Move beyond mere advertising with these 9 questions

Consider more-thoughtful questions to round out a fully fledged plan

Jan 15, 2014 @ 12:01 am

By Kirk Hulett

Advisers' marketing plans often focus on tactics, such as advertising, social media and public relations, without a strategy for selecting those tactics. By asking more-thoughtful questions, advisers can align their audience, message and tactics to increase revenue.

1. What do I offer that differs from my competitors? Most advisers start with the basics: I offer comprehensive financial planning for high-net-worth clients. Great — so do thousands of other advisers. Try the “rule of logical opposites.” Your competitors will never claim they offer inferior customer service, so claiming good customer service won't differentiate you. Keep at this until you find that unique value proposition that resonates with you and your best clients.

2. What are my growth goals? The answer isn't always more clients. Maybe you need more assets from existing clients, or different clients altogether. Review your client list and look for the sweet spot: the right combination of the time they consume, assets accumulated and revenue produced. Knowing whether you need more clients, more assets or both guides your marketing.

3. Who is my target? Based on your client list review, target your message. If your review revealed a large number of clients with small accounts but the potential for gathering more assets, focus messages on client retention, referrals and revealing more assets. If you have a small number of clients who you feel have the majority of their assets with you already, include retention and referral messages, then use what you know about them to find prospects like them.

4. What are my competitors doing and saying? Think about the marketing strategies and messages your competitors use, then look for the markets or channels they may ignore. For example, if Elite Firm is targeting your community's ultrahigh-net-worth, the mass affluent market may be underserved.

5. Do I have my core marketing components in place? Your answers to the questions above comprise your core brand. Now ensure you have the following: logo, tag line and brand design/color scheme; updated, brand-consistent website with adviser and staff photos, services offered and contact info; client welcome kit; brand-consistent office signage; and business cards.

6. Where can I have the biggest impact? Small budgets do best when concentrated in a single effort for a specific period of time, rather than spread thinly over long periods or multiple tactics. If you target business owners, a well-worked networking event may provide more leads (at lower cost) than one radio ad during the college team's half-time show. A full-page color ad in a lifestyle magazine for six months may reach more high-net-worth women than a year's worth of smaller ads in the daily newspaper.

7. How will I measure results? An easy way is consistently asking prospects, “How did you hear about me?” Be prepared for multiple answers — your message probably hit the target several times before he took action.

8. Can I commit? Marketing and marriage often suffer from the same affliction: lack of commitment. Marketing campaigns can take months or years to reach their full potential. Set and manage your own expectations, or you'll never get a true reading of what does and doesn't work for you.

9. Can I afford professional help? Spend your time meeting with clients and prospects, not agonizing over wording for an ad or calling venues for an event. Get professional help if you need it. Depending on your target market, and your ideas for strategies and tactics, you might need an advertising agency, event planner, freelance copywriter or customer contact manager.

Kirk Hulett is executive vice president of strategy and practice management at Securities America Inc. He also hosts a biweekly practice management podcast on


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