Many prospective clients see advisors as the same, either because their marketing language does not resonate with the prospects or the points shared are too similar.

To address this issue, David Avrin, author and executive coach at The Visibility Coach, gave a keynote address at Fidelity's Inside Track conference in Boston, Mass., on how firms should differentiate themselves and increase visibility.

Arvin explained that branding started with livestock, where cattle where marked to identify who they were owned by.  When it comes to today's marketing, Avrin said, "It is about what we can do to sear an image into people's minds."

Too Much Of The Same Thing
Advisors do not do a good job at separating themselves from the pack, Avrin said, and raised these questions: How do prospects choose when every advisor is good at what he or she does? What are the legitimate things that people can say are good about your services? Too often the competition is having the exact conversation with prospective clients, so how does a firm stand out and have a memorable brand identity?

Common Mistakes
Avrin told attendees to not just be a choice, but to be the choice.  He shared examples of what he thought was weak marketing:

We are looking for high-net-worth clients. How does that make your firm stand out?  Isn't every firm looking for these clients?

We have 600 years of combined experience. If people see this, are they going to miss out on other points because they are doing math in their head?

It is really about our people. Doesn't every firm have people?

Honest, Integrity, Trust. What is a firm with this message touting -- that they are not going to cheat? Is this a little creepy?

Our customers come first. Does that mean customers come second, third or fourth at another firm?

We are passionate about what we do. Other firms aren't passionate?

We really listen to our clients and tailor our solutions to meet their financial needs. Isn't that obvious?

What Avrin was pointing out is that marketing is not just about promoting core competencies; it needs to define a true value proposition and then promote it.  "Don't just inform me or persuade me. Convince me," Avrin said. Advisors will not fail if they do not make improvements in brand messaging, but they will fall short of their full potential.

Don't Be Like The Competition
"Life is like high school. We do business with people we like," professed Avrin.  Firms need to create instant recognition. They need to promote something unique.  He gave well-known examples, such as how Volvo has defined itself with a message on safety.

If things become equal, they become a commodity and then consumers shop by price and proximity."You can't allow things to be equal, because they are not equal," stated Avrin.  

Determine Differentiators
"Marketing is a function of every person's job.  Does everyone in your organization know what makes it great?  Would they say the same thing as you?" asked Avrin.  Get a flip chart and have the staff help identify why a firm is great.  He said to tell the staff, "It's not what makes us good.  It is what makes us great."

Words can be powerful, but they should not include industry jargon.  "Make sure as you are crafting your language that you are speaking their language.  You'll look smart and they will be grateful," said Avrin.

He advised putting the five main points on a laminated card and taping them to every phone.  When staff members have a conversation, they should touch on at least three of the items.

Be Visible
"The greatest enemy of success in business is anonymity," stated Avrin.  He recommended advisors create a marketing plan, identify ways to market to target audiences at least once a month, and to use PR, social media and e-mail.  Marketing efforts need to keep advisors top of mind.

Several times throughout his presentation, Avrin recommended using Fidelity's marketing guide, which he thought was one of the best he has seen.  

In a follow-up conversation, Ross Ozer, a senior vice president of marketing at Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services said, "The guide introduces a disciplined and focused process that helps advisors create a compelling messaging platform."

It was clear Avrin believed advisors need to spend more time on branding and marketing, because most of them have spent just minutes to craft the words they use.  He advised attendees to treat marketing like a client.  

Mike Byrnes founded Byrnes Consulting to provide consulting services to help advisors become even more successful. His expertise is in business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client service and management effectiveness, along with several other areas. Read more at