Given that marketing encompasses all the activities that bring revenue into your practice, the idea of developing – let alone implementing – a marketing plan can be overwhelming to many advisors. Creating tag lines, selling propositions, logos, brochures, websites, ads, press releases, white papers – the time commitment seems astronomical. Overwhelmed advisors often fall into two traps: inaction or immersion. To avoid those traps, advisors need to clearly understand the marketing activities that require their direct activity – and those that don’t.
As the business owner, you do have key marketing decisions to make. These include what services you will provide, who you will provide them to (your target market), how you will provide them (service level) and how you will be compensated by your clients. If you haven’t made those decisions, you will waste energy on unprofitable clients who squander your time and create problems. In addition, your client base will become so fractured and diverse, you will have difficulty creating efficiencies. Shortcut: Pick your top 10 clients and determine which services they use most, the characteristics they have in common and their service preferences.
Once made, those key marketing decisions become the basis for your marketing message, also called your unique selling proposition, your value statement or your mission. Crafting the message takes some time, so here you have an activity decision to make: you can spend that time yourself, or you can engage an outside marketing professional to do it for you. If you decide to create the message yourself, set a deadline and a time limit. Too many advisors engage in endless tinkering, which wastes their time and prevents any further marketing activities from taking place. Shortcut: Have your assistant, spouse, accountant, attorney or good friend write a brief description of how they would describe your practice to someone looking for a financial advisor. Spend a maximum of one hour tweaking that description. Done!
Now that you have your message, you need to decide on marketing tactics. How to choose among direct mail, print advertising, broadcast advertising, web advertising, public relations, seminars and events? Most advisors can eliminate broadcast advertising – the prerequisite financial commitment and the frequency required usually make it cost prohibitive. Web advertising can work, but do you really need clients in random locations across the country – or the world? Print advertising can be effective in target channels – keep in mind that your daily newspaper reaches a large percentage of the Joe Lunchboxes in your community who probably are not within your target market. Affinity publications in your community – such as the local women’s magazine or business newspaper – can provide better results. Shortcut: Plan to hold one client-only event and one client bring-a-friend event in the next six months and send press releases two weeks in advance to your local newspaper, business publication and society/philanthropic magazines. (Notice you are not planning the details of these events, just making the commitment to have them.)
Now what? Set a budget and delegate! Assign staff to organize the client events. If you don’t have staff, enlist your best (professional) party-planning friend or relative to handle the details and make high-level reports to you only as needed. Use a freelance public relations professional to write and distribute your press releases. Hire an outside company to do your website. Resist the urge to micro-manage, and closely monitor your own time and actions.
So far, you’ve made high level decisions and delegated or outsourced the actual activities. But there are certain marketing activities that require your direct action – calling and meeting with clients and prospects. Advisors often forget that sales, or relationship building if you prefer, is a function of marketing. Where we get confused is when we talk about marketing materials or tools – brochures, flyers, direct mail pieces, ads – that support the sales process. Remember our definition of marketing: all the activities that generate revenue for your business. Sales – making connections with clients and prospects – is one of those activities, and arguably one of the most critical. That’s why this is the marketing activity – the only marketing activity – that you as the advisor should be doing rather than delegating.