How to Tell Your Own Story

Most ad­vi­sory firms are not sys­tem­at­i­cally cre­at­ing pub­lic aware­ness of their ser­vices. That’s a big mis­take.

Financial Planning - - CONTENTS - BY BOB VERES

Most ad­vi­sory firm aren’t sys­tem­at­i­cally spread­ing pub­lic aware­ness of their ser­vices. That’s a big mis­take.

It’s easy to learn from suc­cess, but you can achieve much more by learn­ing from fail­ure. I, for one, learned quite a bit from a project that did not turn out the way I’d ex­pected. Re­cently, I worked with a mar­ket­ing con­sult­ing firm to poll sub­scribers to my news­let­ter. We asked how ad­vi­sors mar­ket them­selves, among other top­ics. Are they us­ing ad­vanced tech­niques like tar­geted Google or Face­book ads? How much are they spend­ing on mar­ket­ing over­all? Do they em­ploy a ded­i­cated mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sional? Other ques­tions re­lated to re­turn on in­vest­ment. We en­vi­sioned great things, like learn­ing the true dol­lar cost of ob­tain­ing a client, the pro­fes­sion’s re­turn from its mar­ket­ing ex­pen­di­tures and which strate­gies were most ef­fec­tive. So how was this a fail­ure? By the time we ended the sur­vey, we had got­ten back only about 200 re­sponses, by far the low­est re­sponse rate I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced. A pre­vi­ous sur­vey had net­ted 1,554 re­sponses, and the one be­fore that gar­nered even more. What we learned — and I think this is sig­nif­i­cant — is that most ad­vi­sory firms are not sys­tem­at­i­cally mar­ket­ing them­selves. And even if they are, they aren’t track­ing their ex­pen­di­tures and the re­sults. So they didn’t feel com­fort­able fill­ing out a sur­vey. Megan Car­pen­ter, co-founder of Fi­comm Part­ners, the mar­ket­ing firm that worked with me on this project, was not es­pe­cially sur­prised. By her es­ti­mate, wealth man­age­ment and plan­ning firms spend, on av­er­age, just 1.7% of their top-line rev­enue on mar­ket­ing. To put that in per­spec­tive, the next low­est mar­ket­ing spend­ing in the en­tire U.S. eco­nomic land­scape comes from man­u­fac­tur­ing firms, which on av­er­age spend about 4% of top-line rev­enue. Tech com­pa­nies fall in the mid­dle of the over­all spec­trum, spend­ing 12% to 25% of rev­enue on mar­ket­ing. At the high end, the CRM com­pany Sales­force de­votes up­ward of 40% of its rev­enue to­ward mak­ing the pub­lic aware of its ex­is­tence. More to the point, ad­vi­sor mar­ket­ing tends to be scat­ter­shot. It may in­clude tak­ing a cen­ter of in­flu­ence to lunch, or post­ing in­ter­est­ing stuff on a web­site. There may be a client ap­pre­ci­a­tion din­ner thrown in, where cur­rent clients are in­vited to bring a guest or two who might be im­pressed enough with an ad­vi­sor’s thank you speech to make an ap­point­ment and ex­plore a busi­ness re­la­tion­ship. If this rep­re­sents the typ­i­cal ad­vi­sor’s mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, and those ex­penses are not tracked as a line item on the an­nual bud­get, and the re­sults are not tracked ei­ther, then fill­ing out the sur­vey would be a waste of ev­ery­body’s time. I’m hop­ing that this will change — for sev­eral rea­sons. First, I (per­haps self­ishly) want fidu­ciary ad­vi­sors to do a bet­ter job of tak­ing mar­ket share from their bro­ker­age com­pe­ti­tion. The bro­ker­age firms are de­vot­ing huge ad­ver­tis­ing bud­gets for 30- and 60-sec­ond ads on the most pop­u­lar TV net­works and sport­ing

Write about the most im­por­tant changes you want to bring about in your clients’ lives. This res­onates with staff and with po­ten­tial clients.

events, telling the pub­lic they can be trusted (or, in the case of Wells Fargo, that they are work­ing to earn back trust). They are ef­fec­tively de­ploy­ing how­itzers while plan­ners are de­ploy­ing the equiv­a­lent of peashoot­ers. A more fo­cused ef­fort to tell the world about your ser­vices would ac­cel­er­ate the shift in mar­ket share from bro­kers and sales agents to ad­vi­sors and fidu­ciary ad­vice.

That Less Con­flicted Ad­vice

Sec­ond, and re­lated to the first, I think the pub­lic is bet­ter served by re­ceiv­ing ad­vice from some­body who is on their side of the ta­ble, rather than some­body who is mo­ti­vated to win an in­cen­tive sales award trip to Tahiti. But for peo­ple to get that less con­flicted ad­vice, they need to know you’re out there and avail­able to pro­vide it. Fi­nally, I sus­pect that the re­turn on in­vest­ment is pretty high for firms that ac­tu­ally track their mar­ket­ing spend­ing and re­sults. Car­pen­ter points out that most ad­vi­sory firms ex­pect to grow their rev­enue by 10% a year above the “raise” they get from pos­i­tive mar­ket re­turns. No other pro­fes­sion would dare ex­pect to grow at that rate without putting mar­ket­ing dol­lars on the ta­ble. I asked Car­pen­ter how ad­vi­sors could build a solid mar­ket­ing pro­gram from scratch, and she of­fered some very ba­sic ad­vice. First, ask your­self, why are you in this busi­ness? What makes you pas­sion­ate about fi­nan­cial plan­ning? Tell your story suc­cinctly and pow­er­fully in writ­ing, and write about the most im­por­tant changes you want to bring about in the lives of your clients. This sim­ple ex­er­cise not only helps prospects re­late to your value propo­si­tion; it also helps your staff un­der­stand the point of the work that they do — and gets them pas­sion­ate about de­liv­er­ing the ser­vices that you’re pas­sion­ate about. Sec­ond, de­fine why clients would want to work with you. What ben­e­fits do they get from your ser­vices? What are the real-world, hu­man out­comes that you try to bring about? If you look at most ad­vi­sor web­sites, the fo­cus is on the firm, not on the client — which is the op­po­site of what you see in just about ev­ery other in­dus­try or pro­fes­sion. The typ­i­cal wealth man­age­ment web­site pro­vides ba­sic in­for­ma­tion about the firm and its cre­den­tials, along with the process that it fol­lows and a map of how to get to the of­fice. But there’s a bet­ter ap­proach. Tell client sto­ries (anony­mous, of course, so you don’t run afoul of the tes­ti­mo­nial pro­hi­bi­tions), where you de­scribe the pre­sent­ing symp­toms, the type of ad­vice given to solve the prob­lem, the res­o­lu­tion of the prob­lem and the (hope­fully pos­i­tive) out­come. This does sev­eral things: it com­mu­ni­cates the value of your ad­vice in real-world terms, and it also helps prospects re­late to how they can ben­e­fit from your ser­vices. The prospect might be fac­ing sim­i­lar chal­lenges, and would un­der­stand that he or she hap­pens to be the type of per­son you work with. If you can make your story com­pelling, you’ve com­pleted what Car­pen­ter calls the “brand in­fra­struc­ture.” Once you’ve ar­tic­u­lated your “why” and the ac­tual real-world value of your ser­vices, you can move on to stage two: con­tent cre­ation. This might in­clude white pa­pers that prospects can down­load from your web­site or videos where you an­swer ques­tions that clients have asked you about the new tax law, re­cent mar­ket volatil­ity or 529 plans and col­lege sav­ing strate­gies. If you de­velop a reg­u­lar habit of re­spond­ing to ques­tions on video ev­ery cou­ple of weeks, you’ll have a wealth of in­for­ma­tion on your site in six short months. Car­pen­ter also sug­gests some ad­vanced mar­ket­ing tech­niques, like gain­ing a clearer view of your tar­get mar­ket by us­ing Face­book an­a­lyt­ics, us­ing pro­moted posts that reach a very spe­cific tar­get au­di­ence (for ex­am­ple, peo­ple with more than $2 mil­lion in as­sets who own their own busi­nesses and live within 25 miles of your of­fice), and build­ing an au­di­ence that wants to sub­scribe to your con­tent. Those strate­gies fall a mile or two out­side of most ad­vi­sors’ com­fort zones, but they aren’t as hard to im­ple­ment as most have come to be­lieve.

A Lit­tle More Ef­fort

The in­ter­est­ing thing about these mar­ket­ing pro­cesses is how in­ex­pen­sive they all are. You don’t need to spend 40% of top-line rev­enues to make the com­mu­nity aware of your ser­vices. With a lit­tle more ef­fort, you could be gen­er­at­ing two, three, five or 10 times as much aware­ness as you do now and en­joy­ing a re­turn on your mar­ket­ing in­vest­ment much greater than any­thing in the in­vest­ment mar­kets. The re­sult would be even faster an­nex­a­tion of mar­ket share from the brand-name firms that have dom­i­nated fi­nan­cial ser­vices with a sales model. And even more im­por­tant, it would get more of you in­ter­ested in fill­ing out the next sur­vey.

Com­mu­ni­cate your ad­vice’s value in real-world terms. It helps prospects re­late to how they can ben­e­fit from your ser­vices.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.