the challenge


The expert


Maureen McCabe

McCabe Marketing, Toronto

20 years in the business

the advisor

Emily Fitzgerald*


CFP, CIM, Blackburn Fitzgerald Financial Services*


Sackville, N.S.


About 400 households and 600 clients



Compensation style:

Fee and some commission

Years in the business:


*Emily Fitzgerald and her firm are a composite.

When her business partner retired in spring 2014, Emily Fitzgerald* took the opportunity to revamp her practice.

She has big plans: an office renovation, more services and a new name. With partner Scott Blackburn gone, calling the practice Blackburn Fitzgerald Financial Services doesn’t make sense. But she’s unsure what to call it instead.

“Do we go for a more family-oriented feel, with my name in the title? Or do we go for a more corporate style?” she says.

Fitzgerald’s business card and letterhead need an update too.

Her email isn’t on her card or her letterhead, and the list of products and services running down the side doesn’t mention some of her offerings, such as TFSAs (see “Before and after,” below).

There are other challenges.

Read: 5 branding tips to boost business

Aside from Fitzgerald, there’s another CFP and three staff, including two recently hired assistants. Normally, they get one referral a month from existing clients, which has been enough to sustain the firm. But, new staff means the firm is structured to take on more business.

“We’re comfortable right now,” she says, “but it’s about how we want to position ourselves for the future.”

Three-quarters of their clients are older than 50, so she’d like to attract people in their forties
or younger.

Office administrator Sandra McKercher started the firm’s LinkedIn account a few months ago. It’s their only social media account.

Hiring a marketing expert

  1. Contact a marketing firm for a consultation. Small business marketing expert Maureen McCabe says it will likely be over the phone and take 30 to 45 minutes. As you get to know the expert, she’ll ask about your practice to determine whether she wants to work with you. Be prepared to answer questions about how long you’ve been in business and how many employees you have.
  2. Schedule an in-person preliminary meeting. In this hour-long session, you’ll define what you’d like the marketer to accomplish. The marketer will help you prioritize your goals. For instance, would you rather they write a prospect outreach plan or set up a LinkedIn page?
  3. The marketer will then get to work. Most charge between $100 and $150 an hour, though an advisor could also buy a block of time, says McCabe. “Most people go for 10 hours,” she says, for which she charges a bulk rate of $950. She’ll use that time to review existing marketing materials, refine the practice’s value statement, design an outreach plan for clients and prospects, and establish a social media presence.
  4. How far a package stretches also depends on how much an advisor is willing to do, adds McCabe. She can tell an advisor how to set up a Twitter account and tie it to his firm’s website, or she can set those up for you. It depends on the advisor’s budget and time constraints.
  5. The marketer will manage any graphic designers, video producers, web developers and other specialists required for your project, and bill you for their work.

Source: Maureen McCabe, McCabe Marketing

What the expert says

We connected Fitzgerald with small business marketing expert Maureen McCabe, who’s designed marketing plans for advisors and is familiar with the industry and compliance rules. She advises the 46-year-old Fitzgerald to plan her succession before rebranding the firm.

Retirement is at least a decade away, but Fitzgerald has determined she’ll eventually want to sell the firm.

Read: How to freshen up your website

In that case, says McCabe, a corporate-style name is easier to transfer than one with a

McCabe offers several pieces of advice for choosing a name.

  1. Use “wealth management” or a similar phrase to tie the name to the industry.
  2. Shorter company and domain names are easier to remember and design.
  3. Consider whether the name suggests an image that can be used as a logo, or a tagline phrase.
  4. The name must be available as a web address, which can be checked through a Canadian domain registrar.
  5. Check the name’s availability on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn and YouTube as well; ideally, your handle would be the same across platforms.
  6. Ask clients, staff and mentors what they think.

Fitzgerald’s team should also build community visibility, McCabe says.

That’s already out of the gate. Earlier this year, the office participated in a charity run for local cancer hospitals and hospices. They also sponsor local children’s sports teams.

And keep the ideal client demographic in mind when choosing new boards or charities to volunteer with or sponsor, McCabe adds.

In Fitzgerald’s case, that would be a business owner or professional, between 40 and 60 years old, who is accumulating assets. He or she would have grown children who could also eventually become clients. She’s reluctant to narrow it further because, in a small town, advisors must serve a variety of clients.

Read: Improve your look to improve your practice

Regardless, says McCabe, Fitzgerald needs to find out where these types of people socialize and what community groups they belong to. She could ask her best existing clients for tips.

She also suggests Fitzgerald join the chamber of commerce to meet more business owners, and advises the team choose a cause, like a food bank, to participate in. Involvement in both initiatives merits mention or photos in the About section of the firm’s website and LinkedIn profile. Photos of the teams they sponsor should be online too. This signals the firm’s community credibility to potential clients.

Before and after

The original logo (1) looks dated and uses generic fonts that are not suitable for a financial firm. The choice of speckled paper (2) is problematic because a fibre in the wrong place can be mistaken for a point on a number. Finally, the cards (3), printed using Emily’s inkjet printer, make her look unpolished and amateur.


The redesigned image projects confidence. The new cards (4) are printed on both sides for an uncluttered and organized look. The logo (5), based on a Celtic design Emily likes, uses bespoke lettering and projects an image of stability and permanence. And the stationery suite (6) is printed on white, recycled paper. It scores green points without detracting from the firm’s polished image.

Using social media

LinkedIn should be a priority for advisors, says McCabe. It’s the forum of choice for the businesspeople and professionals Fitzgerald wants as clients. She strongly suggests Fitzgerald also join Twitter and Google Plus to promote her brand and show her expertise. Even if she doesn’t start tweeting or posting now, she should set up accounts under her business’s name to ensure no one else snaps them up.

Advisors need compliance approval to use social media, so McCabe suggests preparing batches of 20 or 40 tweets or posts on topics that won’t become outdated, and getting compliance approvals in bulk.

Tweets like, “Tomorrow is your last day to contribute to your RRSPs” or “You have your tax refund. How are you investing it?” are good starts. And busy advisors can use social media dashboards, which allow a single post to be broadcast across several sites to save time.

Read: Become a better brander

Also, she suggests reaching out to clients with customized information seven times a year. Communication shouldn’t be all business, adds McCabe. For instance, if a client has an upcoming trip to Spain, send a travel article on Barcelona. Or follow up a conversation on ETF investing with extra information on how they work.

To know which topics clients care about, list their hobbies and interests in their case files. There should be a three-to-one ratio of educational outreach to sales-related communications.

For prospects, McCabe suggests the website feature a free report on financial planning. The send-out would be compliance-approved and could be as simple as “10 tips for choosing a financial planner.”

A website visitor would request the report via email, which requires less commitment than booking a consultation, says McCabe. But the offering helps establish a relationship with the prospect, and lets Fitzgerald distinguish herself from other advisors.

Designer Costs

What to expect from a designer

A designer will show you his or her portfolio with relevant samples of previous work. If you like what you see and sign a proposal, you will pay a deposit and the designer will get to work.

A typical workflow offers you two or three options for a logo, with up to three refinements to the chosen design. Once the logo is created, the designer will make business cards, a website, Twitter icons, and other assets, as outlined in the proposal. Some designers charge per project, but most charge for their time, so expect to pay more if you have many changes or want to see more options. And remember, working with an agency is more expensive, but you get more service and quicker turn-arounds.

Average costs for a freelance designer are:

Logo: $750 to $1,500

Process: A graphic designer will design three initial logos, and then work with up to three refinements of the selected design.

Business card: $175 to $350 per side

Process: A graphic designer will create two potential layouts, and then provide two refinements of the selected design.

Website: $3,500 to $7,000 for a starter site

Process: A designer will create two potential looks, a site map and wireframes for five to 15 pages, with up to two revisions. Once approved, the designer will code the site and create the necessary files. Bespoke programming drives up costs.

Fitzgerald’s reaction

Fitzgerald plans to roll out her branding changes over the next year. The long timeline is partly in deference to her partner’s 40-year legacy, and she wants to get used to running the firm before altering it.

Taking McCabe’s initial advice, Fitzgerald has met with staff to brainstorm potential names. They decided against using her surname and came up with other possibilities. The frontrunner is Raven Wealth Management.

The raven has personal and professional significance. It’s the mascot for her alma mater, Carleton University and, in myth, the raven is prophetic and a good luck omen. An impersonal name will allow Fitzgerald to take a less visible role at the firm, letting her staff shine.

“We’re trying to invoke a team atmosphere,” says Fitzgerald. “If someone comes in and I don’t happen to be here, we’ve got qualified people here who can address everyone’s needs.”

Should they decide to use it, the story behind the name should be on the firm’s website, says McCabe. “Letting people understand your personal story makes it interesting and not esoteric.”

As McCabe advised, Fitzgerald’s team checked the name’s availability online, and is open.

Read: Connect with clients using social media

Since people may misspell the name, she advises buying web addresses for common mistakes (as well as both the .ca and .com urls) and redirecting them to the firm’s website. This blocks competitors from buying those addresses, and ensures thick-fingered prospects can find them online. It only costs about $10 a year to own a
web address.

Over the next year, Fitzgerald plans to get compliance approval for the name change and hire a marketer to help with a logo and tagline design.

Fitzgerald’s also enthusiastic about LinkedIn, and is following McCabe’s advice to connect her personal and company accounts.

But she’s hesitant about other social media. She’s concerned about compliance approval and the time demands of Twitter and Facebook. As a mother to two boys, she’s trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

“I’ve got to have a life outside of here too, and I want to devote my time to working with my clients,” she says. Still, McCabe has helped her understand why these sites are important, so as a team, the office will be learning about social media and Fitzgerald may get staff to use it in future.

Jessica Bruno is a Toronto-based financial writer.