Traditional marketing methods alone don’t work anymore. Today’s experience economy, which shapes the delivery of our services, reveals how to identify your target clients and employ specific strategies to attract them.
With increased client mobility, it no longer matters whether you’ve had years of practice experience or that your firm has been in the community for almost 100 years. Sure, those attributes help, but that alone won’t bring business to your doorstep. Differentiating your services from those of your competitors is more difficult than ever in the present age of commoditization. Not only can clients choose between all the advisors clamoring for their business, but the Internet also opens up a new world of do-it-yourself tools.
So, how do you attract A+ clients and, once in front of them, break through this commoditization trap? By effectively employing media in your marketing efforts.
Start With Why
Author and TED Talk contributor Simon Sinek instructs in his book, Start with Why, that companies should emphasize why their services or products will benefit the consumer. Companies that do this will always outperform those that advertise the specific attributes of their particular service or product.
Sinek compares Apple to Dell. Dell focuses on the features of its computers and laptops, while Apple expands beyond those products through a corporate culture of breaking the mold to bring consumers what they want. Steve Jobs never conducted a focus group, explaining that, “[it's] really hard to design products by focus groups. Oftentimes, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Identify Your Target Market
The first step to creating the most effective marketing plan is to identify your target market. Because I practice in a resort area with wealthy semi-retirees and retirees who are current and former business professionals, I target those families. Many of those clients are seasonal residents, spending half the year in another state. These individuals face residency and tax issues when updating their estate plans.
Everyone has their own niche. You might be an expert with physicians’ asset protection planning or live in a community of farmers who have land wealth. Perhaps you developed a following with performing artists or professional athletes. When you’re a hero to a specific group, that group is your target market.
Identify Common Goals and Concerns
Once you identify that target market, the next step is to identify those clients’ common dangers or concerns:
• What keeps your target market clients awake at night prompting them to schedule an appointment?
• Do these clients miss important issues until you bring them up for discussion?
• What misconceptions do they harbor?
• What legal, tax and financial opportunities do you point out when discussing how they may address their concerns and achieve their goals?
• How do you ensure client success in taking advantage of those opportunities?
• What are the common strengths that you find among this target market?
• How can those strengths best be used?
Client Value Creation
Remember that you don’t sell wills, trusts or plans; those are commodities. You sell an educational experience. For example, I have a trademarked client estate-planning experience, “The Family Estate & Legacy Program,” which does just that. It serves as the content for my law firm’s website and focuses on what the clients want. Partnered with “The Estate Settlement Program”—used for estate administration—we emphasize the transformative experience.
Creating a client experience answers the question of why a client should meet with you; this is your marketing launch pad. The obvious distribution channel is your firm’s website. Rather than build a site that talks all about you, showcase the material that speaks to your prospective clients’ concerns.
Multimedia Content Creation
Media, such as videos, webinars and podcasts give you new capabilities and confidence in your marketing efforts. Today’s cost of producing and posting multimedia is a fraction of what it once was. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will your client’s educational experience be so built. If it was that easy, then everyone would do it, but it still doesn’t take a technical guru with loads of cash.
Videos. It’s as simple as recording and uploading video content from your Smartphone—at least to start. Further down the line, it’s wise to produce content that appears professional and not amateurish. Prosumer video equipment, while not quite the equipment that network news stations purchase, is better than your Smartphone, affordable, and easy to use. I converted a 72-square-foot file room in my office into a soundproof video and podcast studio, and there’s little stopping you from doing the same. Nevertheless, have your videos professionally edited. Editors are available on freelancing websites like Upwork.com and Guru.com.
Podcasts. Podcasts are yet another educational medium that you can launch from your website. Five years ago, creating and uploading podcasts was prohibitively expensive. Today, you can record and upload a podcast from your Smartphone. Podcast hosting resources like Blubrry work well.
Webinars. Your clients may appreciate receiving current advice through seminars, but don’t have the time to attend live productions. You can easily produce webinars online via sites like Gotowebinar.com or Clickmeeting.com. It’s uncomplicated and inexpensive. If you know how to create a PowerPoint presentation and can speak articulately, you have the ability to produce a webinar.
Books. A decade ago, publishing a book took years if you were lucky enough to find a publisher interested in your content. Today, self-publishing allows you to get a professional looking book to print in no time. I’ve published several books through Amazon’s Createspace. Self-published books are extremely customizable. For example, with my estate practice systems, adding an attorney licensee’s name to my books for distribution to their own clients is a simple change.When writing books, you don’t have to write a several-hundred page treatise on all aspects of a subject. In fact, you shouldn’t. Your books should be short and limited to a single topic. As you start to build your educational content, you need to consider the multitude of distribution channels to promote your material and attract new clients.
Deliver Content to New Clients
Your centers of influence and existing client base will serve as your best distribution channels. One way to let your referral sources and clients know that you’ve created all of this educational content is via emails. I use both Constant Contact and Mailchimp.
To get the word out in a more personalized fashion, schedule lunches and conduct client or continuing education workshops for your referral sources. It’s easy to register with the state bar, local CPA chapters or CFP organizations to provide continuing education hours to those that attend. Promote your content to your referral sources, and make it easy for them to forward that content to their clients.
Where to spend your marketing budget takes careful thought; otherwise, you find yourself wasting thousands of dollars. Social media like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn fight for your dollars. I recommend hiring a good marketing and public relations firm. They’ll be able to best direct what type of print or electronic media is suited to your market. Personally, I enjoy conducting workshops for my existing client base in my maintenance program and advertising workshops for new clients.
It’s important to have a catch for clients that might attend your workshops. I offer attendees a free book educating them on Florida residency and estate planning, among other things, thereby using content that also promotes my unique educational experience.
It Takes Courage
Having an effective marketing plan is not only about being intentional in attracting the best clients, it’s also about having the right mindset. Many planners loathe advertising. Now, you’re creating something you’re proud of, far from the screeching ad of a personal injury attorney. Creating educational content then marketing that content helps even those who never choose to meet with you.
This is an adapted and abbreviated version of the author's original article in the February issue of Trusts & Estates.