True story: A few of us at Carpenter Group recently attended a financial conference. Speaker after speaker stood up to introduce themselves. Each and every one had a difficult time articulating what made their firm unique.

Some spoke of the quality of their firm’s research, others about the superiority of their results, and a few talked about the niche market they serve. Still, it was hard to see why an institutional firm, financial intermediary or individual investor would find any of these firms — as good as they are — particularly attractive to do business with.

The lesson: These firms, along with most in the financial and professional services industries, could benefit from a fresh look at their brands and messaging. This is especially true at a time when even the most sophisticated financial consumers allow little more than a nanosecond to absorb information about new financial companies, products and services.

We get it: Most financial and sales professionals in your organization roll their eyes when they hear the word “brand.” Few understand the value of spending precious dollars on something so intangible. Here are five smart brand-related investments you can make that will pay off by helping your firm stand out from the competition and drive dollars to your bottom line.

  1. Brand audit. A good brand audit will include a thorough review of your business, including the products and services your company offers, your mission and values, how you do what you do, what you excel at and what you don't. The goal is to uncover the factors that make your firm and its offerings stand out in the marketplace.
  2. Competitive review. It's not enough to know what makes your firm successful. You also need to understand where it fits into the competitive landscape. A competitive review looks at how other firms in your space talk about themselves, seeking out opportunities to position your business so it stands out.
  3. Brand positioning. A brand audit and competitive review will result in brand positioning that explains what your firm does and the products and services it offers in a crisp, simple, compelling — and differentiating — way. It will give you and the members of your relationship management teams the power to cut through the clutter by knowing exactly what to say to build client relationships.
  4. Brand messaging. Even the “best” branded firms face the issue of inconsistency in their messaging. Different people, advertisements, web pages, social media posts and sales presentations say things that aren't always coherent or in alignment. A brand messaging document provides a clear listing of the key messages your firm should use across all channels, along with when and how to use them effectively. Think of it as your “best of” messages that drive sales.
  5. Brand imagery. A picture has always been worth a thousand words. This is particularly true in today's world of quick comprehension in social and digital media. Having the right imagery for your brand will let you communicate who you are— your firm’s personality, the flavor of your culture, and your level of sophistication — what you do and what makes you different in an instant. This could make all the difference in a world when decisions about business happen in seconds or less.

Want to learn more about branding and the value it can provide to your business? Check out Carpenter Group’s perspective on this important topic and some of the brand-related work we’ve done for the best-known firms in the financial and professional services industries.