For years, I've listened to people in the financial services profession expound on the virtues of planning. To achieve financial success, they intone, their clients must have a plan. Some advisors charge thousands of dollars to prepare this road map to financial freedom.
Yet all too often, advisors don't have a plan of their own. When I ask them for a copy of their marketing plan, I frequently get the look you get when you ask who ate the last cookie — surprise mixed with embarrassment. They know they need a marketing plan, but most don't prepare one. With the new year approaching, it's a good time to start.
Your marketing plan should be composed of three simple but critical elements and it should come together like a good financial plan.
It should start with a clearly defined outcome or goal. This element needs to be specific. It could be the number of clients, assets or even the number of 529 plans created. Make this goal not only specific but also quantifiable.
Next, develop your message. What do you want to say to your clients and prospects to get them to take action? What will you say in person, in print, on the radio, on the Web and/or maybe even on TV that will touch, move and inspire them to take action and have the financial future they have always wanted?
Finally, lay out in writing the marketing activities you will perform each day, week and month to reach your goal. Whether this involves direct mail, seminars, media relations or advertising, these activities are the last piece in the puzzle. But it needs to start with a clearly defined goal, then a well-articulated message and, finally, how you will get that message to your prospects.
Don't confuse developing the plan with implementation. Doesn't it drive you a little nuts when clients say: “A financial plan is great, but what stocks or mutual funds should I buy?” You must define what you want to accomplish before you decide on tactics.
Now that you're ready to get started, consider the Chinese proverb: “Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I may remember. But involve me and I'll understand.” This is the cornerstone of all marketing. You must be involved in the process as well as the implementation. In fact, all key personnel need to be involved in the development stage so you have buy-in as well as participation. This could include your administrative assistant and other support personnel as well as managers and even product wholesalers. The more people you get involved, the more accountability you will have.
Everyone who is involved must get action items detailing specific responsibilities. Share some of the burden as well as the fun. It's more fun to celebrate success with a group and it's also easier to face setbacks with the support of your team.
You may also want to add product wholesalers to your marketing team. Why? Because they have a vested interest in your success and that of your clients. When you excel, they win. They get paid to help you grow your business, not just to bring you golf balls and buy you lunch.
By the way, here's a myth to ignore as your marketing plan comes together: For a plan to be good, it must be bulky and heavy. The silliness of this myth may seem like a no-brainer, but some businesses actually approve a marketing plan based on its physical size. Really, though, it's the content that counts.
Next, your plan needs to have S.M.A.R.T goals — for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound objectives. Follow this advice and move your business from a wish list to measurable success.
Develop a marketing calendar and publicly display it in the office so others can see what you intend to do and track the progress you're making. It's a great motivator. This will spur you on to implement your great strategies instead of just skipping it this month.
Now you need a system to evaluate your progress. I see this as an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy wonderful rewards — perhaps a weekend away for someone who wrote a story in an industry publication or arranged for a regular appearance on a radio program.
Finally, remember that the difference between a wish and a goal is action. It's easy to wish you had a plan, but it takes action to turn one into a tool that will help you and your clients become more successful. The financial services industry is going through a tumultuous time, and without a plan to help you reach your goals, it's easy to get lost in the turbulence. Think of the plan as your North Star, guiding you to success.
Martin R. Baird
is president of Phoenix-based Advisor Marketing and author of The 7 Deadly Sins of Advisor Marketing.