their money in preference to all other financial advisors. But without a professionally designed brand, you don’t stand a chance. The 2012 report by Advocis (The Financial Advisors Association of Canada) states there are over 90,000 financial advisors in Canada. That’s a whole lot of choice for the average person. So how do you expect a potential client to find your company amongst so many without a hard hitting brand identity?
The financial advice industry covers a host of areas including life insurance, critical illness insurance, pension plans, fund management, estate planning and arranging mortgages, to name a few. Whether you are setting yourself up as an independent broker or starting up your own company you need to compete with the big financial institutes and banks.
You may mistakenly believe that the large companies have a huge marketing budget and can obviously afford to create a fabulous brand identity – but when you are just launching your financial advisory company it’s not really something you need to spend money on. Think again. Let’s just recap what a brand identity really means and why your chances of becoming successful are slim if you haven’t got an appropriate and stunning one.
A company’s brand identity encompasses every single thing that a client sees: your company name and logo, business card, informative, glossy brochures, adverts, website and social media company pages. Not only should these marketing materials reflect the expertise and experience of yourself or your company but every item has to send out critical messages which will build trust with your clients which include:
If your marketing portfolio fails to deliver these messages, you won’t build trust with potential clients and your business will struggle. A financial advisor is not a brain surgeon or high court judge but how they present their information and make recommendations can have the same life altering results. When you are advising on personal pension plans you are influencing the quality of life a customer will have in their retirement years; when arranging life insurance, you are making provision for a client’s dependents in the event that the client dies; and if they are investing their life’s savings, great advice can be the difference between a good return on their investment and financial ruin.
And this is where a brand development company is essential. These experienced professionals will brand your financial service business so that the key messages are evident in all that you do. They will create a compelling marketing portfolio which is superbly designed using corporate colors, excellent graphic design and quality materials. Their skills, knowledge and insight into how the average person perceives a company will convert you from someone who believed that a great brand is just a snazzy, eye-catching logo to someone who realizes that effective and successful businesses are always, but always, those with a strong brand identity.
The brand identity of a company defines its objectives and philosophy and brings everything together in one appealing brand. When you work with a brand development company, they will spend time to understand your business, product offering, target market and company objectives. They will take on board all of this information to develop a comprehensive branding strategy using their graphic designers, communication experts and social media expertise. Listen to their advice so the project can move forward with plenty of two way communication. For example, they may recommend using a generously sized font in your printed materials and on your website when your target market contains people over 60 years of age (which it is bound to) – as this is the age when eyesight starts to change for the worse.
The main areas of the branding strategy are to define and develop the following:
Company Name: Financial advice company names are commonly based around the founder’s name. This gives a formal but personal feel to a company from the outset. But you can also consider a neutral name which defines the scope of your business such as “Vintage Financial Services” and “Shakespeare Wealth Management” both of which were chosen to convey longevity. An experienced brand development company can give you useful assistance as to how your proposed company name will be perceived by your target market.
Logo and Tagline: The talented graphic designers in the brand development team will create a memorable and enduring logo to support the company name and to maintain a slightly formal look, utterly appropriate to your business. Few people will choose a financial advisor who has a cute cartoon logo. The tagline, or slogan, must be chosen to reflect your services, your philosophy or what makes you stand out from big financial institutes. It’s always useful to brainstorm some ideas so check out this great website with hundreds of taglines which may inspire you. For a smaller start-up company or the independent financial advisor some great ideas are, “Grow with us” and “Friends you can bank on”.
Business Cards and Printed Materials: Without a doubt your business card, brochures and information packs must be professionally designed and printed on good quality paper. Don’t try to cut corners here. Clients will always choose a company that exhibits quality and security – if you had to choose between a firm which gave you a flimsy, poorly designed brochure, and one with a well laid out, glossy info pack, which would you hand over your life savings to? This professional look also applies to client application forms and the ‘small print’ documents which detail the terms and conditions for each of the financial products you offer.
Website: All the elements of a fabulous brand identity will come together in your professionally designed website where the brand development and graphic design team will be continually plugging your critical messages with every image and with every word. The overall objective is to give visitors a great welcome with a beautiful design, clear navigation and superb, engaging content – and then the visitors will stay for a while, and if they really like it, they will bookmark it and share with others.
Homepage – This is the most important page to capture visitors’ attention and make them want to learn more about what you can offer them. Great visuals, clear tagline and key points that you want to get across to your clients should all appear clearly here.
Products – Give a detailed overview of your products and services. Show that you have in-depth product knowledge and give examples of the product’s performance in the market where appropriate. This is one area where customers are often overwhelmed and fail to understand the complexities of the financial markets. Help them to identify which may be the right fit for them and clarify which are suitable for the cautious investor or alternatively for someone who is willing to take a risk to make a big buck.
Credentials and Qualifications – Provide your website visitors with details about your financial advisors – that they hold professional credentials, are fully licensed in their area of specialization and have appropriate experience.
Testimonials – A hugely important element of building trust with new clients is to reassure them that your services and financial record are impeccable. Build a highly visible section on your website where client testimonials can be added.
Resources – People want to know that you are an authority in your field before they will listen to a single word you say. Make this easier for them by posting your own customer-friendly articles on your website for guidance and about new financial industry developments. Also include external links to great articles by renowned financial authorities such as the Financial Times.
Press Releases and Media Coverage – When you are launching your new financial service company make sure you issue newsworthy press releases to appropriate publications. Post the press release on your website and if it generates any media coverage get that added to your website too. Just because you are a small outfit doesn’t mean the media will overlook you. Simple PR activities can go a long way to comfort clients and show that you are one of the best.
Contact Us – Ultimately you want your website visitors to arrange an appointment to learn more about your financial advice services. The brand development team will make this trouble-free and easy for your visitors to request more information.
Links to Social Media Pages – Don’t forget to add the ubiquitous F (Facebook), T (Twitter) or YouTube symbols in a highly visible place to allow your visitors to easily access your social media pages.
Social Media: Even if you’re not a fan of Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn, don’t overlook the fact that millions and millions of people are. As of October 2012, Facebook had 1.01 billion people using the site on a monthly basis; there are 800 million visitors to YouTube each month and over 175 million members on LinkedIn. So wouldn’t it make sense if you new financial advice company had its own social media presence? A professional brand development company will be able to design company pages on all the main social media outlets and give you guidance and advice on how you can share your expertise with potential clients. It could be through informal posts, photos of your staff, links to thought provoking articles or video interviews – whatever is interesting has the potential to engage new fans and increase exposure for your financial advisory services.
Many financial service companies in Canada use social media extremely well. Have a look at Cornerstone Insurance Brokers who use Facebook to its fullest potential – posting competitions, polls, articles, true or false questions (cleverly relating to insurance issues), media coverage – it really is all there. And they have over 3000 ‘likes’ and a great interactive community of followers. Similar content can also be shared on Twitter and LinkedIn to target those who prefer to follow companies on these social media outlets. So take advantage of these social media outlets and start to get a following of fans.
Online Marketing: With a heavy online presence, you are able take advantage of online marketing. This includes sending out beautifully designed electronic newsletters to your clients with all of your news, updates on changes in financial law and any other items and photos that you feel will be of interest to your clients. A brand development team will use their graphic design and communication experts to create a visually appealing newsletter that your clients will want to read from top to bottom. These newsletters should also have links back to your website and your social media pages.
Additionally your website is responsible for marketing itself! However great your finished website is, most people will only find it via a search on the internet. Therefore it must rank highly on the search engine results for specific keywords relevant to your business. The brand development team can help identify these keywords which should resonate with your target market, for example “insurance broker Toronto”, “independent financial advisor Toronto”. The brand development team will ensure these keywords appear within the website at the optimal density while still keeping the copy flowing and reading well. There is quite a buzz about keyword density, but if a website is overloaded with specific keywords, one, it will be an awkward read for your visitor and two, the search engines will flag it as poorly constructed and won’t propel it up the rankings.
Another easy way to highlight your website on Google and other search engines is via your activity on social media. As mentioned previously you can be active on Facebook, Twitter etc. and not only are you engaging with your fans, every single post that links back to your website is a positive thing according to the search engines. They love to see these ‘inbound’ links pointing to your website, as they correlate this with you being an expert in your field. This is just one of the important benefits of being active on social media.
Paid-for Marketing: You can opt for either traditional paid-for adverts in newspapers, financial magazines, billboards etc., or for online pay-per-click marketing campaigns. In the former, the brand development company can create stunning adverts to promote your financial services allowing your brand and key messages to shine through brightly. They can also set up and manage a pay-per-click campaign online where the advert is composed of specific keywords. Clients will only click on it if those words meet their requirements and you only pay for each click.
There are many marketing channels to promote your financial advice firm or yourself as a mortgage broker, insurance expert or personal pension provider, but before you can successfully make good use of any, you require a strong brand identity. You know you are a genuine, trustworthy professional who will always give sound advice rather than persuade a client to purchase an unsuitable financial product just so that you can get your commission – this approach is always bound to back fire as people do talk and spread the word. So make your brand work for you to get these messages across to new clients. A professional branding company can deliver these statements via an effective, stunning brand which can be marketed to the right people at the right time. You may start off as a small fish in a large pond of financial institutes and banks, but you will start to hold your own and attract new clients with a professionally designed and enviable brand identity.