This is a question I’ve been chatting to a lot of my clients about recently.
For many people the physicality of their business plays a big part of their brand.
With the pandemic has forcing us all to move a lot of our business online. Whether it’s using video calls, sending more regular email communications, or using a client portal, we’re now all part of a ‘remote-first’ world, and most of us would agree there’s no going back.
So where does that leave your brand?
Without bricks and mortar, coffee cups, the letterhead, carpark signage, the blinds, the brand of coffee, the tangible bits and bobs that come together to define your ‘brand’ uniquely, what do you have that shows you’re professional and trustworthy?
And if you hadn’t thought of your brand like that before, then let me introduce you to the idea that there’s no such thing as a brand-free interaction.
Your brand codifies your promise and anything that promotes and upholds that promise is branding. That could start with your website and include the way you answer the phone, your tone of voice in emails etc. It is, of course, digital as well as physical in a perfect world. In a way, it’s a hard concept to describe, because it is by its very nature intangible; nevertheless, it’s very real. Why do people choose to work with you? Why is it that prospective clients trust you? That’s your brand.
For one particular adviser, his brand was about to include new printed material.
Earlier this year, I finished working on a design job with an adviser: business cards, brochures, printed case studies, a client agreement, and investment philosophy and process brochures: the works.
Around March 17th it was ready to go to print.
We know what happened next.
The original plan was that the adviser would take these to client meetings, but that wasn’t going to happen now that we were all in indefinite lockdown, so would he still want to go ahead?
I checked to ask whether he still wanted us to hit the big red print button.
(Always a nerve-wracking task at the best of times.)
He said that yes, he did. He wanted to use the time to get this work done so that he was ready for when the tide turns. He was right when he said: “I’m convinced people will need us more, not less. My kinda people anyway (is that Michael Barrymore?).
“I remember really appreciating his sense of humour at this point it’s easy to forget how the uncertainty felt during those first few weeks of the crisis until you read emails sent back in March.
Anyway, I digress.
Four months later, we talked about the print work again, and how glad he was he’d done it, particularly because it had been crucial for him to have a physical representation of who he was for new clients, now that there were no meetings taking place in his office.
I think this is significant.
Business development in the remote-first world has been the biggest concern for advisers I’ve spoken to. Yes, existing clients might have adapted, but many advisers were apprehensive about how easy it would be to meet new clients without the face-to-face.
The body language, the small talk, the energy from a first meeting would all be much more difficult to gauge – for both parties – from across a screen.
And even if your website had been reassuringly expensive (or not, as the case may be) and your Zoom call had gone swimmingly (sound turned on straight away, an impeachable bookcase in the background, not a sticky-fingered child in sight) what about the follow up? This is the part I often see overlooked, and it can be a bump in the road. Documents printed in Word, with stretched logos and inconsistent fonts. If you’ve said you’re professional and given the impression you’re high-end, this suddenly says otherwise.
Designing these things enables you to prove you’re dedicated to clear, transparent communications, that you want your client to feel confident and empowered by working with you, that you’re professional and can be trusted.
Without an office presence, the next best thing for new clients might be your professionally designed collateral that shows them literally what you’re all about and gives them something tangible at a crucial point of the ‘sale’. Whether you post these to them or upload them to your portal, they’re the next best thing to bricks and mortar. And they take away the pressure of creating that perfect Zoom background.
Overlook the details at your peril.
About Faith Liversedge
Faith Liversedge is an experienced communicator with a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the adviser profession. She was Marketing Manager at Nucleus for 5 years, creating innovative and award-winning campaigns. Before that she worked for Standard Life, Prudential and Royal London. In 2017 she set up her own consultancy to help forwardthinking financial advisers and planners to become more profitable through websites, communications and other laser-focused marketing techniques.