Whilst advisers tend to be diligent about documenting goals and detailing financial forecasts, by contrast, devising a marketing strategy is often something they leave to the last minute, if they do it at all.
To be sure, most of us these days are thinking about LinkedIn, or writing regular blog posts, or experimenting with podcasts and events, but these efforts tend to be done in piecemeal fashion and are not part of a coherent plan.
So why do advisers often overlook marketing?
Maybe it’s a time issue. Marketing can be an after-thought, something squeezed in after client meetings are held, invoices are sent, and paperwork is done. Or, perhaps more likely, it could be down to a lack of understanding about what you should be trying to do.
If you are lacking some clarity, that’s understandable. Marketing has undergone a significant evolution in the digital era. Where previously you could get away with being more salesy, these days it is more about building long-term relationships around ideas. The emphasis is more on two-way communication and engagement rather than on traditional push marketing. All the more reason, then, to be very clear about what you are trying to achieve.
One answer is set out a plan on a single page.
A useful way to kick-start your marketing plan is to answer these key questions:
Your firm’s identity and brand.
The definition of what you do.
The strategies you use to achieve your purpose.
Timelines, deadlines and reviews.
You can use simple answers to these questions as a starting point, then refine and develop from there. You need to define your overarching business objective, identify your target clients, assess your position amongst any competitors, articulate your unique selling proposition, and work back from there - this will involve asking:
What activities do you need to support your business goals?
What budget in terms of share of revenue are you prepared to allocate to marketing?
Who will be responsible for what?
What are your timescales?
How will you measure your success?
This set of questions should tell you that a marketing plan is like any other business initiative, in that you have to be clear about your goals, your budget, specific objectives, timing and responsibility. And you need a systematic review process so you can see what is and isn’t working.
You should expect your plan to have numerous strategies. For instance, if one of your aims is to increase the proportion of, say, legal professionals in your client base, a supporting strategy might be a series of LinkedIn posts targeting that type of person.
Marketing 101 is all about knowing your message and sticking to it. And when I say message, it doesn’t just mean words. It’s how you present yourself to the world through everything you publish, produce and use - It’s everything from your website to your office design.
The mistake many firms make is jumping ahead to, say, producing a podcast before establishing clearly in everyone’s minds their brand identity and proposition.
So, start with a plan on a single page. There are hundreds of free marketing plan templates on the web, but early in the process it doesn’t have to be any more complex than answering those five questions on one sheet of paper – Who, What, Why, How and When.
By the end of the process, you should have:
Established your goal
Identified your market
Articulated your message
Designed strategies to achieve the goals
Set a timeline
Reviewed and sense-checked all of the above.
When it comes to the actions, don’t be afraid to outsource where something is outside of your expertise. It’s most important that you know your customers and steer the ship, ensuring everyone sticks to the plan. The actual implementation can still be done by external experts, such as content producers, web designers and social media specialists.