I’m not a great cycling fan but I am fascinated by Sir Dave Brailsford and his focus on marginal gains.

    Sir Dave changed British cycling from being known for its underwhelming performance to the team taking 60 per cent of the gold medals available in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and setting multiple Olympic and world records at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. 

    Brailsford was committed to the strategy of marginal gains. 

    James Clear’s excellent Atomic Habits explains: “They even painted the inside of the team truck white, which helped them spot little bits of dust that would normally slip by unnoticed but could degrade the performance of the finely tuned bikes.”

    The thing I found truly fascinating about Brailsford was his ability to identify the things which would make a difference to his team’s performance.

    Steve Jobs had much the same focus on small yet significant details.

    What do these great leaders in their field have to do with marketing a financial planning practice, I hear you ask?

    They knew where to focus their attention. They knew what was important and what wasn’t.

    Sadly, that’s not always the case elsewhere.

    Since starting The Yardstick Agency in early 2017, I’ve been astonished by the number of firms wasting time and money on things which make no difference to the effectiveness of their marketing.

    They often tinker obsessively, or make changes which will have no significant benefit.

    They can also be tempted by shiny new things, only to impatiently discard them without any serious analysis of their effectiveness.

    The problem becomes amplified, as the opportunity cost means those who make these mistakes rarely get around to the things which will make a real difference.

    Why are some firms making this mistake?

    Simply, because they haven’t:

    • Identified their target markets
    • Agreed clear marketing goals
    • Developed a strategy.

    Most firms have limited marketing resources. Consequently, it’s imperative they develop a laser-like focus on the things which will make a real difference.

    It makes no sense to agonise over the stock image used on page 10 of a new brochure, or endlessly debate the weight of a font, when things which will have a real impact on your marketing aren’t being done.

    Here are three things firms should be focusing on, but rarely do:

    1) Developing a referral strategy

    The surveys we conduct show clients of financial planners and advisers are delighted with the service they receive and are happy to refer.

    We also know very few firms receive the number of referrals they should, or have a strategy in place to solve the problem. Focusing on the existing client experience, then developing a referral strategy, should be at the top of your marketing to-do list.

    2) Join up the data

    Your Google Analytics data, key performance indicators from other marketing platforms such as directories and social media, and your enquiry log should all be joined up. This allows you to understand what’s working now, and what isn’t.

    All too often Google Analytics data isn’t available, or enquiry data isn’t comprehensibly logged. If both sets of data are available, it’s rarely analysed in the detailed way needed to make meaningful decisions.

    3) Developing processes

    There are several key processes which, if put in place, will revolutionise your marketing. These include processes to:

    • Record enquiry data
    • Nurture prospects until they become clients
    • Ask clients (both old and new) to provide social proof, for example, to rate and review your services online, and to provide testimonials and feedback.

    All three processes are simple to implement yet are rarely in place. Those firms who have them will make better marketing decisions, while improving their conversion rates and driving marketing costs down.

    The moral of the story

    As a financial planner you will focus on what’s important to your client: their challenges and aspirations and ‘the plan’ to solve/achieve them. There’s a high chance you will outsource other disciplines, most notably investment management.

    To achieve the same degree of focus when it comes to your marketing, start by developing a strategy, including a detailed analysis of your target markets and the development of SMART goals.

    You will then be able to test every change you want to make and each new tactic you want to employ against the strategy, goals and target market.

    If it’ll improve the chances of achieving your goals, great, press on. If it doesn’t, toss it in the bin and be grateful you’ve saved yourself a lot of wasted time, effort and potentially money.

    The dangers of not taking this approach?

    Focusing on irrelevancies which have no positive impact on your marketing, and fail to deliver anything but frustration.

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