Advisors: Does Your Staff Know Your Brand?

Apr 12, 2018


When someone works in a business, employees tend to define the business in what they see, do or hear—what’s relevant in their world. But is that the message you want conveyed? What does it say about your brand?

Years ago, I was attending an SEI event that required a shuttle bus to and from a location. It was interesting that each time we had a new driver they would ask, “What does SEI do?” Depending on whom the driver asked, the response came back as investment management firm, investment technology firm, back office for funds and ETFs, or business solution for financial advisors (or variations on all of them). It struck me as odd at the time, but really came to my consciousness when I recently asked the operations manager of a financial planning firm about their “value-add or what they did special” and the answer was “we build portfolios and invest clients’ money.”

The brand is all of you (yes, your staff too)

That conversation with the operations manager is typical as he saw the business reflected in his day-to-day work. He was proud of his work, knew it benefited the firm so he shared it with me. But I wondered if there wasn’t a missed opportunity of the advisor somewhere to share the over-the-top client experience. Is that how the planning firm wants to be introduced? Is investing client’s money the brand that the firm wanted to be known for? As your staff goes out into the world and discusses what they do and who they do it for, is the message clear, or is it about their tiny portion of your business?

To me, your brand in the marketplace isn’t what you say you do—but what others say about you. Your centers of influence, clients and even your prospects know your brand and give referrals based on your brand. But I think many firms are missing the branding boat by not taking the time to discuss and train their staff about the brand as well. Taking that extra effort to show the big picture can not only deepen the brand but lead to more referrals.

In our 2017 research paper, “What makes you referable? The Elements of Advisor Referability” authors Julie Littlechild and Steve Wershing discussed steps for increasing advisor referability. It wasn’t one tactic or a simple phrase that they suggested, but a foundation of nine steps that advisors can use to help enable them to meet their growth expectations. Of course, “Develop your staff” was one of those nine items—one that correlated highly with “highly referable advisors” in the research report.

Advisors: Does your staff know your brand? Click To Tweet

Start with a client

As we said, highly referable firms provide more training than unreferable firms. But what’s also important is the type of training. What kind of training should you do?

  • Start with a client. Do a case study on where the client started to where they are today. What were the key points and milestones that you helped them achieve and overcome?
  • Is there a specific tax or planning topic that you are interested in (such as Roth conversions)? In your next staff meeting, walk them through why it’s important and who would qualify for such a tactic.
  • Encourage more cross-departmental conversations. In my team meetings, we end by going around the room and everyone discussing what they are working on, such as special projects, requests or something new. It’s an opportunity for your firm to show the depth of the client experience and break free from the silo mentality.

Seems like a no-brainer to train your staff since we all want them to maximize their productivity. However, if we don’t train them on all that we do, we run the risk of losing out on opportunities—chances with your client, prospect base, or in the world with people they meet.

Julie Littlechild and Steve Wershing 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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