Building Your Brand to Get Quality Referrals

Over the last year or two, I have worked with one of our strategic partners, Kirk Lowe of TactiBrand, on advisor marketing and branding. Before talking to Kirk, I don’t think I truly appreciated how much brand has to do with referrals. Today, Kirk outlines why your brand is critical to getting both the quantity and quality of referrals you deserve. This will be the first of 4 posts from Kirk… please enjoy.

brandWe can never assume that financial advisors fully understand and appreciate what a brand is, or what it isn’t. The distinction between branding, brand identity and marketing are often unclear, misunderstood or simply ignored. But the difference between the three is so important that it’s worth taking the time to explain the distinctions.

Branding is your story! It’s the experience people have engaging you and your services. Branding connects people to your unique and valuable services. It’s how people introduce you to other people. Most of your clients can’t put a finger on what your brand is because you haven’t articulated or nurtured it. If you asked 10 clients to explain “your brand,” you’d have 10 unique answers. Branding is about articulating your story in a way that is easy to share and positions you in a way that is unique and valuable to your ideal clients.

To be effective, a good brand needs to be seen as different from, and better than, others who offer the same products and services. Otherwise, you appear to be similar to everyone else and consequently, you aren’t worth referring. Being seen as different, better and relevant to your ideal audience is all that matters. Your brand answers the questions: Why you? Why them?

Not all advisors know what their strengths are, how they might be different, or what that means to their ideal audience. Your brand needs to be discovered, developed and articulated in a way that makes a real impact in your business. It also needs to be an example of what they’ll experience working with your company. In other words, it’s best not to make up a brand.

Brand identity is the visual graphics you use to identify and differentiate your brand. These may include your logo, tagline, color palette, icons, photos, style (modern vs. classic) and fonts. A logo is not a brand. It’s a brand identifier.

Marketing is the strategy and delivery of that story and a process to attract, engage and influence these ideal prospects.

Why is branding important?

Exceptional marketing outcomes are nearly impossible without a professional and compelling brand. The cost of marketing (both hard dollars and sweat equity) will only help you achieve desirable and sustainable outcomes if you combine that with a valuable and engaging brand.

Without proper branding, you are unlikely to get the referrals you deserve – or at least not what you could be getting.

Let me tell you a story I’ve told a hundred times. It’s about a guy named Ted. He’s a client of yours. Ted has many friends just like him – your ideal prospects. Ted hasn’t referred you in 3 years. The last time he tried, his neighbor commented that when he was introduced and visited your website, you sounded exactly the same as the advisor he already works and is comfortable with.

As a financial advisor, your challenge is that you don’t sound different, or better, than what they already have. Why change? Why refer?

People refer because they want to look good referring you. No one wants to refer you and then not have that person be impressed. They only want to refer when it makes them look smart and helpful. If you look good, they look good.

Most referral programs focus on “asking” clients and COIs to uncover opportunities. No matter how you position and deliver a referral program, clients rarely feel comfortable giving them.

Let me ask you: Are you making your clients look good when they refer you? If you aren’t, you’re missing the boat. Actually, it’s more like you are missing a large cruise ship full of like-minded people.

How do I build?

First, you need a plan and a process to follow.

1. What can your message be?

  • What is your business and competitive landscape?
  • What are your core competencies/strengths?
  • Who is your ideal client?
  • What are you passionate about?
    Action: Figure out where each of the above intersects. Focus on that.

2. What should your message be?

  • What advantage do you or your practice offer that others can’t/don’t/won’t?
  • What are the best opportunities?
  • Who benefits and cares about your strengths?
  • What style best suits you and your ideal prospects?
  • What will be seen as different/better to you audience?
    Action: Determine what your audience wants to solve.

3. What will your message be?

  • What’s your overarching statement or claim (your tagline)?
  • What key phrases describe your uniqueness and value?
  • What concepts set your brand up as different and better?
  • Can you live up to your brand promise and stand out?
    Action: Use 3-5 word statements to convey different and better. Are you actually different/better?

Stay tuned for additional posts by Kirk, covering proving and leveraging your brand and expected outcomes from proper branding.

Kirk Lowe is a sought after expert on branding for financial services, and has dedicated 15+ years to demystifying and simplifying financial marketing. He is the Chief Branding Tactician at TactiBrand, and the founder of AdvisorContentX and Financial Marketing University. He regularly shares his insights and advice on KirkLowe.com and his podcast TopAdvisorMarketing, and offers DIY marketing resources and courses at Financial Marketing University.

The opinions and views expressed herein are those of Kirk Lowe. SEI bears no responsibility for their accuracy. Kirk Lowe, TactiBrand, AdvisorContentX and TopAdvisorMarketing are not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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