When consumers shop around before buying a good or service, many factors can play a role in their final decision, from previous experiences to the recommendations of friends and even to the companies’ branding. And when it comes to how a consumer perceives a brand, there are three critical components that come into play: brand awareness (simply knowing that the brand exists), recognition (recognizing a brand for its unique components and features), and brand equity (the value associated with a specific brand). These factors, especially brand recognition and equity, are often used to help fill in knowledge gaps when contemplating the purchase of a product or service, especially when the consumer isn’t clear about the actual value of what they’re considering.
In the context of financial advisors, surveys have shown that CFP certification serves as an important branding signal for consumers seeking the services of a qualified advisor. For instance, a 2015 study found that consumers had higher brand awareness of the CFP marks, even more than the well-known ChFC, CFA, CLU, and PFS designations. In addition to having better brand awareness, research has also suggested that the CFP marks tend to have better brand recognition, and that consumers were just as likely to associate the CFP marks and CPA designation with professionals who offered financial advice, with an increasing inclination toward using a CFP professional for financial planning.
Further, the benefits of how the CFP marks are perceived as a valuable brand appear to have a meaningful impact not only on how advisors spend their time, but also on their revenue growth as well. According to the 2022 Kitces Research study, “How Financial Planners Actually Market Their Services”, advisors without the CFP marks typically spend more of their time on marketing activities relative to CFP practitioners (allowing them to spend more time on higher-value tasks). Similarly, CFP practitioners were found to have a lower practice-wide Client Acquisition Cost (CAC) and greater revenue growth in 2021!
Accordingly, promoting the brand of the CFP marks to the public can be a good way for advisors to boost their own personal brands in the minds of consumers, and at the same time serve to promote recognition of CFP certification more broadly as a sign of high-quality financial advice (and supporting CFP Board’s own publicity efforts). Some strategies to do so can include simply talking about their own experiences as CFP professionals more intentionally (e.g., in meetings with both prospects and centers of influence, such as accountants and lawyers, who might provide referrals), and promoting the marks in their social media posts and other marketing strategies (e.g., SEO tactics, drip marketing campaigns, and online advertisements).
Ultimately, the key point is that CFP certification not only provides advisors with the technical knowledge they need to provide high-quality service to their clients, but also is a valuable signal that can influence a consumer’s decision on who to look to for financial advice. And by promoting the marks to the public, advisors can further build brand recognition and equity for the marks, elevating all CFP professionals in the process!