With today’s technology presenting so many marketing opportunities, why do financial planning firms find effective marketing to be such a challenge? Brett Davidson of FP Advance gives practical tips on how to re-evaluate your marketing strategy to focus on building connections in order to ensure greater success
I’m old enough to remember when marketing was genuinely expensive. Back in the day, at my financial planning business in Sydney, we used to send a letter out with some sort of offer to the 8,000 names in our client database.
About 8,000 Australian Dollars (A$) by the time you factored in postage, printing and preparation time. For a small business that would be a pretty significant spend today. Back in the early 1990s, you can imagine, it was even more painful.
The late Jay Levinson published the original Guerilla Marketing book in 1984. In it he outlined how smaller firms could be great at marketing, without the large corporate budget.
Modern marketing matters
Today, marketing yourself and your business has never been cheaper. Many of the tools you need to do so effectively are now free. For example, Mailchimp for sending sexy looking e-newsletters, and social media tools such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Here’s the thing. Whilst the marketing tools might be free, marketing yourself effectively still requires work, and lots of it. Creating great marketing is still time consuming, even if you outsource it. The only person who truly understands your clients and your business is you.
We live in a world suffering from an ever-shortening attention span, as big news becomes bite-sized and clickbait headlines shout for more attention. Today everyone can produce content. Hooray.
However, simply producing more noise is not effective guerilla marketing. It’s all about the quality. What you put out has to resonate with your target market.
Stay on target
What’s the purpose of your marketing? Eventually it is to generate more business.
However, a lot of stuff I see on social media just goes right for the jugular.
For example, someone who I don’t know personally, but who is connected to people I do know, will send a request to connect on LinkedIn. I’ll accept.
Next thing you know they’ve sent me a long message asking me to buy or promote their services. Can’t we have a kiss and a cuddle first please, mate? It’s a really poor way to promote your business.
All marketing initiatives have to start by creating some engagement. In order for people to buy, they have to have some sort of relationship with you first. For financial planners, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook are not the places to make sales, these are places to build connections.
Whatever you do to market yourself, be it through seminars, social media, blogging, or by making professional contacts, you have to build a connection first. “People still buy people”, as Social Media Keynote Speaker Phil Calvert is always, quite correctly, reminding us.
How do you connect?
You can start by producing material that adds value. Forget about the sale. Be of value first.
In a world which is full of more noise than ever before, quality resonates. Take the time to create something that is worth your audience reading or considering. It’s worth working with just a small audience if they are your tribe. Don’t buy Twitter followers, or send out ads to unknowns on Facebook. Let your 50 or 100 clients be your list, and give them something that’s worth sharing with their friends, family and colleagues. Every one of your clients knows at least 200 people just like them. For even a relatively small advisory business, that’s a ready-made audience of maybe 20,000 people.
Ensure that what you provide is relevant to your audience. The best way to achieve this is by taking the time to identify your ideal client’s top five issues.
For example, if you are targeting business owners as a segment you might come up with the following issues or concerns:
- Business issues
- How much is enough?
- Family issues
- Tax issues
- Reducing time pressure
Once you’ve captured your own insights into your clients’ top five issues, producing something of value for them becomes much easier. But you’ve got to do the work and get inside their heads first.
Could you do any of the following to provide more explanation and depth around your clients’ top five issues?
- Articles or videos
- Talks – Presented at a local Chamber of Commerce for example
- E-newsletters – to your business-owner clients (that they can choose to share with their friends and connections who also own businesses)
- Any of the above sent to your professional connections, that also work with business owners
The golden rules of great marketing
Remember the two golden rules of marketing:
- Make it good
- Make it safe
For example: When your article provides some brilliant insight on the emotional challenges business owners face at retirement, don’t add a salesy ending.
As a reader I get it. I know the rules of the game. If I like what you say I might subscribe to your regular e-newsletter or video to get more, and at some point if I’ve liked lots of what you’ve said, I might even call and ask if I can come and talk to you.
You don’t need to be unsubtle, beating me with a sales stick. When you try to include some amateurish sales hook, or direct approach for business, you scare me off. We don’t have a relationship yet.
As financial services management guru Mark Tibergien said, in his recent article Aspire to Be the Employer of Choice, there is “an oversupply of clients and an undersupply of people to provide advice.” Yet many advisers feel like they are struggling to tap into this supposed oversupply.
Connections are king
The key to success is in getting your message out successfully in a world flooded with content. It’s easier than it’s ever been, but like anything worthwhile, it’s still not easy.
You have to care about the quality. You have to care about the customers you’re trying to do business with. You have to build connections and some sort of relationship with them first.
Build the right connections and your marketing will matter much more to the people you want to work with.
The key to success is in getting your message out successfully in a world flooded with content. It’s easier than it’s ever been, but like anything worthwhile, it’s still not easy
The top five issues for business owners
The following is a list of issues that regularly comes up with clients identifying the concerns of business owners. I’ve broken down each one into more detail, so you can see how we got to the summary list that I included in the main article.
Issue 1 – Business concerns:
- Ongoing profitability or improving profitability.
- Employee issues – hiring, training, retaining good people.
- Pursuing new growth opportunities.
- Just surviving.
- Work/life balance
- Company tax and legal issues.
- Succession (family or external).
- Maximising future sale value.
Issue 2 – “How much is enough?”:Issue 3 – Family concerns:
- Helping the children or grandchildren with education costs.
- Paying for family holidays.
- Helping the children or grandchildren with a deposit to get on the property ladder.
- Doing estate planning to preserve wealth for the next generation – reducing IHT and ensuring the right money gets to the right people at the right time.
- Care issues and costs for the parents of the business owner.
- What happens if the business owner is unable to work due to accident or ill health?
Issue 4 – Tax issues (extracting value from the business in the form of income or capital tax effectively):
- Most tax effective ways to take income.
- How to purchase a business premises or factory tax effectively.
- Getting profit out of the business and into personal wealth tax effectively.
- Minimising any capital gains tax on sale of the business.
Issue 5 – Reducing time pressure and managing the work/life balance:
- Offloading or outsourcing tasks to businesses/people to free the business owner to do their best work.
- Getting organised financially (r.e. personal finances) – someone to handle the paperwork and stuff that goes with it all.
Brett is the Founder of FP Advance, the boutique consulting firm that helps financial planning professionals advise better and live better. He is recognised as one of the leading consultants to financial advisers in the UK. Professional Adviser magazine has rated him one of the Top 50 Most Influential people in UK financial services on three occasions.