When it comes to hiring a financial planner, potential clients have many choices. It’s crowded out there. There are lots of lawyers, accountants, investment counsellors, and bankers calling themselves financial planners or advisors; add to that the vast variety of titles that financial planners are using, and it makes it even more confusing for the average person. So, how are you going to stand out? How can you bring new business through your door? That mission is daunting, but you’ve got this! Plus, we have some ideas for financial planners that will expand the number of people you reach.
The solution is pretty simple: Marketing. If you think word of mouth is working for you, great! However, there are so many other avenues that could be working for you to grow your client base. To expand beyond word of mouth, you require a plan, a strategy, and some goals. Ready? Then read on! These helpful tips will let people know that you not only provide professional financial planning but are a trustworthy, registered financial planner.
Because you want to grow your business! If you think that the cost is prohibitive, think again. Marketing doesn’t have to break the bank, in fact, a lot of what we are going to talk about takes time, not money. As the adage states, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. According to a 2014 Fidelity Clearing and Custody Solutions study, advisors who are marketing leaders spend 33 percent more on business development, and see 40 percent more client growth, as compared to other advisors. Now’s the time to invest a little and break through the crowd.
Creating a Marketing Plan
Serious question: would you tell your client their wealth was going to grow, but they don’t need to plan for that growth? That it would just happen on its own? I would hope that the answer is “no” or “nope” or “no chance” (if it’s not, let’s talk). Those same lessons you teach your clients about the importance of planning also applies to marketing – you need a plan. A marketing plan outlines how you will promote your services, to generate and cultivate leads, acquire and retain customers, and grow your business.
Like the financial plans and investment strategies you create for your clients, you need to identify goals and objectives and put actionable items in place. We’re all quite comfortable in that space for our clients’ plans. We need to be just as comfortable with planning and investing in our businesses. There is no shortcut. It takes time to perfect your message, but with a good strategy and a bit of investment, you can better connect with your potential customers. For your plan to work, your goals need to be realistic and attainable. Start off small and build on them. Here are six steps to creating a winning marketing plan:
- Cast a Narrow Net: The more competitive the marketplace, the more you need to narrow your market focus and define your target market. Try to describe your ideal customer in the narrowest and most detailed terms possible.
- Set Yourself Apart: What do you do best? Think about your clients’ pain points; what do you do to help them? If you don’t know what those pain points and aspirations are, call up three or four of your clients and ask them why they work with you. If you can create an online survey to reach out to a larger group of clients asking for feedback, then go for it. Look at your competitors too. See what they are doing. How are they marketing themselves? It will take a little bit of research to learn about what differentiates you, or your firm, from the competition.
- Create The Right Message: Now that you have done your research, think about how you want to speak to your target audience. Moving forward, all your marketing materials, including your website, are going to use this voice. Make sure that it will speak to your target market. Developing your company tone and messaging is crucial to ensure you feel confident and consistent across all marketing activities.
- Plan For Success: Think about where you can reach your target audience and make a plan for reaching them. Are they active on social media? Which platform? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram? Do you have a defined location that you can carefully target with ad dollars? Perhaps you have already created a first-class website and want to add a blog with knowledgeable content to show potential clients that you’re a leader in the industry. Whatever your plan looks like, make sure that you create calendars with deadlines for every item. Then hold yourself to those deadlines (if you succeed with this, write a blog about it).
- Do It: This is a big step. An “easier-said-than-done” step. Once you’ve figured out what you’re doing, it’s essential you know exactly how to do it. We will expand on the traditional and digital marketing techniques below that will increase your knowledge base.
- Evaluate and Revise: Track your progress. Revisit your marketing plan. Are you on target? Do you need to revise it? What’s working? What’s not working? This plan is a living document, so don’t be afraid to make revisions when needed.
So you have made your plan. Its goal is growing your business by increasing opportunities to reach your target audience and gaining quality leads. No one lives online or entirely offline. That means that your plan needs to be a mixed bag – make sure it is a mixed bag that fits your target.
If you want to diversify your traditional marketing endeavours, here are some ideas:
Workshops and Seminars:
Not only do you get face-to-face with potential clients, but these forms of marketing are great for establishing you as a thought leader in your focus area of financial planning. To make these successful, keep the crowd small, under 15, and avoid sales pitches. Make sure that the people that you are inviting are in your target audience.
Talking to the media is another excellent way to establish yourself as a thought leader. Are there magazines, newspapers, podcasts, TV or radio stations locally that you could reach out to? Let them know that you are willing to provide your thoughts, blogs, articles, or interviews on financial subjects, It doesn’t cost you anything other than some time, and gets your name out to the public.
We talked about aligning your message with a specific target group, but concentrating on niche groups can narrow that focus even more. Qualified professionals need financial planning advice; is there a group in your market that you could target? Construction Project Managers? Architects? Lawyers? Small-Business Owners? You get the point. You also need to formulate a clear value proposition that is relevant to the niche you are targeting. Now that you found your group, you need to start talking to them – advertise in trade magazines, write blog articles that are relevant and useful to them, go to an industry trade show, connect with them on social media.
- Print Advertising: If you are looking to reach older demographics, print advertising is a viable option.
- Community Networking & Volunteering: Get out and meet people. Join your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, or other professional networks, financial planning networks and events.
- Sponsorships: It’s important to give back. Support local events through sponsorships.
Welcome To The Digital World
Sometimes it can feel like we’re still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to digital marketing and connecting with prospective clients. You might have already made a foray into online marketing. Perfect. Let’s make sure that you’re not making some big blunders that waste money and time.
We talked about word of mouth marketing earlier, and I want to revisit it for a moment. It is a very effective form of marketing, but word of mouth extends beyond person-to-person interactions. If an existing client tells a potential client about you, you know that person is going to Google you. It is crucial that you have an online presence and that it matches that recommendation (we’re going to get into it now).
Digital marketing can be much cheaper than direct or in-person marketing. It allows you to reach a larger audience of prospects, and the return on investment (ROI) is much easier to measure. Here’s a quick guide to our top recommendations for Financial Planners and their digital marketing strategies to stand out from the crowd.
Think of a site as your digital foundation. Without it, all other initiatives we are going to talk about are going to be wasted. Your website is where you capture the valuable leads we’re working to create. You need a site that reflects you, your business, and your target market. If it doesn’t already, then it’s time to update it. Hosting a consistent blog, publishing videos on your site, and linking to social media are all ways to add some life and Google-friendliness to your site.
First off, we need to talk about the legalities of social media and financial planning. There are legal standards by which we must abide. Make sure that you find out what you can and cannot say and abide by those guidelines. Now, let’s talk social.
When it comes to what you put online, make sure that it makes a good impression. It might be the first (and only) chance you have at making an impression with a prospective client (or with existing clients too). Whether your content is in the shape of tweets, Facebook posts, or LinkedIn updates, financial planners must make sure their content is high-quality and reflects expertise. Treat it like your it’s your job (because it is).
Common goals for social media marketing:
- Brand Awareness
- Website Traffic
- Social Audience Engagement
- Lead Generation
When talking about social media, many people tend to lump every single social media platform together. In reality, that is not how it works. Each social platform is a unique channel for your marketing message and you should treat it as such. You don’t have to create an account on every social media network. Do your research and be where your customers are most likely to spend their time. Only aim to maintain the social accounts you can realistically manage. Here are key options for financial planners:
- Facebook is a place to build a community and encourage engagement with your brand. Your Facebook page is like a mini version of your website, which means that you need to have all the basic info about your business – people are looking for answers, make sure you provide them. It’s a great platform to share news, photos, articles from your company, and industry related news with your existing and potential clients.
- LinkedIn is mainly a business to business platform. It is where you can market directly to specific professional designations or sectors. You should primarily share company updates and news and industry-related content. Content on LinkedIn tends to carry a more professional tone with company pages and updates.
- Twitter can be used for sharing content of any type but is primarily used to announce news and post articles. Videos and images are popular additions that can drive engagement. It is a great place to show that you are a thought leader and a resource for people interested in finances, markets, and planning.
Creating a strategy and calendar for each platform is the best way to ensure you maintain consistency in tone and posting frequency. You don’t need to post every day, but you should be consistent in your posting. That said, there is nothing wrong with also being in the moment on social and posting content that is timely and not premeditated. Show your personality and give a behind-the-scenes look into your life. People like authenticity.
If people are looking for a financial planner, odds are they are going to Google. You may have heard about SEO and wonder what it is. It’s Search Engine Optimization, and it means getting your name higher up in Google so that you are at or near the top of search ranked pages. How do you do it? Short answer: website, blog, and social media. Remember to be strategic. By producing more blog content, using keywords, and engaging with your clients online, you are making your business more likely to be an SEO favourite. Another benefit of writing knowledgeable content is that established sites can link to that article, helping you climb up those search engine rankings. SEO will make you Google-friendly, a Content Marketing Plan will make you reader-friendly…speaking of which….
The textbook definition of content marketing is a marketing strategy focused on the creation and distribution of valuable, high-quality content. That means you need to write things that are interesting and informative. It needs to be engaging and entertaining. As a financial planner, your goal is providing thought leadership to your target audience. When content marketing is successful, it can lead to increased brand awareness and customer actions.
Forms of Content Marketing:
- Blog articles
- Case studies / Testimonials
- White papers / Guides
Benefits of Content Marketing:
- High-quality content is the foundation of SEO (here’s some keyword help)
- Connecting with your audience
- Creating value, Building authority and Trust
Common goals for content marketing:
- Brand awareness
- Website traffic
- Social audience engagement
- Lead generation
When it comes to generating ideas, think back to your audience. What are they interested in? What are popular topics in your industry? What are the top 10 questions asked by customers? What are the top 5 industry topics you can educate on? FAQs can be a hotbed of information when it comes to understanding what your customer wants to know. Can any of your FAQs be expanded into a full article or infographic? You are an expert – show your clients. Make it useful, make it count. Even if it’s been written about before, add your unique angle, different advice or knowledge. Plus, Google loves NEW content.
Managing Your Online Reputation: Word of mouth isn’t just an activity amongst friends; 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. If you’re not monitoring your online reputation to ensure it is positive, you may undermine your business’s growth. Alternatively, if you have no online presence at all, that could also be a red flag for potential clients who are used to vetting service providers based on the information about them that is available online.
We get it, marketing is difficult and especially challenging for financial planners. You’re selling a service to consumers who can’t tell you apart, and may not fully trust you. It can be a struggle. Baby steps are fine when you are getting started with online communication. Do some research, make a plan, and take your first step. Once it is out in the world, get some feedback, and then take your second step. Follow this advice, and you’ll have the hang of it in no time. If you are looking for something to further differentiate you from other financial planners and to build trust, an R.F.P. designation does both (and is something that you can market!)