Maintaining your personal brand can set you apart in your industry and gain credibility and trust, according to financial advisor WJ Rossi, a partner and brand architect at Koss Olinger, a financial planning and wealth management services firm. Rossi was speaking at the Discovery Financial Planning Summit on Thursday 15 May 2014.
“You are your brand. Everything you do reinforces that brand,” Rossi said. Clients should be clear about your capabilities, and your brand should project the same message.
Clients are increasingly looking for specialists, so Rossi recommended that financial advisors find a niche. “Find something you’re great at doing and focus all your energy on that. You need to know what you’re doing that’s valued in the marketplace. That’s what your clients need and that’s what they want.”
To determine their unique ability, advisors and planners should ask their top clients what service they valued most, and focus their time and energy on that. “Often we get caught up doing urgent things and have less time for the important things. We want to delegate some low-result activities and focus on the high-end activities,” he said. While the average advisor spent only 10% of their time on their unique ability, top advisors spent 50% of their time on this niche. This in turn brought them greater recognition. By spending more time on servicing clients, advisors were able to further build their brand, making it more recognisable and valuable. Partnerships – whether formal or informal – allowed advisors to specialise further while still offering a comprehensive service to clients.
“The more recognisable your time is, the more valuable it is. And that brings you more results and more business,” he said.
Brands had value if, like McDonalds, their companies created consistent and predictable results for their client base. By systematising common steps, advisors and business owners are able to add customisation where it’s needed, while producing consistent results. In turn, consistency produces credibility.
Naming, packaging and scaling particular processes allowed clients to perceive greater value in the brand and helped to differentiate advisors from their competition – although the consistent results were produced by the underlying systems, rather than the package name. Accordingly, Rossi’s firm, Koss Olinger, takes its clients through the Wealth Navigator System in order to capitalise on the opportunities clients identify as financial goals, while avoiding dangers.
Rossi said business owners should identify what he termed moments of truth – particular experiences which are critical for clients – and create systems to protect them. In the hospitality industry, cleanliness is the most important moment of truth, followed by ambience and price. Price became less important if restaurants and hotels were able to offer unparalleled service and ambience. “The same is true for our industry,” he said, noting that it is three times harder to get a new client than to keep an existing client.
Rossi suggested inviting top clients to be part of a panel to assess the business strategy and customer service. “Your best clients are your cheque writers, so their opinion counts the most,” he said. This helped clients to engage in the business and could also result in referral business.
Finally, Rossi’s firm carries out an anonymous annual survey with its top clients every year, in order to discover how to earn referrals, why clients chose his firm, how they could earn more business, and areas of improvement. Critical feedback might result in hurt feelings, but it also helped the business to grow.
“You are your brand,” he said. “It’s the relationship between you and your client. Listen, be empathetic, and look for ways to add value.”
About Discovery Limited
Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, savings and investment products and wellness markets. Founded in 1992 by the current Group Chief Executive Officer Adrian Gore, Discovery was guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. Underpinning this core purpose is the belief that through innovation Discovery can be a powerful market disruptor.
The company, with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, has expanded its operations globally and currently serves over seven million clients across South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, China and Singapore. Vitality, Discovery’s wellness programme, is the world’s largest scientific, incentive-based wellness solution for individuals and corporates. The global Vitality membership base now exceeds 5.5 million lives in five markets.
Discovery is an authorised financial services provider. It trades on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange under the code “DSY”.
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