Time and time again, new advisor clients will ask me to “quantify” their investment in creative services: “If I spend X, am I guaranteed Y?” While I wish creative services and the costs associated had a direct correlation to specific outcomes and immediate results, the reality is: it’s all variable. Creative services — pending the project, topic, call to action and geographic location of the company, its already established supporting marketing materials, current recognition and acceptance of the brand as well as the advisor, advisor goals, and so on — provides both intangible and tangible returns, as well as immediate and long-term gain. While I appreciate the analytical mind of the financial services professional, creativity is not black and white, and consumer receptiveness of your product or services does not occur overnight.
Creative services come in many forms, all serving a different need:
- Brand development, including logos, taglines, company messaging, mission statement.
- Corporate communications materials, including letterhead, business cards, executive bios, company bios.
- Supporting collateral, including brochures, sales kits, Web sites.
- Promotional strategies, including marketing and direct mail campaigns, advertising, both new-media and tradition, as well as public relations.
These services are all utilized to build one solid comprehensive brand; however, each creative project serves a different, but very important purpose.
A brand is built through a collection of consistent messages, visual representations and targeted campaigns over a period of time. A brand should appeal to your desired target market, should be easy to understand and remember, and convey, in the simplest of terms, who you are, what you do and why you’re the best option for a prospect’s specific need. Each creative project helps you come closer to the end objectives: consumer recognition and acceptance.
Brand development is where you hone in on your unique service proposition; create the messages you want to consistently relay to your target prospect; develop a visual representation that is reflective of your business, as well as how you operate your business. And, the slogan or tagline best describes what you do. Without the clear and specific development of a brand, all other creative services’ value is diluted. Consistency is key — and, if you’re spending money for brand exposure but are confusing your target audience with mixed messages and mixed visuals, the effectiveness is lessened, resulting in the need to spend more money while obtaining less of an impact.
Corporate communication material builds immediate credibility and, as simple as it may sound to have branded company collateral, consumer perception provides legitimacy for an organization and validation of the professional. The alternative option is to provide a prospect with a regular manila folder or a letter on white standard copy paper when presenting a proposal — the impression is neither impressive nor credible.
Supporting collateral is used to tell your story. It’s typically the second form of communication with a prospect — the first being whatever message or campaign led them to request or review the collateral. Again, consistency is key when it comes to the messaging and the visual representation, and copy needs to be friendly, persuasive and describe the end results of your services, rather than simply list the product you sell. Typically, people do not like to be sold to, which is why they’ll visit your Web site or request a brochure before picking up the phone to set an appointment. Holding the position as an expert advisor, rather than a product representative, will give you added advantage. These creative projects act as a bridge between initial consumer interest and prospect commitment for an in-person meeting. Without these materials, prospects may not be interested in taking the next steps.
When a proper brand is established, the last, but equally important component of successful brand recognition is promotion of the brand. Promotion comes in many forms. Direct mail campaigns are created with call to action and are typically used to encourage an “immediate” response, as hopefully your messages are addressing an immediate or timely need or concern of the prospect. However, immediate response does not equate to immediate client. The prospect will most likely go back to research your supporting collateral.
Advertising campaigns create continual brand exposure, prompting prospect brand recognition and ultimately brand acceptance. Advertising is a process in itself and should only be done if able to conduct a mid-to long-term campaign. One advertisement will most likely not create any new opportunity — for maximum results, a longer run-time is required.
Then there is public relations, the practice of working with the media to create community awareness of your services and expertise. Public relations has both short-term benefits as well as long-term gains, and produces tangible and intangible results. As in brand development, there is preparation involved when working with the media. And, as in brand receptiveness, media receptiveness may not occur overnight. Like marketing, after the initial impression, clients may turn to your supporting collateral to learn more about you and what you represent. And, as with advertising, for maximum results, a long-term commitment may be necessary — but if you are prepared, committed and patient, public relations can produce amazing results.
Successful media placements have short term rewards. It provides immediate exposure to consumers who are interested in the topics in which you specialize. Your name, company and service are incorporated into the content that consumers turn to their TV, radio or newspaper to learn about. It creates immediate credibility, not only with the viewing audience, but also with anyone in your network that you make privy to your upcoming or recent coverage. The process of PR creates immediate relationships with persons of influence; however, the benefit of that relationship in relation to your practice may only be realized in the long-term.
One of the long-term rewards of successful media placements is lasting credibility. New prospects or existing clients will make their way to your practice in the future, and by showcasing your media accomplishments, you may reduce their resistance to utilizing your services. It’s a common perception that if the media trusts an expert well enough to showcase him or her, the expert must be credible, professional and educated on the topics of which he or she specializes. Established clients may feel even more comfortable with your capabilities and refer friends or perhaps move more business to your practice. It all depends on how you leverage your new found celebrity. Here are a few tips for leveraging your PR in order to realize the maximum benefit.
Print and online placements:
- Copies of your print placements should be included in your next correspondence with clients and prospects. This is an excellent addition to a newsletter.
- Include copies of placements in seminar and prospect packets. Potential clients need to know that you are trustworthy and experienced, and media attention is certainly an easy way to convey this to them.
- Frame placements in your office or keep a portfolio in the lobby so that everyone who steps through the door has a chance to see these recognitions.
- Online placements can be highlighted by sending your contact list an e-mail with the hyperlink or posted on your social media pages. Be sure to note whether or not the site is regularly updated, as this could affect how long your mention appears online. Always print copies of online placements and keep them as you would any other.
Television and radio placements:
- Before starting any seminar or workshop, keep prospects engaged by playing radio and TV interviews while they wait for the start of the program. Incorporating these clips in your presentation is also an impressive way to highlight your background and expertise.
- If you have a television in your lobby or conference room, keep interviews playing for prospects. Not only will this pass any waiting time, but it will also give them a glimpse of what you have to offer before their meeting with you.
For all placements, consider the following:
- Add all placements to your Web site’s newsroom area. If you don’t have a place to highlight your PR, now is the time to add it. Prospects want to see who else is relying on you for financial advice and community-wide recognition is an excellent reference to your credibility.
Again, when asked for a quantifiable result of creative service, the answer is still a question. It’s not any one task or project that will propel a person to success, and rarely do people become successful by chance. It’s a solid, well planned and well-promoted approach to brand development that achieves the maximum results. Although some success may be found with sporadic messages, campaigns and creative projects, it’s the long-term and targeted approach that will reap the greatest rewards.