As Labor Day weekend marked the unofficial end of summer, what are your firm’s plans for the marketing for the rest of the 2017 and beyond? 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.
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