The Ultimate Guide To Building a Human Marketing Strategy That Will Propel and Sustain Your Financial Advisor Practice
Advisors often ask “How do I get more leads?!”, when they should be asking “How do I connect with aligned prospects who will become ideal clients and over time become my best referral assets?”
Financial Advisor Marketing = Human to Human Marketing
People (humans) have slowly become numb to traditional marketing tactics. You can’t possibly scroll by the thousands of ads in your newsfeeds or hear another gimmicky commercial without tuning it out. Humans are oversaturated with traditional marketing and are craving human connection in every industry across the board. I believe that the only marketing strategy that works today – and will work tomorrow – is Human to Human Marketing. Stop tricking, shortcutting, and hard-selling and start strategically connecting with humans who truly need your service. If your focus shifts to creating a life-changing outcome through your financial services, you’ll stop the spinning marketing wheel in your brain and start showing up for and serving these people genuinely. (And no, unfortunately, tossing the words ‘Authentic’ and ‘Genuine’ and ‘Aligned’ onto your marketing brochure doesn’t qualify as being genuine. You must walk your talk.)
“We’re all humans, and none of us is perfect. The least we can do is help each other. It goes beyond marketing; it’s about caring.” -Sangram Vajre on Inc.com
Now that we’ve established that we are connecting with actual humans who need your service, let’s look at your next hurdle. If you’ve been in the finance industry for more than twenty-four hours, you already know that standard marketing practices, online or off, aren’t options for you here. In this very regulated and compliance approved space, the usual marketing slogans and clickbait copy are a no-go. You likely won’t even have the ability to share your raving client reviews in order to build your incredibly important social proof.
[ Insert hopeless sigh here. ]
For financial advisors, who aren’t trained marketers in the first place, effectively marketing their practice can be frustrating and costly. Industry restrictions may make it more difficult to generate hundreds of leads in your sleep, but with a proven process and a disciplined routine, you can build a solid brand foundation and a human marketing strategy that will fuel your growth steadily and long term. That’s exactly why we’ve written this article. Grab a pen or open a digital notepad and scribble as we go. You’ll have a mapped out strategy and to-do list when you make it to the end.
Here’s a 30,000ft view of your marketing strategy musts. We’ll dig into the why and how of each and provide action steps with each:
- Define Your Brand Personality – your culture, your voice, your why
- Define Your Client Persona – this is more than their profile on paper
- Position Yourself Strategically – discover your unique value and showcase it
- Put Yourself Out There, Get Visible – your communications and social media strategy
- Build Organic Trust and Authority – online and off, from local events to SEO
- Funnel, Capture and Convert – traffic does nothing for you if you aren’t intentional with it
- Nurture, Nurture, Nurture – not just your prospects, but your clients too!
- Track and Review – the data doesn’t lie, use it to optimize and guide your ongoing marketing
Define Your Brand Personality
Why: Branding lays the groundwork for your marketing strategy. You must do this work first.
Branding is a two-faced beast to tackle. You’ll have your brand persona and your brand visual. First, you must get clear on your brand persona. This is the culture, the personality, the purpose, and the voice behind your brand. Together these paint a clear picture of who your brand is on a deep level. Your brand persona is how you show up in the world and how others see you on an unconscious level. What draws prospects to you, how do you make them feel? This is the foundation of building an emotional connection with your ideal clients.
Once this is all clearly defined (on paper – not just in your head), you can move into the second brand phase, your visual brand. Your visual brand is the fun stuff that most business owners want to jump into first, things like your logo, your color palette, your typefaces, your imagery… everything that visually represents your brand. It’s incredibly important to create your brand persona first and then have the visual elements created to align with that.
How: Answer the following questions thoughtfully and intentionally:
- Do you have a clear company culture? What do you most strongly believe? Why do you operate that way? How do you operate internally?
- What words or phrases come up often in your work. Whether talking about the brand OR in everyday conversations? List a few.
- What tone does your brand ‘speak’ in? Is your tone usually short but professional, upbeat and positive, analytical and informative, friendly and outgoing? How would others answer this question about your brand?
- What do you want people to feel when they stumble upon your brand? Understood, confident, relieved, comfortable, curious, and determined are just a few examples.
- What colors, textures, and images resonate with the brand persona detailed in your first three answers? How can your brand persona show up in these visual pieces?
- Do your current brand assets match your brand persona? Cross check your logo, your website, your printed brochures. Do these all tell the same story visually and in words?
Define Your Client Persona
Why: Truly understanding your ideal client’s deepest needs and problems isn’t enough. You need to know why these problems exist so that you position your service to speak directly to this problem and solve it effectively.
At this point, you might be rolling your eyes and mumbling something like “I’ve already completed my client avatar! I know my clients like the back of my hand. This is old news.” While I’m sure you have completed a client avatar worksheet at some point on your journey as a financial advisor, I’m going to assume that it wasn’t as accurate or as realistic as you may think.
The traditional client avatar was never created from a human marketing standpoint. It simply stated things like a fictitious client name, his age, his job title, his favorite magazines, where he shops… etc. While this data could be true about your ideal client, it’s likely more of a snapshot of your fantasy dream client’s social media profile.
To connect with and provide a real solution for your ideal client, you need to dig deeper into their day-to-day struggle – their real life problems versus their social media (only show you the best of everything) lifestyle. Your focus should be on psychographic information as opposed to surface-level traits. When you get to the root of the problem and speak to the real struggle, you’ll connect with your client on an emotional level and build trust quickly.
How: Answer the following questions thoughtfully and intentionally:
- Are you making assumptions about what motivates and drives your clients to work with a financial advisor? Or are you defining this client persona based on data and facts from your real client interactions and feedback?
- ASK THEM. Go to your top clients and ask them directly. Ask, What were you struggling with when you initially reached out to me? Why were you struggling with that? What did that struggle actually look like in your day to day life? What life-changing result did you get from my service/our work together?
Position Yourself Strategically
Why: Strategically positioning yourself as the expert on one very specific topic to one very specific client will eliminate your competition and create genuine demand for your service.
Now that you have clearly defined your brand personality, identified your ideal client persona, and discovered (in their own words) the specific problem you solve for your clients, you’ve set the table for positioning yourself and your brand. Simply stating this data in a basic messaging formula gives you your ‘elevator pitch’. Once you’ve built a solid elevator pitch (some call this your mission statement) you can expand on that to write up your brand story. Your brand story should be 500-800 words that clearly state your pitch. Then elaborate with the other information you’ve documented about your brand, your client, and your solution. This brand story should become the umbrella in which you operate under. If it doesn’t fit seamlessly into this story, it isn’t relevant to your brand and will only water down your branding and marketing strategy.
How: Use this pitch formula to get you started. Complete this template as-is before improvising. Once this is complete keep typing and expand on your brand story. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be authentic. If you aren’t comfortable writing this yourself, you can hire an expert copywriter – like our friend and StoryBrand Certified Copywriter, Wes, to work through this process with you.
“I help [ insert your specific client persona ] achieve/do [ the one life-changing outcome you provide ], so they can [ insert client’s dream/goal ] without [ insert client’s specific struggle/frustration ].”
Put Yourself Out There, Get Visible
Why: This is where you start to build systems and routines that place your brand in front of your ideal clients. You’ll get eyes on your brand, provide value to prospects and build trust with your marketing system.
What exactly does this marketing system look like? It’s a series of action steps you’ll take daily, weekly and monthly to become the king of marketing consistency. This is called Inbound Marketing. Hubspot breaks it down like this, “By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.”
Your inbound marketing strategy is one moving part of your overall marketing strategy, and like every other piece of this puzzle, we want to stay human-focused. Real (imperfect) interactions, with real people.
Your inbound marketing content should include blog posts, social media, videos, local SEO, email campaigns, and (if you have a proven ROI in your local market) printed mailers. Most of this content can be posted for free to your own channels and usually produces a greater ROI than paid advertising.
Now, understanding that the end goal here is to provide value via published content that solves the problem your ideal client is struggling with, you’ll need to map out a content plan and document it as an easily replicable system that is used consistently.
How: Choose the channels you’ll publish on, plan your content and create your editorial calendar. Your content should embody your brand’s voice and should show up in a variety of media formats such as text, video, images, audio, presentations, and infographics. Your content should be used to position you as the expert, generate ideal traffic to your funnel, and build trust with your audience. Start with the following steps:
- Get your blog setup. If you have a website, you likely have a blog. Preferably a self-hosted blog that you have full ownership of. (You don’t want to lose rights to your own content.) That’s where you should be posting your educational and informative blog posts.
- Choose your social media channels. Where are your clients spending their time? Where will your compliance department allow you to post? Choose two to three channels and master those, you don’t need to be everywhere (your ideal client is likely using one or two specific channels). Important: The social media content you post should lead readers back to your blog posts.
- Setup an email marketing platform. As you generate traffic, you’ll start capturing leads. Once you start capturing leads, you have a ‘list’. That list is a database of people who at some point showed interest in your content. Be sure that you are creating further content and communications with these prospects. Writing follow-up emails and authentic monthly messages to this list should be a priority in your content creation.
- Create your content/editorial calendar. Producing, organizing and executing on all this content can be overwhelming. Start each month with a full overview of what, where and when you’ll post. You can go one step further and use a social media scheduler to post these items for you at the chosen time. If you spend a couple of days each month planning the content, writing the content and scheduling the content, you can set it and forget it until next month! Hubspot has great content calendars you can download for free. Don’t (please don’t) use recycled or stock content. Sharing content from other sources is great, but don’t post it as your own. Take the time to create custom content for your audience.
Funnel, Capture and Convert
Why: Now that you are gaining visibility with your brand and driving ideal traffic to your blog and website, it’s time to put this traffic to work for you. Enter the funnel. A funnel in its simplest form is a series of steps you’ll set up to take your traffic on a journey from a visitor, to a lead, to a client. Funnels can be short and simple or incredibly layered and complex. Either way, the same concept applies, site visitor to paying client.
The funnel process starts with your content. Walk with me through this scenario: You’ve written and published a great article that helps your ideal prospects understand how to start saving for retirement. At the end of this article, you placed a strong call to action. This call to action is an embedded form (likely from your email marketing platform) that offers the reader a downloadable checklist in exchange for their email address. Next, you post a quote from this new article with the link back to your blog on Facebook. Your prospect reads this quote on Facebook, is interested in learning more and clicks the link to your blog. He now reads your blog post and quickly inputs his email at the end to grab your checklist. He’s now gone from site visitor to lead. You have delivered valuable content that he needed and he is now on your ‘list’. He’ll hear more from you in follow up emails where he’ll be invited to schedule a call with you for a consult. Once he schedules a call, he moves down your funnel from lead to prospect. Once you meet with him, if you have a great close rate, he’ll become a client.
A second variation of this same funnel could be to create a high converting landing page that walks your site visitors through a breakdown of your process. Here you tell them exactly how you solve their one big problem and your call to action is a button that immediately invites them to schedule a consult call. This more direct funnel is best for warm traffic, those who have already engaged or interacted with your brand through your content or social channels. If they already know and trust you, they’re more likely to go straight for the call.
How: Map out your funnel and setup each step on your website and email marketing platform. Be sure to include:
- Add a call to action at the end of each blog post. This call to action should be an embedded form created in your email marketing dashboard that asks the reader for their email address in exchange for your download.
- Create a high converting landing page. The goal of this landing page is to get the visitor to schedule a consult call with you. Simply place a button that leads to an online scheduler and allow them to schedule a time at their convenience.
- Customize your email marketing templates. Be sure that anything a lead receives from you via email (even if it is automated) is visually appealing and aligned with your brand persona. Setup your lead capture forms (the ones you’ll embed on your site) and upload your pdf’s for delivery. Write and automate a series of emails to follow up with the lead after they download your pdf. Don’t deliver this and run. Now is the time to nurture!
- Set up an online scheduling system. Make it easy for leads to get access to you. With a click of a button and a short form completion they can be on your schedule and ready for a consult.
Track, Review and Optimize
Why: Now that you have you have your blog live, your social media engagement up, your lead capture working and your email marketing following up and inviting leads to into a call, you should be seeing some action. Are visitors opting in? That’s a conversion point. Are prospects booking calls? Another conversion point! Are those consult calls closing new clients? That’s THE conversion!
Now that you know the funnel works, you need to be sure you’re tracking all possible data. Each conversion point tells us something about your traffic and leads. Can we tweak the copy on the call-to-action to get more opt-ins and raise that conversion rate? If we see in the data your leads are reading your invitation to a consult call and taking no action can we reword that email and raise that conversion rate? If we know that you have twelve booked calls and only one closed client, can we work on your sales script and increase your closing rate? Of course, we can! Remember: Only that which is measured improves.
Without a data tracking and reporting system in place, your marketing efforts are all left to chance. You can build a solid brand foundation, execute consistently on your inbound marketing and drive ideal traffic back to your website, but without a funnel in place, you are simply entertaining traffic on your own dime (and time). And if you have a solid funnel in place but you aren’t tracking or reviewing any of the data, you are likely leaving money on the table where you have holes or low conversion points.
How: Start with a Google Analytics. This one platform can track virtually all the data you could need and more for your financial advisor practice. Work a data review day into your schedule and stay on top of your funnel optimization. You should know your conversation rates at each checkpoint at any given time.
- Create your Google Analytics account and follow Google’s setup instructions.
- Connect analytics to your website. If you have a WordPress website, install the Yoast SEO plugin and complete the setup for a strong connection.
- Setup a platform like Hootsuite to track your social media traffic and engagement.
- Get familiar with your email marketing dashboard to track open rates, clicks, downloads and more from your leads.
Nurture, Nurture, Nurture
Why: The leads that you’re collecting are only going to get colder as time goes on. It’s crucial that you begin to nurture these leads immediately and continue to nurture these leads over time. Keep in mind that is much more cost effective for you to convert the warm leads on your list into paying client than it is for you to run paid advertising campaigns, buy leads or even take prospects out to dinner and build offline relationships.
Keep the conversation going. Once you have engaged with this lead, do your best to support them. You can answer their questions, hold Q&A sessions with them in groups, provide more tools and value that helps relieve their day to day struggles and stay top of mind. Again, this is about human connection and genuine engagement. Provide value while consistently giving them the opportunity to become a client.
To be successful in your financial advisor practice, you must nurture leads to close clients and in order to keep those clients, you must continue nurturing them. This process doesn’t stop.
Digital Marketing Meets Offline Marketing
This is where your traditional relationship marketing moves in. You know how to set regular client review meetings to keep them informed, you know how to plan great client events to keep them engaged, you know how to host nice dinners to meet referrals. If you are in the financial advisor business, you’ve likely mastered these practices. Now let these practices overflow into your online marketing and let your online marketing spill over into your on-the-ground work.
The rapid growth of digital marketing has changed the landscape of how we sell services and build relationships with prospects. There’s no denying that digital marketing is a crucial part of your business strategy, but that doesn’t mean that offline (or on-the-ground) marketing should be forgotten or abandoned. Don’t get lost in all the information and digital noise that’s screaming in your newsfeed with tactics promising to generate leads online. The foundation of your business is built on relationships, likely local relationships – in your town, at your table, or on the golf course.
Your challenge (should you choose to accept it) is to implement the foundational digital marketing strategy laid out in this article, and merge it with your offline marketing strategy until you find a happy balance.
One last very important note for you on your financial advisor marketing strategy. The information laid out in this article is a long-term strategy. This strategy works over time to grow your practice and build your legacy. A solid long-term strategy should be a non-negotiable in your business. Once you have a proven system in place that takes your traffic from site visitor to client, you can start implementing your short-term strategy. Your short-term strategy should consist of paid advertising campaigns and direct marketing.
Stay tuned for a short-term marketing strategy breakdown in the near future!
Any opinions are those of Chip Munn and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of any of the quoted professionals/authors or their respective firms/publications.