Your brand is what people (and Google) say it is.
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Your brand is critically important to attracting referrals and new clients. In some ways, it is the cumulative whole of your marketing efforts. It is the totality of the experience someone has with your firm. It includes your marketing, your office, the appearance and demeanor of your staff, what you do for clients and how you do it, and your customer service. And as much attention as you might paid to it, it is not under your complete control.
Your client experience is not necessarily what you say it is. While I am certain that to strive to provide great customer service, the clients’ actual experience may not live up to your intentions. You may take a little bit too long to return a phone call. Someone on your staff might inadvertently be discourteous. Your office hours may not be convenient. It might even be that the experience you so carefully design is not exactly what the client wants.
Think of branding in the context of the hospitality industry. If I ran a hotel, I can think of a lot of things I would do to make sure that my patrons had a wonderful experience. I would also make it a habit to set aside a little time on most days to check Yelp, Trip Advisor, and any other travel websites that collected opinions. If someone did not have the experience they were hoping for, I would want to know about it. And, if you have ever reviewed one of those sites while preparing for a trip of your own, you know those would be the places where you would find out what you could do better.
Luckily (I think) for us, it is not quite as easy to post comments about financial advisors. The flipside of that, however, is that we have a lot less input as we attempt to refine our brand. But don't fool yourself. Even if they are not posting their thoughts on public websites, your clients are certainly thinking about your brand. And the more information you can gather about what they are thinking, the more you can be sure that the experience you deliver is the one your clients want to talk about with their friends and acquaintances.
When was the last time you typed your own name or the name of your firm into Google? Why not do that every so often to see what is being said about you publicly? Even better, put your name, your firm's name, maybe even your staff's names, into Google Alerts and automatically get notified as soon as something pops up on the Internet.
That's the no-cost simple stuff. Your branding efforts would not be complete without something more sophisticated. Periodically do a client survey. Organize a client advisory board
. Make sure that your clients have a voice in creating and managing your brand. Whether you involve them or not, it's what they think that they will be telling all their friends. Only good things can come from making sure that you hear those comments as well.