The Financial Planning Marketing Conundrum (and what to do about it)

It’s the Advice Marketing conundrum.

You want leads. They need advice.

Why doesn’t it all just come together?

Of all the problems most financial planners, accountants and brokers I speak to would love to solve, consistent, great quality leads is up there.

To create a flow of leads that means you can invest more time back into advising, instead of worrying where the next opportunity is coming from, drinking a thousand coffees with potential strategic partners or waiting for clients to refer through.

To be able to connect easily with people who don’t come questioning, but instead know who you are and how you help.

Great clients who come into your office whispering the magic words, “I know who you are. I know what you do. I’m here to talk to you about whether you can help me”

For the most part, though it doesn’t work like that, and the reason is this.

The way expertise is marketed and sold has changed.

97% of advisory firms are simply not doing it right, and many don’t seem aware of the change.

It’s a serious issue. In ignoring it, we run the risk of dying the silent death of an industry that was never quite able to get its message across.

The Issue is One of Choice

Plentiful information has changed the way people seek out expertise. As sure as the encyclopedia salesman stopped selling books, the video store stopped renting videos and the taxi cab stopped having his pick of clients to take home, the goalposts have shifted.

This availability of information has put at every person’s fingertips the power to find all manner of data sets, opinions, suggestions and interpretations online, ready to confirm any bias about money.

By the time most prospects reach you, they’re full of information already. Are they seeking advice or seeking someone to tell them what they want to believe?

What’s the end result of this for you as a financial planner?

Well, put simply, the longer you wait to stake your claim for a piece of online thought leadership real estate, the more anonymous you are becoming an expert.

Hunter or Farmer?

Is it better for a financial planner to be a hunter or a farmer? Is it better to go out and fetching clients, or be skilled at nurturing an existing patch?

In the new world of marketing, we all have to be farmers, just as every business is now an online one.

When information is plentiful, you can’t rely on prospects to come seeking your expertise. Excess information causes procrastination. It stops people from taking action. It may provide the tools for research, but too much research can make the waters muddier.

Throwing money at the problem

Many advisers make the splash in this space. The splash means cash.

They…

  • Run Facebook adverts
  • Run LinkedIn campaigns
  • Pay for a Newsletter
  • Build a website
  • Run a live event
  • Write an eBook

…or any of the hundreds of marketing tactics ready to drain your bank account or your time.

More money has been wasted trying to market financial advice online over the past 10 years that has generated ROI.

Every dollar you spend until you understand the change that has happened is money you’re spending to avoid confronting a reality that you can’t get by on the old methods.

It’s wishful spending driven by a desire not to have to re-learn the game.

The New Game

The new game isn’t about converting. Most clients aren’t ready to buy advice. They’re at one of four stages.

  1. Solution-Sold – ready for a financial planner and just looking for the right one. This is traditionally where the numbers game is played. Find enough people to “pitch” to, you’ll eventually make contact those who are here and ready. Problem is solution sold clients don’t sit around waiting anymore. They’re online, looking for the experts. They’re finding them, but it’s usually not us.
  2. Solution-Aware – They’re starting to look at the options, but there’s no rush. If you meet with them at this stage and they don’t know you already, get prepared for procrastination.
  3. Problem-Aware – They know they have an issue, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to do anything about it.
  4. Problem-Unaware – They don’t even think they need help. “You talking to me?”

Why is this important to understand?

This process may not be new, but the impact the internet has had on it is. If you don’t understand this, you won’t get that the new game is about laying down digital “roads” that lead to you.

You need to start now, because your competitors – more progressive other advisory firms, robo-advice, industry funds, external entrants – are already working to redirect the flow of leads away from you, damming at source.

The remedy requires you to put valuable ideas in the hands of people who will come to realize those ideas require action, and action is easiest carried out with your help.

Which leads us to…

We could dance around this, but it’s time to put it on the table.

Advice Firms Cannot Ignore Content Marketing Any Longer

Content Marketing, as scary as it sounds, is simply about putting

  • great,
  • valuable,
  • useful,
  • actionable, and
  • ultimately transformational information

…out there in a form that is both entertaining, practical, and slightly shifts people’s beliefs.

If that all seems too much, think of it this way.

  • It’s about telling stories
  • It’s about sharing case studies.
  • It’s about helping them understand the choices that need to be made.

Most importantly, it’s about encouraging people to do it now, not later.

It’s what most of you do in a one to one environment already. The only difference is right now, you’re mostly reacting.

  • Reacting to questions.
  • Reacting to changes.
  • Reacting to phone calls, emails and the flow of information.

We want to take it and become proactive.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Why can I just stick with my traditional means?”

1. Why can’t I just create strategic partnerships?

How do you think your strategic partners are going to need to market moving forward? They’re having the same issues, particularly if they’re in the advice game.

Ask enough of them and you’ll soon learn finding clients is only really easy when they already need your help.

If someone’s only looking for you when they need help, that’s not because of you. It’s not because of your marketing. You are not in control, and neither are they.

2. Why can’t I just keep working “the list”?

Phone sales and the numbers game can be effective, but it can be annoying; it can be invasive.

It may be a good way for someone skilled in the dark arts of high-pressure conversion to make money from the hustle, but it’s not a great way to start an ongoing advice engagement. (and that’s assuming they even answer the phone for your unknown number).

If by “the list” you mean marketing to people by email or snail mail, then I think that’s a fabulous idea, but what’s better to market to a list with than gold plated value bombs?

You can’t sell, sell, sell and expect people to stick around and listen forever.

3. Why can’t I just ask for referrals?

You can and you should, but people don’t refer as a favor to you, but because they want to do a favor to their friends. To do that, you need to arm them with information, insight and valuable stories to tell so they can recognize a need.

Guess what. The best way to do that is great content.

It all points to the same answer. Regardless of where the roads start, eventually they pass through a town called Content. It’s your choice whether this looks like a booming metropolis or Whoop Whoop.

The Value-Value Philosophy

The big philosophy underpinning this is simple.

If you want to build a multi-million dollar advice firm, a great business that people will love, you need to create multi-million dollars worth of value for other people in a way that is also great.

So, why not start by creating value now?

I think it’s because of the moment someone talks about “content marketing” a big thought flies around – the big objection: “This seems really time-consuming”

Oh, the time!

Content marketing is challenging when it’s done poorly. When it’s done poorly, it takes times. Lots and lots of time. It’s one of the few things I know where doing it badly takes more time than doing it brilliantly.

It’s hard when you don’t know what to write or what to say.

It’s even harder when that lack of clarity of message comes out in a stream of unfocussed bleurrrrgggh on a page.

Poor copy. Long copy. Boring copy. Copy that is nothing but a sales pitch. Copy that is so unfocused it’s hard to tell what the topic is supposed to be. Copy that is awesome but doesn’t make people DO anything.

Maybe you’re worried about committing to something that requires a day, day and a half, two days a week, writing copy over and over and over again.

If you do it the wrong way, that’s exactly what you’re going to get, but I’m talking about getting it done in 4-8 hours a month instead of 4-8 hours a week.

What if I’m not very good?

Some people worry they write poorly. Some worry about putting stuff out there people just don’t find it useful. It worries them so much, they allow it to get in the way of sharing their expertise more widely.

When Hunter S. Thompson wanted to become a better writer, he borrowed from Hemingway, copying the big man’s best novels out word for word on his typewriter.

He did this to learn the formula and style.

What if I offend people?

If you don’t elicit an emotional reaction from those who are reading your stuff, you’re not marketing.

All marketing is about creating desire and relieving tension. Emotional reactions.

If you want to generate leads, get people coming to you and have them want to work with you, you need an emotional reaction.

What if you don’t offend people? What if you end up building an audience of people who believe in the same things you do?

My Licensee won’t let me

I am not going to go head-to-head with your Licensee on this, but if their concern is that you run the risk of providing advice via your content marketing, then once again you’re doing it wrong.

If the technical side of advice was so compelling, we wouldn’t have this issue in the first place.

Most people don’t want to read about 80% of the technical information in your head.

People use the internet to find only one thing. The information they want to read, not what you or I think they need to understand.

Five Principles That Underpin This

I’d like to share the first two. If you’re interested in more, I’ll share where to get the other three (plus some additional content that will help)

Principle 1/5 – Give your audience what they want.

Most people don’t do the right things with their money. They may need a budget, or to get their house in order with a kid on the way, or make sure they can retire comfortably, or any number of financial strategies that would create benefit.

You know what? They’re not interested in that, and whilst they’d benefit from being taught to be interested, they’re simply not receptive enough to do anything, let alone get advice. When you get them onboard you can teach them the truth, the important stuff. Right now though we need to get them into your funnel so you can eventually do your magic.

The game at this early point is not to teach. It’s not to try and convert either. It’s to attract and nurture.

You need to be able to position yourself as someone who can add value, but do so in such a way that you’re helping without any caveats, not just selling your advice, through the medium of your marketing

You can’t wing this. I say it again. This isn’t a sales skill. Your ability to do this will be defined by how well you know what they want better than they do. The aim is to talk about that, not your stuff.

To quote from the brilliant words of Justine Musk:

You need to shift your focus away from what you want to offer – your advice – and instead display curiosity about what your people want, what they need.

Ask yourself what they would find unique and compelling and attractive that they would want to come onboard and listen to what you’ve got to say.

You see the world doesn’t give you an audience, because you want it or you produce amazing content. The world will give you an audience because you offer them something that it perceives to be valuable and more importantly, very, very valuable.

That is what you need to do in your marketing and to be seen as an expert. That’s what you need to get across in your content principle to need to be consistent.

Principle 2/5 – Be consistent

Do you want to know why adverts have jingles? Why advertising scooters travel around in threes? Why do we like to re-read favorite stories even though we know hit it ends? Do you want to understand why kids like repetition?

As human beings, we like to be able to predict the future. It makes us feel secure. It makes us feel comfortable when things are inconsistent. We like it when having familiar frames of reference.

Now, that’s a bit philosophical, but the point is this: in your marketing, veering from topic to topic, theme to theme, subject matter to subject matter will make it hard for your audience to identify where you fit into their world.

We want to own a certain space. Doing this requires your content marketing to be consistent, over an extended period of time, themed around things that matter to your audience.

Next Steps

One of the most dangerous mistakes you can make in content marketing is trying to give all the information. It’s worse than giving none.

Hopefully, this has been a good primer for you on the power of being able to create a deliberate audience and encourage them to engage with you.

There’s a lot more we could have gone into a, but after all, we’ve only got a few pages.

I do what to share more though because I’ve never felt as strongly as I do right now about the future of marketing advice.

If you are interested in more, we’ve created a Guide with more about the how and some ready-to-go templates

https://www.audere.com.au/tell-your-story/

In includes:

  • All five principles that will change the way you think and a five-step process to make it easy.
  • How to bridge the creative chasm and become a prolific expert, instead of a silent one.
  • Two ready-to-rock templates to start you off (to get on the Royal Commission front foot)
  • A special offer if you make it to the end.

I don’t like to be the hard arse on this, but if you haven’t had your wake-up call yet, let me be clear.

The days of getting by without a platform to get your message across are done.

The window of evolution is here. If you want a great advice business, it’s time to learn how to really tell your story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stewart Bell is an Australian-based Business Coach and Founder of Audere Coaching & Consulting, a specialist coaching firm working exclusively with advice firms to help them build business models that scale. In addition to working with firms through his Leveraged Advice Firm program, he's also the author of Finnovation: The Complete Advisers Guide to Innovating Your Advice Model and 100 Ways To Run Your Business Better. He shares a lot of what he and program members are doing in trying to build the next generation of advisory business models via his website audere.com.au and YouTube channel art https://goo.gl/8tYfZt

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Paul Carrick Reply

thanks Ron
food for thought and taking some action
Cheers Paul

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