By Michael Byrnes
Brands are a key ingredient to a successful advisor practice, but also something advisors tend to neglect, according to speakers at last week's Schwab Impact conference in San Francisco.

"Advisors have told us that they would like support when it comes to telling their story to clients and prospects. As a result, we initiated the 'RIA Stands for You' Campaign to help educate consumers about independent RIAs and to provide advisors with materials to help market themselves," said Lindsay Tiles, managing director of Public Relations at Charles Schwab.

As additional support, Schwab brought in Betsy Henning from AHA! and Ann Schleck from Ann Schleck & Co. to offer advice on branding at the conference

"Brands are promises that create expectations," said Henning. "A brand is not what you say it is, it's what [clients] say it is."

Another way to think of a brand is to consider it a symbol of a business's reputation, she said.

Brands have rational and emotional components, the speakers said, adding that advisors need to determine what are the things they want their clients to think about when they think of their brand.

Henning encouraged the attendees to go beyond words and come up with stories to convey their brands. She said, "Stories are how cultures perpetuate over time," she said. "People like to hear, remember and tell stories. Every story is one of those [brand] promises."

"You want the stories to be on point, on strategy," Henning added. "Stories have to be authentic. If not, they will never stand the test of time."

A good story needs to be differentiated, relevant and valuable. They need to stand apart from the competition. She asked the attendees, "Do you know who [your competitors] are?" Then she said, "Figure out why you are different. You already have stories."

Stories can be about the origin of the business, its culture, its successes, how it solves problems and its vision.