From the May 2008 issue of Wealth Manager Web • Subscribe!

May 1, 2008

Marketing Redux

About two weeks ago a lawyer friend of mine contacted me. He wanted to introduce me to the estate planning attorney at his firm. He said they wanted to "discuss my business" in the hope that we could develop a referral relationship for our mutual benefit. During the meeting, the topic of marketing to seniors came up. I explained to my colleagues that I did have some experience in the senior seminar market, and that I'd be happy to help them in any way I could.

I then discovered that these two highly educated attorneys seem to have little to no experience with marketing. To tell the truth, I wasn't all that surprised. I meet financial advisors all the time who, while excellent advisors, have little or no idea of how to market their wares.

We all have unique skill sets. Some we are born with; some we've acquired. And often, we use a combination of the two. But just because you are a talented attorney or financial advisor, it doesn't always follow that you are a skilled business owner and marketer. And since business owner and marketing expert are completely different, and unique, skill sets, may I ask you a question: What is your marketing plan for the remainder of 2008?

I speak with advisors all over the country. Most are very goal oriented. But when I talk to my fellow entrepreneurs over the phone and ask: "What's your marketing plan for the year?" very few have an answer.

I have not cornered the market on marketing--far from it, actually. I am still learning every day how to be a better financial planner, how to be a sharper business owner, and how to improve my marketing abilities. But I do prepare a specific marketing plan every year.

The Plan

My plan for 2008 is fairly simple: to combine multiple marketing strategies and blanket my marketing area as effectively as humanly possible. This includes 12 financial workshops at a local senior center, two client appreciation events/seminars, two educational seminars, and 12 bingo events--don't laugh; seniors love them!--that are all targeted towards Knoxville seniors. We will also sponsor a senior citizen fund raiser at a local golf course with a six-hour presence at the event. In addition, we will volunteer our time at a pancake festival for seniors this year, as well as donate about 10 days a year to the local Junior Achievement Association.

I have left out a few knowns, but I think you get the picture. At the beginning of the year, I had more than 25 marketing events on our calendar. And most of these events do not cost me anything out of pocket. But the funny thing is, when I speak to other businesses about marketing, they all want to know the one best technique that drives revenue. I tell them all that there is no one thing. It doesn't work like that; believe me, I've tried.

Passive Marketing Strategies

Most of the marketing techniques I've mentioned above are active. They require a physical presence and a considerable contribution of one's time. But we actually combine these active strategies with many passive marketing strategies.

Passive strategies include such items as newsletters, blast emails, and a professional presence on the Internet. You have to weave the passive with the active to really turn some heads your way. Can you imagine meeting with your referral colleagues and being asked about your Web site, only to reply that you don't have one? Really think about the message this would send to certain high-net-worth individuals. Really think about your marketing plan.

These passive techniques can be your silent partner. They will be working for you on Saturdays, evenings and holidays. They can also be used to advertise your active marketing strategies. An effective marketing plan utilizes several passive and several active strategies.

Naysayers

There are always skeptics. I hear and read comments like, "Seminars don't work anymore." Or, "People are burnt out on workshops." But interestingly enough, the advisors and authors who maintain this school of thought usually have little experience in actually marketing via seminars.

I have hosted approximately 50 such events since 2003 and speaking from experience, I can tell you unequivocally that the financial seminar/workshop is not dead. We are a mathematic tribe, right? So let's do the math. There are 77 million or so baby boomers getting ready to retire or who are retiring as we speak. Do we really believe that these people do not want to learn how to safeguard, maintain and grow their wealth?

I leave you with this thought on financial seminars: The American people will tire of financial seminars when they tire of eating and talking about money. And I sincerely doubt that the American public will ever become tired of either.

In my opinion, our industry as a whole needs to take a hard look at our aversion to marketing. Isn't it a good thing to tell people about what you do, especially if it helps society in any way? Marketing is as essential to your practice as your investment philosophy. When you combine both passive and active strategies, a focused and well thought-out marketing plan can pay handsome dividends over time.

To market intelligently you really need to understand your value proposition. Then you need to be able to passionately convey this message to the public. First-class service to your client base is something to get excited about. And the more excited you are about the value you bring to your community, the easier it is to get others excited--thereby compounding your momentum and even your referrals.

Of course, no article about marketing would be complete without a discussion of referrals. Even though we have hosted many public events, referrals and additional business with existing clients is still, by far, the number-one source of revenues for our firm. The reason for this is two-fold: First, we provide a very high level of client service and client communication. And second, whenever we host events, we invite the following three distinct groups of people.

Obviously we invite our clients (1) and they are encouraged to bring a friend (2). And finally, we often send out invitations to potential clients in the community (3) who may have a need for our services. One, two, three: the ultimate trifecta.

Regardless of the fun we have at these events, we've learned that it is our clients and their referrals that are our bread and butter. We do invite others who have been researched via direct mail. But we usually blend them with a sizable number of existing clients and their distinguished guests.

The Solution

The late Ben Feldman had it figured out when once asked the "secret" to his success. He said it was simple: two people standing belly to belly.

We could make it more complicated than this, but it's really not a complicated process. To market in the wealth management arena, we have to get in front of qualified people and share our story. Believe it or not, people really do want to hear your story.

I look back every year and try to identify the source of every new client relationship. And it always amazes me. Many came from referrals. Others were brought onboard after receiving a direct mail piece about a seminar. Still others heard our story when they attended one of our bingo events for seniors.

In the end, we have come to realize that there is no magic bullet. There is no substitute for hard work. And those who begin to implement an annual marketing plan will experience a dramatic change in more areas than I could possibly convey in this article.

By the way, what is your marketing plan for the remainder of 2008?

Jeff Headrick is the owner of Jeff Headrick and Associates Wealth Management in Knoxville, Tenn. (www.jeffheadrick.com) and president of Vision Consulting, a marketing and practice management consultancy for broker-dealers and wealth managers.

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