By David Finley
One of the most challenging tasks facing financial advisors and wealth firms is attracting and retaining clients. Research by Michael Kitces shows that in the first three years, the attrition rate for clients is as high as 70%, and client acquisition was stated as the number one challenge for firms in North America this past year.
In an age of declining fees, robo-advisors and the continual fight to win the business of high-net-worth clients and younger generations, it has become a challenging marketplace for advisors today. The traditional method of creating a sales and marketing funnel to pull in leads might work well in some large organizations, but not for others. The marketing net is being cast too wide, and advisors keep trying to sell their services instead of building trust by being personal.
I have worked with financial advisors to help them build marketing strategies for over 20 years and have seen first hand some of the best methods to market oneself as a trusted advisor that can actually attract and win their ideal clients. In this article, you will find an overview of the marketing strategy I learned, broken down into five core steps. I hope that advisors can use this as a guide to examine and enhance their marketing approach. If you need help or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
“The essence of strategy is in the activities – choosing to perform activities differently or to perform different activities than rivals. Otherwise, a strategy is nothing more than a marketing slogan that will not withstand the competition.” – Michael E. Porter
The winning combination for your unique strategy should be comprised of two effective marketing tactics: referral networking and content marketing.
What is Referral Networking?
Traditional marketing models generally urge you to go out and hunt for clients. They search for clients through tactics like trade shows, advertising and posting on company social media pages. Instead, when you work within a network of referral channels, you move from finding clients to being found by them. These networks essentially employ word-of-mouth marketing that leverages a group of influencers who share your work and that, in turn, drives clients to your social media pages and website.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing involves sharing authentic content that educates or provides considerable value to your target audience who, when sharing your content, increase your visibility and bring you more leads. Content marketing is different from the traditional advisor product marketing tactics, like creating sales collateral, because it’s educational and not about the product or service you sell. Content marketing includes things like articles and blog posts, e-books, research papers, videos, and even webinars that answer specific questions in which you have expertise.
Follow these five steps to build a winning marketing strategy.
Firstly, you need to determine where your business is heading, its future goals, and why you want to achieve these goals. To do so, it may be helpful to answer the following questions:
1. Clarify your financial and leadership goals to elevate your practice
2. Identify what resources you need to help execute your marketing strategy
3. Budget for ROI from your marketing strategy
Now that you understand the future goals of your business, you need to establish your competitive advantage. Your competitive advantage is the distinguishing factor that makes you stand out from the competition and can lead to more clients and brand loyalty. This is one of the most important pieces of your business and without it, you’ll find it difficult to survive. Follow these steps to determine your competitive advantage:
1. Own your niche
The key to growth as a financial advisor is not just serving your clients better than any other advisor, but figuring out what makes you different from the rest. Your niche enables you to stand out against the competition who are usually generalists. It is easier to become the go-to-choice and authority when you own a niche market. You’ll also realize that referral partners will be easier to find because you can work with those who share your niche, and that will help to leverage more targeted networks and build your practice.
2. Define your value proposition
Your value proposition is a statement that describes why someone should do business with you. It convinces a potential client why they should choose to work with you over the competition. It is best to build this value proposition around your persona and not a product or firm as people are more inclined to buy from people, not from corporate entities.
3. Determine your positioning
How are you positioned relative to other top advisors? You must position yourself uniquely to stand out in your target market’s mind. To do this, you must determine the competitive landscape you are working in, to be able to understand how you fit into the marketplace. Once you know the landscape you’re working in, define a clear value position that creates a point of reference for people to remember you by.
4. Define and target your dream clients
Take time to define your dream client and try to be as specific as possible. When you are clear about exactly who your ideal client is, then you can create marketing messages that make them feel like you are speaking directly to them because you know them so well. Here are some questions to help you define your dream client:
“A brand image is not simply a trademark, a design, a slogan, or an easily remembered picture. It is a studiously crafted personality profile of an individual, institution, corporation, product or service.” - Daniel J. Boorstin
Your brand identity refers to the way you communicate with the world, and it creates an experience that encourages potential clients to engage with you. It is the mental and emotional association in the consumer’s mind about you, and it is fundamental to your success.
Ensure that you have these 3 elements in your unique brand identity:
1. The big idea
What’s your one big idea, the central theme, and the essence of your brand? You should have an idea or theme that captures who you are and what you stand for. Ensure that whatever your big idea may be, it aligns with every aspect of your business, including your solutions, messaging and service experience.
2. Great design and creative materials
Are you investing sufficiently in the right innovative designs for both online and offline work? A vast majority of financial advisors go cheap on materials and design. Great ideas are often wasted by poor design. Ensure that your design represents the overall essence of your company and that it is consistent across all your online and offline marketing materials so that when people see your design, they recognize you.
3. Packaging your brand
What printed collaterals and online designs do you need to market yourself? Once you have established what you need, see if you have the required in-house capabilities to create your designs. If not, look for the design company that can accurately convey the essence of your brand. Working with a company is an excellent way to have them help you come up with your brand identity if you are stuck.
I’m sure you have heard the phrase ‘content is king’, and this is definitely true. One proven way to establish yourself as an industry thought-leader is by creating and publishing your own content that is of value to your audience. Here are some tips on how to get started and what channels to share your content on:
1. Consistently publish engaging content
Two types of content typically work well for the readership: strategic reads that mention influencers and thought-leadership pieces that demonstrate your expertise. Strategic reads are forms of content like influencer lists, and thought-leadership pieces provide your view on an industry subject. To keep your readership consistent, you would want to publish one or two pieces of content a week and may want to create an editorial calendar to help with planning. Leverage multiple forms of content from blogs, email newsletters, whitepapers, videos, and lead magnets.
2. Create a high-converting website
Think of your website as one of your central marketing hubs. It is the start to a deeper customer experience with you and traffic will be driven there from areas like your social media pages, ads, organic searches and in-person events. As visitors are getting a taste of what it is like to work with you from your site, you must make sure it is easy for users to navigate, has fast loading times and uses lots of images to grab visitors' attention. Learn how to optimize your website correctly because if prospects are coming to your site and not converting into leads and in-person meeting then you’re leaving significant business opportunities on the table.
3. Build a powerful social media identity
Do you have social media accounts? You will find many advisors on Twitter and Linkedin, and some with Facebook business pages. Instagram is on the rise in many markets so you may want to consider including it in your mix. I recommend starting with one or two social channels and adding in the others at a later date so you do not spread yourself too thin.
Many advisors use quite a bit of industry jargon in their online posts which makes it difficult for their target audience to digest quickly and understand. Creating a powerful social media identity is not just about sharing your work, but it's about creating meaningful connections with potential clients and online thought-leaders, so write in a way that is authentic and relatable to them. Share your content and articles authored by influencers of interest to you to build relationships with them and be consistent with your posting. Your social media pages are a crucial part of your strategy and is an easy place to find new and highly targeted leads, so take time to learn how to do it well.
The key to becoming a successful financial advisor is to build trust with your clients. Your goal is to be recognized as an industry-leading authority in your field, without making your audience feel as if you are spamming them.
1. Research and identify the top-priority influencers
Start by making a list of any influencers that you already know about in your field. You can find more by researching the executives of top companies, speakers from industry conferences, and by looking at existing influencer lists on the topic. This will give you a solid list of potential influencers to follow on Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant social channels. You may want to create a Twitter List of people to follow as the influencer will get a notice when you add them to the list which is an excellent way to get their attention without being too annoying.
2. Listen to the influencers, participate in conversations, and regularly share your content
A great way to start participating in online conversations is to watch and listen to the discussions that influencers are having online. Consider whether they are engaging in conversations that are relevant to your business and meaningful to the field as a whole. Jump in and participate in the dialogue if you have something valuable to add and share some content that they have authored to start gaining their attention. Ensure that you regularly monitor the engagement on your content as well as your digital and offline marketing efforts to ensure a strong ROI.
3. Take an integrated approach
Make sure that your marketing strategy uses a mix of the best channels to reach your clients and engage with the influencers. If you are doing something offline, like speaking at an event, consider how you can translate that event through online tactics like sharing on social media and writing a blog on it. The goal is to make your marketing interconnected so that each marketing tactic mixes with the other. You want to build your organization’s capacity slowly by starting with two or three tactics because if you spread yourself too thin, you won’t get the best out of any tactic.
This marketing strategy is not a static campaign that you can implement and then forget about. This is an on-going marketing project that you need to regularly monitor, in order to get results. This strategy will give you a guide to how you can narrow in and identify your niche, curate and publish valuable content, and leverage referral networks to support your efforts.
No longer can you survive the advisor marketplace by merely sharing your products and services. Instead, you need to know your target clients so well that your marketing efforts can show them that you can help them achieve all of their life goals. Start with this strategy to help you get there.