My initial interactions with many advisers and planners often start a little something like this:
Adviser: “Should I use Twitter to attract new clients?”
Me: “Er…that depends on your target market.”
Adviser: “Will Unbiased or VouchedFor work for me?”
Adviser: “What do you think to my website?”
Me: “It could do with a little attention.”
Adviser: “What do you think of…”
Me (interrupting politely): “You need a strategy!”
It’s only natural to be inquisitive and want to ask questions about possible solutions to a problem. However, what’s generally called for is more strategic thinking.
There are many similarities between the process we follow at The Yardstick Agency and that of the advisers and planners we serve:
- Your clients seek your advice when they have a problem, issue or challenge; the same is true of ours
- Your clients may have some thoughts about the potential solutions they might employ; as the conversation above shows, our clients certainly do
- Your clients will leave with a financial plan; ours will understand the importance of thinking more strategically and hopefully engage with us to produce a comprehensive strategy
And that’s the most important point to make here: your clients will leave your office with a strategy designed to achieve their aims. What they won’t get is a series of tactics: an Isa here, a pension there, thrown together in the vain hope that it’ll all be okay. If you are used to working so strategically with your clients, why would you treat marketing, the lifeblood of your business, any differently?
Not yet convinced?
There are several key benefits to developing a marketing strategy for your business. It will help you:
- Understand your aims and objectives while identifying the right promotional mix to achieve them
- Develop a deep understanding of your target markets, which is vital if you are to market your business effectively
- To better understand your own business; identifying where you are different or have an edge over your peers
- Analyse the effectiveness of your current promotional mix
- To focus on the right opportunities for your business, allowing you to target your precious resources and therefore saving both time and money
- To understand how you can measure the success of your strategy
Marketing professionals will quite rightly highlight the difference between a strategy and a plan:
Strategy:This focuses on what you want to achieve over the medium to long term, for example, making yourself one of the ‘go-to’ local firms for people who are close to retirement.
Plan:This details the specific steps you will need take to achieve your goals, for example, developing a comprehensive website which can be found by people searching online for a local adviser.
However, it’s probably not too helpful to get bogged down in definitions. As long as it works, who cares what it’s called?
A word about implementation
All advisers and planners can attest to the fact that the best financial strategy or plan will remain just that unless it is effectively implemented.
When it comes to your marketing, that means keeping an eye on the resources you have available to you. There’s little point writing a strategy and plan which would stretch Saatchi & Saatchi if you are a start-up firm being pulled in competing directions and with a limited budget.
Of course, it’s not just resources you need to consider, but also time, knowledge, skill and inclination. There are some notable exceptions, but most of the advisers and planners I meet struggle to find the time to effectively market their business. Others lack the skill or knowledge, which is entirely understandable. We should all focus on what we do best; indeed, I have my own financial planner, while many would rather walk across hot coals than market their business on social media or write a blog.
That means putting together not only an effective strategy and plan, but also the team to implement it. Having a marketing ‘team’ sounds very grand (and expensive!) but it doesn’t have to be. It might include people who already work in your business and have the skills you need or are looking for a new challenge. It might mean recruiting a specialist or outsourcing those elements which you aren’t able to complete in-house.
Whatever the mix, the effectiveness of your implementation will dictate the ultimate success or failure of your strategy and plan.
Over the coming months I’ll be building on the need for a marketing strategy and plan to look at the individual components of each.
Over time this will hopefully become a valuable resource, which will help you market your business more effectively while promoting the value of financial planning to consumers.