Last year I decided we needed to invest some time and money into marketing to enhance the way we communicate to the outside world. I spent the last six months of 2011 making a lot of changes and improvements internally, but we really needed to reflect that in our marketing content as well.
What’s the problem?
Providing support services to IFAs is nothing new. When we launched in 2003 we were angry and young (well I was anyway). We were fee based, didn’t want to take a split of commission and, bluntly, thought everyone else did a poor, often overpriced, job. We thought we could do it better, and I think we did. We didn’t need to spend time and effort on marketing why we were different, it was obvious.
Nine years on and the market has matured in some ways, less so in others.
We’re still miles ahead of everyone else but many have copied aspects of what we’ve done over the years, be it the fee structure, the type of services, or even the copy used to describe what we do. They haven’t replicated how we do it, but superficially the points of differentiation are harder to distinguish. When we list what we do, most other businesses will list the same things.
And I hate lists. I really hate them. If the best you can do is to list the things you do and keep adding to it, you should give up.
After the best part of 10 years it’s easy to just keep adding bells and whistles and cloud the important issues; how you work, what you stand for, why this should matter to your clients.
That’s where we were heading. Nothing was broken, the business wasn’t struggling and our reputation had never been better, but it was time for a change. It might seem strange to tinker with something which isn’t broken, but it’s better to change from a position of strength. You can’t stand still.
We selected an external marketing agency to bring fresh ideas into the business. I have no qualifications or experience in marketing and I’m a big believer in bringing the best expertise I can afford in. The most valuable (and expensive) part of the process was the research. The agency undertook interviews by telephone, face-to-face and in group sessions with IFA business owners who were clients and non-clients. We did the same with staff right across the business.
The results were fascinating, and I couldn’t have got that depth and honesty of research myself. Having the results played back to us was illuminating. We spent a day collating this into a small number of key statements that summarised who we were as a business. There was nothing new. Nothing unusual, but we uncovered things which we had struggled to articulate succinctly before.
The fun bit
After this we moved to the design phase. This is the part most people associate with marketing and brand work, but it only works with the hard graft on research done first. We were keen to be bold and make a sizeable leap forward rather than slowly add in incremental change. We rejected the first design concepts as we felt they were too traditional and corporate, we wanted to bring out a sense of individuality and self confidence through something really different. We got down to one of two themes. The first used famous quotes set against dramatic landscapes. Whilst it communicated an idea of expansive thinking, it still did this by using other peoples thoughts which felt a little at odds with our need for originality, and felt it could become a little predictable over time.
The second pretty much nailed everything we wanted to say, but had struggled to find the words for. It’s practically impossible to copy. It demonstrates our belief in clear, simple, direct messages. It’s got individuality without reliance on any one individual.
It’s been a really enjoyable process getting here and hopefully you’ll see that reflected in our new look. So enough words, I’ll let the the pictures take over at www.threesixtyservices.co.uk, I hope you like it.