Most people mistakenly believe that Thanksgiving has been an American holiday since the Pilgrims and Indians first broke bread together in 1621. In fact, it wasn’t until over two hundred years later that one woman’s campaign of words made Thanksgiving an American tradition. That woman was Sarah Josepha Hale; you know her best as the author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”
Sarah Hale had a simple marketing plan and a pen. She didn’t write about herself; she wrote articles, menus, and poetry that focused on thanksgiving themes. In October 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, Hale wrote a letter to Secretary of State William Seward. Sent with copies of her previous thanksgiving articles, Hale’s letter suggested a way to bring the nation together religiously by dedicating a day to give thanks for its blessings. Seward presented the concept to President Abraham Lincoln as a way to create national unity. Lincoln liked the idea and four days later issued a proclamation reserving the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. The rest is history.
This example of an indirect form of marketing demonstrates how powerful such an approach can be, and how it can be more effective than the more common methods of self-promotion, public relations, or conventional advertising. A carefully crafted and strategically placed message of value to the recipient can attract attention, recognition, and credibility. This credibility marketing compels a response from a self-selected audience. It draws in the qualified market, but goes unseen by those you don’t want to attract. In a time when financial planners and investment advisors face competitive pressures seemingly from all sides, Sarah Hale’s approach can be quite instructive.
Before drawing the direct parallels to advisors, it’s important to understand the challenges in front of us. In today’s media-driven marketplace, there are three challenges all marketers face:
1: We live in a world of look-alike competitors
Due to the substantially similar choices available, it has become even more difficult to objectively select one advisory service over another. The public can’t tell who is competent and who isn’t. Since the alternatives appear to be basically alike, there are no obvious wrong choices–only unfamiliar ones.
2: Advertising and marketing campaigns don’t net the returns to make them worth the effort
Web advertising and sizzling Web sites, unaffordable to most, don’t insure you’ll be noticed or that you’ll be believed. You can no longer assume that you are getting consumers’ attention just because you inundate them with messages. Your clients are buried in clutter. Prospects, inundated by noise, tune it all out. Consumers are tired of having the one commodity that they should be able to control–their own time–be continuously interrupted. They want to initiate contact on their terms.
3: Consumers require qualified information, not just media rhetoric
The media has an inherent conflict of interest. Its stated goal is objective journalism but its hidden agenda is to increase its audience, whether through sensational verbiage, expos?, or cloaking speculation in the guise of objective journalism. At best, the media can conduct and report an honest search for accurate information, but emphasizes only the more intriguing details. The general public’s erroneous perception is that everyone in the media is an expert. Yet seldom do journalists or reporters have any personal experience or expertise with their subject matter.
These three challenges can be met by using credibility marketing, which I define as the use of innovative methods of conveying valuable information that can provide solutions, successful strategies, and preventive alternatives. Consumers start looking forward to hearing from you, and actually seek out your opinion or advice. The media benefits from including your information in their coverage and implicitly endorses your ideas. You appear as the expert and set yourself apart from your competitors.
How do you begin credibility marketing? You don’t have to change what you’re doing, just the premise of what you are doing. Your new premise should be centered on solving client problems. Funny, that’s what you already do! You can eliminate out-of-date, time-consuming, and ineffective solicitation channels.
The point is that you must establish yourself as an expert and give your prospects a reason to find you or pay attention to what you say. Deliver the right informative messages and you heighten your prospects’ level of interest. If you say it in a way people can understand, without talking down to them, they feel good about themselves because they’re understanding a subject that they thought was very complicated. This strategy turns prospects into willing volunteers seeking what you have to offer.