Sales & Marketing

Get personal with clients and stand out from the crowd

By Brent Jolly |

Let's face it. There are many advisors out there who provide similar services to yours. Your challenge is to develop a solid image that sets you apart from your competition.

"It's a real struggle for advisors," says Jeff Malcolm, president of AdvisorBranding, a Toronto-based firm that offers marketing services for financial advisors. "Today's clients are saying, ‘Are you as good as you say you are? Show it to me!'"

With that in mind, you should be considering marketing ideas that are high-impact, have a long shelf life and establish you as a credible source, says Michael Morrow, a certified financial planner based in Thunder Bay, Ont., who also runs Ideas for Advisors, a company that helps advisors grow their businesses.

Malcolm and Morrow offer these suggestions to help you boost your marketing:

1. Skip the traditional
Forget about giving your clients or prospects the familiar pens or desk calendars bearing your company name, Morrow says. While those items may have a long shelf life, they do little to establish you as a credible source in your clients' eyes.

Instead, think about strategies that demonstrate your expertise. For example, Morrow says, sending a newspaper, magazine or website article in which you have been quoted shows you as a recognized expert.

Says Morrow: "It helps establish that you are capable of getting real results for them."

2. Get unconventional — and personal
Look for marketing materials that stand out.

Morrow says he has had great success with a "historical newspaper." For a client's birthday, a copy of a newspaper that was printed on the day he or she was born.

Or, when a client retires, present him or her with custom-printed "retirement business cards."

These unconventional — yet personal — gifts, Morrow says, help you stand out and help build client loyalty.

3. Make yourself referrable
"Word of mouth is more powerful than any other advertising you can do," Morrow says. So, provide service that makes your clients want to tell their friends, colleagues and acquaintances about you.

Whether that is getting to know your clients personally or including personalized letters rather than form-fillable documents — taking a more personal approach resonates with clients and makes them want to sing your praises.

4. Focus your practice
Keep it simple. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, identify the specialized services you want to offer.

Defining your core practice will help you develop a story — about your services and your clients —that you can communicate to your prospective clients. It should be a message clients can understand immediately, Malcolm says.

5. Harness social media
To build your business online, consider LinkedIn purely as a marketing platform.

Instead of connecting with other advisors or wholesalers, Malcolm says, use LinkedIn to connect with potential clients. And mine their connections for possible referrals.

"You're looking to gain their business," Malcolm says, "but also hop-scotch over and see who they know and earn permission to talk to that [referral] audience."

You can then email them some information about the services you offer. That, he says, sure beats buying a list of names to cold-call.