From the March 2004 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

March 1, 2004

How to Get It Right

In marketing yourself, make sure you stay client-focused

Probably the most common mistake advisors make when marketing their services is to think that telling prospective clients about their technical skills will convince those prospects to do business with you. Consequently, advisor brochures and Web sites are filled with marketing copy that focuses on the advisors. Instead of being self-centered, the focus should be on the prospective client and about the benefits that clients get from financial planning and professional investment advice.

This is a basic tenet of marketing, yet few advisors get it right.

Recently, I was invited to speak at a conference about online marketing, and I wanted to touch on the problem of writing self-interested marketing copy in my presentation. To prepare for the conference and illustrate the problem, I went to my own company's Web site and randomly picked one of the sites my company built. (I own a company that makes Web sites for advisors.) I picked the very first sample site on our list. I was certain any site I picked at random could be used as an example of what not to do because the great majority of advisory firms write their own marketing copy with no help from professional writers. (We have since taken down that sample site to avoid embarrassing the firm that was using the bad marketing copy.)

While I have changed the name and location of the firm, here's what was on their home page of that site:

Welcome to ABC Wealth!

We can be found in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains, in downtown Greenfield, Massachusetts. We provide fee-only investment management services so we can maintain objectivity and have ongoing relationships with our clients, with no conflict of interest. We are a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC and are independently owned and operated which allows us to place our clients interests first.

Our approach

We recognize each client is unique; so we personalize each portfolio to their needs while considering tax efficiency, total investment cost, risk tolerance, and performance. Our portfolios are well diversified, designed specifically to accomplish the client's financial objectives. Our goal is to give our clients the highest probability available of achieving and maintaining financial independence.

What's wrong with the copy? To start, the first thing you want to tell about yourself should not be your location. It should be about how you help people. So the first sentence wastes a reader's time and misses an opportunity to get started on the right foot. Furthermore, unless you're doing a lot of business nationally, nobody really cares what region of the country you are in.

But the big problem with this marketing copy is that it is self-centered: "We do this," and "We do that." It's just "we, we, we." The fact is, your typical prospect doesn't care much about you or your firm; he cares about himself and his money (or herself and her money).

And why even use the word "client" in your marketing copy? Whenever you call someone a client, it reminds her she's paying you, that it's a business relationship. In fact, this nearly amounts to an insult to the personal relationships most financial advisors have with their clients.

Moreover, the text is laden with jargon about tax efficiency, total investment cost, and risk tolerance. Most normal people don't know what this stuff means. You're too close to the topic to write about it unless you know how to avoid using words like these. Instead, stress the benefits and value of getting a professional advisor. And you should be specific. I took a crack at rewriting the bad copy and here's what I think would be better.

Welcome to ABC Wealth!

When your life savings are at stake, you need advice you can trust. You need a financial advisor who is objective; someone who is not paid more to sell you one product rather than another. You need a relationship with a firm that promises always to put your interests first, a firm with proven experience and the right professional credentials.

ABC Wealth, serving greater Greenfield since 1996, can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have planned prudently for your future. Your investments will be conservative, so you won't worry about running out of money during retirement. Your loved ones can be protected. You can set aside money to send your children to college and create a plan to achieve whatever you want from life. Federally regulated by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, ABC is a Registered Investment Adviser offering high-net-worth individuals personal advice delivered by two Certified Financial Planner practitioners, a Chartered Financial Analyst, and a support staff dedicated to personal service.

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