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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Hourihan

401(k) Advisor: A BIG BRAND WORLD

We live in a commoditized world; each time we make a purchase, we make a choice. Americans are exposed to as many as 5,000 advertisements per day,[1] and in our fast-paced world, we are constantly forced to choose: Coke vs Pepsi, Nike vs Reebok, Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts, and of course, advisor vs. advisor.

Big brands like Coke and Starbucks know it’s imperative to build a strong, recognizable brand and consistently stay in front of consumers and prospects. These goliath brands did not reach their status by staying hidden, nor did they stop advertising once they became household names.


As a professional firm, one immediate action you can take to grow your business is to organize, formalize, implement, and monitor. If this sounds familiar, GREAT! It should as this is the fi360 foundation for fiduciary review. Although it was created to help advisors prudently monitor investments, this same process can be followed to create new sales and business awareness.


When you meet with a plan sponsor for the first time, what documents do you request? Chances are you ask for a copy of their service provider agreements, TPA invoices, investment line-up, 408(b)2 notice, meeting minutes and, possibly, a plan census. Why do you need this information? Well, you need it to complete a plan analysis. You need to see where the plan is today, so you can apply your experience to understand where you can enhance your offering.

Let’s take this approach to your business: it is your opportunity to do a brand evaluation. Gather all your marketing materials to date and spread them across your boardroom table. Don’t forget that this evaluation includes your website and other digital material as well!

When you compare your pieces side-by-side, do you see a strong coherent depiction of your firm with a clear, consistent, professional message, or a jumbled mess of things that may stand out on their own, but together look mismatched?

If you answered the latter, it’s time to organize your thoughts and unify your brand. When you think of Starbucks you probably immediately picture their deep green, circular mermaid logo, clean crisp fonts, retro style graphics, and whimsical swirly designs. This did not happen by chance; all professional organizations, even in the financial industry, have a brand standards guide--a formal written document that defines the firm’s image.

A brand standards guide is like an owner’s manual on how to use your brand. Essentially this document will catalogue the specific colors, type, logos, imagery, patterns, and taglines of your company and how they can and cannot be used to create brand equity. Having consistent branding and messaging builds trust with clients, prospects, and other industry leaders.

Your guidelines may vary depending on the size and applications of your business. Here is an example of an extremely well done full corporate brand standards guideline and one of a startup. Yours might fall somewhere in the middle, but the concept is the same: a clear and thoughtful storyboard of your firm.


Once you have your brand down pat, it’s time to formalize. This is where you will put your brand standards to good use. To really take your office to the next level, a suite of marketing materials such as brochures, service calendars, factfinders, agendas, and pitchbooks are a surefire way to stand out. Don’t forget about your digital office: your website! A well-designed website consistent with your brand standards builds immediate trust.

Having a team dedicated to producing materials consistent with your brand standards solidifies your company image. By sharing high-quality content that is professionally branded and designed, you establish your firm as a leader, while making a memorable impression.


Great, you have a brand consistency throughout your physical and digital materials. Now you need to implement it. What good is your material if no one sees it? You need a marketing strategy to engage your plan sponsor prospects and centers of influence.

In marketing, each interaction with a prospect, whether it is a phone call, an email, or social media correspondence, is called a touchpoint. The average advisor office touches their prospects twenty times per year−a drop in the bucket compared to the 5,000 advertising touches Americans experience on a daily basis. It was once believed that it took seven touches to convert a cold lead into a sale. This belief was formed before LinkedIn, Twitter, and the evolution of automated emails. We can assure you it takes more than seven.

A great marketing strategy would be one that takes minimal time to implement, reaches your prospects across multiple channels, offers engaging, timely plan sponsor facing content, and does so on an on-going and consistent basis. For assistance with content creation and a comprehensive marketing calendar, visit our sister company, Retirement Plan Marketing.


Marketing is not a one and done process: it takes time and consistency. As your marketing journey continues, you must monitor, evaluate, and adjust. Marketing is more like a slow growing tree. You need to plant the seeds, water, and, in time, they will mature.

A prudent process is necessary for all aspects in our financial world from investment advice to retirement planning, to fiduciary responsibility, to marketing your retirement expertise. Therefore, you should monitor and objectively evaluate your brand, content, and influence.

As a business owner and retirement plan advisor, you understand the fiduciary process of organizing, formalizing, implementing, and monitoring. Now, it’s time to take the same approach to constructively evaluating your brand. Professional branding could be the differentiator needed to demonstrate your experience to increase your retirement plan business.

Thanks for reading and Happy Marketing!

About 401(k) Marketing

We believe the retirement plan industry can do better. Our clients are the best professional retirement plan advisors and TPAs in the business. They care deeply about saving America’s retirement future. We are proud to share their voices through industry writings, professionally-designed marketing materials (including websites), and expert content collateral. We lend support by promoting businesses through ongoing awareness campaigns.

About Retirement Plan Marketing

Retirement Plan Marketing is a product of 401(k) Marketing and is an ongoing turnkey marketing solution for retirement plan advisors. It is an easy-to-follow, consistent marketing program designed to get you noticed in your community and generate new retirement plan sales. When you deliver relevant plan sponsor content, you add value to your conversations and can work your way up to become known as the “go-to” retirement plan advisory office.

[1] Johnson, Sheree. “New Research Sheds Light on Daily Ad Exposures.” SJ Insights. September 2014.

[2] fi360. Defining a Global Fiduciary Standard of Excellence. 2006.

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