Is your marketing program stuck in a rut? It’s human nature to keep doing the same old things to attract new business — especially when you a) hate disruptions in your routine; b) are busy with clients you already have; and c) are not completely sure what works anyway.
But for the future of your practice, it’s vital to step back occasionally and look at how to reach out more effectively to your target audiences. As the brilliant management consultant Peter Drucker used to say, “There are only two important functions in business: marketing and innovation. Everything else is cost.”
I asked several advisors and consultants for tips on successful marketing tactics. Interestingly, a number of the ideas they shared with me sprang from the work of planner Kathleen Rehl, an early and prolific innovator in marketing to a previously overlooked population (See “Working with Widows,” Investment Advisor, March 2014).
Expressing What You Stand For
Tip 1. Manage your brand, not just your business.
Christopher Norton, Creative Director, Blu Giant Advisor Studios: “A good brand program speaks for you when you’re not there. We work with one independent advisor who travels quite a bit and runs his business from the road. We rebranded his firm, launched a new website and created a video series. He’s now able to leverage his website as a digital storefront, so he can serve clients all over the country and all over the world.
“You want to make sure you have your brand positioned in the best way. Sometimes it’s as simple as updating your logo, or it might be a conversation about changing your business’s name to be more reflective of what you do.”
Tip 2. Focus communications on your target client, not on yourself.
Janet Tyler Johnson, President, JATAJ Wealth Management and JATAJ Life Planning: “To develop an effective marketing strategy, you first need to get really clear on who your ideal client is. Then your website [and other communications] should speak to them about the benefits of working with you. Tell them about yourself in a sidebar.”
Tip 3. Express your key marketing message consistently, no matter what media you’re using.
Johnson: “Along with my advisory practice, I have a coaching business, a podcast and a membership site I run, all under the label ‘Corporate Hostage, No More!’ I’m also working on a new book by that title.”
Tip 4. Get expert help if you need it.
Brett Clarke, CEO, Blu Giant: “We help our clients distinguish themselves from other advisors through story-driven creative and innovative technology, an experience we call hypermedia. We do this in the way we organize the content [of your communications], leading people down a path that explains who you are, what you do, how you do it and why that matters.”
Making an Impact
Tip 5. Tailor your outreach to your target client’s emotional needs.
Roberta Goldbaugh, RTD Financial Advisors: “My personal quest is to help women feel confident about their finances. I’ve led money circles that create a safe space for women, both clients and non-clients, to learn about money and explore their money histories. With our existing clients, I make sure that each woman feels comfortable calling me, knows she can ask whatever is on her mind and finds understanding and encouragement when she does talk with me.
“Through efforts like these, I’m developing a reputation as a go-to advisor for women who are seeking to expand their competence and understanding about their financial lives. Instead of the shame and embarrassment that they so often experience in money matters, they find encouragement and support with me.”
Tip 6. Reinforce your credentials by writing a book.
Barbara Shapiro, President, HMS Financial Group: “My husband, Herb, and I have a full-service financial planning and investment firm with a subspecialty in divorce. We wrote ‘He Said: She Said: A Practical Guide to Finance and Money During Divorce’ [published this year] after seeing divorcing couples make the same mistakes and wrong assumptions over and over again.”
Tip 7. Share information generously within your niche.
Kathleen Rehl, Founder, Rehl WEALTH Collaborations: “I assist advisors who work with a special niche: widows. I’ve created several tools to help their work, including how to market their firm. For example, advisors can download a free e-booklet, ‘How to Attract, Connect and Engage Widowed Clients,’ from my website.
“Even if you’re not up to writing a book or booklet, you can establish your credentials with your target audience by writing short pieces in the local paper, or in your own blog or newsletter. If you’re not a writer, hire a ghostwriter. Just make sure the ideas are yours.”
Tip 8. Seek out community organizations looking for a knowledgeable speaker.
Rehl: “The most important marketing tool I used as an advisor was giving seminars or workshops. I would work with an organization that people trusted, like a church or synagogue, to sponsor these workshops. It was always an educational event — I wasn’t selling my services. But at the end of each event, people would approach me wanting to become clients.
“Public libraries, lifelong learning centers, garden clubs and the like are always searching for speakers. Look for places where your target clients congregate.”
Tip 9. Teach basic financial management in a lifelong learning program.
Sharon Rich, Founder, Womoney: “Starting out, I taught in a well-respected local program, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. I did two- or three-week courses on financial planning basics such as filling out a net worth statement, figuring out a budget, and knowing what financial documents to keep or throw out. Another course I did was ‘Women & Money.’
“I found a lot of clients this way. These days, I’d likely do a course on ‘Best Apps for Managing your Finances.’”
Tip 10. Use online video to set yourself apart from the crowd.