Let’s talk about marketing strategies.

Our consulting firm, Herbers & Company, sits is a unique position in the industry. With the number of clients we serve, we are able to see what works and what doesn’t work in the behaviors and initiatives within advisory firms.

And, we’ve found when it comes to marketing, most owner advisors believe they need big marketing strategies to grow their businesses, and most marketing firms, naturally, are happy to reinforce that belief.

However, in our experience, somewhere in the neighborhood of 99% of marketing strategies don’t work for independent advisory businesses — meaning, they fail to get the results that the firm owners had hoped they would achieve.

Also, in our experience, there are two major reasons why marketing plans don’t work for most firms. The first reason is that most owner advisors use creating a marketing plan as an opportunity to talk about their services.

Why is this a problem? As interesting as most owner advisors and their firms are, most prospective clients are far more interested in how a financial advisor and their firm makes them feel. Sorry to say, but they don’t really care that much about you.

The second reason that most marketing plans don’t work for advisory firms is that most people confuse “creating” with marketing. (Again, many marketing firms sell this approach, because they get paid for creating things— websites, brochures, pitchbooks, etc. — and because firm owners usually get very excited about “cool” materials, too.

I know, creating things is fun, and creating cool, pretty materials about you and your business is even more fun. I get that. (And as long as you don’t expect your cool, pretty creations to actually attract more clients, knock yourself out.)

But if you’re interested in creating a marketing program that brings in new clients, be prepared to get bored, relatively quickly. Because, in general, successful marketing is very boring. That’s because when you find a program that works, there’s rarely any reason to change it. That is, you don’t need to “keep it cool” and new.

As an example, consider the Geico Gecko, which first appeared in 1999. That was 20 years ago and Geico Insurance is still using that campaign. The takeaway here is that once you find a marketing campaign that works, don’t get bored or greedy or creative—and mess it up.

Building a good marketing strategy is simply about finding something that works, and sticking with it. For financial advisory businesses, what ALWAYS works is better communication with prospects and clients.  And, that’s what you should be constantly pursing.

Where to Start

Here’s where to begin: learn to communicate better. And the best communication is often, non-verbal on your part.

Let me use a different example. What makes one restaurant different from other restaurants?  Sometimes, the food is better, or more expensive or less expensive, but for most people, they go regularly to restaurants where they like the people, where they are friendly, helpful, and make people feel liked, wanted — and welcome. In other words, where you feel you “belong.”

The same is true about independent advisory firms. The one thing that is unique to every advisory business is the people who work in it. From the owner to the receptionist, there is no other firm like yours.

Your ability to attract and retain clients boils down to just that; the people in your firm. And doing everything you can to make your people shine brighter is by far, the best marketing strategy of all.

We suggest owner advisors resist the impulse to shine a light on the services you offer. The reality is that there isn’t much difference between what firms offer. (And I know, and appreciate the fact, that you think your services are different.)

The only thing that is truly different about your firm is your people and how they work together. And that’s where your “marketing” efforts should be focused; on the people in your firm, and the “culture” they represent.

How do you do that? Simple. Build your culture first and cultivate the feelings within your culture that you want the clients you serve to feel. Here’s an example: You could say on your website, “We offer XYZ.” Or you could say, “We hear you — we listen more than we speak.”

The best marketing comes from focusing on your firm’s client experience and the culture you’ve created to best serve those clients. This is a “feeling,” not a list of what you do for them. So, tell me, what feeling are you cultivating for your clients, for your employees and for yourself at work?

Business is not personal, but relationships are. And clients who feel welcome, heard, and understood are far more likely to talk about their experience with their friends. Find other outlets for your creative urges in your business and instead talk and act in a way that makes people “feel” good.

In the end, the best marketing of all, is (of course) word of mouth. And, word of mouth costs nothing, though you won’t hear that from marketing firms.

Angie Herbers is Chief Executive and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company, an independent growth consultancy for financial advisory firms. She can be contacted at www.HerbersCo.com.