For most advisers, marketing is something they aspire to do but never quite find the time, attention or budget to make a priority. After years of talking about marketing with advisers, I have a few theories as to why this is.
One is that marketing is a foreign concept to most successful advisers, who skew either toward a sales or analytical mentality. They don't really "get" marketing as a discipline. In almost all cases, marketing is not on the list of things that got them to where they are. While these advisers may aspire to do more, many wake up every day and do the same things while expecting a different result.
Regardless of the "why" behind neglecting marketing, the prescription is the same. Advisers should break marketing into bite-size tactics that can be prioritized, executed upon against strategic goals and assessed for effectiveness.
On to the five pillars of adviser marketing:
1. Social media. Social media is becoming table stakes for all businesses. For advisers, that means making sure that their LinkedIn and Twitter (and maybe Facebook and Instagram) profiles are accurate and represent them and their firms' brands well. Using these tools to share content, build a following, mine connections or advertise can take that basic presence to the next level.
2. COI engagement. There are so many centers of influence, or COIs, that are important to your brand. Your time is scarce, so you can't be all things to all COIs. What's best? Networking with estate attorneys, the chamber of commerce, industry associations or tech incubators? The right COIs will be able to help you by making introductions, but you also need to be the right COI for them. Whom can you introduce them to?
3. Community involvement. Community involvement can mean many things — from joining the local chamber of commerce to sponsoring a fun run to serving on a nonprofit board. Getting involved with local causes aligned with your firm's mission can help show that your mission is more than nice-sounding words.
4. Media relations. The goal of media relations is to position yourself as the go-to person for comments on investments, financial planning, or market insights in the areas where you do your business. Achieving this goal will enhance your credibility with existing clients, make you more referenceable, confirm the wisdom of choosing you as their adviser and open the door to new relationships.
5. Advertising. My team has explored all kinds of advertising, including radio, television, print and digital — even billboards. It tends to be expensive compared to the other pillars, so it should be used sparingly and with sustainability in mind. I'd also suggest not settling for the easy answers, like placing a monthly ad in the local business journal; while easy, this can be expensive, not so effective, and hard to measure. A very targeted, cost-effective and measurable approach is almost always better.
I'd encourage you to think of these five components as a checklist. You'll want to have several tactics in each of these buckets, and the buckets should be evenly weighted and, again, sustainable over time.
In the end, you will become an expert on what works for you and your practice because you have identified your objectives. You have crisped up your brand for maximum effectiveness. You have drafted and implemented a strategic, tactical, and sustainable marketing plan. And you have measured, watched, and experimented as that plan unfolded.
Pick your route as you begin your journey into the foothills — or as you head from the foothills into the mountains — and find the elevation that works for you and your practice. And don't look back.
John Curry is chief marketing officer for Captrust.