With all marketing, the devil is in the details… but try to tackle them one at a time
by Matthew BryanMr. Bryan is is 2nd VP, Digital Marketing for The Guardian. Visit www.guardianlife.com
Running any profitable small business is an equation of money and time. How can you save money and reduce administrative burdens, while continuing to deliver an exceptional client experience? It can be overwhelming to determine the right mix of investments to maintain the right balance.
For advisory firms, insurance agencies, and financial professionals these decision points are magnified when it comes to marketing. As consumer expectations evolve, as traditional referrals dry-up1, and as digital marketing creates new complexities and opportunities, the investments in your marketing mix will need to evolve to keep up with consumer behavior. Additionally, not all marketing efforts provide an immediate return on investment (ROI,) which can make the decision to invest time and money blurry for many financial professionals and firms.
Should I be running Facebook Ads? How many seminars should I be conducting a year? Do I need a website? What’s my email strategy? What should I be measuring? The questions for a nonmarketer are daunting. That’s why we recommend that financial professionals “Worry-In-Order” when it comes to marketing. It doesn’t all have to happen at once, it doesn’t have to be a full-blown marketing strategy, and there are some successful tactics that are easier and cheaper to implement before advancing to more complex strategies. Below is a general 6-Stage Worry-In-Order Marketing Framework to consider. While the devil is in the details on each of these strategies, tackling them one at a time and generally in this order, may lead to the results that you are looking for.
Before any marketing tactics are implemented, financial professionals need to have two things in place that don’t cost a thing. First, a key message framework that clearly outlines your story, mission, vision, and values. A key message framework is a clearly worded and articulated value proposition backed-up with tangible proof points. This document will be the guidepost for all future marketing tactics. Second, you must clearly identify your niche and/or target markets that you serve. Picking a target market will help you make clear-eyed decisions on how to spend your limited resources, and can help differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace. Once these two items are documented and identified the rest of your marketing plan becomes a little simpler to implement. Any content you create, social media profiles you update, or emails you send should be connected to these two basic components. While a more defined and detailed marketing plan is ideal, you can always come back to your marketing foundations document and evolve it as you grow.
Social media2 generally comes next because it’s quick, free and easy. LinkedIn is where most firms and financial professionals should start. There are really only 3 things you need to do on LinkedIn.
- 1) Build out an exceptional profile. There is lots of information out there on what constitutes a great profile, so we won’t belabor it here, but make sure it reflects the mission, vision and values that you created in step 1.Tip: make sure it speaks to your target audience.
- 2) Share compliance-approved, value-added content that is relevant to the target audience you identified in step 1. If you work with medical professionals, share content that is relevant to medical professionals. Do not share product information. Share general solutions, planning tips, and strategies all clients should consider. Don’t over or under-share. Three-five times a week is sufficient.
- 3) Finally, LinkedIn should become the lifeblood of your referral base. How? Make sure you connect with all of your clients, prospects, and Centers of Influence (COIs). Use basic LinkedIn search and filtering features to find and see who your clients know. Once identified, then ask your client to introduce you to these 2nd party connection. LinkedIn was specifically built for networking. Use it. Want to know how you are doing? Use these metrics as your key performance indicators (KPIs): # of Referrals Generated via LinkedIn Connections, # of Likes/Comments on a monthly basis (represents how engaging your content may be to your network).
An email newsletter allows you to maintain an “always-on” awareness with clients and prospects. There are many newsletter tools available for financial professionals that provide an ability to easily distribute to something to your target market. Find something that works for you. Ideally, it should be a simple solution that can integrate with your customer relationship management system, and easily allows you to add and remove contacts as needed.
Additionally, you want something that can give you a degree of content flexibility (which admittedly can be difficult in a highly regulated industry). Your content mix should follow the same rules here as it did for social: value added and audience-relevant. Remember to regularly add your new prospects to your newsletter distribution list. The goal of your email newsletter is to remain top-of-mind so that when someone has a question or is ready to speak to a financial professionalsthey think of you first. While email campaigns can also become core to your evolving strategy, start with an e-newsletter first. KPIs for your e-newsletter: Open Rate, Click-Thru-Rate (CTR), and # of Email replies that lead to an appointment.
While setting-up a website day 1 is ideal, it shouldn’t come first. That’s because social media and email can give you quicker and less expensive ways to immediately be findable and generate awareness. When considering investing in a website, be very clear about your goals. For most financial professionals, there are three ways to approach your website strategy:
- 1) Digital Business Card,
- 2) Engagement Platform, or
- 3) Digital Experience
Most financial professionals can get away with option 1, but should strive for option 2. Most firms can get away with option 2, but should strive for option 3. The biggest differences between each option is effort and cost to implement and maintain, and objectives for the site. Here are the core attributes for each approach and the objective. Pick the strategy that works for you and leverage home office or outside resources to get started
Digital Business Card – Be Findable: Simple site design, limited navigation, limited value-added content. It reflects your value proposition, describes the products, solutions, and services you offer, and includes basic contact information. KPIs: # of visitors.
Engagement Platform – Generate Interest & Demand: Digital Business Card + Includes more value-added content, and an active blog that you’re regularly sharing via social media. It may also contain some demand generation tools that allow consumers to engage and/or request more information (i.e. ability to subscribe to your enewsletter, quizzes, quote tools, etc.) Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices should be considered. KPIs: # of visitors, time spent on page, # of names generated from engagement tools.
Digital Experience – Establish a Local or National Presence: Engagement Platform + a heavy focus on content development beyond a blog. It’s fully optimized for search (SEO is an entire world unto itself that probably requires external investment for you to properly execute against). KPIs: keyword ranking, # of visitors, time spent on page, # of names generated from engagement tools.
Seminars and Events
While seminars and events are some of the best ways to generate new business, because nothing digital can replace face-to-face experiences, they require a big investment of time and planning to be successful. Event planners are the unsung heroes within the marketing world, because so much work is done in advance for the event to go off without a hitch.
For a successful event you need to begin planning at least 8-12 weeks out. You’ll need to secure a location, work out logistics (will food be served? Is there parking? Are we serving drinks?), build a compelling agenda, manage the invitation & registration process (create, send, track, and follow-up with attendees), identify appropriate content and speakers, and have your post-event follow-up strategy locked and loaded before the event begins. Events can be hard to pull off unless you’re a firm or a financial professional with proper marketing support. Make sure you are prepared before you embark on an event seminar strategy. Once you’re ready to go, however, seminars are one of the best ways to build and grow your business. KPIs: # of registrants, # of attendees, # of attendees that lead to appointments.
Digital Demand & Lead Generation
Generating demand for your financial and insurance services means creating awareness and attracting anonymous consumers to what you offer. Turning those anonymous consumers into actual names that you can follow-up with, add to your e-newsletter, or set an appointment with is called lead generation. You need demand before you create the lead, and getting both to work requires that you have completed steps 1-4 (and at least have an Engagement Platform for your web presence).
One of the best ways to create demand and generate leads requires active content generation. This means you’re consistently blogging, and have a unique catalogue of content that your audience is willing to give you their name to download (i.e. eBooks, Infographics, White Papers, videos, etc.). It also requires that your website has been optimized for search. The reason being, you can’t always expect a prospect to see your post on social and go to your site directly. Each consumer takes their own journey. The consumer may decide to Google you a day or two after seeing your social post. SEO is complex, and to do it right you will require outside help. However, there are some basic things you or your firm can do to avoid pitfalls.
Basic SEO hygiene includes creating new content, ensuring meta and title tags are updated on your website, and linking to other COI’s sites, and getting your COIs to link back to your site. Now, once the above is in place there are few digital advertising options to consider. While paid search is ideal (i.e. paying to have your site rank higher for a particular keyword search), it’s expensive and complex to manage. For many firms and financial professionals, Facebook advertising can be a quick, cheap, and easy way to generate demand. By running awareness and conversion campaigns that drive consumers back to your website through Facebook’s adverting platform you can easily target specific audiences, determine how much you want to spend, and quickly test & learn to improve your strategy. Facebook provides great resources that show you how to do this effectively (visit: https://www.facebook.com/business/ads).
Marketing is becoming more and more complicated. It’s also becoming more and more integral into the long-term success of financial professionals and firms. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Start small, start somewhere, and worry-in-order when thinking about your 2020 marketing plan.
1- Source of Data: Kitces.com, December 16, 2016 ( https://www.kitces.com/blog/death-of-referral-marketing-for-financial-advisorsin-investment-news-2016-financial-performance-study/)
2- Please check with your compliance team to understand your firm’s social media policy and determine which social media channels are available to you, as well as other rules you may need to be aware of.
Guardian® is a registered trademark of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. © Copyright 2019 The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
Material discussed is meant for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as tax, legal, or
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individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should be relied upon only when coordinated with individual
professional advice. 2019-90328 Exp. 11/21