It’s summer, and we’re midway through the year in an industry with some serious marketing worries. Advisors’ value propositions are being challenged by the volume of advertising that casts doubt on what we do and creates questions about the fees we charge. We can stumble along with loyal clients and the referrals of friends and family. But at some point, firms that really want to grow need to step up their branding and marketing efforts.

We sell an intangible. Some of us shape what we sell into a story about investments; others communicate about planning. But in the end, it’s all about the outcome clients receive from their experience with us. Unfortunately, advisors struggle to express the good result of their work. The language tends to get either too technical or too fuzzy, and it’s almost always redundant. Without real differentiation, marketing dollars are easily wasted.

What do some of the top agencies and marketing companies do when they are “stuck” with a brand identity or marketing campaign that just isn’t sharp enough? They play games! If you watched the TV show “Mad Men,” you’ll remember scenes of beer-drinking marketers doing round robins to generate ideas. Beer is optional, but this is a great exercise for your team to do at your next meeting.

To give everyone a chance to think and provide their opinions, hand out the three questions below in advance of your meeting. I’ve provided some sample responses, but it will be interesting for you to see how closely aligned, or divided, you and your colleagues are when thinking about your firm.

  • Sometimes who you are (Subaru) and who you want to be (BMW) are different. You’ll have to decide what that means. Should you refocus on being the best in your current market position or make changes to shift?

  • A great service experience at a store can range from the convenience and efficiency of Target to the high-touch dedication of Nordstrom and beyond. Do you know what your clients really want from you?

  • The firm’s voice is a major reflection of its principals. Not having a clear voice is one of the most common issues I see. If there is disconnect between where you are now and where you want to be, pick a voice that the team wants to build toward.

Once you’ve finished the round robin, pull up your company website and critique it as a group. We know that anyone who sets an appointment with you will check out your website — does it tell your story in your voice? Brainstorm a few simple changes you can make and identify any other areas of low-hanging fruit to improve your brand, marketing and sales materials.