by Kristin C. Harad, CFP®
Does this scenario ring true? You kick off the year with vigor, eager to achieve. You jump into an array of marketing projects, excited by the prospect of the success you will experience. As the reality of the hours needed to manage multiple marketing endeavors rears its ugly head, you lose clarity on what to do next. Paralyzed with overwhelm, you not only have half-done initiatives but a barrage of marketing possibilities pelt you, amplifying their perceived urgency. Soon you’re doing absolutely nothing or drifting from effort to effort, reacting to the marketing idea du jour, wasting resources, wondering if you’re making good choices. Inertia sets in. Your optimism for all that could be falls victim to a failure to complete.
When financial planners reflect on their marketing efforts, it’s often a description not far from this. Let me share a different approach to how you can plan and implement your marketing in 2014.
Marketing to the Moment
Take a page from my niche marketing playbook—“go small to grow big.” Although this is a mantra commonly used when selecting a specific target audience, it also is a strategy that can apply to your marketing plan.
Imagine what it would be like to have absolute clarity on which marketing efforts to undertake in any given moment. What if you knew exactly where to direct your resources each day, week, month, or year, and you knew which strategies to ignore? Go small, and you will. Plus, you’ll reap big benefits. You’ll feel the momentum that comes from completing a task and building on each finished step. Here’s how to use a “go small” approach.
Dip Low, End High
Write down your disappointments from 2013. What do you wish you had accomplished? What are the marketing actions you failed to execute? Be honest. This is a time to purge the guilt about what could have been. Take the list and shred it. Forgive yourself and move on.
Next, acknowledge what you achieved this year. Which three marketing achievements—big or small—are you proud of from the past 12 months? Push yourself to complete the full list. This completion step wraps up all that was in 2013, frees you up for the new year, and sets a positive tone.
Go Big First
Consider your business objectives and the stage of your practice. Which one of these statements best describes where you are?
- I’m starting or want to start a firm from scratch.
- I’ve plateaued, and I want to reach the next level.
- I want to grow my practice at an accelerated rate (or moderate pace).
- I want to get organized about how I spend my time, money, and energy.
- I work too hard/too many hours, and I need systems in place to ease the intensity.
- I want to sustain my current client level and deepen my relationships.
- I want to scale back.
- I want to change the makeup of my clientele.
- I want to revamp or expand my service offering.
- I want a clear exit strategy.
- I want _____________________.
Make It Meaningful
For the statement you selected (or created on your own), quantify that objective so it depicts your desire in a clear and specific way.
- I want to double my practice from 10 clients to 20 clients within the next 12 months.
- I want to build my lead list by 300; 25 per month all year long.
- I want to deepen my 40 client relationships; increase engagement by one meeting per client for the year.
- I want to let go of the five clients who are draining me and add eight more who match my ideal client profile by next December.
Figure Out the ‘How’
Match your objective to the relevant marketing strategies described below. Which one of these concentrations will most help you achieve your business objective?
- Social media. Share your expertise and educate your target audience through communities and online social platforms.
- Niche marketing. Define an ideal target audience for which you can claim expertise and a specific value proposition; create interest through specialization.
- Branding. Develop an outward display of firm values through firm name, language, logo, tagline, graphic display, and customer experience; generating awareness.
- Service offering. The packaging and communication of services that meet your ideal clients’ needs.
- Pricing. What to charge; how to communicate change; compensation type.
- Relationship marketing. Defined lead capture and communication system; automation of follow-up; prospect conversion and client engagement.
- Loyalty marketing. Segmentation of client base; tiers of service; client appreciation; formal referral system.
- Content marketing. Education, editorial, and entertainment designed for your ideal client through use of written or spoken modes.
- Partnership marketing. Strategic use of center of influence resources and communication channels.
Find Your Focus
When you combine your meaningful objective with your strategy, you have the one focus for your marketing plan. Be sure to set a baseline and your target so you know when you achieve your goal.
Example: In 2014 I will use content marketing to triple the number of prospects for my practice, increasing from seven per month to 21 per month.
Go Even Smaller
In this example, content marketing is a big concept. How can you make that smaller? Which specific areas do you intend to apply this calendar year?
Example: I will use written content through online channels to attract people in my target audience to my website, where they will share their contact information.
Here you have clarified what kind of content, which channels, and what action you want. If you lack a clear picture for how to apply your chosen marketing strategy, seek out thought leaders, coaches, consultants, or access the resources of your professional association.
Delineate What You Need
To make your stated desire possible, you will need specific resources. Outline exactly what you require.
- A platform through which to share my content (blog).
- Outlets with whom to share content, beyond my own site/blog.
- Written content in the form of blog posts, articles, or interviews.
- An online lead capture form that is compelling enough for the right people to share their information.
- Social media accounts that are ready to use.
Identify the Gap
Once you know what you need, conduct a quick gap assessment. What is ready to go and what needs attention? For each step that requires action, go to the next level of specificity.
Assume your website has a form for a compelling ebook for your ideal client. You also have a business Facebook page, LinkedIn account, and Twitter page, none of which have been used yet. The previous five-item list now includes:
- Launch my blog.
- Find 20 blogs, partners, sites that reach my target audience (with a large relevant following).
- Write five articles, so I have content to use or distribute.
- No action needed.
- Select communities to join on LinkedIn.
Now, ask yourself, “What do I have to do first? Which step must precede the others?”
Then, drill down on that step. For example, launch my blog:
- Ask web designer to add blog to WordPress.
- Name blog to fit with brand.
- Provide photo, bio, and introductory paragraph to web designer.
- Draft introductory article.
- Submit article for compliance review.
- Learn (from the web designer) how to create a post.
- Post first article.
- Send announcement to current list with link to the post.
- Announce through social media channels with link to the post.
- Write second post.
Stay the Course
Embrace each step in your plan and carry it through to completion. Check your progress each week (block your calendar to devote time for this important step), and make adjustments to your plan as needed based on results.
Now when you ask yourself, “How should I market myself in this moment?” you will know exactly what the right answer is for you.
Kristin C. Harad, CFP®, is a marketing coach and co-founder of The Mercato (www.themercato.net), an online marketplace featuring do-it-yourself tools, templates, and training for advisers, helping financial advisers develop their content marketing strategies. She offers hours of free marketing training at www.kristinharad.com.
Inherently, you understand the power of “go small,” but you may be scared that if you go too small, you will miss out on the latest surefire marketing tool or tactic. You fear this could ultimately mean the difference between a successful practice and closing your doors.
Keep a freedom list. Jot down any marketing topics, ideas, considerations, and possibilities that bubble up throughout the year, then table these distractions.
You have defined what you want to accomplish and will move to another option on your list when the first task is complete. A list ensures you have acknowledged the option and proactively chosen to take a pass. You do not have to take action at this time. Action can come when you check in on how you are doing or need to adjust your game plan.