Core values are the foundational beliefs that you hold as a financial firm. These are the values that should underpin your brand and clearly come forth through your visual identity – at least, they should.
The core values of your financial firm are vitally important for at least two reasons:
- They help to guide the behaviour and moral compass of your team.
- They help to differentiate your business from competitors in the eyes of your target audience.
The trouble is that it isn’t always clear to unearth what these beliefs are for your financial firm. Yet a failure to do so risks undermining your team cohesion and leaving your brand obscure to your audience within the sea of options in front of them.
On the positive side, however, finding and expressing the core values of your financial brand can be immensely powerful. Consider some examples from another sphere – Hollywood actors.
Keanu Reeves, for instance, is widely known for being one of the kindest, nicest people in the mainstream acting world. He also has a reputation for humility and charitable giving. These “core values” has come to define him in the public eye (even if some might not like his acting style). As a result, he stands out from the sea of actors around him and has a dedicated following.
Businesses can also achieve this effect through their core values. For instance, companies such as Ben & Jerry’s have done quite well in putting environmental sustainability forward as a core value. Again, the result is differentiation and, often, a community of loyal customers/clients who stand by them and even identify with them.
So, for a financial firm, the key questions are: “How do I find my core values and define them through my financial branding?”
Let’s turn to these questions now.
How to find core values
English is a vast language. Even so, it is still limited in the number of possible words available to describe the possible values of a company. Moreover, there are thousands of businesses across the world scrambling for the same words, such as:
- “We put people first”
- “Transparency is our core”
- “Long term relationships”
There’s nothing wrong with these kinds of core values. The issue is that many businesses in the financial sector end up deferring to the same list of words on their “About Us” page. As a result, many people read the list and do not find much to differentiate the business from others they’ve seen.
Does this mean that it’s all a pointless exercise? No! it just means you need to work harder than simply taking an hour to write down a set of buzz words on a napkin, and expect that to be the end of the exercise.
Where can you start, then? A good way to begin is to think about why you run this particular financial services business. Why are you a financial planner, for instance, and not an accountant? Why do you help people with their pensions and investments?
For many, this can be a difficult question to answer. Most of us are more confident expressing what we do and how we do it, rather than why. Yet unearthing the answer can be a huge step forward, as it grounds everything you do in a sense of purpose and vision which others can then unite behind.
An interesting example we’ve seen here at CreativeAdviser within financial services is Catherine Morgan. Her story at the Money Panel describes how she used to struggle to manage her money, and came to grow a passion for wanting to help women not make the same mistakes she did. The core value is authentic and compelling. It is also different from much of what other financial planners say.
How to define & express your core values
It’s often a wonderful “eureka!” moment when you discover your core values. Communicating these effectively to the rest of the world, however, is the next tricky step. Remember, you may already be excited and “on-board” with your core values. Those who don’t know you and your brand yet, however, will need help understanding them quickly and “feeling” the emotions behind them.
Part of this will come down to the copy and language you use on your website, social media and other communication mediums. Here, again, Catherine from the Money Panel provides a good case study. She doesn’t actually have a list of core values on the website (at the time we write this), but the values come through clearly on every page through the text and straplines.
Another key component, however, will be the visual identity of your financial brand. The style, colours and imagery of your brand, for instance, need to match up with the core values you’re professing. Not only that, they should reinforce them.
In our experience here at CreativeAdviser, we often see a disconnect here with what financial planners say their values are and what their visual identity communicates. Some, for example, say that their core values are “approachability”, “friendliness” and “putting you (the client) at the centre”. Yet their imagery is cold, corporate and uninviting. The website structure and content, moreover, talks mainly about “what we can do” rather than talking to the client and addressing their primary concerns and pain points.
Your audience is not foolish. People can see disconnects like these and become quickly alienated by them, since it comes across as inauthentic or misguided. Subconsciously, the prospect thinks: “If they’re that blind about their own presentation, how can I trust them to see everything in my financial plan to help me succeed and achieve my goals?”
Interested in starting this journey with us to discover and express the core values of your financial brand? Get in touch today to arrange a free, no-commitment consultation with a member of our team.