Who is responsible for branding in your company? For many IFA firms it will be the advisers themselves as almost 50 per cent of IFA firms are sole proprietors.
For bigger firms, it may be “the marketing department”. However, if any IFA is serious about improving relationships with clients, they need to be aware of the importance of their brand, as this is the very heart of their business.
Colin Bennett, a brand specialist, says: “Brand is the personality of a company, the feeling that the customer gets every time they come into contact with a company. It is not just about creating a fancy logo. If the brand is strong across the whole company, people will want to associate with it”.
Let's consider Nike. It is a misconception to attribute Nike's success totally on a huge marketing spend and its partnerships with sports stars such as Tiger Woods.
This helps solidify a certain image in people's minds. But the brand, the ability of Nike to drop its name and simply use a “swoosh” logo on its adverts is the product of a much bigger effort. If the product was poor, if the shoes and clothes lasted only a few weeks in normal use, then the marketing spend would be futile. People would not buy the products again.
As head of marketing, I constantly ask the question of my team and directors: Is marketing running the organisation or is the organisation running marketing?
Tony Wood and Roger Deacon, managing directors of Countrywide and Kestrel networks, have recently implemented a logo change following discussions with their members. However, the “organisational brand changes” have been going on within those networks for the last 12 months.
Relying too heavily on marketing has become the bane of so many companies. Without leaders of a company instilling a sense of brand and awareness about the mission of their company, the marketing department has to try to create an image from thin air.
This is why Tony and Roger did not say: “Change the logo, then the company will follow.”
Tony has a key objective for Countrywide and that is “to make our customers' lives easier”. He defines his customers as Countrywide members, potential new members, product providers, media and other companies within Misys.
Individual business owners through to chief executives need to constantly reassess what their company is trying to achieve, how it is being received and what future directions it will take. Perception of a company is built up over years and a positive perception will only come from an effort between departments.
Within the Misys networks, we take the fact-finding, clients needs, research and customer service very seriously. It is a vital part of the sales process (in its true sense) and we have an obligation to our IFA members to assist them and coach them, where required, to ensure this process is both compliant from a regulatory stance and of quality from a value proposition to their clients.
The IFA channel is the dominant supplier of financial services and we need to jealously protect this position by stepping up the service levels, having pride in our own brands and the collective IFA brand, extol the good news stories whenever we have the chance and embrace technology that allows us to deliver even better service to clients and free up IFAs time for those important face-to-face meetings with clients.
Andrew Bedford is head of marketing at Misys IFA Services