In our many conversations with wealth managers, private bankers and IFAs (aside from the perennial issue of finding just the right product to meet the requirements of a client's situation), one matter rises to the surface with significant regularity: "How can I and my firm stand out in a marketplace that is crowded with others claiming to offer the same service?" And, further: "How can I "market" my firm in a dignified and appropriate way?"
As active participants in the marketplace and specialist marketing advisers, we've seen a lot of marketing, good and bad. Of course, many of you reading this don't need any help. But, then again, it never hurts to see what's working for other firms.
So how are successful advisers ensuring that their firm is doing all it can to promote the business in a professional and effective way?
Below are five techniques that we have observed in the market and employed with our clients to help keep their marketing efforts focused and effective:
1. Find out what your current clients like most (and least) about you
You might feel that customer surveys and perception studies are the preserve of larger companies. In fact, they are the right strategy for any business, however small, that wants to be more successful.
It is important that you use an independent firm for this, to encourage full and frank disclosure. Asking your clients how their year has been over a bottle of claret may be a valuable exercise in developing a stronger relationship, but it's not market research. Make sure you include questions around why the client decided to hire you and your firm, what they think the best qualities of the firm are and if there are any areas for improvement.
2. Pay attention to reader and market surveys
Private investor publications often produce broad reader surveys that outline consumer preferences. These can be useful when trying to evaluate how relevant (or not) your strengths are. It can also identify where you need to invest in your business and highlight trends that could impact you, directly and indirectly.
3. Look at who is winning the awards
Private investor awards can highlight which firms are performing particularly well in certain areas. In conjunction with the information you have gathered form your customer survey, you can identify those firms that are doing well in areas that are important to your customer base and take a look at how they present this to the market. But, whilst imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, don't be tempted to ape others too directly, as the whole point of this exercise is to stand out on your own merits, not copycat another firm.
4. Agree how to present the firm to the market
Once you know what clients like about you and what the market values, you can start to create a record of the messages you want to get out into the market. Keeping this centrally and updating as your firm, your customer-base and your markets evolve will help keep everyone in your firm "singing from the same hymn sheet". Start by thinking of three things that your clients have told you are true about your firm, and which broader market research has demonstrated are of value to potential clients. Three is plenty. For each of these three "key messages" build a base of evidence to support your claims. For example, if you want to talk about your tailored approach to client solutions, find out how many different products you advised your clients on in the previous calendar year.
5. Finally, it's important to plan properly.
Whether it is you or a colleague who has responsibility for communications and marketing, make sure that the firm has a plan, ideally running 12 months ahead, that fixes key communications into the market – perhaps around a big conference, or the budget; maybe a charity event or sponsorship of a local sports team. Planning ahead allows more time for you to react to any company news or market events that crop up, unexpectedly and it also means that you can integrate each piece of marketing into a series of more coherent messages, that are more memorable and much more effective.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.