How to brand your business and capture the millennial audience

Take a walk down any town’s main street and you’ll likely find more than a few financial planning firms. What distinguishes one from another? Most people on the street have no idea.

That’s because most small advisory firms don’t put much time or money into brand building, mostly out of fear that the monetary cost would be too high.

But you don’t need a multimillion-dollar marketing department behind you to develop a top-notch brand that resonates with your local community, especially if you’re looking to reach millennials. (Which you should, by the way. Boomers are about to leave $30 trillion to $40 trillion to their heirs, making millennials a primary market to develop.)

The good news is that capturing that millennial market, or simply further developing a “brand” for your practice, doesn’t have to be pricey. Here are three low-cost grass-roots efforts that are unexpectedly effective at capturing the attention of the next generation and other potential prospects, and getting them to see you in a positive light.

Get involved in your local community

Millennials care about social responsibility, spend time with their families, and value experiences over things.

How can you tap into that enthusiasm? By attaching your brand to those things they care most about. Host a local fundraising event and invite your clients and their children to volunteer. Sponsor a 5K race and present participants with tips for financial fitness. Organize a client appreciation event and invite family members to attend.

Even small steps can go a long way toward brand building. Volunteer to act as a drop-off location for Toys for Tots, join the Adopt-A-Highway program, or sponsor a local Little League team.

One advisor I know hosted a quarterly shredding party and invited any member of his local community — client or not — to stop by for coffee while they worked together to destroy personal documents. Talk about a low-cost opportunity to build relationships with people within the community!

Develop a specialty

Try to serve everyone, however, and you’ll wind up serving no one. This old marketing mantra is especially true in the financial arena, where clients’ needs have become increasingly complex.

The most effective financial planners focus on two or three things that they’re good at and promote those services to the markets they can best serve. Consider your experience before launching your practice. Were you once an accountant, an attorney, or a small business owner? Perhaps you’re an authority on a particular product: small business retirement plans, for instance. Or maybe you have expertise on the unique financial needs of a particular subset of people, like professional athletes or families with special needs.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, the clients who can be best served by your specialty are likely to find you. And, because your specialized niche is a good fit for their needs, they’re more likely to skip the visit to the generalist next door.

Build an online presence

Millennials definitely prefer certain brands, with the majority, 86%, sharing their brand preferences online, according to Dr. Nathan Harness, our advisor education consultant and director of financial planning at Texas A&M University. As a cohort, millennials also more likely than any other generation to create online circles of influence. That means they’re tuning in to each other and getting firsthand accounts of the experiences they’re having as they interact with brands.

And they’re not just interacting with each other. They’re seeking out informal communication channels with the companies they do business with. They want to chat over FaceTime, email questions, even respond via text message.

Perhaps these ideas won’t all fit within your firm’s compliance guidelines but informality can be encouraged by meeting at Starbucks, connecting via WebEx, or by posting answers to frequently asked questions to your website.

In short, the more transparency you can create around your practice and your individual personality — whether through direct contact, developing a niche, or creating a presence online — the more likely you are to resonate with the next generation.

FINRA regulates the use of social media. You should consult your compliance department for more information. This presentation is not an endorsement of any social media networking service.

All third-party marks cited are property of their respective owners.

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