With social media becoming the norm, financial advisers are being encouraged to dive into the digital landscape to promote their brand and image.
According to Netwealth joint managing director Matt Heine, there is currently no one with a "dominant" financial planning brand in Australia.
While he concedes that the banks have a strong brand among Australians as the place to turn to for financial services, Mr Heine adds that the image of the institutions has been "slightly tarnished" due to the number of scandals that have occurred in recent times.
This means there is now a "big white space" for someone to come along and come up with a "truly national" and widely recognised financial planning brand, he says.
But how can advisers – particularly small and medium-sized business owners – capitalise on this opportunity and build up their brand so they are recognised as the key professionals clients should turn to?
Managing director of specialist marketing consultancy firm Jenesis, Jenny Pearse, says this is where social media can play a significant role.
In fact, with more and more Australians looking to communicate and build relationships via the digital landscape, Ms Pearse says advisers should be looking to promote and make themselves accessible via social media as it allows them to "amplify" who they are, what they do and why they do it.
"Clients do not define you by the advice you provide, they define you by the relationship you hold with them. So if you haven't already established your social media profile, it is time to claim your spot," she says.
Adam Franklin, founder of marketing consultancy firm Bluewire Media, highlights that advisers should look to social media, even if they already have a strong network outside the digital world and are already promoted through word of mouth.
"Word of mouth is something that advisers can always rely on and is always going to be very effective," Mr Franklin says.
"But it depends on how strong and reliable your network is. If it is a good network and you are always delivering value and staying in touch with your [clients] that could be all that you need, but you can certainly add another string to your bow [by also building up] your reputation online."
Sharing their message
Both Ms Pearse and Mr Franklin say many advisers believe that in order to have a strong brand and presence among their clients, they need a logo or some form of visual representation to communicate who they are.
Rather, they explain that for advisers to build a strong brand, they must be able to communicate a clear message with their current and potential future clients about how they want to be perceived.
For James Millard and his business partners, this is exactly what they used social media for in order to build up the reputation and brand of their advice practice YOLO Financial Services.
In fact, Mr Millard said that using social media to promote the business as more than just a place where they can get assistance with their money has resonated with clients quite strongly.
"For us, [potential clients] see that advisers are not only professional, but we are also human and we have a personality," he says.
"So, social media was a way to show that there is a personality behind the technical knowledge [we have]."
Mr Millard adds that one of the keys to promoting this message was through the creation of the business name YOLO Financial – which stands for You Only Live Once.
"We took a risk with our name," he says. "We knew that if we could build our brand properly around that it could have an incredible impact where people understand that there is a fun and a human side to [advice].
"Social media has definitely allowed us – even in the short 12 months the business has been around – to be able to really be able to share that [brand]," he says.
Mr Franklin points out that a very strong way for advisers to develop their reputation or brand as an adviser is through the sharing and producing of content.
By doing this, Mr Franklin explains that advisers are better able to position themselves within the digital world and make themselves more discoverable to new clients.
"When you start publishing information, your reputation can reach beyond just the people that you know already and that is when you start opening up the opportunity for becoming an attraction business," he says.
Ms Pearse adds that writing blogs and sharing content on specific topics allows for advisers to position themselves as a specialist and be more appealing to clients with specific needs.
However, Mr Millard says, while sharing content can help advisers become a "centre of influence" among their internal and external client base, it is important that advisers have a balance between technical pieces and real life stories of how they have benefited their clients.
"Our belief is that there needs to be a mix between technical expertise and sharing stories that link you to the benefits of advice.
"In general the average client doesn't necessarily want to read about the technical aspect of advice," he says.
"Content creation, for us, is a way to share technical expertise but it's also a really good opportunity to share a bit more about the benefit of advice.
"That way people can really know, like and trust you and really learn a bit more about who you are so that, way they think that advice is something that they can benefit from."
Mr Millard says sharing content that gives an insight into who he is as an adviser across LinkedIn and Facebook has also led to a number of new clients coming in seeking advice.
"Sharing what you believe is going to lead to more people who share your view to seek you out.
"I think the biggest lesson for social media for professional services is, don't just be the technical expert, share your own personality and then the true benefits should come.
"It is a time-consuming exercise creating your own content, but if you can share it in the right way it can certainly pay off," he says.
Building the right profile
For advisers looking to take advantage of the digital landscape and promote or build up their image, Ms Pearse stresses it is important that advisers understand how digital marketing and social media can fit in with their business.
"One thing that I think is particularly important for most financial advisers to keep in mind is not to do things piecemeal," she says.
"So, in other words, advisers will create a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter profile or a website and then suddenly go, 'That's it'."
"Don't create something that you are never going to maintain. If you don't ever intend to participate in the Twitter-sphere, then don't create a Twitter profile, because all you're doing is creating something that is never actually going to benefit your end user," she says.
Ms Pearse also points out that if advisers are going to work on promoting themselves through a social media platform, it is important to focus on the right ones.
"Another key component that I talk to a lot of advisers about is, are your clients where you are? So, if you are on Facebook, but none of your clients are, then why are you there?"
"But if you are on LinkedIn and a very large part of your business is serving small business owners then go and search for them and connect with them and start having that conversation through their profile and your profile," Ms Pearse adds.
Mr Millard also suggests that advisers wanting to get involved in the digital landscape should avoid rushing straight into it, and instead take it one step at a time.
"I would say start slowly and probably start with one platform – perhaps if you are probably already on LinkedIn or you are familiar with Facebook, start there," he says.
But above all, Mr Millard says advisers should make sure they are actually using social media to promote themselves and engage with their clients.
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