The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many different aspects of people’s lives, businesses and relationships over the past year, but what it has not changed is the critical role trust plays in business relationships.
About 50 per cent of Canadians surveyed for the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer: Canada believe business and government leaders are trying to mislead them purposely. Furthermore, only 53 per cent of Canadians trust the core institutions of business, government, media, and non-governmental organizations.
Trust is the bedrock of any successful relationship. For financial advisors, it’s a key component of their business and the services they provide to clients. It’s also the foundation of a strong personal brand.
For advisors, their personal brand is their most valuable asset and it is linked inextricably with their business brand. In an unprecedented year, there has been a tremendous amount of change for advisors and their clients as they have had to adapt to a virtual relationship and environment.
While a record number of Canadians have turned to online and self-directed investing during these times, a recent study from the CFA Institute found that 81 per cent of Canadians still prefer a human touch when it comes to financial advice. These investors are looking for trust, credibility, transparency, knowledge, and experience.
Here are four strategies to help advisors build their personal brand, stand out and get noticed in this remote world:
Build your online brand and community
Most advisors have built their brands and their relationships through in-person meetings, industry events and referrals. However, in today’s virtual environment, they need a strong online presence and a community of followers.
That goes beyond having a website and accounts on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. Be a point of connection to bring together communities of interest and create meaningful, relevant discussions that help address their financial concerns.
For example, some advisors are creating online discussion groups with their clients and prospective clients by bringing in experts, like mental health professionals and lifestyle coaches, to help with topics beyond financial planning. Advisors should consider collaborating with other social media influencers who already reach their audience in order to amplify their voice.
Become a trusted resource with engaging content
People are thirsty for helpful, engaging content from trusted sources. Screen usage is at an all-time high and people are seeking advice on several topics, including investing.
Many advisors are investing in content building, whether through blogs, videos, podcasts or online interviews.
Focus on topics that distinguish who you are and that address specific problems your target audience is facing. Telling relatable stories is a great way to convey your message and connect with them.
Refine and rediscover what matters to your target audience
Many successful advisors have taken the time to reflect on their practices during the pandemic. They assessed the needs of their clients, adopted new technologies to connect with them and looked more broadly at how to provide better support.
Refining your target audience means truly understanding what they care about, including where they shop, what they read, which social media platforms they use, and to which the podcasts they listen. That will give you a better sense of your audience’s interests and habits to both contact them and foster better connections.
Think about how you can help these clients in a post-pandemic world. Is it through wellness and meditation strategies to alleviate stress and improve mental health? Or is it through more frequent check-ins and financial reviews to manage changing careers and circumstances?
Some advisors have taken this time to look at their client base more broadly and make the transition to a family practice or focus on a particular client group. Refining and understanding your audience will help focus your value proposition so you can best serve your clients.
While the pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, trust and human connections have never been more important. When engaging with current and prospective clients, be empathetic, authentic and spend more time connecting with them on a personal level than you may have in the past.
Check in with your clients more frequently and find out how they are coping and where you can lend support. You might offer advice to extended family members in need or assist them in navigating a major life event, like a death in the family or an illness.
Remember what Maya Angelou once said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Rebecca Mooney is head of marketing at Vanguard Investments Canada Inc.