The Importance of Branding For Investment Advisors

Fiduciary Bytes
A publication of Fiduciary Guidance, LLC
Ed Messerly, J.D., AIFA
January 17, 2022

For this issue of Fiduciary Bytes, I’m pleased to have as my guests Michele and Andy Kasl who have a graphic design business called Premier Designs. I first met them at a business networking group in Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, they decided to head for warmer weather and now work out of Fort Myers, Florida.
In my business of providing fiduciary consulting services to Investment Advisory Firms, I have found that most firms provide similar services as their competition, have fees that are competitive and have a very difficult time succinctly describing how their firm is different from the competition. It seems to me that a firm’s brand is its reputation, should give the public a reason to choose that firm and distinguish it from the competition. I thought it would be helpful to my readers to have a marketing and branding expert join us in this issue to explore the subject of branding.
(Note: By way of full disclosure, neither I nor my company, Fiduciary Guidance, LLC, have any financial or other connection with Michele and Andy, nor their business Premier Designs, other than being acquainted with them and their services.)
Here is my interview with Michele and Andy:
FG, LLC: Michele and Andy, thanks for joining me for this issue of Fiduciary Bytes.
Michele and Andy: Thanks so much for having us, Ed! It’s our pleasure.
FG, LLC: First, tell us a little about your business and what problems you solve for your clients.
Michele and Andy: Sure thing. We started Premier Designs 16 years ago to help fill the gap between businesses hiring a design “freelancer” or an “agency.” Those were really the only two options for people seeking creative help. And both of them had limitations—the latter was cost-prohibitive and the former was traditionally unreliable. I knew we could offer something better.
Most of our clients are business owners and marketing managers who have somehow been sucked into the vortex of doing creative work themselves.
It’s time-consuming… the learning curve is super high… and it shouldn’t be their highest priority.
This is where we come in.
We take over design and marketing challenges on an as-needed, per project basis—without the business having to hire a full-time designer or art director.
We’re able to offer the design services and talent of any large agency, professionally, affordably, and in a fraction of the time… allowing our clients to focus where they’re strongest.
Because in this “quick to judge” world, your visual message really matters.
FG, LLC: I understand you have recently started an initiative to work with Investment Advisory firms. Tell us about your experience with these firms and why you launched this initiative.
Michele and Andy: Definitely. We saw an immediate creative need for Investment Advisory firms and financial service providers, especially when it comes to branding. These professionals are truly masters of their craft—with education, expertise, certifications and impressive client rosters to back it up. However, their branding doesn’t always reflect their supreme level of awesome. We realized they were likely missing out on lucrative opportunities because of that mismatch.
They say, “you only get one chance to make a great first impression,” and this is especially true when it comes to matters of money.
Financial prospects—even direct referrals—are judging your website… your logo… your branding… and then making an immediate decision on whether they can see themselves trusting your business with their hard-earned money. If your branding and messaging doesn’t immediately convince them, they’ll quickly move on to someone else.
FG, LLC: From your experience as a branding and marketing expert, how do Advisory Firms usually do with their branding and marketing and how do you approach helping them?
Michele and Andy: These firms are BUSY. Marketing and branding is not high on their priority list when there are a million other fires to put out. So it gets tossed to the back-burner and neglected unless or until there is an immediate need, like a conference or tradeshow.
Unfortunately, that plan often leaves them with an outdated website that isn’t doing any heavy-lifting for them, in terms of showcasing their expertise and funneling new, qualified prospects their way. It also isn’t establishing a great impression with current clients who might be looking for help, resources, information, or even to refer new business.
So we created an intensive, holistic, branding program specifically for Advisory Firms and financial service professionals, to re-establish that credibility with a polished logo, supporting marketing materials, and a compliant web presence. It’s an all-in-one solution that requires ZERO babysitting on their part, and propels their business in the right direction with credibility and unwavering standards.
FG, LLC: In my business I talk to a lot of Advisory Firms and one of the first things I ask them is to describe what differentiates them from their competition. You may refer to this as their value proposition. I have found that generally they have difficulty giving me a cogent answer and will use generic terms like good service, expertise and reputation. Have you found this and how do you help them refine their branding?
Michele and Andy: You’re 100% correct about that! And frankly, it’s hard for most business owners to talk about their business and think about it objectively. You’re often too close and constantly making subconscious assumptions about your clients and prospects. It’s human nature.
But that’s where we come in—offering the perspective of a truly unbiased third party, looking at a business with fresh eyes.
It’s our job to ask the right questions to uncover each firm’s “secret recipe”—their differentiator. Maybe it’s in the way they manage client portfolios. Or it might be that they are experts in a certain niche, with years of experience. Or perhaps they have special certifications and training that other firms don’t. All of these things matter. And we help our clients shout that message to their best prospects.
FG, LLC: Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?
Michele and Andy: I think there might be a misconception, in financial services specifically, that branding doesn’t really matter because it’s a referral-driven industry.
But like it or not, we live in a very brand-aware world. Even referrals are making split-second decisions on your business and whether they see themselves as a client. A bad (or even lukewarm) first impression might cost you that opportunity forever … and send awesome prospects directly to your competition.
Pretend you are an alien from another planet who knows absolutely nothing about Advisory Services. Take 10 seconds and look at your own company website and logo. What do you learn in those first 10 seconds? That’s (literally) all the time you have to grab someone’s attention and convince them to stick around. It’s a very humbling exercise that we encourage all our clients to try.
FG, LLC: Thank you for contributing to this blog. How can readers contact you if they want to learn more about how you can help them?
Michele and Andy: Thanks again for the opportunity, Ed. This has been great!
Right now, we’re offering a free brand review for Advisory Services firms and financial professionals, where we’ll chat about their current branding and marketing—what’s working well, and areas that need improvement. No commitment. No strings attached.
Your readers can also visit our website to learn more about us and see examples of our work:

Thanks for reading this issue of Fiduciary Bytes. In future articles we’ll return to the subject of branding and marketing and consider how a CEFEX Fiduciary Certification can further your efforts.