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Is email finished as a marketing tool for financial advisers?

When working with financial advice firms on their marketing plans, the value of email marketing always raises its head. Is it effective? Is it being replaced by social media? Is email passé?

I firmly believe that email marketing is a really important element of the overall marketing mix for financial advisers. It can be extremely effective if done well and can offer you a very targeted approach to reach your clients. It’s not a case of either / or in relation to social media, it’s a case of both! And it’s certainly not passé, it’s still probably the most essential communications tool for businesses today. Finally, if you go down the road of email newsletters, they offer you unparalleled feedback in relation to the engagement of your audiences.

 

You reach the inbox

While people sometimes (not that often in truth) complain about email overload, the key feature of email marketing is that you do actually land in the inboxes of your database. And generally as a result, at a minimum your subject line will be read. Even better, if your audience saw value in your previous content, the chances are that they will actually open and read your message. This is a big difference between it and social media, which is undoubtedly also an extremely valuable medium, but one where a lot of your messages can be missed due to the constant stream of messages being delivered.

You have an existing relationship

If you (legitimately) have the email addresses for your database, you already have a relationship at some level with the recipients. Therefore your messages won’t be viewed like a cold call approach; instead they will be seen as coming from a trusted source. However this proximity of your relationship brings an added challenge. If you consistently issue poor quality content, your email recipients will no longer want to receive your emails. This obviously may actually damage your overall relationship.

So a key point is that you don’t start spamming your database with irrelevant messages, as this practise will really undermine your relationship.

It’s another audience to reach

You want your marketing messages to reach as many people as possible. You deliver the messages verbally in person, potentially display them in and around your office, post them on your website to display to people who land on your site and share them out to your social media connections. Your email database is another audience, yes there is overlap with some of the other groups mentioned above, but this is another really important audience for you.

It’s low / no cost

While email newsletters delivered through your normal email platform are free, email newsletters delivered through reputable platforms (such as this one) do incur charges. However the charges are low when you consider all the benefits, particularly the feedback available, which is covered below.

You get unparalleled feedback

Email newsletters offer amazing feedback on the success or otherwise of your marketing campaigns. With advertising, direct mail and PR activities, it is notoriously difficult to measure your success at all. With online advertising, search and links to your website via social media, you get better information. With these media, you can see at least if your activities are driving people to your website.

However email newsletters deliver incredibly revealing feedback. Listed below are some of the metrics you can receive and how these are of use to you. One critical point to note is that these metrics can be tracked for your email list as a whole, but more importantly, you can look at these measures for each individual recipient too.

  • Delivery rates: You can see how many of your emails actually landed in the intended inboxes, revealing among other things the quality of your data.
  • Open rates: You can track how many people actually opened your email. This gives you a sense of whether recipients view your content as worthwhile / important to open.
  • Click Rates: You can then track how many people actually clicked on one or more articles. This reveals whether recipients were interested enough to actually read your content.
  • Individual article performance: You can see the open & click performance for each individual article. This gives you information on the type of content that resonates best with your audience.
  • Time spent: You can also see how long people are reading your content. Are they just scanning it or really spending time over your content?
  • Social interaction: You can see comments that people leave, if they “liked” your content and indeed if they shared any of your content.

This is extremely revealing information, particularly when examined at an individual subscriber level.

One adviser I’m working with had a protection client who opened 3 separate articles on investment topics a total of 14 times over the space of a few months. The adviser as a result focused his next review meeting on his investment expertise… and ended up securing a significant investment mandate with this client. Without the insights gained from his email newsletters, the adviser would not have known that this was an opportune button to press.

Also, as you review the statistics over time, the trends tell a very interesting story too – is your audience becoming more or less engaged, what sort of content should you focus on etc.?

 

Email marketing is still a really valuable and effective tool. It provides a level of certainty of the messages reaching the target market and exceptional feedback. Do you use email marketing? If so, what are your experiences? Please feel free to leave any comments below.

Is inbound (or content) marketing relevant for financial advisers?

You bet it is!! In fact inbound marketing, often called content marketing has become one of the key elements of the marketing mix for financial advisers today.

First of all, to explain what is meant by inbound or content marketing… Most importantly it is not about selling, instead it is about creating engagement with your target audiences. Marketing has evolved, the days are over of only trying to hit people over the head with a constant stream of sales messages through advertising, sales campaigns and other traditional sales methods. While these methods still have a place, consumers today want to be engaged, to be warmed up and to be made aware of why they should deal with you. This is where inbound marketing comes in.

The aim of this engagement is that your audiences will view you as someone worth listening to and in time, will ultimately seek you out for your professional expertise. This is done through inbound marketing – providing your target audiences with insights, ideas, tips and commentary in relation to personal finance matters. In time, this will make them far more open to your sales messages that will follow at the appropriate time.

This approach delivers a number of benefits for financial advisers. First of all, it enables you to stay in touch with existing clients by putting interesting insights in front of them and keeping them aware of the breadth of the product range that you can advise them about. It also helps you to establish yourself as a thought leader and someone to be listened to, among both prospective clients and the wider public at large. Finally fresh content on your website is a critical component of a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy.

So what are some of the elements of a great content marketing strategy?

 

Know your audience

Know who your target audience is. Is it local business owners, particular occupations or particular age groups? Who are you actually writing that new website page, blog or email newsletter for? Write for this audience about topics of interest to them. Try to put yourself in their shoes and think about what they will want to read. If your audience find it interesting, they’ll view you as someone to listen to and will seek out your content…and hopefully in time your advice in relation to their personal finances.

 

Make sure it looks good

First of all, your content has to look engaging. Use a solid design and layout. I always tell financial advisers to “Think Apple”. For any of you who have bought an Apple product, you’ll know what I mean – the excellent quality, yet simple packaging that really impresses you as you unpack your phone or iPad. Your blog / newsletter should have the same impact. It should look very professional, enticing people to read it. At the end of the day, you want to portray the professionalism of your business in every single touch point with your clients, both online and offline.

 

Have a plan

I know from talking to some advisers (and from my own experience too) that lack of time to update the website or write a newsletter is often just an excuse for a lack of structure or ideas. There’s nothing worse than relying on your brain kicking into action every month or so when you’ve no idea what you’re going to write about! So what happens is you find something else to do and satisfy yourself that you’re just too busy to write the content.

The way to deal with this is to develop a content calendar for the year. Spend a few hours at the start of the year brainstorming ideas that you’ll write about, either as new pages on your website or as newsletter articles. Once you get a few ideas down, I promise that the creative juices will start to flow and more topics will come to mind. As potential topics come to mind now and at a later stage too, drop them into the calendar with a few bullet points of what the article might cover.

Now you’ll have a structure to ensure you don’t lose potential content ideas as you go along and it will also give you a starting point every time you sit down to write that article. You’ll actually find after a while that you’ve too much content and now can actually start being selective in what you write about.

 

What do you write about?

You’ll be glad to know that everyone sees this as one of the biggest hurdles! However, with a bit of thought, you will quickly realise how relatively easy it is to overcome this particular challenge. You absolutely need a helping hand to come up with the topics to write about. So here are a few sources that will help prompt some ideas for you.

First of all, listen to your clients. Probe them about areas of interest to them and areas where they they’d like more information. Are there particular challenges they face in relation to their personal finances where they would like some general advice? If you ask a number of customers, I’m confident that themes will start to emerge for you.

Secondly, keep your content schedule at the back of your mind when you go to a presentation, read the newspapers or indeed just go online.  These are each great sources of ideas, which can be used by you as prompts for you to develop your thoughts and position on – not to copy and paste but for you to set out your viewpoint and flavour on these topics.

Some financial advisers take a short cut and rather than writing their own content, they only share out links to other websites through LinkedIn and Twitter. This type of shared content has its place, however I think it can only sit alongside some original content that you are writing yourself. It’s great to share content that is of interest to your audience but they also want to know what you think! Using the content of other people, while better than doing nothing, is not enough on its own.

So yes, content marketing needs to be an integral part of the marketing plans of financial advisers today. Once you start to really engage your prospective and existing clients, they will soon realise your expertise and the added value you offer. In time, some of your audience will hopefully want to talk to you about their wider financial affairs…and their product needs.

Have you any thoughts in relation to content marketing? If you do, please leave them below.

Double your impact through co-marketing your financial advice business

You may be putting a lot of effort into a number of marketing activities but still wishing that you could reach out to a wider audience than that currently available to you. So how do you do this? Well one of the ways may be through co-marketing.

Co-marketing is where you find a business that provides a complimentary service to your own, one that is aimed at a similar target market. For financial advisers, this more than likely will be an accountant, a tax consultant, a legal firm or some other form of business consultancy. You then agree a programme of shared marketing activities that will be aimed at both of your client bases, promoting both of your brands. The ultimate aim is to increase each partner’s sales opportunities with the other’s clients.

How is this different to how many advisers currently work with, let’s say accountants? Well from my experience, most existing relationships currently operate in a one-way direction. The accountant refers a client; the financial adviser sells a product and may compensate the accountant. Co-marketing is different. It is shared activities.

So why would you do it? As stated in the title of this article, you can first of all significantly increase the reach of your marketing efforts by opening up your marketing activities to your co-marketing partner’s clients. This shared activity also gets both you and your partner onto the radar of a whole new group of clients. Also by partnering with another strong brand, this will reflect positively on your business and give you added credibility. So obviously it is important to find the right co-marketing partner!

Once you find the right partner, what sort of activities can you roll out together? There is a wide range of potential activities and here are some that might be the easiest and quickest for you to implement together.

Shared content

The first area to collaborate on is sharing content. We all know the effort that goes into writing newsletters, blog articles or other expert pieces. Co-marketing is a great way to get this content to a wider audience. Post each other’s content on your website & in your blogs as guest posts. Give each other a “guest corner” on your newsletters, increasing your exposure. This will make each of your website blogs or newsletters more engaging, will reduce the struggle for new content for both of you and will hopefully also result in some new client enquiries from your partner’s clients.

Videos

If you use video on your website, co-marketing offers a great opportunity to move away from the monologues that so often feature on sites. Pick a topic that is relevant to both organisations’ propositions and have a discussion about it. Apart from being a different and more engaging format, this approach will also increase the breadth in which a topic can be covered, hopefully resulting in some enquiries from clients.

Seminars

Client seminars are a great form of co-marketing as they offer a whole range of benefits. First of all, you can examine a topic from different angles. For example, an accountant might talk about pensions as one important strand of tax planning while you might discuss different pension investment strategies. One topic can very seamlessly segue into another.

Seminars also offer the opportunity to actually meet your partner’s clients, as you will both invite clients to the event. Both of you get exposure to new potential clients with the opportunity to present to them…and impress them.

Of course another benefit is that you’ll share the cost of the seminar!

A joint brochure

A number of advisers that I’ve worked with have developed corporate brochures and then try and encourage any accountants who refer business to them to hand out the brochures to their clients. While this makes sense of course, unfortunately the brochures are unlikely to stay right at hand in the accountant’s office…. However if the brochures have a shared message and feature your co-marketing partner equally prominently, they have a good chance of gaining pride of place in their office too.

Co-branded sales propositions

While this one will definitively take a little bit more work, the potential rewards are very significant. This is where you develop an actual sales / advice proposition, delivered by both parties and demonstrably packaged as a single proposition. For example, it might be a wealth transfer proposition in which the partner would bring their tax / legal expertise and combine this with your advice in relation to life cover for inheritance tax purposes, ARFs etc. This offers a very clear demonstration of your partnership in actual practise and can directly result in actual revenue for both parties.

These are a few ways in which you can co-market successfully. Are there other activities that you’ve carried out that have worked well for you, maybe an event or a particular campaign? Please share your thoughts below!

Marketing tips for Financial Advisers

A number of financial advisers have said to me over the last few months something along the lines of, “I don’t have the time / resources to carry out a full marketing planning process at the moment, so what are the 4 or 5 quick wins that I should look to achieve in the meantime?” While I’m obviously an advocate of the benefits of a rigorous planning approach and have seen many times the value that it brings, here are a few ideas to work on.

 

Think Engagement

Audiences everywhere are tough. They don’t have time to be bored or brow beaten by orthodox, old-fashioned advertising. We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in & be what people are interested in.”

Craig Davis, Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide, J. Walter Thompson (world’s 4th largest ad agency)

 

The world of marketing for financial advisers is evolving in response to changing business and customer environments. Traditional marketing methods such as advertising, sponsorship, seminars, entertainment and direct marketing are no longer enough on their own.

“…as you’ve noticed people don’t want to be sold . What people do want is news and information about the things they care about.

Larry Weber, author of “Marketing to the Social Web”.

Inbound Marketing (or ’permission marketing’) looks at new marketing methods that earn the attention of’ prospects or customers. The aim is no longer to talk ‘at’ your customers. Now it’s important to engage customers, primarily by producing ‘content’ (often online) that customers value.

“If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you’ve more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing”.

Guy Kawasaki, former Chief Evangelist, Apple.
So, the learning from these quotes for financial advisers is that you can’t always be in sales mode. Your marketing efforts need to look to engage your prospects, existing customers and other contacts to earn you their ear as someone to be listened to. If they view you as a financial advice expert, they are then more likely to consult you as their own financial advice needs emerge.

 

Clarify your Proposition

One of the areas of greatest opportunity I see for financial advisers when it comes to marketing is in clarifying and communicating their value proposition. To my mind, you have to nail your first meeting with a client. You’ve got to be able to show them and leave them in no doubt that you are the only financial adviser for them.

You won’t do this by diving into the fact find! Instead, you’ll win their attention by taking time to walk them through your points of difference and the methodology you are going to use to improve their financial health. Show this visually, take time over it, prove your worth to them.

 

Capture your Data Religiously

Your data is the enabler of your marketing efforts. Without relevant data, you are restricted in the activities that you can carry out and then unable to measure the success of activities. I see poor data among some Financial Advisers in two areas in particular. The first is not having email addresses for all of your clients. This really limits you in your marketing efforts as email offers a very effective, easy and low cost way to get messages in front of your clients. If done well, email marketing can be very effective.

The second area of poor data that I encounter is in relation to the source of leads. Many Financial Advisers feel that they intuitively know where their leads came from but cannot back this up with hard data. Often when data starts to be recorded, the results really surprise them! Recording the source of leads is really important, as it is a strong guide when trying to decide which marketing activities to repeat in the future.

 

Develop a Stockpile of Quality Content Ideas

Another challenge that many Financial Advisers face (who have bought into the merits of Inbound Marketing) is developing a consistent stream of quality content for their repeating marketing activities. This arises with websites, newsletters, blogs and other social media activities. Also, fresh content is a core requirement for a successful Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy. We’ve all seen the first issue of a newsletter that is really very impressive but that is just not followed up by future editions. Often this is as a result of the author struggling for ideas for content for the subsequent issues.

I suggest that you should capture the titles and key points of your first 5 or 6 editions before you start the activity at all. This will help you to avoid “writer’s block” when you sit down to pen the future editions of your communication.

Finally, put the effort into ensuring the quality of your writing. Put the effort into writing engaging content, but more importantly, make sure your grammar and spelling are 100% accurate. Otherwise, get someone to do it for you.

 

Harness the Power of LinkedIn

Social media has exploded onto the scene over the last few years. Central to this for Financial Advisers is LinkedIn, which offers great opportunities for them to connect with existing and prospective clients. Financial Advisers who aren’t on LinkedIn are at a serious disadvantage in terms of the missed opportunities to research potential clients and to connect and add value to prospective and existing clients.

For those who are using LinkedIn, make sure it doesn’t just become a glorified address book! LinkedIn offers so many opportunities to engage your contacts through sharing value-adding content that will keep you top of mind with them in relation to financial matters. So, complete your profile fully, build up your connections and then add value those connections to stand out from the crowd!

I hope these few, simple ideas were useful to you. Please feel free to leave any comments below or share the article with others.

How’s your sales presentation?

Successful brokers use great sales presentations. Always in my experience. How good is yours?

As part of my work with brokers, I ask them to show me their sales presentations. Some look blankly at me, some fish out a hodgepodge of PowerPoint slides that have obviously been cut and pasted from different presentation over the years. However some really blow me away with the quality of their presentations, both in terms of the preparation of really impressive material and then also in the delivery method. They are obviously very well practiced. What’s the impact? Well, it leaves me thinking every time, “this is the sort of adviser I want!”

Sales presentations with prospective clients, particularly at the first meeting are critical to get right. The client will very quickly begin to form an opinion of you so it is very important that you open impressively with them. Lack of preparation and “winging it” will very quickly become apparent.

If you’ve spent hours making dozens of lead generation calls and developing potential relationships with clients, then the last thing you want to do is blow it through lack of preparation of your sales presentations!

Here are some easy steps to creating more effective sales presentations;

Don’t just have a chat!
Don’t have the first meeting with an empty page. While you obviously can’t pre-prepare for every part of the meeting, I firmly believe you need to set the agenda and drive the meeting. This can best be achieved by having a roadmap for the meeting; at a minimum a written agenda, preferably a visual map of how you advise clients or walking through a corporate brochure that shows how you are different from the rest.

Better still, use technology. Prepare a short, visual presentation demonstrating how you add value to your clients and load it onto a tablet. These are great for 1:1 meetings.

The other benefit of this approach is that it stops you diving immediately into problem-solving mode. It gives you the opportunity to get breathing space to demonstrate how you are different to other advisers.

Have a take-away
In addition to the presentation (or brochure), have a copy for the client to take away from the meeting. They may want to mull over some of the points again. At a minimum, they’ll favourably compare your preparation to that of less active advisers. Best case? They may come back looking for further clarification of your approach! This will allow you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise again.

Know the logistics
It might sound obvious but be really clear who you’re meeting and their position in the company. Research them beforehand, check them out if possible on the company website and their LinkedIn profile if they have one. It’s amazing what this might reveal – common interests, maybe you went to the same school or have common LinkedIn connections. All of these are opportunities to build sociability.

Also know how many people you’re meeting and if more than one, try to find out about where you’re meeting. If you’re meeting a group of people, there’s no point turning up with one paper copy of a presentation! You might need a projector etc.

Finally, have enough business cards for everyone and your take-away document for “everyone in the audience!” Preparing properly will help you to take control of the meeting and direct it as you require.

Get ready for the speed-bumps
Now the best laid presentations rarely go without some sort of a curve ball thrown at you. Spend time beforehand thinking of potential awkward questions and how you’re going to deal with them. As new difficult questions are asked, deal with them as best you can but also take note of them mentally. Spend time afterwards reviewing how you dealt with them and capture this. It’ll help you in future presentations.

Also take note of areas that clients just weren’t “getting”. Is there a better way to get your point across? Seek help if need be from a colleague or peer who might show you a better way.

Practice and then practice again
Winging it just doesn’t work, you’re going to make mistakes. There’s nothing worse than someone stumbling aimlessly along, unsure of what they’re going to say next. Now you might get away with it, but sometimes, the mistakes come through with the important clients. Road test your approach on a colleague, family member, anyone who won’t cost you a lost sale!

I’ve been dealing with one brilliant adviser in recent months. He has asked to road test his full introductory meeting and advice process on me. A great idea as he can make all the mistakes he likes and hopefully I can give some constructive opinion of the meeting. In any event, this guy is always very well prepared so I’m looking forward to being wowed by his approach!

At the end of the day, you can’t be too well prepared for a sales presentation. Don’t worry about sounding scripted, in fact you’ll sound far more natural as you’ll have confidence as a result of your preparation.

I hope these points help you deliver more effective sales presentations. I welcome any comments you might leave below.

Use expertise to build stronger client relationships

It’s a competitive world out there. New clients are very thin on the ground and holding on to existing clients is a big challenge with other advisers and banks nipping at your heels. So how do you stay one step ahead of the competition?

Well obviously your client proposition has to be very strong, this is a given. Today, not only to remain compliant but also to remain competitive, the quality of your advice has to be first-rate. You have to fully understand your clients’ needs and recommend the right solutions for them. This is critical, but to my mind not the complete answer, as there are many other excellent independent advisers who can also do this.

In a previous lifetime, the way to gain access to clients was to beg, bug or buy your way in, to constantly hit people over the head with sales messages. However people today are becoming immune to these messages, they expect more from businesses than just being sold to all of the time. They expect more than a simple, transactional relationship with you and they expect you to add more value to them. How do you do this? It’s not easy for financial advisers to stand out, but one way you can significantly add additional value to your audience is through engaging them with your views and useful observations in all matters relating to financial services. The opportunity is there to successfully position yourself as a thought leader in the eyes of your clients, both prospective and existing and to create influence among your audience.

The plus side of this is that the days of having a limited set of tools available to you and having to spend vast sums of money through expensive advertising or direct mail campaigns to get in front of clients are over. However on the flip side of the coin, while potentially not costing a red cent, this engagement of your customers will eat into an entirely different scarce resource; your time. Know this before you start down the road of creating influence or you will almost definitely fail and as a result, you may even damage yourself in the eyes of your clients.

So what are the keys to building a successful engagement campaign with your prospective and existing clients by sharing your views and observations with them?

First of all, develop a structured content schedule. Avoid the headache of every month trying to dream up content ideas by instead investing some time up front in developing out a list of potential topics. I promise you that once you develop an initial schedule of content, your schedule will constantly grow and the days of last minute brain freezes will be over!

Then think about where you’re going to host your content. Are you going to post the content to your website each time? Or are you going to complete a blog or email newsletter? Maybe you’re going to post your content in a few places? Develop your strategy and then put time in your diary each month to both write and post the content.

I’m often asked how long a blog post or newsletter article should be. The optimal length is probably between 750 and 1,000 words, so it’s not particularly taxing.

The next area is to identify your channels through which you are going to actively share your content. It’s not enough to just post content to your website and hope that your audience will pay a visit to read it… Are you going to email your content too? Are you using social media? As some of you will have picked up from previous articles, I’m a big fan of the power of LinkedIn (in particular) and Twitter for financial advisers. They offer great opportunities to engage a wide network of both potential and existing clients.

When you then start to share your content, it’s really important to measure the success or otherwise of it. The beauty of online communication is that unlike the “snail mail” communications of old, there are so many metrics available to you. Spend some time thinking about the most relevant measures for you and then set some targets for yourself. Will you measure website hits, newsletter open / click rates, new subscribers to your content or the amount of “likes” and “shares” that your content attracts?

Finally, be committed to your engagement efforts. You won’t see immediate benefits, but if you stick with it and really try hard to produce content that’s interesting to your audience, your efforts will be rewarded.

What will the benefits be? Well first of all, influence helps you to build credibility among your audience. It also helps you to build trust through the constancy of your presence in front of your audience. Your audience want to have favoured leaders – this is your chance to become one of them! If done well, you can also expect that this engagement with clients will reawaken some relationships that may have been dormant. The end game is that your audience will start to seek out your views, not only in relation to general financial services topics, but also in relation hopefully to the advice that you can offer them in relation to their own financial affairs.

What are the biggest challenges for you in creating influence? Is it knowing what to write about or finding the time? All comments are welcome!