Ready, Steady, Go for 2013!

Yes, it’s time to start planning for 2013 if you haven’t started already as now is the time to get your business in shape for a fast start next year. When it comes to your marketing plans, there are a few areas that you should consider to both maximise your chances of success and to reduce wasted time and effort.

Develop a plan

The first consideration should be to bring some structure to your marketing activities. Develop a plan for the year to ensure your marketing activities are neither ad-hoc nor based on fads that might look attractive today. Develop a plan that is achievable for your business. Capture the plan on only one or two pages – the days of 20 page plans are over. Readers might read the executive summary and that’s usually as far they get… Finally, include some time for delivery into your work schedule and then really commit to delivering the activities.

Be crystal clear about your objectives

The temptation can be to dive in and start delivering an activity, maybe a newsletter, an email campaign or an event. My advice is – less haste, more speed! You need to be really clear about what your objectives are first. Are you trying to build your brand locally, increase leads into the business or possibly reconnect with existing clients? Depending on your objective, some activities will be a much better fit than others. So the first step has to be to get crystal clear on your objectives.

Know your target markets

It is vital to also be really clear about who it is that you’re trying to reach with your marketing campaigns, your communications and your sales campaigns. Is it individuals in a certain geographical area or is it business owners? Is it a particular occupation, a particular age profile or a particular segment of your existing clients? Knowing your audience will shape the activities that you choose, as different activities are more likely to succeed in grabbing the attention of different target markets.

This focus on your target groups should also carry through to any customer engagement content that you write. You’ve got to find a way to stand out from the crowd, perhaps as an expert in a particular area or perhaps as a valuable, local specialist. You want to become the “go to” person when your target market is seeking out opinions or expert writing in relation to financial services. Build this position as a thought leader in their minds and they are more likely to come to you for your advice. To do this, you’ve first of all got to be clear about who it is you want to reach.

As part of this, manage your customer data religiously. Please see the StepChange article “Good data = more sales for financial advisers” for some insights on this topic.

Put measures in place

This is the area that gives marketing a bad name! As the great pioneer of advertising, John Wanamaker famously said, ““I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted … I just don’t know which half”!

How do you directly attribute sales to that article you wrote in the local paper? Well unless a client tells you that’s where they became aware of you, quite simply you can’t. However this doesn’t mean that you simply cross your fingers and hope for the best. With a bit of thought, you can come up with a range of metrics to measure the impact of your various marketing activities. Depending on the activity, these can include sales, number of leads, website hits, level of enquiries etc. For your online activities, the problem is somewhat reduced as there are a great range of metrics available to you. These can include search engine results, clicks through to your website and enquires via your website. For your social media activities, these can include shares, likes & retweets! While these in themselves aren’t revenue measures, they’ll give you a picture of whether you are engaging your key audiences or not.

Tidy up your current marketing supports

This is a big challenge for everyone. We all go through bursts of activity from time to time and do a complete overhaul of website content. However outside of this, you’ve got to eradicate out-of-date information on your website. There’s nothing worse than going to a website and seeing the most recent “Latest News” item or Newsletter is from a few years ago, and indeed time sensitive information such as Social Welfare rates etc. are years old.  Either bring them up to date or remove them.

Your prospective clients will research you initially on your website. They want an adviser who has their finger on the pulse. Out of date information will give them the opposite perception of your business.

While each of these points are relatively straightforward, they will take time and commitment. I think that they’re worth it if you want to get off to a fast start in 2013.

If you’ve any observations, comments or further thoughts, I’d welcome them below!

Good data = more sales for financial advisers

Financial brokers and advisers today are becoming very aware of the role good customer data plays in generating sales. It provides excellent insights into their customers, enables robust decision making and provides the necessary foundation for successful marketing activities.

Good data of course is central to your service and ongoing advice to clients. You need to have access to the information contained in the customer fact find and also your client’s existing policy information to enable you to provide robust financial advice. However I’m going to focus here on how having good data will really help your marketing efforts.

I’ll start with an obvious one. Do you have email addresses for all of your clients? Many advisers don’t and this is quite understandable. Email has only emerged as the default communication method in the last decade or so and many client relationships go back much further than that. However most clients have email addresses today and email offers a no-cost means of communicating with your clients on an ongoing basis. So what should you do? Well obviously you can write to all clients asking them for their email addresses – this may yield some results but if you’ve lots of clients, it may be an expensive exercise. At a minimum though, I would suggest that you introduce a business process that ensures that before anyone in your company finishes a conversation with a client, they check with the client have you got their current email address. Everyone has a role here, every single time, every conversation. This will refresh and enrich your data, allowing you regularly reach your clients at no cost.

The second area is in relation to the source of leads and customers. If you capture this religiously, it can provide excellent insights when deciding where to apply your (usually limited) marketing budget in the future. This will tell you which activities worked in the past and should be carried out again or maybe tweaked, and which ones bombed and shouldn’t be repeated!

Data also provides the foundation for successful client segmentation. While this can be quite a complex area and will be covered in detail in a future article, there are many ways that you can segment your clients and then target them with specific campaigns or offerings. Examples of segmentation dimensions at a client level include;

  • policy type
  • income levels
  • earnings per client
  • premiums being paid
  • funds under management
  • age
  • occupation etc.

There are many potential dimensions and indeed as businesses become more comfortable with segmenting their clients, they begin to use multiple dimensions.  This enables you to focus your offerings to make them as relevant as possible to your target clients. Good data helps you to make better decisions in relation to your marketing activities and can really enhance those activities through enabling you to provide relevant campaigns aimed at carefully identified groups of clients. The quality of your data is key – remember the old saying; “Garbage in, garbage out!”

As a result of more targeted marketing efforts, greater confidence and expectations can be placed in relation to your sales return as you move from a scattergun approach to carefully crafted and targeted campaigns.

Managing your data however comes with real responsibilities, both in relation to how you use this data and also in relation to keeping this data secure. You need to understand your requirements under the Consumer Protection Code and also your data protection obligations; how and when you can contact your clients and also the permission you need to send further sales messages to them. In relation to security, I’m sometimes concerned about how lax some businesses are particularly in relation to the easy access to data on smartphones and tablets. Is access to confidential data within some of your emails only a 4 digit iPhone password away from someone who could make trouble for you? This is also exacerbated now with the explosive growth of cloud computing. If you use cloud computing on your phone or tablet, is your data constantly accessible on your device, potentially giving someone full access to all of your client files?

Your data is hugely valuable. It is central to your planning, your decision making in relation to your activities and can really enhance your sales effort. Give your data the attention it deserves, make sure that your whole organisation is constantly focused on improving your data. And finally, manage your data securely.

I hope this article was of interest. If you’ve any comments or further observations, I’d love to hear them!