It’s time to start planning next year’s marketing. Without a clearly defined focus, however, even the best marketing efforts can fail. So before you sit down to work on your marketing plan, make sure you’ve got these five foundational items in place:

1.    Vision. Your vision defines what kind of company you want to become. Do you want to be a small firm, which provides a comfortable cash flow while allowing you flexibility? Or do you want to aggressively grow to $1 billion and possibly transfer your firm to the next generation? Your goals for your business will dictate your marketing messages and tactics.

2.    Mission. Your mission is the purpose of your company. Is your company’s purpose to guide your clients toward good financial decisions which they can execute themselves? Or is it to work with them over the long term to help them leave a legacy for future generations? You need to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve in order for your marketing to accurately reflect your mission.

3.    Target market. Your target market is a broad definition of your clients. Some examples are young, high-earning technology professionals just starting to build their nest eggs; retired professionals who need to optimize retirement income; and close, multigenerational families with a strong sense of responsibility to future generations.

If you want your marketing to attract the right client, you need to know who the right client is. Defining your target market will focus your marketing message, provide a direction for your brand and guide your marketing campaigns.

4.    Service model. Your service model is how you deliver and get paid for your services. This may sound simple, but there can be many different models and levels of pricing. For example, you may:

  • develop a financial plan and have the client implement the plan on his own for an hourly fee;
  • develop a financial plan and implement the investment piece, while the client implements the rest; or
  • develop a financial plan and coordinate all aspects of implementation for a percentage fee.

In addition to traditional service models, many firms are introducing tiered fee structures in order to accommodate younger clients. These models provide options for different service levels and pricing, depending on the client’s situation and needs. Your service model and pricing need to be in line with your target market.

5.    Ideal client profile. Once you have identified your clients and how to help them, it’s time to define the specifics of those clients—your ideal client profile. The ideal client profile should include details such as income level, net worth, life stage/age, family structure, employment type/status, personal interests and investment temperament.

Most marketing plans focus on the “what,” but if you hope to achieve your objectives, you also must be crystal clear on the “who” and the “why.” Otherwise, you risk wasting precious marketing dollars on efforts that are too broad. Adapting your message, brand and marketing campaigns to reflect these five foundational items is the secret to truly effective marketing.

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Kristen Luke is the principal of Wealth Management Marketing, a firm dedicated to providing marketing strategies and support for registered investment advisory firms. For more information, visit www.wealthmanagementmarketing.net.