With so many firms — banks, trust companies, broker/dealers, boutique wealth-management shops, insurance companies — competing for the same clients these days, it's important to have an effective marketing strategy. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you're developing that master plan.
Keep It Simple, Stay Committed
According to Jay Conrad Levinson, the self-promotional father of so-called guerrilla marketing — a low-budget and unconventional marketing strategy for small businesses — “The two biggest mistakes made by small businesses are they don't start with a really simple marketing plan, and if they have a plan, they don't stay committed to it.”
Levinson advises small business owners to curtail their expectations about the success of their marketing plan. “Don't expect instant gratification,” he says. Normally, “nothing happens in the first 90 days.” Give it three to six months. By then you should start to see bigger profits or positive feedback. If not, you may need a new plan, he says.
Even if you do see some results, at the end of one year you need to ask yourself if changes are necessary, he says. But be patient. “Even the Marlboro Man needed 15 months to start seeing a glimmer from intense marketing efforts. Then he grew into a cultural icon,” says Levinson.
Market to Your Niche
Grant Hicks, a, Canadian investment manager and a fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute who co-authored Guerrilla Marketing for Financial Advisors (Trafford Publishing, 2006) with Levinson, says an ineffective marketing system generates too many leads outside the advisor's target market.
Hicks specializes in retirement-income planning, so he aims his marketing efforts at seniors. Every last detail — down to providing his elderly clientele plenty of handicap parking spaces to using large, readable fonts when emailing clients — is tailored to his market.
Small Is Good
Marketing professionals resoundingly agree that size matters when it comes to pitting the neighborhood financial advisor against the big boys downtown. According to Shel Horowitz, author of two small-business marketing books, the local financial advisor has at least two marketing advantages over his downtown competitors. “You can position yourself as small and friendly, and you can act more quickly since you don't have to contact a line of people to get a job done,” he says.
Levinson says small business owners can also personalize their messages in a way that advisors at big firms cannot. One guerrilla tactic favored by Levinson is the rental of a luxury box at a sporting event. “Have it catered privately, inviting colleagues and some of the 100 families you are targeting. Then pay to have billboard messages posted, welcoming them to the sporting event,” he says. The worst thing a small business owner can do “is to make his business look like a big, cold, uncaring, bureaucratic company,” says Montoya.
David Baker, an accredited asset-management specialist and investment representative with Edward Jones in Bexley, Ohio, says his company's recipe of “door-to-door, face-to-face, hand-shake and smile communication is time consuming, but effective.” Time consuming is right. According to Baker, Edward Jones requires its financial advisors to knock on 1,200 doors at the outset of their employment with the firm. While this personal approach “doesn't touch as many people as a mailer,” it's far more effective, he says.
Location, Location, Location
How important is it for a financial advisor to have his office located in a chic part of town? “Less now than ever before, because the best office in town is the Internet,” says Levinson. Still, he says, “it's nice to have a nice office because it shows you're doing well. That develops confidence.”
Hicks agrees that the presentation of your office is critical. “Perception is reality. You're building trust.” But the office should reflect the tastes of the clientele you seek, says Bill Good, who runs Bill Good Marketing. “An IRA rollover market financial advisor would make clients uncomfortable if he worked in an opulent office,” he says.