Breakaway Advisors Seek Brand Dominance as Industry Becomes Crowded
It’s no secret wire house advisors are exiting, and exiting fast. With a new era of investing upon us predicated by unpredictable volatility and tightening from the Department of Labor (DOL) with an embrace of fiduciary responsibility, investors are seeking a new breed of products and advice. Trusted advisors who can source a tailored financial plan with the investor’s best interest in mind, not simply push a product but instead, be a holistic solutions provider will rise to the forefront.
As cited by Wealthmanagement.com in a recent story, according to the latest research by Cerulli Associates, about 35 percent of advisors say they’d join an existing RIA as a principle or partial owner and 18 percent said they would consider joining an existing RIA as an employee. About 30 percent said they’d be interested in starting a firm from scratch with at least one other advisor.
With that in mind, the question arises how to brand your firm to create a differentiated DNA that speaks to investors. Many RIAs are considering or are currently fully entrenched in strategic public relations initiative to rise to the occasion and achieve unparalleled growth, but does it work? Let’s examine.
Distinction is paramount in the large field of RIAs. Separating from the pack can only be accomplished via strategic messaging that provides a foundation for further growth and clearly articulates your competitive edge.
Product and performance are no longer the largest components of a 21st century brand because these two factors fluctuate. While these elements are certainly important, instead, advisors should center on intellectual leadership; educating investors of your story, passion and most importantly key differentiating factors explaining the firm’s superior edge over competitors.
Intellectual leadership is especially critical for startups, whose offerings and name are in their infancy. Once a start-up’s unique DNA is established, these key points should be incorporated into all client pitches, websites, emails and client conversations, consistency is key. For example, if your advisory firm offers a white glove service that truly is unique, say it and say it often. Too often websites contain phrases like, “we offer innovative solutions,” or “our customized and integrated process enables clients to create wealth, manage wealth and preserve wealth.” What are the exact solutions? The firm must be specific, and describe the process of preserving wealth with a compelling story that attracts and retains business. Disjointed and generic messaging can lead to the downfall of an RIA. An excellent communications firm will have professional writers on their team who can develop your messaging and coach the team on how to optimally leverage it. The reason why so many RIAs have generic messaging is because their communications team lacks the proper expertise to guide advisors on the best approach to speak to their story.
The single most important consideration when selecting a communications partner for breakaways is to find a specialist. Very few firms truly specialize in just asset management, and while they dabble in it, most are generalists at their core. Philosophically an agency’s technical expertise is everything. A team who can communicate your edge without “dumbing it down” is critical. Failure to do so can lead to weak, disjointed story lines, poor brand understanding and mediocre results.
Yet many ask, how does one measure success? Below are some real-life examples.
An advisor who chose independence via joining a large well established RIA had embarked on a one-year media push. She regularly spoke to The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and Bloomberg Radio. During a live interview on a primetime national radio show, the advisor shared her expertise on investing for same-sex couples. The next day inbound calls tripled, and as a direct result of the interview her AUM increased by more than $2.5 million in less than a week.
After the CEO of a mid-sized alternative investment firm appeared in a Wall Street Journal article featuring his expertise in distressed investing, he received numerous calls and emails citing his comments in the piece. Post interview, reverse inquiries increased for information on their core funds and advice on distressed investing, which led to a large pipeline of new prospects and eventually increased AUM.
Conduct due diligence, ask for case studies, and more importantly make sure the outsourced communications team is passionate and knowledgeable. Equally important is to partner with a full service entity, one that delivers branding, website design, investor collateral, event planning, videos and more.
For those skeptical about PR for advisors, if you do not hire a specialist communications firm but competitors do, who is the one a step behind?
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