A Good Brand Will Repel More Than It Attracts




Financial advisors work hard to develop a value proposition that will get the attention of prospective clients. Focusing on how well your slogan or elevator speech attracts attention, though, can backfire.

How you describe yourself, whether it be verbally or through a brochure or your website, is one of the key elements in promoting your brand. It needs to be effective in prompting questions or conversation about what your practice has to offer. Ideally, it will capture the interests of prospective clients in your niche. And it will do nothing for people outside that target market. If that value proposition is well-crafted it will actually turn people away from your practice if they are not in your niche.

I was reminded of this by Eric Schwartz, CEO of Cambridge Investment Research, in a talk he gave a couple months ago. We suspect it may have been said by legendary marketing guru Al Ries. The only direct reference I can find is by William Arruda, but if you have not read anything by Ries on branding it is worth your time.

Many financial advisors I work with are challenged when narrowing their message. The whole point, they believe, is to attract new clients. Why say something that may turn away most of the people you talk to? But the desire to say something that everyone finds attractive hurts your brand because it takes the emphasis off of what is special about what you have to offer a particular group of people.

Brands that attract the right clients and generate referrals build a reputation. Fuzzy, general, unfocused branding messages are not memorable. An effective brand will help you build a reputation that will assist people in remembering you when the right situation comes along.

Let’s say you target veterinarians. You have developed an expertise in the financial challenge of running an animal hospital. You understand how to value a veterinary practice and are familiar with the terms and limitations of succession agreements when those practices get sold. Your brand – what people say about you – would emphasize that unique knowledge. So when you describe the value of what you do, you would talk about that expertise. If the person you were talking to was not a veterinarian, they would probably have no interest at all in discussing it further.

And that’s okay. Because if a veterinarian 10 years from selling his practice talks to you and the advisor who talks about his “special relationship with his clients” and another who talks about her “sophisticated investment management strategy”, who do you think will win the client?

Branding is not about attracting the most clients, it is about attracting the right clients. Get comfortable with describing your practice in a way that most of the population will have no interest in. Then you can focus on building a reputation that your ideal prospects will have a lot of interest in.


  1. Susan Weiner, CFADecember 8, 2012

    I agree wholeheartedly. I wish more advisors would learn this lesson.

  2. Stephen WershingDecember 11, 2012

    Thanks, Susan!


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