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Lessons from Steve Jobs on Delivering a Brand Experience

August 12, 2014

by Kevin Marsh

  1. Put your best face forward. In a business in which trust and integrity are critical, advisors should demonstrate their personal brands with their actions, making sure those actions convey their values and priorities. But you may also wish to put your character traits on visual display to help your clients get to know you. While most advisors already do this to some degree, I think there is a more effective way to showcase your practice through office feng shui. The key is to display personal items, photographs and other memorabilia in a way that flows with your office layout and intuitively reinforces your brand to the client. Adhering to some basic rules of interior design is also helpful. Grouping similar items together to create focal points, and use similar picture frames for specific types of photos to create a cohesive look. Here are a few more ideas:

    1. Personal photos: Feature family and other personal-interest pictures on your desk so clients can see them. To make sure the pictures are big enough to be seen, use 5x7 frames. Having at least one photograph of your parents shows that you appreciate your elders and can help build trust among elderly clients. This is also a good place to display any photos that convey your hobbies and passions.

    2. Diplomas and certifications: In a separate area from your personal photos – on the wall behind your desk, for example – place items related to your education and credentials. Rather than having these materials scattered throughout your office, consider grouping them in similar frames to create a unified focal point.

    3. Personal library: Don’t be afraid to display the books that you have read, as it shows that you are a student of the markets. But always keep the bookshelf off to the side of the clients’ seating area, out of the direct line of sight, so as not to be a distraction during conversations. Industry-related photos and professional memorabilia are a nice complement to the seating area and can emphasize your due-diligence process. For example, some advisors will frame business cards and photos of portfolio managers they have met and researched, along with other industry leaders.

    4. Community focus: On the same wall as the exit door to your office, place photos or other items relating to your involvement in the community or charitable organizations. Advisors who demonstrate a commitment to their community or a willingness to give back always stand out to me as people I would like to do business with. Seeing this commitment on display when leaving an advisor’s office creates a lasting impression.

  1. Keep educational materials on-hand. As an advisor, not only are you charged with investment management, but you can also educate your clients about investing to build trust and rapport. Place the Ibbotson Chart and other charts and graphs that illustrate market rotation, dollar-cost-averaging or other key investing concepts near your desk so that they can be easily referenced. Keeping materials like these in a binder on your desk or framed and on display can help reinforce the educational process for your clients.

  2. Brand through association. Get creative by displaying your personal brand in a way that prompts a referral. An advisor I know did a great job of reinforcing his reputation for delivering customized portfolio solutions by displaying a Starbucks table in his office. The seemingly out-of-place assortment of coffee beans and mugs caught clients’ attention and compelled them to ask what place it had in an advisor’s office. The advisor explained how he delivers investment management based on his clients’ needs and goals – much like Starbucks brews up a myriad of beverages tailored to customer orders. The Starbucks association made the sometimes-awkward step of soliciting a referral a bit easier, as the advisor was able to ask his clients if they could recommend anyone like them who would appreciate customized investment-management solutions.

Thoughtful office layout and design can help advisors create deeper client relationships stirring emotions and creating memories. In addition to helping clients grasp your investment philosophy and methodology, office feng shui and an on-brand atmosphere leaves clients with a lasting impression of your firm’s values and culture. As investment-management services become increasingly similar, a strong brand that includes a cohesive customer experience differentiates your firm from competitors.

Kevin Marsh is a regional investment consultant and vice president with Arrow Funds and ArrowShares.