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We recently held some discussion sessions around the country with some of you on marketing and communication practices in and around your business. The feedback we got from the session was that as time is something that is limited marketing often comes drops to the bottom of the to-do list. This article gives you three steps simple steps to help you think about your business with your marketing hat on.
In the world of marketing today, we’re seeing massive changes resulting from digitisation, demographics and new forms of media. Frankly, there is a lot of clutter and competition for attention, making the art and science of marketing more challenging than ever before. If you’re running a smaller advisory firm, you’re probably not a marketing guru, and if you have a marketing staff, they may not be cutting edge either. That’s OK for now, as most firms are still winning business the old-fashioned way through word of mouth and referrals. But there are a few things you can do to make sure you are relevant in the modern world.
It’s that time of year to begin planning for 2016, and these relatively simple—but effective—steps will refresh your marketing mojo:
Step 1: Check Your References
In the old days, that would mean the COIs [Centre of influences] in your community and clients who offer themselves to speak to your prospects. Today, your biggest reference is the Internet. According to Forrester Research, a potential customer has completed over 50 percent of the buyer’s journey (a fancy name for the selection process) before they ever talk to a salesperson. Maybe you think that’s true for things like cars, but not our business! Guess again.
In all likelihood your prospect, even one referred by a great client, has checked out your website, your LinkedIn profile and any personal or corporate Facebook pages. They’re seeing who your friends are, and if you’ve published or been quoted in any press. It matters (to them) if you don’t show up on page one of a Google search for “financial advisers in my town,” and everything about your website shapes a first impression. Pick a few of your local competitors and compare what we call your “digital footprint” to theirs because that’s exactly what your prospects are doing.
Step 2: Humanise Yourself
I was at a marketing conference recently where the keynote, Brian Halligan, made a great observation: “Companies are a figment of our imagination. We are all people, one human buying or selling to another human.” The irony is that in a machine-age world there is even greater desire to know others and be known, which drives all social media channels. On their computers, people are revealing a lot about themselves.
In our industry, we’re tempted to show how big and impressive we are instead of how human and vulnerable. We take care of people’s money, and while that’s serious business, those humans we serve probably want to know we have a heart, too. Some ways to humanise yourself include producing content (blogs, podcasts, etc.) on softer topics, and making sure you have a Facebook page that just shares who you and your colleagues really are.
I’ve been tracking open rates on the material we publish in our newsletter and our blog, and some of our winners are topics like raising grandchildren or how to meditate. I’ve written about raising millennials, the way dads are underappreciated and how to find sea glass, and those columns sit side by side with our investment commentary and planning tips. When we developed our company voice, we described it as human, caring and candid. What’s yours? That is a question worthy of your time.
Step 3: Tell Stories
Storytelling is an ancient art, but it’s never been hotter than today in terms of communication strategies. Consider Kickstarter campaigns, where people contribute because they relate to the story and want to be part of it. In 2014, Coke introduced a Share-a-Coke campaign where people could get a Coke made with a friend’s name on it by telling stories others could relate to. Storytelling is a great way to have your information consumed, remembered and shared. Every brand has a story.
While we can’t provide testimonials, we can employ a storytelling approach. For instance, why not lead off a retirement planning article with a story about a couple who is struggling to communicate their priorities? Or make your year-end communication to clients an assembly of the top five things you learned in 2015 by helping your clients? Instead of bios on your website, have your team write their stories: “Why I am in this business.” Instead of a firm history, what about a first person narrative from the founder on the journey you’ve made, and how you feel about your clients? You can do this.
These three steps go hand in hand. Storytelling will help humanise your firm. Humanising your firm will open more communication channels, result in a wider array of content and make you more attractive to people. That enhanced profile will show up when people check you out on the Web, creating a much stronger reference point.
Buy lunch for your team and sit around a table looking at how you present yourselves to the market. Then look at other companies you feel really strongly about or admire—outside our industry. Finally, talk about who you want to be, what you want people to feel when they find you on the Web or read your collateral. You don’t need a marketing expert in the room—just be people, thinking human to human.
Gail Graham, FA Mag, View Article Online.