I’m Alana Kohl, and I approve this message.
Can you do the same with confidence?
Political ads are abundant, with no end in sight. And at the end of each ad is the candidate’s affirmation that they approve the message.
Can you imagine if their enthusiastic community organizers or die-hard supporters were given carte blanche to communicate their reasoning for endorsing or working with a certain candidate? Do you think that message would have the universal appeal required to be effective, or would it be more opinionated and skewed to what they consider to be a top priority? Messages have the power to repel as much as attract, so it’s important to ensure the right message is communicated at all times.
When a candidate, business or individual service provider puts out any message to the public, the intent is for mass-market appeal within their target market. They should know their base and focus on communicating with them in a way that grabs their attention, excites them and moves them to take the desired action – whether that be to vote, buy or invest with confidence. These public-facing messages are not intended to alienate any specific groups, turn your target market against each other, or only speak to a small subset of the population. (Note: If you want to do this, then use ‘targeted’ vs. ‘mass’ communications.) If you’re going public without any real filter in place of who you’re talking to, then you need to have a message that appeals to the majority of your target market. And your support team needs to be singing the same tune.
What do your employees have to say about you, your business and/or how you serve your clients? Have you taken the time to educate them on who you are, what you do best, and why someone should work with your company over others? Do you even have a compelling answer to these questions?
Often advisors leave their staff to fend for themselves. How hard can it be to tell people what we do, you might think? We help people (fill in blank here.) But, step back out of your employee’s peripheral view, and listen to what they have to say to a client or prospect. Is that how you would have said it? What did they miss? Or do they know something you don’t?
Management of large companies often hire secret shoppers to observe, interact and assess an employee’s ability to communicate the company’s messages correctly and act according to the desired brand standards. Once they collect their data, they report their findings back to the employer. The concept isn’t unique just to retail stores either – secret shoppers have made their way into financial institutions, restaurants and similar service providers. The point—consistency among employees in delivering the “brand” is key to big companies, and it should be to yours, too.
So, how can you get your team to communicate in a way that you would approve of? Here are a few key points to consider when developing your public-facing brand messaging.
- You don’t sell products, but rather solve problems. If a prospective client asks an employee “what you do,” and they respond “sell mutual funds, IRAs and annuities” as the answer, then it’s time to intervene. You’re a service provider who solves problems. You don’t sell Volvos – you provide your clients with a safe and reliable driving experience. Make sure your staff is clear on how the tools you use solve specific problems for your clients. This is where they should focus their attention on solutions if ever asked: “what do you do?”.
- Know your competitive advantage, and then own it! What would your employee say if asked: “why your firm?”. Would it be an uncomfortable moment of silence? Determine your most competitive advantage, and then weave that into the fabric of all that you and your team say and do. Whether you pride yourself on your advanced education and up-to-date training, or the fact that you’re 100 percent committed to customer service in all you do, or you offer a holistic or multi-disciplinary approach – know it. Own it. And use it! When your employee is asked this question in the future, they should be able to establish what makes you unique in a way that creates value for the prospective client, leading them to want to work with the firm.
- Why now? What’s the urgency in moving forward today? Your team should have a list of go-to reasons why “now” is the time to get started so that when asked, they can pull from their artillery. Well, now, with the new SECURE Act, any retirement planning we did before 2020 may no longer be applicable, so we should get started right away. Or, when is the last time you’ve had your portfolio checked against your risk profile? We’ve seen a lot of volatility lately; would you be ok with your current investments if the market took a turn tomorrow? Whatever you do, make sure your team has a few approved messages to motivate a prospective client to take immediate action. Waiting to start working with you would NOT be in their best interest.
Give your team what they need to help you and your firm succeed. Strong brands are built by strong messaging. And strong messaging doesn’t happen by chance.