A Procrastinators Guide to Marketing: 6 Steps to Get You Started

A Procrastinators Guide to Marketing: 6 Steps to Get You Started

We’re well into the New Year and your marketing is in full swing, right?  Not quite the case?  Well you’re not alone.  An FA Insight study of advisory firms found “only 50 percent of surveyed firms developed an annual marketing plan and just 32 percent of these firms had a position dedicated to marketing or new client growth.”

Just as you help clients establish a plan for their financial future, a marketing plan is the foundation for your overall growth and future. However, for the same reason individuals put off creating a financial plan, many RIAs don’t have a marketing plan – they find the hardest part is just getting started!

Here are 6 steps, ranging from strategic planning, to tactical management, to return on investment (ROI) results, to help motivate you in the process of getting started:

1. It All Starts with a Plan.

The old adage “Plan your work and work your plan” may be cliché, but is often the difference between success and failure to execute your marketing goals. Start by defining very specific and measurable goals. Try to set short and long term goals that are both reasonable and achievable. Next, develop a strategy which details the tactics, resources, budget, and schedule.

For example; if you’re thinking about updating your website:

  • Assign a staff member to become the project leader to become familiar with the features and benefits of the different website creation firms, content management systems (CMS) and hosting services.
  • Make a list of ‘nice’ vs ‘need’ to have features and functionality. With the increased use of tablets and smarts phones for web browsing, making sure your website is ‘mobile friendly’ is a must have requirement.
  • Determine what internal and external resources are required for design, photography, copywriting, compliance, etc.
  • On average, plan for 2-3 months to complete the entire project.

A great do-it-yourself (DIY) project planning resource found on the Hubspot website allows you download 9 Free Microsoft Excel Templates. It includes everthing from budgets, to calendars and schedules, and can even help with measuring your marketing results.

2. Take Inventory of What You Have and What You Need.

Logo, website, brochure, and social media. Is everything consistent, up-to-date, and how you’ve envisioned them to be?  Does your brand need a facelift or a complete overhaul? 

Begin by making a complete list of everything, and I mean everything, that is client-facing.  Determine what the priorities and goals are for each component. You may not need to change everything all at once. In fact, it’s best to make changes in phases. 

The best place to start can sometimes be your logo because it effects so many other things. Minor design refinements can produce major improvements. The main thing to keep in mind is that you can’t do everything at once. Focus on those areas and activities that matter the most and have bottom line impact. 

And when you make your list, remember to include every touch point to your clients and prospects along the way. Your firm’s voice mail message and email signature are part of the brand image and often a first impression to potential clients. Does your firm’s phone voice mail represent your firm well and does it provide a friendly user experience?  Are all email signature format and information consistent with associates throughout the firm? These small changes can make a big difference.

3. Determine a Reasonable Budget Aligned with ROI Goals.

A question that often comes up is -- As a small business, how much should I allocate on a marketing? Although opinions vary, this fairly straightforward explanation from a SBA.GOV blog post provides some guidance:

‘Many businesses allocate a percentage of actual or projected gross revenues – usually between 2-3 percent for run-rate marketing and up to 3-5 percent for start-up marketing. But the allocation actually depends on several factors: the industry you’re in, the size of your business, and its growth stage. For example, during the early brand building years retail businesses spend much more than other businesses on marketing – up to 20 percent of sales. As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between 1) brand development costs (which includes all the channels you use to promote your brand such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.), and 2) the costs of promoting your business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.)’

Once you’ve determined a budget, develop a process to closely measure both your cost and the return on investment (ROI). There are many ways to do this. Investopedia give this simple example, ‘Take the sales growth, subtract the marketing cost, and then divide by the marketing cost like so: (Sales Growth - Marketing Cost) / Marketing Cost = ROI. How you look at the ROI of any marketing campaign ultimately comes in the form of increased business growth.  The main thing is for you to have a way you track these efforts over the course of the year and beyond.

It’s critical to make sure to also include tracking and reporting in your marketing.  A few examples of this tools that are available include:

  • Website Traffic: Google Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic.
  • Social Media: HootSuite is a social media tool that allows you to measure and analyze the effectiveness of your outreach and campaigns, and share results with easy-to-grasp reports.
  • Email Marketing: MailChimp is an online email marketing solution to manage subscribers, send emails, and an has an easy-to-read dashboard built in to track results.
  • Customer Feedback: Survey Monkey allows you to create online surveys and track those results to receive important intel from clients and prospects.

These and other platforms offer both free and paid versions. Depending on your needs, you may be fine with using the free version. Compare platforms and features before you make your final decision. Often times, a 30-day trial offer is available for the paid version. Lastly, most reporting tools have built in reports that can be customized to your needs.  There are usually online tutorials, some even offer advanced training courses, to get you up and running. You may also want to enlist the help of the many consultants and specialists available either on a one-time basis to get you started or on an ongoing basis to manage things for you.

Schedule a meeting at the end of each month to review your budget and results. Keeping a close eye on expenses will help in the overall performance of your marketing efforts.  

4. Best Marketing Efforts are Leveraged Across All Mediums.

Effective marketing is often the result of finding the right mix. If you try to do it all you’re setting yourself up for a disaster. Determine where you have a particular strength where other firms do not. For example, maybe there is an associate in the firm who has a special subject matter expertise and is good at presenting to large groups. Identify some potential conferences in your market and pitch them with your panel or workshop idea. Then, once you’ve confirmed your participation; announce through your social network, write a press release and send it to reporters who might be interested in covering the event. If possible, record the event and transcribe it into a white paper that can be posted to your website and sent to prospects and clients.

Leveraging your marketing across several marketing medium will not only increase your effectiveness, it’s also the best way to get the best bang for your marketing dollars.  Make the most of the opportunity!

5. Find Out What Works and Do it Better.

Start with activities that you’re most comfortable with and look for the best potential results.  Content marketing, public relations, speaking events are all great marketing opportunities. They’re also repeated activities which allows you to establish continuous process improvements. To ensure success in all your marketing efforts:

  • Start with a clear and well documented plan—that includes a budget, logistics and resource needs, schedule and, most importantly, what do you want to accomplish from this effort?
  • View all marketing initiatives as “works in progress”—always be looking to make small adjustments along the way which can push the needle forward.
  • Conduct after-action assessment—take the time to review what worked, what didn’t, and what needs changing. Analyze all aspects of your effort and set qualitative and quantitative goals for the next time around.

6. In-House or Outsource – that is the question?

All too often, firms view marketing as an all-or-nothing proposition that has to be completely managed in-house by a full time marketing professional. Most small firms, have neither the budget or need to justify staffing a full time associate. Fortunately, there are other options available. Whether you hire a traditional full service marketing or engage with a Virtual Marketing Director – for that, see my article 5 Advantages of Working with a Virtual Marketing Director (VMD) it’s essential to do your due diligence.

  • Learn who they’ve worked with and have them share examples of how they’ve helped firms in similar situations as yours. Make sure they have both strategic and tactical expertise. It’s great to have someone who’s able to tell you what you’ll need to do. It’s another thing to have the hands-on skills to get the job done.
  • Determine your marketing needs upfront; content development, lead generation, thought leadership, media relations or all of the above. Much like hiring an employee, find external partners with the right mix of talent, values, and work ethic necessary to be a true resource and extension of your firm.
  • Start with a smaller project to make the process less overwhelming.  It’s also an excellent way to see if this approach and the firm are a good fit for you.  Over time, you can then formalize the relationship. Most agencies and VMDs work on a retainer basis for a specific scope of work and/or hours each month.

I hope you find this helpful in getting started or improving your marketing. These 6 steps can be the difference between failure and success in your efforts.

Bill McGuire
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Bill McGuire is principal of W.M.McGuire, a full service marketing resource serving the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) community. We help with every aspect of your market ... Click for full bio

Rosie the Robot, Amazon, and the Future of RAAI

Rosie the Robot, Amazon, and the Future of RAAI

Written by: Travis Briggs, CEO at ROBO Global US

It’s tough to find a kid out there who hasn’t dreamed about robots. Long before artificial intelligence existed in the real world, the idea of a non-human entity that could act and think like a human has been rooted in our imaginations. According to Greek legends, Cadmus turned dragon teeth into soldiers, Hephaestus fabricated tables that could “walk” on their own three legs, and Talos, perhaps the original “Tin Man,” defended Crete. Of course, in our own times, modern storytellers have added hundreds of new examples to the mix. Many of us grew up watching Rosie the Robot on The Jetsons. As we got older, the stories got more sophisticated. “Hal” in 2001: A Space Odyssey was soon followed by R2-D2 and C-3PO in the original Star Wars trilogy. RoboCop, Interstellar, and Ex Machina are just a few of the recent additions to the list.

Maybe it’s because these stories are such a part of our culture that few people realize just how far robotics has advanced today—and that artificial intelligence is anything but a futuristic fantasy. Ask anyone outside the industry how modern-day robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are used in the real world, and the answers are usually pretty generic. Surgical robots. Self-driving cars. Amazon’s Alexa. What remains a mystery to most is the immense and fast-growing role the combination of robotics automation and artificial intelligence, or RAAI (pronounced “ray”), plays in nearly every aspect of our everyday lives.

Today, shopping online is something most of us take for granted, and yet eCommerce is still in its relative infancy. Despite double-digit growth in the past four years, only 8% of total retail spending is currently done online. That number is growing every day. Business headlines in July announced that Amazon was on a hiring spree to add another 50K fulfillment employees to its already massive workforce. While that certainly reflects the shift from brick-and-mortar to web-based retail, it doesn’t even begin to tell the story of what this growth means for the technology and application firms that deliver the RAAI tools required to support the momentum of eCommerce. In 2017, only 5% of the warehouses that fuel eCommerce are even partially automated. This means that to keep up with demand, the application of RAAI will have to accelerate—and fast. In fact, RAAI is a key driver of success for top e-retailers like Amazon, Apple, and Wal-Mart as they strive to meet the explosion in online sales.

From an investor’s perspective, this fast-growing demand for robotics, automation and artificial intelligence is a promising opportunity—especially in logistics automation that includes the tools and technologies that drive efficiencies across complex retail supply chains. Considering the fact that four of the top ten supply chain automation players were acquired in the past three years, it’s clear that the industry is transforming rapidly. Amazon’s introduction of Prime delivery (which itself requires incredibly sophisticated logistics operations) was only made possible by its 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems, the pioneer of autonomous mobile robots for warehouses and supply chains. Amazon recently upped the ante yet again with its recent acquisition of Whole Foods Market, which not only adds 450 warehouses to its immense logistics network, but is also expected to be a game-changer for the online grocery retail industry.

Clearly Amazon isn’t the only major driver of innovation in logistics automation. It’s just the largest, at least for the moment. It’s no wonder that many RAAI companies have outperformed the S&P500 in the past three years. And while some investors have worried that the RAAI movement is at risk of creating its own tech bubble, the growth of eCommerce is showing no signs of reaching a peak. In fact, if the online retail industry comes even close to achieving the growth predicted—of doubling to an amazing $4 trillion by 2020—it’s likely that logistics automation is still in the early stages of adoption. For best-of-breed players in every area of logistics automation, from equipment, software, and services to supply chain automation technology providers, the potential for growth is tremendous.

How can investors take advantage of the growth in robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence?

One simple way to track the performance of these markets is through the ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index. The logistics subsector currently accounts for around 9% of the index and is the best performing subsector since its inception. The index includes leading players in every area of RAAI, including material handling systems, automated storage and retrieval systems, enterprise asset intelligence, and supply chain management software across a wide range of geographies and market capitalizations. Our index is research based and we apply quality filters to identify the best high growth companies that enable this infrastructure and technology that is driving the revolution in the retail and distribution world.

When I was a kid, I may have dreamed of having a Rosie the Robot of my own to help do my chores, but I certainly had no idea how her 21st century successors would revolutionize how we shop, where we shop, and even how we receive what we buy - often via delivery to our doorstep on the very same day. Of course, the use of RAAI is by no means limited to eCommerce. It’s driving transformative change in nearly every industry. But when it comes to enabling the logistics automation required to support a level of growth rarely seen in any industry, RAAI has a lot of legs to stand on—even if those “legs” are anything but human.

To learn more, download A Look Into Logistics Automation, our July 2017 whitepaper on the evolution and opportunity of logistics automation.

The ROBO Global® Robotics and Automation Index and the ROBO Global® Robotics and Automation UCITS Index (the “Indices”) are the property of ROBO who have contracted with Solactive AG to calculate and maintain the Indices. Past performance of an index is not a guarantee of future results. It is not intended that anything stated above should be construed as an offer or invitation to buy or sell any investment in any Investment Fund or other investment vehicle referred to in this website, or for potential investors to engage in any investment activity.
ROBO Global
Robotics and AI
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ROBO Global LLC is the creator of the ROBO Global® Robotics and Automation Index series, which provides comprehensive, transparent and diversified benchmarks representing the ... Click for full bio