The Client Situation

The financial services market is extremely competitive with more than 400,000 financial advisors serving private clients in the US alone. So it’s no wonder that a billion dollar Registered Investment Advisory firm named Whitnell wanted to create a story that set them apart from the pack.

Whitnell’s CEO, Bill Thonn, had the perfect three-part strategy to build an amazing company. First, acquire the right people. Second, build the right brand. Third, acquire the right ideal clients to serve. He was very successful with the first part of this strategy. He recruited some of the very best and brightest minds in the Mid-Western financial services community. But this created a rather unique challenge in moving toward the second part of the strategy – building the right brand.

You see, eagles don’t fly in formation. The talented staff at Whitnell had unique perspectives on what story their brand should tell. Unfortunately, many of those ideas were in conflict with each other and this stymied the company from moving forward. At one point, one of the senior staff members described their website as outdated. He stated that he hoped prospective clients did not visit the website for fear it would drive them away. 

While Mr. Thonn had tried hiring a design firm and had made some progress on brand identity work, it was not enough. The message wasn’t right and there was no connection between the messages about the company and the brand identity. This made it very difficult to capitalize on referrals from existing clients.

The Shattuck Group’s Recommendations

Randy Shattuck flew to Chicago and spent a day talking to the senior executives at Whitnell. He listened intently to what each executive had to say about why they were not able to articulate an appropriate story and develop the brand identity. More than that, he heard the frustration about how this was holding the company back. There was intense pride among the executive staff about what they had accomplished and a desire to really take it to the next level.

After performing a SWOT analysis, Randy came back to Bill Thonn with several recommendations for how to move the company forward. These included:

  • Market research
  • Positioning strategies
  • Messaging and story development
  • Brand identity
  • Sales tool development

The Service Package

The Shattuck Group began by conducting two types of research: qualitative and quantitative. The purpose of the qualitative research was to understand the value and impact of Whitnell’s services for clients. The purpose of the quantitative research was to understand how all of Whitnell’s team members felt they should be positioned in the market. 

At the presentation of the findings of the research, The Shattuck Group helped Whitnell discover the differences between the way they conceived of their value proposition and how clients actually described that experience. Whitnell staff believed that expertise, sound advice, strong financial returns and high-quality service were the primary value that clients received. 

But the clients actually told a rather different story. Expertise, returns and service were all expected, but were perceived as table stakes. After all, many firms deliver those qualities. Instead, the value that clients described came down to one word – comfort. Whitnell clients took great comfort in knowing that their hard-earned money was being watched over by someone who really understood them, their goals and their concerns. 

With the “comfort” value proposition as the foundation of the brand story, The Shattuck Group went on to helping define the best positioning strategies. A competitive analysis showed that many firms in the mid-Western area claimed to offer wealth management, but few actually delivered the complete range of services that truly arise to the level of wealth management. 

With this information in hand, The Shattuck Group and the Whitnell senior team went to work to define a story for the brand overall and for each service Whitnell offers. Over the course of several meetings, the most interesting thing began to happen. Eagles began to fly in formation.

As the senior executives explored their approach for how they deliver services to clients, they discovered that they had far more in common than they might have initially surmised. Every executive had a voice in shaping the story and what they felt was important. As a result of these meetings, a new unified team emerged with greater confidence and cohesion .

The Shattuck Group also helped conceive of a new brand identity that encapsulated the “comfort” value proposition. While many financial service firms showcase glass buildings and executives dressed in suits, Whitnell’s brand takes the path less travelled.

The big idea, as Randy Shattuck calls it, was to show the ideal client experiencing comfort. This is why the Whitnell brand identity includes images of people on vacation, playing with children and grand children and focusing on the things that really matter in life, not worrying about their wealth. 

The Shattuck Group produced compositions incorporating the comfort value proposition and mapped that look and feel to mock brochures, web pages, emails, PowerPoint presentations and other visuals. With this strategy, the Whitnell team members did not have to guess how their new brand identity would look. They already knew and eagerly anticipated the tools.

The Shattuck Group then proceeded to build out all of the compositions into functioning sales tools. One of the largest projects was the production of the new website. As a key part of this transition to the new brand, Randy Shattuck strongly urged Whitnell to implement marketing automation. This resource is helping Whitnell team members identify leads who would have been invisible in the past.

The Client Results

In a recent interview, one Whitnell senior executive described the impact of these services. He said: “I used to be afraid that someone referred to us would visit our website. Now I actually direct people to our website. Check the box, get the meeting.” By this he meant that prospective clients now are impressed by the website and want to proceed directly to a conversation.

Other executives describe this process as having created a new sense of unity among team members. They report a confidence in the story they tell about their company and in how their sales tools and other communications support that story. 

Bill Thonn, Whitnell’s CEO said this. “The Shattuck Group was instrumental in bringing our management team together and focusing on the firm’s brand potential. Through a well-defined and methodical process that really made sense to me, they worked closely with us to achieve goals we had struggled with in the past. They took the time to understand our market and competitive landscape and help us craft our story. They listened to and built relationships with our executives. They developed tools and resources that differentiate us and give our team members confidence. Best of all, they brought an energy and enthusiasm to this process that was infectious. We are a stronger and more unified team today for having been through this process with The Shattuck Group.” 

New leads are pouring in and meaningful conversations are taking place. Referrals result in deals, not missed opportunities. The marketing automation system is helping to identify hot leads so they can be followed-up with. A company that once struggled to tell their story and explain how they are unique now charges ahead toward a bright future.