Angie Herbers

Advisors across the country are inundated with LinkedIn messages, Facebook advertisements and industry publications that generally relay a similar message: If you’re not growing, you’re dying — and the only way to grow is to allocate more of your budget to marketing.

The pressing question for advisors is not how much they should invest in marketing, but rather how to invest in marketing efforts that work and that don’t simply drain their budgets without funneling new revenue back into the firm.

What’s most important in understanding how marketing services work best for advisory firms is having a strong grasp of the foundations of great marketing. Ultimately, it’s a math problem, and if you get this formula right, growth will happen naturally.

Here are the three key fundamentals to getting your marketing formula headed in the right direction:

Marketing Fundamental #1: Good marketing disqualifies as many prospects as it qualifies.

If someone is not the right fit for your business, then it should be clear to them even before they reach out to you for an initial consultation. Marketing needs to disqualify prospects for you. If it doesn’t, you waste a lot of time and energy dealing with prospects (and sometimes clients) you don’t want to work with.

Business consultants often say that when you’re successful, you have to say “no” as much as, or even more than, you say “yes.” Good marketing operates on a similar principle — your funnel of new leads has to be narrow enough to prevent the wrong prospects from getting through it. In this case, the prospects are saying “no” to you, rather than vice versa — saving you time and energy.

Disqualifying the wrong prospects without scaring away the right ones is a bit of an art. It begins with having a story about who you are and what’s most important to you — and knowing how that story supports the type of client you really want to serve. A large part of your story is understanding your ideal client so well that you know exactly what they want in an advisory relationship.

You might hear this referred to as a “niche” or an “ideal client persona.”

The mistake most advisory firms make when attempting to find their niche is focusing solely on what is in a client’s bank account to determine the client’s persona. Instead, you need to know what your client wants in order to make your marketing efforts work.

To understand the ideal client, many consultants tell advisors to fill out worksheets and write down characteristics of this client. While some may find that to be a helpful exercise, we believe if you cannot identify your ideal client using only pictures, then you don’t know them well enough. When we work with a client to help them find their niche, we use a picture board, which is a series of photographs that show what clients value and illustrate their relationships with their money.

The picture board can include images representing gender or where they most like to eat. For example, do they prefer fast food places like In-N-Out Burger, or do they prefer Michelin-rated restaurants? What kind of house do they live in?

Do they wear a watch — and if they do, is it an Apple Watch, Swiss-made or other? What kind of clothes do they wear? Are they an executive in New York or a creative type who lives in a downtown loft with floor-to-ceiling windows?

To understand the deeper needs of a person, you first need to have a clear picture of how they use their money. A person may have $1 million in the bank, but you have to go deeper than that surface level number. What does the $1 million represent to them?

Marketing Fundamental #2: Consistency is king.

Once you know your ideal client, be willing to let go of anything you’re doing that isn’t focused on marketing to that client. The key to marketing is identifying the one thing you do that works best for this ideal client and continuing to do it.

Often when we begin to work with advisory firms on marketing, they are producing a lot of marketing content while also trying to hit a magic number, such as “likes” on social media or increased website traffic, etc.

However, the primary success metric of marketing programs is new clients, and the fastest way to get them (not counting client referrals) is through consistency in your marketing programs, not more marketing programs. It only takes one focused blog, podcast, email campaign, etc., to spur growth.

Through years of working with top-performing advisory firms, I’ve learned that when it comes to marketing programs, it’s best to keep it very simple. We focus on one or two things that a firm can do consistently — and without stopping. In many cases, doing one thing really well and doing it consistently, on a schedule and without any stoppage, is far more effective than doing more marketing.

Marketing Fundamentals #3: Marketing is a math problem.

Once you know your ideal client and have one or two consistent marketing programs to attract and retain them, marketing becomes a math problem. In other words, data tells you everything you need to know about what is working and what isn’t.

What data do you track? Let’s start with what not to track: email open rates, website hits, podcast listeners numbers, etc. Tracking marketing data comes down to one amazingly simple metric: lead flow. How many people are contacting you for an initial appointment?

Over the years, I’ve seen many marketing programs that have great email open rates and a large number of followers on social media. However, many of those programs, while popular, are not producing new clients.

You can have a great social media presence with thousands of followers, an email open rate that is off the charts and tons of website traffic — but if you aren’t getting people to reach out and schedule appointments, those efforts don’t matter.

Making your marketing programs work is all about knowing your clients, doing what works consistently and then expanding on what you do well based on your lead flow. Simply put, great marketing comes down to finding what works, not changing it and never stopping it.

Angie Herbers is an independent consultant to the advisory industry. She can be reached at [email protected].