Here’s a fun exercise to try. I call it the Focus Test. Go to the homepage of your firm’s website and start reading through the copy.
Give your firm three points for every time the site mentions the problems your prospects face. Add another three points every time it refers to clients and prospects in the second person (“you”).
Now subtract one point for each of the following words: professional, experience, expert, decades, our, we, team, leadership (subtract three points if you see the phrase “thought leadership”—how can so many firms be the thought leader?). Also, take away a point every time you see your company’s name.
What number did you end up with? Is it positive or negative? If it’s negative, don’t be too sad. Most advisors’ websites would fail such a test. But you should be kind of sad. Only golfers like ending up in the negatives.
A negative number means your website tells your firm’s story. A positive number means your website tells your prospects’ story. Which story do you think the people visiting your site (your prospects) will identify with more?
Advisory firms love telling their own stories. “We have more experience than Jimi Hendrix, enough certifications to make alphabet soup, and we’re as reliable as the sunrise.” But that’s not what prospects want to hear. At least not at first.
Relate to Their Problems
Imagine you’re on a walk. A long one. In fact, you’ve been walking all day and now you need to find somewhere to rest for the night. You look up to find a hotel on your right and a hotel on your left. They’re basically identical, and the owner of each stands in the front door. The man on the right calls to you.
“I run a very good hotel!” he shouts. “I went to school and studied hospitality before opening this hotel in 1987. Over the last three decades, we have been voted best hotel in the city three times. We have sparkling clean rooms, cleaned by a professional housekeeping staff that was trained at the International Housekeeping University. Our commitment to running an excellent hotel is…”
You lose interest and turn to the woman standing in front of the hotel on your left. She smiles and says, “You look tired. Come inside and take a load off.” You follow her inside, leaving the other owner rattling off names of celebrities who have stayed in his hotel.
The first owner was so caught up in himself and his accomplishments that he failed to recognize your needs. The second owner saw you, recognized your problem, and offered to solve it. She told your story (“You look tired”) and offered a solution to the obstacle in your story (“Come inside and take a load off”).
Which One Are You?
When you’re honest with yourself about your firm’s marketing strategy and website, are you the first owner or the second one? Are you recognizing people’s immediate needs and offering a solution, or are you shouting your credentials at everyone who comes within shouting distance and hoping they’ll be impressed enough to hire you?
Every day, I drive home from work and see a billboard for a firm that shall remain nameless. It’s a solid color, and in the middle it just lists the ranking they earned in a prominent industry magazine. That’s it, other than the company’s name at the bottom. Not the most creative ad I’ve ever seen.
You see these kinds of ads everywhere for numerous products. For some reason, they always remind me of Milhouse (from “The Simpsons”) defeatedly pronouncing to anyone who will listen, “My mom says I’m cool.”
Does anyone else care?
You should definitely be proud of your accomplishments, but don’t expect clients or prospects to care all that much. Don’t make your own accomplishments the center of any larger marketing strategy. That’s like yelling your accomplishments at a tired traveler rather than offering them shelter.
Don’t Put the Sale Before the Relationship
Smart marketing is important, but empathetic marketing is even more so. It proves that you see your prospects as actual people rather than just potential revenue sources.
The best first step to take in turning a you-centric marketing strategy into a prospect-centric strategy is to identify your personas. This will help you learn to empathize with your prospects.
Figure out what relevant problems they’re facing, then lay out the ways you can solve those problems for them. (I say “relevant problems” because everyone has problems beyond just meeting financial goals, but you want to focus on problems you can actually solve, so don’t include things like “sleep apnea.” Yeah, they should get their sleep apnea taken care of, but that’s probably not your area of expertise.)
Once you have two or three personas in place, every word you write and image you create should be focused on those hypothetical prospects. That means toning down how much you talk about yourself, all the experience your team has, and all the reasons you are the greatest financial advisor to ever live.
Don’t put the sale before the relationship. Instead, tell your personas’ stories. Talk about their hopes, dreams, and plans for retirement. Show that you understand how they feel.
Of course, your website is not your entire digital marketing strategy (hopefully), but it’s the best place to get a snapshot of how your firm views marketing. If your website fails the Focus Test, then chances are your overall marketing strategy does, too. So take out those negative, you-centric words and replace them with positive, persona-centric prose.
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