For many independent advisors, getting started with marketing can be intimidating. Where to begin? Which tactics are most effective? How do you know if your plan is working? Here, we discuss 10 of the most common questions advisors face as they develop and execute marketing strategies.
1. Why do I need to select a target market? “Select a target market” is often the first piece of advice advisors hear as they delve into marketing. Why? Because marketing isn’t effective unless you know whom you’re marketing to. To get results, your marketing needs to push the “hot buttons” of a defined group of people—that is, your ideal clients. To capture your audience’s attention, your marketing messages must address their specific needs and concerns. If you try to market to everyone with a generic message, there’s a good chance it will end up in the circular file.
For some advisors, the idea of shutting the door to some potential clients, even while opening it wide for others, can be scary. In the beginning of your career, you may have been willing to take anyone who came knocking, and it can be challenging to narrow your focus to a smaller segment of clients. From a marketing perspective, however, it pays to be strategic, targeting the clients you really want to attract.
2. How do I communicate the firm’s essence to the marketplace? Communicating with the marketplace requires positioning—the art of creating a firm identity in the minds of your target audience. How do you want to be known? As the largest firm in your area? The most elite? The friendliest? Perhaps you want to cultivate an image as a local, community-based practice, or define yourself with a particular specialty, like socially responsible investing.
Of course, no matter how you want to be known, you can’t just invent an image out of thin air. Your marketing message must be supported by real facts. For example, having an office in the center of a small town contributes to the image of a community-based firm, while being named to Barron’s Top 100 Financial Advisors supports the image of an elite, nationally recognized practice.
3. Which marketing tactics work best? When it comes to marketing, there are no guarantees about what works. A strategy that’s really effective for one advisor may not be so successful for another. While it can be helpful to compare marketing tactics with other advisors, don’t lose sight of your target market and how you are positioning your firm. Just because 30 people showed up for a Social Security seminar another advisor held doesn’t mean that approach would yield similar results for you. A number of variables come into play, including overall execution, the ideal client targeted, the time and financial commitment required, and the advisor’s own strengths and weaknesses.
And don’t forget: life happens. A freak snowstorm in May could sabotage even the most carefully planned client appreciation event. That’s why it’s best not to put all your marketing efforts in any one basket.
4. How can I create a professional image? Many advisors want the look and feel of professional marketing materials, but they don’t always want to pay for them. As a result, they may get sucked into marketing details better left to the pros. If you want the highest-quality materials, your best bet is to ignore any do-it-yourself impulses and hire professionals to take charge of copywriting, proofreading, graphic design and the other elements that go into creating a high-end image. Your office printer (even a really good one) simply can’t create the same four-color brochure you’d get by outsourcing the job. Remember, appreciating good marketing and being a marketing professional are two different things.
5. Are there inexpensive ways to market my firm? Asking existing clients for introductions is one of the fastest, least expensive and most effective ways of gaining new contacts and potential clients. But many advisors find it challenging to ask for referrals. In fact, if it means avoiding the referral conversation, some advisors are willing to spend considerably more time, money and resources on marketing. Advisors who master asking for referrals, on the other hand, may be able to cut back significantly on marketing expenditures.
Public relations might seem like a free strategy. Yet, when you factor in the time it takes to deploy a successful PR campaign, it’s usually not. A reputable PR firm can usually deliver the best results, but hiring one requires a financial commitment.