Building a Brand through Client Experiences
I attended a Barron’s conference in Las Vegas recently and had the opportunity to sit in on a very informative presentation about creating a “wow” experience for clients. This resonated with me for a couple reasons.
The presenters asked the attendees in the room, by a show of hands, if they felt that the customer service they delivered their clients and prospects was what they considered to be their main competitive advantage. I was astonished that 90 percent of the room raised a hand to this question. As an advisor, if everyone is giving a 10, are you really standing out and delivering exceptional value to your clients? Maybe it is time to turn up the customer service dial to 11, or greater, if you really want to make an impact.
Despite the show of hands, I often find that advisors put less of an emphasis on the “experience” they create for their clients and prospects than they should. In the world of branding, it’s not just the visual brand (what you look like) and the verbal message (what you stand for) that makes a brand. There is also a third component; how these visual and verbal brand are applied to create a memorable experience for your clients and prospects. All components of this proverbial three-legged branding stool, the look, message and experience, must work together to create a unified and identifiable brand. Your choices and actions while delivering the “experience” with your brand must match your unique branding goals.
There may be a disconnect from your visual and verbal brand to the experience it creates when:
- You focus on high net worth families, but your office is not in the most desirable neighborhood.
- You’re committed to environmental preservation issues, but your marketing materials are comprised of plastics.
- You cater to teachers, but your office is only open during school hours.
- You call yourself a professional, but your email address ends in yahoo.com.
These are all oversimplified examples of a “brand disconnect.” Consider your desired brand, and what your client experience communicates, and determine if it’s cohesive and unified, or fractured and disconnected. If it’s the latter, you will need to step back, reassess and step it up.
In addition to an inconsistency, a “me too” experience can leave prospects and clients confused and underwhelmed. If 90 percent of advisors believe their “superior” customer service is what sets them apart from other advisors, then the reality is, you’re just the same as them. A “10” in customer service no longer sets you apart – you need to aspire for an “11” at least, and focus on other strategies that can give you a competitive edge. Here were some suggestions, along with my commentary, that came from the presentation delivered by Eric and Michael of Focus Partners that I thought may be beneficial for you.
1. Dial it up.
You’ve likely been exposed to the Ritz-Carlton experience, either through a first-hand experience or through the many studies, reports and presentations delivered on how to run your business like the brand synonymous with customer service. Of the leading brands that excel in customer service; Ritz-Carlton, American Express, Quicken Loans or retail brands like Nordstrom, what do they do for their customers that you don’t? And what don’t they do that you could? The idea is to “wow” your clients again and again and again – so why not consider that live piano during the holidays or a “welcome amenity” on their first visit? Those experiences could make all the difference. Look at the key areas where you believe your customer service is at a 10 and consider what you can do to elevate them to an 11 or higher.
2. Act the part.
The details surrounding your brand matter and attention detail can be something that sets you apart. The details can make or break a positive brand experience. When considering your visual brand identity, confirm that there is consistency in design detail – this includes your colors, fonts, icons, headshot and overall design of your collateral. A cohesive brand has a unified look across all materials. Your verbal brand needs to quickly and accurately communicate the value and benefits of working with your firm, expressed consistently no matter who or what is stating the messages. And third, the experience you create needs to be consistent with the brand – from the quality of the furniture in your office to the presentation of your conference room, to the artwork and framed media placements on your walls to the books on your shelves; everything on display says something about you and your company. Be sure what you’re communicating is consistent with what you want people to hear.
The most important person to anyone you speak to… is them. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and their family; they like to discuss their interests and hobbies, and given the opportunity, they would prefer their favorites – whether that be food, beverages, flowers, music, outings – even preferred appointment times… and if you know what their “favorites” are, you can certainly wow them by delivering it. Michael and Eric talked about the importance of profiling not only your favorite clients but also your top prospects, taking notes as new information is shared and using this information to ensure your marketing is relevant and personalized at every encounter.
The little details can have a huge impact. Take the time to focus on what else you can do to take your client experience to an 11 or higher, while your competitors settle on a 10.
For information on the strategies needed to create a unified branding experience, contact AdvisorPR today at (866) 888-5333 or email us at Info@advisorpr.com.