This is the Ultimate Advisor Podcast, the podcast for financial advisors who want to create a thriving, successful, and scalable practice. Each week we'll uncover the ways that you can improve your referrals, your team, your marketing, and your business operations, helping you to level up your advising practice, bring in more assets and create the advising practice that you've dreamed of. You'll be joined by your hosts, Bryan Sweet, who has more than half a billion dollars in assets under management; Brittany Anderson, the driving force for advisors looking to hire, improve their operations and company culture; and Draye Redfern, who can help you systematize and automate your practices marketing to effortlessly attract new clients. So what do you say? Let's jump into another amazing episode of the Ultimate Advisor Podcast.
Draye Redfern: Hey everyone, and welcome back to the Ultimate Advisor Podcast. My name is Draye Redfern and in this episode, we're going to be diving deep into what it takes and what is required to build a meaningful brand. Lots to cover with you today. And I'm going to sort of just be the first one to jump right in. When talking about your brand and differentiation, it seems as though, having been to more advisor conferences than I could probably count and other ... just being in this industry, this is the hot word or the buzzword is differentiation. And everyone wants to talk about it. Everyone knows they need to differentiate, yet no one really knows how to do that. So we provided a little bit of insights on how you can do that in some of the earlier episodes with creating a never seen before differentiator versus and enhancement differentiator. And just a quick overview on that is, you really want to create something that your market has not seen yet, that is new and unique to you versus just trying to create an enhancement on what everyone else in your market is doing.
And I speak a lot, and when I speak at advisor conferences, I use an example and I block out the faces and the identifying information, but of actual ads that advisors run. And they're all the same. I mean maybe the colors may be different, the fonts may be different, the people on the ads may be different, but they all say the same thing. It's like, "Help you with your financial future," or "Grow and protect your financial future." These are the same words used over and over and over again that don't have any real meaningful differentiation, that don't create any sort of distinction. They don't create any factor that allows that individual to know you or get to know you, to like you because they're so bland and boring, and certainly not to trust you, when all that customer wants to do at the end of the day, if they're looking for a new financial advisor, is they want to know you, like you, and trust you, but they also want to identify with you. And when it comes to building a brand, those four components are so, so important.
Know, like, trust, and identify with you because if you can have all of those together, when the first time that person comes into your office, they're going to feel like they know you, because whether it's your messaging, or your marketing, or the videos you send out, whatever it may be that you may have, they feel like they already know you, and if you can shortcut the time that it takes to build that trust factor using your marketing and your branding, then they identify with you much faster and they feel like, "Oh my gosh, if I'm going to go anywhere, it's you and not the advisor down the street, not the guy who's saying, 'I'm going to help you grow your financial future. I'm going to help you grow and protect your financial future,' or all of those other guys." Creating that differentiation, it is actually meaningful.
And when you have that sort of meaningful nature with your business and with your brand, it allows you to build something that is scalable. It allows you to build something that is sellable because all of a sudden you're going less of a personal brand, which is what so many advisors are, it's just that personal brand, and more of a actual business brand: something that can be scaled, something that has Bruce, something that has a way to identify with that customer. Not that as an individual, or as a personal brand that you may not interact with them or identify with them, but personal brands can only be scaled to a certain degree because they identify with that one individual. Whereas, as a perfect example, Sweet Financial. Yes, there's Bryan Sweet, who's at the helm of Sweet Financial, but Sweet Financial is the brand. There's plenty of other advisors and various roles inside the organization to help fill in all of the gaps. Bryan has built something that is scalable, leverageable, if he ever wanted to it's sellable. Versus Joe Blow down the street who's just going to help you with your financial future.
So when we talk about building a meaningful brand, differentiation is part of it, but it's only the initial sort of surface level. They've got to know you, they've got to like you, they got to trust you, and you have to find something in the market that allows you to sort of carve off your little piece of that niche and that is different. You're not going to help them grow their financial future. You're not going to help them grow and protect their financial future. Yes, those will be ancillary benefits of them working with you. You got to figure out what it is that allows you to really create that differentiation and meaningfulness to that end user.
Brittany A: I think you bring up some really great points there, and you use the term differentiation, and how that's just kind of one component of it. So Bryan, I know that a few years ago we went through a whole kind of branding exercise to really make sure that we were capitalizing on the Sweet Financial brand and making sure that we were communicating to our clients truly what we can deliver to them, and not just the basic stuff that Draye touched on.
So Bryan, why don't you talk a little bit just about kind of that experience and maybe one of your biggest takeaways and going through that?
Bryan Sweet: First of all, I love this topic of branding because I do think that you really do need to get in touch with what truly does make you different and people need to understand that. But we did, a number of years ago, go through a very, very extensive branding exercise. And first of all, I found it very fascinating, all the questions and things that they asked, and how in depth that they went to try and get the feel for our firm and learn who we are, and what we do, and those kinds of things.
But I think the most interesting thing that I got out of the whole exercise was, when we went into it, we kind of figured that this would be all about figuring out who we are and what we do. But what we came to realize, it's really needs to be all about the client. And once you kind of get that concept that it's not about you, it's about the client, I think that is one big hurdle that will make a big difference in your results. And I think if you can get over this challenge of ... we get in the business, we're here for a long time, we get some level of success, and to a certain extent, we think we're really good at what we do, and obviously we are, and you think you can make a big difference in somebody's lives, which we can. But you need to understand that we have to solve their problems, their concerns, and not fall in love with our own messaging. And I think there's a big difference, and especially with what Draye was saying: you've got this verbiage that you say, but is that really about the client's needs, the client's concerns, or is that about us as an individual?
And the more you can make it about them and how you can help them, that'll make success so much easier.
Brittany A: Bryan, I think you brought up some really good points there and and that exceptional takeaway. And I want to give kind of a real ... or breathe a real life example into this as something that we have done and continue to do at Sweet Financial. So Bryan has been named to the Forbes Best in State Wealth Advisors, and we had a couple different options there, right? Forbes, fortunately for us, is very much a household name. People know some element of Forbes, right? So what we could have done is done a bunch of blast media on, "Wow, look at this. This is a huge recognition. We got the Forbes list, huge pat on the back," right?
So what we did instead is that, yes we did give one announcement to our existing client and prospect base, so people who have a warm relationship with us or are already engaged. We did one announcement, but anything else that we've put out, we have given a value add piece of content and then just tagged that recognition in the logo form at the bottom. So what we're doing is we're saying, "Okay, we know that comprehensive tax planning is a big issue for you, right? Everybody wants to save on taxes. So here's three key tips. Oh and, by the way, you're getting this information from somebody that's been recognized as a Forbes Best in State Wealth Advisor," right? So it's kind of an afterthought. You're giving credibility there, but any content piece that we put out is 100% geared towards what the prospect wants or what the client wants.
It's not just about us. On the whole topic of branding ... and as Bryan mentioned, we went through a very extensive process where we really drilled down to, how can we best serve our clients? How can we best serve potential clients out there? And then how do you put it out in a way that appeals to them? But how do you put it out in a way that makes them feel like, "Wow, I trust these people. I don't even know them and I trust that they are potentially going to have my best interest at heart." And then it draws them kind of forward to engage with us, right? So we've seen incredible things by doing that process. We've seen incredible results in how we interact with people, how prospects come to us.
But before you can even do that, there's one thing that I want to point out and that is that you need to have, as a company, before you can go through a full branding process, you have to know what you stand for. So at Sweet Financial, I mean we've gone through, I would say, multiple different times, we've gone through a process to make sure that we have the right core values in place. So for example, the core values that we live by at Sweet Financial, this is on our website, I'm not making this up. You can go to the sweetfinancial.com on the about tab and you're going to see this towards the bottom of the page. But we are client focused. We stand by honesty and integrity. We stand by excellence, and we stand by teamwork. So that's really what helps define us.
And the branding process, the interesting thing about it, is it really helped us bring those key elements to our audience, and really helps us to live by those things every single day. So the thing that I want to get here is that your team is going to represent your brand, right? You have to make sure that you're very clear in what the expectation is before you can go through any sort of process that does this deep drill down like Bryan talked about. So if you strive for excellence, for example, you have to make sure that the culture of your company, that people look exceptional, right? And I'm talking about people have to show up and be well put together. They have to show up with smiles on their faces and ready to serve. They have to have high attention to detail. It can't be careless, for example, with deadlines for a client. They need to live and breathe your core values every single day.
So there are actually, on the complete flip side of this, there are marketing gurus, people that we admire and respect. There are people out there that totally believe branding is irrelevant. They think that you don't necessarily need a brand. As long as you have value to put out into the world, you can do it in other ways. However, I believe after going through our own exercises and after living in our own experience, that that's not necessarily true in the financial advisory world. Because we do have ... there are so many of us out there, at least in the eye of the client, I would guess that if you're listening to this, you are on a different level. But if you don't put it out there in the right way and you don't have the right brand messaging, you're going to look like Joe Blow down the street, right? You're going to look like every other financial advisor out there that's delivering a basic service, that may be delivering just financial advice or can help with your financial [inaudible 00:13:13] and you're not communicating in the right way what it is that you offer. You're not communicating what your culture is. You're not communicating what those core values are, right?
So I would encourage you, before you go any further with this whole branding concept, to get very clear on who you are. Get clear on how you service your clientele and who you serve in your clientele. And if you go back through the last, I would say, handful of episodes that we've done, we've really touched on this with making sure you have the right people. We've talked about how, like Draye mentioned, the differentiation and how you go about doing that. So I really want you to go back and do a refresh on some of those items before you get into this whole branding concept. Draye, is there anything else you want to add just because you have done a lot of research as far as different branding elements in the financial advisory world? Is there anything else that you would add there?
Draye Redfern: I mean there's a couple of components I think that are worth mentioning. I think that, first off, many individuals think that you can just go out and just have a marketing campaign, start driving traffic from Facebook or Google or wherever you wanted to spend money on, and then it will just work and you'll start to make money. And while that may be true for a very, very, very small percentage of individuals and businesses, it's not really ... the chance of that happening for you are probably not as realistic. And instead, this branding component and really getting clear, like Bryan and Brittany have both said, on your messaging, and why you're different, and why ... what those needs really are, not what you think they are. Not that you're helping to grow their financial future, not that you're growing and protecting their future. Yes, again, those are benefits, but what is the paying point? What can you help identify with them to get them through so you can take them to that promised land?
And that is what your brand embodies. So as an example, Apple is clean, and it's you know it's going to work, and you know it's going to be minimalistic, and you know it's going to be an incredible graphic user interface. Coke is, you know it's going to be that sugary rush, and that the bubbles that just make you have that little dopamine hit that lifts your spirits. When you think of a brand, there are certain sort of ideological facets that you tie with that brand, and those are easy brands to pick on and use as examples. But that's what you should more or less strive for. And when it comes to building your brand, like we've all talked about already, is really getting very, very, very, very clear on what that client needs.
And for some of you, it may be hiring an outside firm to take you through a branding exercise. Maybe it's just doing a little introspection and sitting down with your journal and really just thinking back or reflecting on what your previous conversations with your clients or prospects have been, where issues keep coming up. You can address those needs as a company and as a brand. And I think doing that alone really, I would say, that just as a conservative number, 95% of advisors really would not sit down and spend the time to actually go through that exercise. Yet, that alone could be the single domino that needs to fall for you to have more effective marketing, to have better branding, to generate more business. Because for many advisors, as I said earlier, they have that personal brand. They don't have that meaningful business brand that is really clearly defined. And that's what all of these things can do that we've already talked on.
Brittany A: Draye, you've mentioned a couple of different times about the business brand and I think that's kind of the core of what we're talking about today. What I want to add, an additional element that I can say, firsthand in watching Bryan go through this and being heavily involved in the process, that's going to be a big differentiator for you. And that is along the topic of sharing your story. So again, as a financial advisor, there's a multitude of reasons that you got into this business, right? And there's a multitude of reasons why you got into this business to avoid certain other things, right? Like we've talked about in previous episodes. But what I want ... Bryan, what I want you to share today is how you drilling down and really getting to the core of what your personal story was, how that has been such a benefit to the company overall and into how we communicate with our clients and our prospects? And just talk a little bit about the process that you went through in really bringing your personal story to life.
Bryan Sweet: Thanks, Brittany. I think this is something that we've just done relatively recently, so it is kind of near and dear to my heart, I guess. And I would tell you that it's probably had the greatest impact of any one single thing that we've ever done. And there's probably a fair amount of companies, I know of a few, we've obviously hired one to do this, but we had a company come in and literally just drill down the why's, and learn my background, and my history, and why did I get into the business, and why do I do what I do? And then they helped me craft a story that we now have on our website, we use in our annual report, and it's literally in our new client kits, and it's part of our story when clients come to the office. And
I'll give you some ... a little background as to what it involves, just so you understand maybe what a story is all about. But it goes all the way back to doing things like my mom and dad got divorced when I was three, and I've seen my dad one time since I was three, so I was brought up by a single mom. She busted her tail to provide for me. I never really felt like I was without, but probably was, or it probably wasn't me that was without. It was probably her. I spent a lot of time with an aunt and uncle that lived nearby in the summer. She was a school principal and taught me a lot of maybe the educational things. My uncle was a gregarious business owner. I think I learned a tremendous amount about business and how to treat people from spending time with him. So this all got crafted into a story.
And part of the story turned out to be, to honor my mom for all the sacrifices that she did for me, I've created a foundation in her name where we give money to young, single female women who have children going to college. And we get to meet the kids and we do three scholarships a year. And it's just a really a fun experience because my mom's still living. And so every year we get to experience the benefit of what this scholarship will do for some young kid. But the purpose of it is, it's a young, well not necessarily young, but it's a female that's divorced, that's taking care of kids, and they have troubles, and finances aren't always plentiful. And they crafted this into a story that's really heartfelt, but it's truly who I am and why I do what I do today.
Because I don't want people to be in a position like that if I can help it. And we do free financial planning seminars for women that are divorced that have kids, just because I know what it's like because I've been through it with my mom. And I've gotten such unbelievable response, and heartfelt thank you's, and just such great comments. But I think people know me better by that little story. And people that have known me for probably 40 or 50 years that didn't know that part of me, just that one little story engraved me into their lives even a little bit better. So I would tell you that if you ever get an opportunity as part of your branding, just unbelievable what that can do for you. Because people see the true you and people want to work with the true you.
Brittany A: And Bryan, I think that that's such ... it's such an amazing story, number one. I mean, and of course, I got to witness firsthand the process of kind of uncovering that and bringing that all to light. But I think the point to drive home here is that, if you go back to, it was episode number six, I believe, we talked a little bit about vulnerability. We talked a little bit about how really being open to the things around you and being truthful and transparent in all of your interactions, that is a huge component of your brand, right? Because when people are able to look at you and you're humanized, and they're able to see that, "Oh my gosh, he had struggles too. She had things that she overcame," it just brings this whole new level of relatability.
And when you talk about ... Bryan said, we're in a very fortunate place where, as a company, and him too just as an individual, were able to give back. We're able to put ourselves out there in the community. You know what that all ties back to? It's the brand of Sweet Financial. So it's not just, even though we deal primarily with high net worth investors, people who are at that stage of meeting comprehensive distribution planning, that's kind of our honey hole, what we're able to do is we're able to take our message and our brand of creating a life that you can't wait to wake up to, and we're able to help people now that are less fortunate, that are in unfortunate positions at this particular period or point in their life. So it's so much more. Your branding is so much more than just the colors on your website and the few words that you put on there. It goes much deeper than that. So you want to make sure that you can make yourself real, make yourself human to these people because that's how you become relatable.
Draye Redfern: So I want to just wrap it up here with just that, I wholly, wholeheartedly agree with everything Bryan said and that vulnerability and the story makes it easier to identify with Bryan or with anybody else. And so as a case study on myself, I had the hardest time with this for so long. And I recognize that it's difficult for many individuals to share parts of their story, or be that open, especially if they're more private individuals. And so in my instance, I had died when I was 19 having heart surgery after a professional athletic career early on. And then I got hit by a car while on a bicycle. Well, those to me in my mind, that second accident took three years of neck injuries and back injuries and rehab. To me, in my mind, for the longest time I thought that was weakness. I had viewed those instances as, "I can't share or talk about those things because I had something bad happened to me and as a result of that, people wouldn't want to work with me or talk to me because of, well maybe I have back issues or I can't do some of the things that other people can do now," or all of these false narratives that I told myself.
And then it continued on in business. You go through business and you have instances or experiences that are challenging. And in one of the previous episodes we shared about my wife's business and this three year lawsuit that went on and all the things that that occurred as a result of it. Yes, we were vindicated. Yes, all of these things worked out in our favor, but it's a story that we've still, until the last six months to a year, had a hard time sharing because it was weakness or it was perceived as this blemish on our business record or our life.
Here's what actually happened. These were all false narratives we told ourselves, but when you go down this path, just like what Bryan said, what happened for us was a whole new world of opportunities opened up because it created more instances where someone would be like, "Oh my gosh, I had heart issues also. What happened?" And then it creates talking points where, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe you went through all of these things and still persisted. You must be the kind of person that I want to hang around or spend time with." Or "Oh my gosh, I can't believe that you handled this situation. Our lawsuit got 400 million impressions worldwide, 400 million. I can't believe you handled this situation with so much grace and professionalism intact, when the whole, this Internet lynch mob was trying to destroy you."
And so when you talk about these things, it does create more ways in which individuals can interact with you. And in the world that we live in right now, that is all social media famous, and where everyone's life, they're only posting their good things or their happy and then what's on Facebook or Instagram or whatever it is, people are looking for it. Actually no, they're starving for real moments. They're starving for that vulnerability. They're starving for that open and honest communication. And when you give it to them, and you tie that to your brand, it makes it so much easier for them to identify with you, to want to connect with you, to want to be around you, to really feel like you have that sort of connection. And once you have that, just like Bryan said, that it's like people come in, they identify with that story, they want to be a part of it.
And sometimes what ends up happening is they know you by your story more than they know you as a person because they resonated so much with that part of your life and part of your brand. And that comes from vulnerability. And part of it is maybe going through an exercise like both Bryan and Brittany had talked about, but regardless of what it is, or regardless of how you share your experiences and tie that to your brand, it's something that I think we can all agree on is so, so critical. And it should be an integral part of your life, and your business, and how you actually go about integrating these things for the future.
So all of that being said, I think we've covered a lot. I mean this has been probably one of our longer episodes so far, but I think it's worth really spending some time on because all of the facets that encompass your brand, including your story and the differentiation, and the way that you get there, and how you actually walk your client through this journey to know you, to like you, to trust you, to identify with you is so, so important when building that all encompassing brand that you're trying to build for your business.
So that being said, we're looking forward to seeing you on another episode of the Ultimate Advisor Podcast and we'll see you next week.
Hey there, Draye Redfern here. And before you go, we just wanted to say thank you for listening to this week's episode of the Ultimate Advisor Podcast. If you enjoy this episode, then please subscribe to the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or Spotify. And be sure to rate us five stars on iTunes, because when you do, you'll be entered into a monthly drawing for our Ultimate Advisor Coaching Program, which is a $2,000 value. And if you would like to access more of the show notes, additional resources in our free premium content, then please visit ultimateadvisorpodcast.com. We look forward to seeing you in the next episode of the Ultimate Advisor Podcast. We'll see you there.