You, Inc.: Branding Yourself in a Competitive Estate Planning Industry

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creating-a-brandBy Steven J. Oshins Esq., AEP (Distinguished)

We are Brands

Whether you are an attorney, a CPA, a trust officer or a financial advisor, you are who people think you are.  Public perception is often more important than reality, at least in regard to the business you generate and the advisors and clients who contact you.

You could be the smartest advisor in the world, but if nobody knows it then you won’t get the types of clients that you should be getting.  We’re all brands, whether we like it or not.  Other advisors think of us when they spot an opportunity that involves a skillset that we have communicated to the public as one of which we have an appropriate level of expertise.

Building your Brand

There are many ways to build your brand.  This article will highlight some of the options.  You will undoubtedly have many of your own ideas.  Do what you feel is best for yourself.  Don’t just do one thing.  If you throw a lot of darts, some of them will stick.

  1. Participate in Listservs – There are a number of online discussion groups called listservs. By actively participating on listservs you are able to help other people while at the same time getting to know many of your peers.  After a while, the participants tend to know one another and their particular strengths which can lead to referrals.
  1. Write articles – Once you have the confidence to write on a particular topic, do so. The perception is that the author of an article on a particular topic is an expert in that area.  You may not have the contacts to write in the more popular trade journal or email newsletters, but you can work your way up to doing that.
  1. Speak at Conferences – Writing articles will often lead to speaking opportunities. You will likely have to start with very small local speaking opportunities, but once you get a few of those under your belt, you might find that you are asked to speak at more prestigious conferences.
  1. Create an Online Blog or Email Newsletter – You’re the boss, so you can write on whatever topics you like and those that you feel will send the right marketing message to the readers in order to communicate that you have a special expertise in the areas of which you write.
  1. Attend your Local Estate Planning Council Meetings – If you don’t make appearances at your local Estate Planning Council meetings, then how will the advisors in your community know that you are around? Seeing you at every meeting is a reminder to them that you are a serious player in the local estate planning industry.

Areas of Expertise

What types of clients do you want?  If your focus is on Revocable Trusts and other smaller matters, you are fighting for clients with so many other advisors that the supply and demand reality often causes the consumer to shop for the lowest fees rather than shopping for the best quality.  We all have to start somewhere, but if you want to build your business, you need to branch out and build your brand in another area.

There are a number of areas of expertise that are under the estate planning umbrella and might be right for you.  Maybe you will focus on only one such area; maybe you will focus on more than one.  Following are a few of the many options that will help separate your brand from that of your competitors:

  1. Dynasty Trusts – Most trusts are designed as staggered distribution trusts. By branding yourself as a Dynasty Trust expert, you will help brand yourself as a more advanced estate planner.
  1. Asset Protection – Asset protection is one of the hottest areas and is one where you need to have at least a little knowledge. There are so few estate planners in this area of expertise that there is a lot of room to grow your brand as an expert.
  1. Trust Decanting – This evolving area of expertise is so infrequently tapped into that you can very quickly brand yourself as a go-to advisor once you understand how decanting works and how many decanting opportunities are missed. Especially in the states where there are no decanting statutes, you may very well become the only planner in the state that has this capability.
  1. Advanced Estate Tax Planning – The high federal estate tax exemption has reduced the need for advanced estate tax planning, such as Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts and installment sales to income tax defective trusts. Although this has reduced the pool of prospective clients, it also means that advisors aren’t concentrating in this area as much as before, so the number of advisors who handle advanced estate planning is substantially lower than in the past.  Thus, an expertise in this area brands you as the go-to planner when an advisor has a large case and needs some help.
  1. Federal and State Income Tax Planning – With the federal estate tax exemption as high as it is, income tax planning is the new estate tax planning. Clients love instant gratification, so income tax planning is generally more appreciated than estate tax planning.  So few advisors even consider state income tax planning opportunities with trusts that you can separate yourself from your competition and become well-known focusing on that area especially.
  1. Elder Law – Like asset protection, this area of law is still widely untapped. Just like with asset protection, there are so many potential opportunities that it’s a nice niche for which you can build your brand.
  1. Trust and Estate Litigation – Relative to the number of estate planners, there are relatively few litigators who specialize in this area. Therefore, by branding yourself as a litigator who also has estate planning knowledge, you have an excellent opportunity to stand out.

Conclusion

You are a brand.  Everything you do, everything you say, everything you write and everything said about you all create a public perception about who you are and where there will be an opportunity to bring you into a client matter.  How you portray yourself to your peers in the estate planning industry can have a substantial effect on the evolution of You, Inc.

Your brand is your identity.  It is and always will be important to build that brand.  This article has suggested several ways to build your brand and several areas of practice (focused more on attorneys) that are often considered more advanced areas for which you can enhance your brand identity.

This article was written to suggest that the reader think of him/herself from a business and marketing standpoint and to inspire the reader to branch out and continue the evolution of You, Inc.


 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven J. OshSteven-Oshins43721143ins, Esq., AEP (Distinguished) is an attorney at the Law Offices of Oshins & Associates, LLC in Las Vegas, Nevada, with clients throughout the United States. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America®. He was inducted into the NAEPC Estate Planning Hall of Fame® in 2011 and was named one of the 24 Elite Estate Planning Attorneys in America by the Trust Advisor. He has authored many of the most valuable estate planning and asset protection laws that have been enacted in Nevada. He can be reached at 702-341-6000, ext. 2, at [email protected] or at his firm’s website, www.oshins.com.


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