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Promoting The Financial Advice Industry ‘Sport’ Positively To Build Trust In The Client ‘Fan Base’

The requirements to run a successful, growing advisory firm are often less about doing the technical work with clients and more about marketing value to get prospects in the door in the first place. Yet, many firms’ prospecting strategies have often relied on individual advisors being able to bring business to the firm instead of actively shaping and promoting the firm’s own reputation. And as independent financial advisors have shifted away from transaction-based roles into more holistic, person-oriented, and advice-centric ones, many marketing campaigns have adopted a ‘good guy’ (e.g., comprehensive, planning-centric, fee-based advisors) versus ‘bad guy’ (e.g., ignorant, overcharging stockbrokers) storytelling approach to promoting the industry. More often than not, though, this type of storytelling only serves to reduce consumer trust in the industry more than building trust in a firm, making business development efforts harder for individual advisors and, ironically, driving more people away from engaging with an advisor at all.

When it comes to a firm’s business development efforts, individual advisors benefit most from firms with a strong brand and reputation for offering stellar and relevant client service, otherwise, the advisors often become wholly responsible for marketing themselves to find clients for the firm. If our industry is likened to sports, we can consider firms like teams and advisors as players; in this way, it becomes clear that promoting the industry (sport) as a whole positively and in a constructive manner benefits not just the firm (team), but the individual advisors (players) as well!

Which means that advisors should not be expected to champion the planning industry alone when prospecting for clients. This is especially true for advisors early in their careers; just like rookie athletes, they need the support and resources of their firms. So it behooves firms to prioritize their reputation and client experience to attract clients, who get channeled to the best advisors, who become well-known for their excellent workwhich, in turn, builds up the firm’s reputation even higher.

While focusing on promoting the industry more positively may be a helpful (and much-needed) shift, individual advisors and firms can also work collectively to sell financial planning by promoting the value of their firms as a whole and not just by showcasing the talent of individual advisors. Incidentally, this strategy can also improve the firm’s client retention in the long term, since clients are sold on the firm experience rather than on any one individual advisor. Furthermore, advocates of the industry such as the CFP Board and other professional organizations can also support both the health and growth of the industry by taking the initiative to positively promote it, which can encourage more individuals to seek out financial planning services (and therefore more ‘winners’ for the firms and their advisors!).

Ultimately, the key point is that, much as how ticket sales to a basketball game are likely influenced by the reputation of the player, the team, and the sport, prospecting for financial planning clients is influenced by the reputation of the advisor, the firm, and the industry as a whole. Rather than marketing with heroes and villains, promoting the overall industry (while still emphasizing the value that makes a particular firm unique) can help firms build robust brands and offer marketing structures to their advisors, empowering them with the ability to provide great, holistic advice to their clients and build trust in the industry themselves – 1 client at a time!

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