Early in my career as a financial advisor, I felt that it was absolutely essential to learn everything I possibly could about financial planning and my company’s products so that I would feel confident and not look foolish in front of my first few prospective clients.
Eventually, my “I’m not ready yet” excuse wore thin and my manager pushed me into the real world with the following advice: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know. Now, get out there and meet the people!”
That advice served me – and many other rookies – well. I came to realize that despite my fear I’d be exposed as an uninformed neophyte by the people I was trying to impress with my knowledge, I knew a lot more than they did.
In today’s world, though, the Internet has shifted the balance of power to the consumer. Knowledge that once was the exclusive purview of advisors now is widely available to everyone. Consequently, advice has become somewhat commoditized and consumers really cannot differentiate among advisors.
To most clients, we all offer the same products, at the same prices, follow the same procedures and make the same promises. The challenge, therefore, is to stand out in a crowded and noisy marketplace. Simply relying on “who you know” to build your business is adequate no longer.
Understanding this transition and describing how to deal with it is something that David Avrin does very well in his updated book, It’s Not Who You Know. It’s Who Knows You! A Practical Guide to Raising Your Profits by Raising Your Profile. By extending the logic in light of today’s reality, Avrin makes a powerful case for changing the focus from being intimately known by a limited number of people to being reasonably well known by the masses. He does so through proven methods, backed by real-life examples.
The theme of the book, as you would expect from someone who calls himself “the visibility coach,” is increasing your opportunities, not only to be noticed but also to be remembered. In classic marketing terms, this is referred to as “brand awareness.”
This involves the extent to which your personal brand is recognized by potential clients, and their familiarity with your brand, as well as the extent to which they correctly associate your personal brand with your role as an advisor. In Avrin’s view, there are three steps along the “path to visibility.”
The first has to do with your brand itself – and the starting point for assessing your brand is to accept that it’s represented by much more than your logo and tag line. Rather, your brand comprises the impression that people get at every touchpoint of their experience with you and your business.
This involves all the images and emotions that come to mind about you and your business whenever people hear your name, drive by your office, receive your newsletter, walk into your office, and so on. Ensuring that your brand consistently and effectively conveys the image and message you want your target market to receive is an essential starting point.
The second step focuses on creating awareness itself. This is where we put emphasis on creating a powerful online presence through an engaging website, enticing social media activities and helping your “story” to go viral.
Not to be ignored, however, are the more traditional ways of building your reputation and profile, including being quoted in the media or appearing as an expert on financial advice-related subjects on even the smallest radio or television station.
In addition, getting yourself onstage as a speaker at conferences and other events, as well as writing a book, are proven ways to build awareness of who you are, what you do and why it’s of value for people to pay attention to you.
Despite an unflattering name, “the pitch” is the third – and most critical – step in your branding efforts. That’s because you have to make sure that once you create these opportunities to be noticed, you will be remembered favourably.
In particular, this means your “offer” must appeal to your target audience because it’s meaningful and relevant to them and presented in a way that’s appealing.
Overall, I found Avrin’s book to be a most enjoyable read. The author’s sense of humour shines through repeatedly, as does his personal insight from years of working with clients to improve their brand luminosity in their marketplace. Although all of the book’s examples and suggestions will not necessarily apply to all advisors or even the financial advisory business, there’s certainly more than enough to justify your attention.
This is one of those books that you should keep on your credenza after you’ve finished reading it. You’ll want to pick this book up every once in a while to reread one or two of the short chapters to check in on how you are doing in your efforts to get people to know you.
It’s Not Who You Know. It’s Who Knows You! A Practical Guide to Raising Your Profits by Raising Your Profile
by David Avrin,
John Wiley & Sons; 208 pages,
© 2014 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.