The 12-Week Advisor Marketing Plan
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Give yourself a year to implement a marketing plan, and it will promote procrastination and won’t be nimble. Instead of planning out your advisory firm’s marketing tactics for an entire year, create a plan that spans just 12 weeks.
I have been developing marketing plans for financial advisors for more than 15 years. A marketing plan gives a firm direction on what needs to be accomplished. The problem is that the marketing plan becomes outdated quickly because the business environment is constantly changing. For example, most marketing plans developed in January 2020 needed an overhaul by April 2020. While a drastic shift in strategy like we saw in 2020 is rare, adapting marketing tactics based on new opportunities and threats is common.
Besides becoming irrelevant quickly, annual marketing plans face other issues:
- The 12-month timeline is so long that it is easy to procrastinate and put off tasks for another day, month, or quarter.
- The goals tend to be objective-based (e.g., implement a client referral program) instead of action-based (e.g., ask 10 clients for a referral), making it difficult to know when the objective has been achieved.
- An annual plan can’t foresee all the things you will learn as you implement various tactics. Your experience and results may significantly change your strategy and tactics.
- It doesn’t anticipate the opportunities that will arise as you succeed in implementing your plan (e.g., speaking engagements pop up, you get invited to be a podcast guest).
- It is not designed to adapt, so when tactics become outdated, the entire marketing plan gets disregarded.
In his book, The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months, Brian Moran proposed a different way to create a plan – by shortening your planning period from one year to 12 weeks.
The argument is that if you develop a 12-week plan, every task will be actionable. With only 12 weeks to implement the plan, you have a built-in sense of urgency that doesn’t allow for procrastination. A 12-week plan also means you are more likely to complete the action items you commit to, making it more feasible to hit your goals.
You can easily apply the framework of The 12 Week Year to a marketing plan. Here’s how it works:
1. Establish overall objectives for your marketing
What would you like to accomplish? Do you want to increase the leads you get from Google searches? Do you want to increase referrals from your clients? Do you want to overhaul your brand and website?
Write down your firm’s priorities that are top of mind. Do not include “parking lot ideas” because you won’t have time to implement them.
2. Break down tasks
On a spreadsheet, use one column to record all the tasks needed to maintain your existing marketing – for example, send monthly newsletter, attend Chamber of Commerce lunch, record podcast episode. In the same column, write down all the tasks required to implement the objectives you identified in step 1 above.
You will quickly find that the number of tasks required to implement all your objectives is not feasible in 12 weeks. Adjust by picking just one or two objectives to focus on.
Here are examples of tasks:
- Write blog on [topic]
- Promote blog on social media
- Contact [center of influence name] to schedule lunch
- Attend lunch with [center of influence name]
- Ask [client name] for referral
- Send monthly newsletter
- Send invitation for webinar
- Research search engine optimization companies
- Choose website developer from companies interviewed
3. Assign each task to a week
In a second column, assign a week (1-12) to each of the tasks in the first column. Include the date of the first day of the week to make visualization easier – for example, “Week 1: April 4.”
Put tasks in the order of weeks required to accomplish them. For example, if you want to launch a new website, the tasks might be:
- Research website companies (week 1)
- Schedule appointments with website companies (week 2)
- Meet with ABC website company (week 3)
- Meet with DEF website company (week 3)
- Meet with XYZ website company (week 4)
- Decide on which company to hire (week 6)
You may not have the information you need during your planning session to include all the required tasks, but you can add new tasks later. In the example above, you will add your tasks to meet with specific website companies to the correct week once you schedule the appointments. You will add the tasks for website development once you know the process and timeline for the company you hire.
If you find that you have too many tasks after assigning them to specific weeks, make cuts. The 12-week marketing plan is designed to keep you accountable and stop procrastination. If you know you won’t be able to accomplish all the tasks, create a more realistic plan.
4. Execute and track
With your 12-week plan in place, all you have to do is follow the plan and execute the tasks assigned to each week. If something new comes up that needs to be integrated into your plan (e.g., a COI you met with asks you to speak at ABC accounting firm), add the task to the correct week. This is not an invitation to add new “shiny object” distractions to your plan. Only include new opportunities that are a result of your previous efforts.
At the end of each week, mark each task as “complete” or “not complete.” If a task is partially complete, record it as “not complete” because you did not accomplish it by the date you set for yourself. You can then copy and paste the task into another row and assign it to the week you plan on completing it.
Count all the tasks you completed and divide that by the total number of tasks for the week. In The 12-Week Year, Brian Moran called this the “execution score.” It is the percentage of the tasks set for the week that you completed. For example, if you meet eight out of 10 tasks, your execution score is 80%.
Moran considered a weekly execution score of over 85% as “success.” Your execution score will be more meaningful if you break out the tasks into many pieces. If you have only one task that encompasses many parts and don’t fully execute it, your execution score will be 0%, which will decrease your motivation.
For example, “podcast” has many components: reaching out to a guest, booking a guest, recording the podcast, posting it on the website, promoting it on social media, and sending it out via email. There are six separate tasks here. If you just put “podcast” as your task and don’t send out the email, your execution score will be 0%. If you break it out into six tasks, your execution score will be 83% (five tasks completed/six tasks total).
Even if you miss one task, such as emailing the podcast, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the efforts had no value. This score is to keep you accountable for executing your tasks and provide insight into where you can make improvements.
5. Use week 13 to analyze and plan
Use the last week of the quarter (the 13th week) to review the results from your previous 12 weeks and plan for the next 12.
Assess your overall execution score for the period. If it is low, did you take on too much, and do you need to adjust expectations next quarter? Do you need to free up time or hire additional help to implement? If the execution score is high, can you take on more next quarter and make even faster progress toward your marketing objectives? And no matter your score, where is there room for improvement next quarter?
Once you have analyzed your completed 12-week marketing plan, repeat steps 1-5 for the next 12-week period.
You might find that you quickly abandon a year-long marketing plan. New opportunities and threats can make your strategies irrelevant, and the long timeline invites procrastination.
If 12 months is too long, 12 weeks is just right. Build a 12-week marketing plan using the steps outlined here to create a framework that supports you rather than weighs you down.
With a shorter timeframe, you can adapt your strategies as needed and accomplish more. The end result? A better marketing system for you and your firm.
Kristen Luke is the president of Kaleido Creative Studio, a marketing agency that helps transform Registered Investment Advisors and their employees into experts in a niche, making it easier for them to stand out from the competition and attract ideal clients. Over the past 16 years, Kristen has consulted with hundreds of financial advisory firms and shared her marketing expertise via industry conferences and publications nationwide.