Advisors Can Succeed at Marketing – With a Plan

Nov 26, 2013

One the biggest challenges for most advisors is marketing their businesses. To be clear, there is a difference between sales and JDAWebinarmarketing. Sales is what happens when a prospect gets in front of you.

Marketing is:

  • Getting prospects
  • Building awareness
  • Communicating your message to your desired target marketplace

Marketing is a plan; sales is a tactic.

For the most part, advisors are good at sales and bad at marketing. For that reason, Jerry Lezynski and I co-hosted a webinar last week called, “The Marketing Trifecta: Plan. Connect. Commit: Three Keys to Drive Your Marketing Success.”

While webinars are a great way to deliver content, it is not easy to actually connect with the people listening. There were a lot of questions that came through email and via my Twitter account. This seems like a good place to answer them.

1. “What is the appropriate dollar amount or percentage for a marketing expense?”

Before we talk percentages, I think the first thing to do is to change the term “expense” to “investment.” In most firms, marketing is put into the budget as an expense. To me, a marketing investment in your business can reap years of rewards, making it one of the best investments you can make. Next year, invest in yourself!

Choosing the right percentage (or dollar amount) to invest in marketing is going to be a personal decision, but you still should have a benchmark. In 2011, according to the 2012 FAInsight Study of Advisory Firms: Growth by Design, advisors spent just 1.7% of firm revenue on marketing or business development. I think that is unbelievably low! When marketing is done right, it puts prospects in seats, turns prospects into clients and converts an investment into years of income, from planning and investment management fees. For most firms, 5% of revenue should be a good start, but I would use that as a minimum. I know one firm in Southern California that invests 20% of top line revenue into marketing. They are growing by $30-40 million net annually. Think about what you can afford this year and stick to it.

2. “The advisor – Mitch – that was on the call, was really great. Can you tell me the ONE thing that he does that attracts the most business?”

We were fortunate enough to have Mitch Walk on the call with us to explain his marketing program. Mitch explained that he has a marketing system in his office, backed up by a great staff, which allows him to be in front of as many prospects as possible. Mitch uses client appreciation events, golf, and educational workshops as a way to meet with the friends and family of his best clients. What he described was not a single event or type of meeting, but a proactive marketing system that coordinates all of his activities. He has a plan, a budget, and specific assignments for everyone in the office to help execute his marketing agenda.

3. “Great stuff. Is there anything else I should look out for in completing my marketing plan?”

Absolutely. Marketing is about getting your brand out there. It is about letting people know who you are and what you do. Marketing can help you get people in the door, but the challenge then is making sure you can back up your words. Think about any marketing plan and add the fundamentals of what you do. If the brand does not fit with the delivery, it will be a disaster. As you begin to develop your plan, ask yourself:

  • Am I authentic? Can I really follow through with what I am promising in the discussion? Will my existing clients agree that what I am saying is true?
  • Am I natural? Essentially, you are marketing yourself (as well as your business). It has to fit with who you are. Do your marketing plan and activities put you in a position that does not feel natural to you? If so, your prospects will pick up on it right away
  • Am I consistent? From first contact to after the prospect becomes a client, consistency is very important. Does your marketing effort support your delivery (all the way down to the statements)? If there is a disconnect somewhere along the line, the client will feel like there was a “bait and switch” pulled on them. Make sure your message and delivery are consistent.

Marketing toolkit now available

Marketing takes time, but it also takes a plan and a little discipline. If you weren’t on the webinar, register to watch the replay – you’ll also get a marketing activity calendar to get you started.

2013 is essentially over, as it relates to new business. It is time to start planning for 2014, and the best time to start is right now.


John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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