Four Marketing Cornerstones for Advisors
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As an independent financial advisor, building and growing a sustainable business requires developing a strong marketing foundation. To attract quality prospects, convert them into satisfied clients, and make it easy for those clients to spread the word about your firm, marketing must be integral to what you do.
But when small business owners think of marketing, tactics usually come to mind first. For example, if you want to promote your firm, you may consider designing a new brochure, increasing your social media activity, or paying for Google Ads. All those activities can help you grow your business, but they are not likely to be effective if you don’t already have a solid marketing foundation in place.
What makes a strong marketing foundation?
Marketing is an all-encompassing term that refers to actions taken to attract prospects and convert them into clients. It involves the messaging, approach, and steps necessary to get in front of those prospects, gain their attention, demonstrate the value your firm offers, strengthen client loyalty, inspire word-of-mouth referrals, and ultimately increase your client base.
Having a strong marketing foundation requires the following four cornerstones to make the tactics and strategies you implement effective:
1. Identify your ideal client
When first starting out, you might be happy to sign any client that meets a set of basic, minimal qualifications. However, once you become more established and wish to scale your business, it’s important to identify who your ideal client is.
Knowing who makes an ideal client is essential to building a strong marketing foundation because it makes reaching and speaking to that client much easier. For example, if an ideal client is a high net-worth individual nearing retirement, your marketing would look different from a firm specializing in working with young professionals who are just beginning to learn about wealth building.
Start by pinpointing demographic information, such as income level, age group, gender, education, occupation, and geographic area. But you’ll also want to go deeper and determine ideal psychographic characteristics and traits, such as their goals, desires, values, interests, and lifestyle choices.
Understand the challenges and struggles your ideal clients face so you are familiar with the opportunities they have and how you can best help them. This information will be core to developing your marketing messages and content and connecting with prospects.
As you do the work to identify your ideal client, keep in mind that this does not have to reflect your current client base.
Are you working with people who already have significant wealth, but you would find it more fulfilling to help high-potential young professionals build wealth?
Would you like to increase your minimum assets under management to engage more high-net-worth families?
Do you most enjoy working with recently divorced or widowed women because you helped a family member navigate this challenge?
Are you interested in targeting a particular profession, such as attorneys, restaurant owners, or real estate agents, because you are familiar with their challenges?
Many independent financial advisors find that identifying an ideal client and niching down allows them to implement more highly targeted and effective marketing campaigns.
2. Identify your competitive advantage
The financial advisory and wealth management industry is competitive. Whereas a generation ago, firms were built almost entirely on long-standing and even inherited relationships and word-of-mouth referrals, building relationships and spreading the word now often requires establishing strong differentiating factors.
Promote your competitive advantage by identifying a value proposition that stands out, including:
Who you are
What makes you uniquely qualified to serve your ideal client? What makes your team uniquely qualified? This may include a mix of education, certifications, background, values, and experience that has prepared you and your team to excel at what you do.
What you do
Not only should you define the services you offer clearly, but you should also be able to articulate how what you do differs from the competition. This may include a mix of tools, systems, and processes that allow you to provide a premium service and top-notch experience. It might involve offering a proprietary set of calculations, software, special insights, educational materials, or high-touch customer care. What sets your services apart that is difficult to emulate?
Why clients should choose you
Working with you is a choice. The alternative would be hiring a competitor, relying on basic services offered by employee retirement plans or financial institutions, or taking a DIY approach to personal finance and wealth management. Building a solid marketing foundation means understanding your competitive landscape and identifying exactly why clients should choose to work with you.
3. Know how you want to be perceived
Whether you realize it, you already have a personal and professional brand. Clients, prospects, potential referral partners, and people in your network already see you and your firm a certain way and have preconceived ideas ab0out you and your firm.
Part of building a strong marketing foundation is getting ahead of your brand or redirecting it intentionally. How do you want to be perceived? Think carefully about this and try to shape that perception genuinely.
Brand voice and tone
Your brand voice is your business’s personality, so it needs to be consistent to be believable and instill trust. For example, you may want to come across as friendly, approachable, polished, or innovative. Your brand tone is a subset of your brand voice and reflects how you express your brand voice in context and changes depending on what you are expressing.
Your brand voice and tone work together to determine how you engage with your marketing audience. Think carefully about who you are authentically and how your ideal clients would expect to be communicated with by an advisor.
All this factors into the language and imagery you use in your marketing. Do you want to be perceived as a wise expert? Buttoned up and polished? Laid back and approachable? Will you wear a suit and tie or pearls in your headshot or a casual button-down shirt or blouse? In your email newsletter, will you use informal language or maintain a more academic voice? These are questions you should be able to answer when developing your marketing foundation.
4. Consider your client experience
Marketing is more than just advertising, flyers, and hosting webinars. It’s not a one-sided promotional activity. Client experience marketing is an important concept that centers on the client as an active participant in your firm's marketing foundation.
If your clients love the experience they have working with you, they are likely to become your biggest promoters. If they have a lackluster experience, difficulty communicating with you or your team, or they feel like “just a number,” they are unlikely to refer business your way.
Building a solid marketing foundation should include setting up systems, processes, and a company culture that delights your clients every step of the way. They should feel well-taken care of and never feel as if referring a friend would take away from their own experience. For example, even if their portfolio is performing well, if their experience working with you gives off the impression that you or your staff are stretched thin, they will hesitate to send business your way which may further detract from your ability to serve them.
Providing stellar service and resources to make their financial life easier should be a cornerstone of your marketing foundation.
Setting a strategic marketing foundation
Like investing, marketing works best with a long-term strategy built on a solid foundation. When you build your marketing foundation upon the four cornerstones I’ve covered, you can develop focused, effective strategies that enable you to grow confidently and sustainably. If you’d like a jump-start on creating your marketing foundation, complete my Marketing Foundations Self-Assessment Worksheet.
Crystal Lee Butler, MBA is the owner of Crystal Marketing Solutions, a full-service marketing agency dedicated to working specifically with independent financial advisors. Since 2011, she’s helped financial advisors cut through the noise to attract ideal clients and grow their businesses using proven strategies that we use with our clients every day. As your “Chief Marketing Officer,” our goal is to help you grow your business and put time back on your calendar so that you can focus on what you do best: serving your clients.
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