Few things seem to attract a financial advisor’s attention more than brochures.  The reasoning is straightforward—advisors operate in a world of intangibles, so they need something tangible to showcase themselves, their practice/team, and what they deliver.  The idea is that brochures are so professionally compelling that they make clients proud and entice prospects to join the advisor’s book.

However, our latest Affluent Research project (surveying investors with $500,000 or more in investable assets) shows the reality.  Today’s investors select their financial advisors based on the following:

•          Strong recommendation from someone I trust: 31%

•          Reputation of the individual financial advisor: 22%

•          Reputation of the financial advisor’s firm: 17%

•          Proposal/recommendations were appealing: 14%

•          First impression of professionalism and competency: 13%

•          Other: 3%

•          Quality of promotional material (brochures): 0%

•          Quality of pitch book: 0%

Promotional materials have no influence. Period! The stark reality is that every individual financial advisor is his or her own brand.  And this brand is developed by a mosaic of factors: the quality of services provided, the professionalism with which those services are provided, the quality of the support personnel, the quality of both the business and personal relationship that has been developed with each affluent client, the quality of both the business and personal relationship that has been developed with referral alliance partners, the advisor’s involvement in the community, and personal reputation.

Sorry to debunk the brochure branding myth, but today’s affluent have spoken. Their trust in financial services is extremely fragile, and they aren’t going to allow some piece of promotion, no matter how professional-looking, to affect their decision.  The affluent have seen impressive brochures and not-so-impressive service.  It’s no wonder they trash unsolicited direct mail, skip over professional service advertisements and give no credibility to brochures and pitch books.

Then how should we go about strengthening our brand in affluent circles? Consider the following seven points:

1. Dress for success, business and pleasure—you are the product and must always represent yourself accordingly.  Whenever in doubt, dress one notch up. 

2. Provide the full suite of wealth management services. Today’s affluent want their financial advisor to oversee the multi-dimensional aspects of their family’s financial affairs.  It’s important that you are positioned as their financial quarterback.

3. Make certain the atmosphere of your office radiates warmth and professionalism.  This includes every member of your team, from how they greet visitors to their attire, professionalism and overall competency.

4. Take each affluent client, husband and wife, through a portfolio review that, if at all possible, is a full upgrade from your previous reviews.  This can be in the form of facilitating a discussion between spouses about the family’s financial matters, updating their financial plan, or even having their favorite lunch catered and waiting for them (if it’s lunchtime).

5. Replicate the upgraded client review experience with each referral alliance partner.

6. Take each affluent client out to a social lunch or dinner. Our research shows socializing with today’s affluent clients—husband and wife—significantly improves performance ratings.

7. Take each referral alliance partner out to a social lunch or dinner—they need to be treated in the same manner as affluent clients.  Include both spouses in whatever social activity you schedule—the more personal, non-business time spent with these professionals, the more “strong recommendations” you’ll receive. 

As I’m sure you’ve already concluded, personal branding requires work on many fronts.  It needs time, attention to detail, consistency, ongoing professionalism in every aspect of business and social relationships, and full-time commitment.