Commonwealth: Who Are You Now? Building Your Brand as a Breakaway Advisor

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There are many significant steps to take before breaking away from your wirehouse and moving to the independent channel. One in particular is building your brand—the very essence of your business that makes you, well, you.

To begin, ask yourself these basic questions: Why are you an advisor? Whom do you help? How does the new firm you’ve partnered with help you better serve your clients and evolve as a business owner?

The Three Ds of Building Your Brand

There are key elements to consider as you build your brand as a breakaway advisor:

  • Determine your specialty. One reason you’re considering independence is you’re confident you can make this move a successful one. This confidence likely comes from the skill set you bring to the table. Dig deep and think not only about who you are, what you do, and why you do it, but also about your overriding philosophy on being a financial advisor.
  • Describe your target audience. Think about your current clientele and the specific niches you hope to reach. Do you want to grow your pool of high-net-worth clients with complex planning needs? Or, do you work with next-gen investors focused on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria? When you clearly define who you want to reach, it’s that much easier to develop your brand.
  • Discover your audience’s needs. Make sure the diverse needs (e.g., legacy planning, student loan debt management, and retirement planning) of potential investors are addressed in your branding. Clients and prospects want to be assured you understand their needs—and have the technology, knowledge, and flexibility to satisfy them.

Create a Distinguishing Firm Name 

Selecting your firm name is a critical decision; you’ll want one that separates you from your wirehouse and the sea of other independent advisory firms. Also, you may want to think twice before using your own name as the firm moniker.

Why? Advisors who use their names often find this choice limiting. Would a seasoned advisor join your firm if your name was the only one on the sign? What happens when you’re ready to retire? These are long-term questions to consider as you brainstorm name ideas. Also, pause before using the all-too-common “capital management,” “partners,” and “wealth management.” To stand out from the crowd (and in Google searches), a generic firm name just won’t do.

Instead, focus on the story you want your firm name to tell. For many, the intrinsic qualities or values a firm embodies are reflected in its mission statement. Do you consider yourself agile, innovative, and independent? Or does your sense of place define you (in which case you might include a geographic or natural landmark as part of the name)? 

How to Market Your New Brand Identity

Last, but certainly not least, you’ll need to use a variety of marketing vehicles to get your new brand identity out there. Word of mouth can’t be dismissed, as you are the ultimate steward of your brand. To focus your efforts, however, here are three areas you may want to start with:

1) Responsive website design. An easy-to-use, compelling website should move your target audience to action. It’s one of the most effective ways to communicate your brand and establish yourself as a resource, explaining your strengths, ideal clients, service and investment offerings, and overall approach to doing business. 

2) Professional bio. The bio page is regularly the best-performing page on an advisor’s website, so craft yours with care. The goal is to make a positive first impression. A good bio includes what you do, who you are (if you’re getting personal, you’re doing it right), and career achievements, as well as a photo that’s both professional and personable.

3) Social networks. If you’re not active on social media, many potential clients won’t find you. As part of a wirehouse, your social media use may have been limited or restricted. But as an independent advisor, you’ll likely enjoy a far greater breadth of use. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram can be powerful brand boosters—if used correctly. As you break out on your own, consider whether the firm you affiliate with can guide you toward best practices, including being aware of who “follows” and “likes” you.

You Call the Shots

Moving to the independent channel creates many opportunities, and building your brand might be the most exciting one. It’s your chance to break away from a captive wirehouse environment and create something that represents who you truly are and the benefits of doing business with you. As an independent financial advisor, the decisions are yours to make.

Please consult your member firm’s policies regarding social media prior to utilizing the features and platforms discussed.

This post originally appeared on Insights, a blog authored by subject-matter specialists at Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

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