In an age of wide-open social media platforms and seemingly unlimited sharing and sometimes oversharing of personal information, the wealth management space is at risk of falling behind the curve if it doesn’t start embracing the idea of “pro-personal” marketing and branding.
“When people make decisions about who to use professionally, they are doing a deep dive not only into credentials, but they’re looking for opinions and trying to understand who these people are as people, because they want to know what their values are and how they spend their free time,” said Tina Powell, chief executive of C-Suite Social Media.
For financial advisers, especially those representing older and more established firms, the idea of getting out from behind the desk and sharing some personal stories and images as a marketing strategy can be an unnatural and unsettling concept.
“We are entering the age of the fully transparent, self-expressed, truly alive, three-dimensional professional,” said Marie Swift, president of Impact Communications.
This is where the wealth management space is heading, according to the comprehensive new report from Inside Information called New Frontiers in Wealth Management.
“We asked people to suppose they could redesign a firm of the future, and tell us what that would look like,” said Bob Veres, founder of Inside Information.
The general message is that firms enjoying peak levels today will have to travel through a valley of rebuilding to reach a second, higher peak as a means of staying competitive.
“You often need to go through a valley to get to a higher peak, which means you could be required to essentially unlearn what you’ve learned and go back to basics,” Matthew Jackson, co-author of the report.
The focus on pro-personal marketing represents one segment of the report from Inside Information, which tapped the insights of 16 industry experts and also looks at bringing in professional leadership, developing a niche and rebuilding your technology from the ground up.
As explained in the report, pro-personal marketing reflects “the identity of the founder and the culture of the firm,” which sounds easy enough, but it can require some balance and restraint.
“People want to do business with people they know and trust, and if you don’t put yourself out there and I’m not able to see every facet of your life, how am I going to know if I want to work with you?” said Powell.
However, she added that while clients and prospects want a lot more than just business credentials and stock website images, it is important to recognize limits.
“It can cross the line, because there are different degrees of psychological spacing,” she said. “As you put yourself out there, you have to be mindful that TMI still rings true.”
As the report explains, the traditional marketing model for advisory firms might include the use of images connected with wealth and success, which do not reflect the breadth of financial advice offerings or the identity of the firm or its founder.
In general, a founder-centric brand is better than a firm-centric brand, because it at least presents an image of a person as opposed to a series of bullet points.
But focusing on wealth and success as a marketing strategy “leans heavily on a dated view that financial advice is about the portfolio and financial returns,” the report states.
That’s where many firms are now, a place the report calls Peak One.
The objective is to reach Peak Two, which represents the shift from credibility to authenticity, in which the adviser’s personality, outlook and interests humanize content and interactions, and encourage more openness on the part of clients.
“This approach extends to the firm staff, who also become evangelists for the firm, on and offline,” according to the report.
In essence, in an age of transparency, the ideal image for a pro-personal marketing approach is a photo of the advisers themselves.
“In taking advantage of a natural differentiator, yourself, you create a brand that is distinct, rather than interchangeable with that of a hundred other firms,” according to the report.
Part of the beauty of authenticity is that there is no one way to do it.
As the report details, start by avoiding “canned content,” which will model the kind of openness advisers are expecting from their clients.
But getting from Peak One to Peak Two means traversing the valley and becoming comfortable becoming more open in the public domain.
Key to getting through the valley, according to the report, is fixing any internal and cultural issues within the advisory firm.
Of the four valleys described in each of the sections of the report, the pro-personal valley might be the least painful, but it still requires careful prudence and restraint to navigate the transition.
One “acid test” for gauging comfort levels around using your authentic self in a public-facing context is the ability to look and sound natural while making videos.
“As is the case with most Peak Two adaptations, the process may be harder for more experienced advisers with an established work persona, as compared with younger advisers who may be digital natives,” according to the report.
Ultimately, as Powell explains, advisers might need to step outside their comfort zones if they want to reach Peak Two and start sharing more.
“Nobody wants to do business with a company that is shrinking and silent,” she said. “If you worked at your church over the weekend, why wouldn’t you let people know that?”
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As our second lead editor, Cindy Hamilton covers health, fitness and other wellness topics. She is also instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. Cindy received a BA and an MA from NYU.