Content marketing — and inbound marketing in general — is so effective for brands and businesses in the financial space because it naturally helps you create and curate connections with prospective clients.
This is critical for financial planning firms, especially those who want to work with younger clients. 1 in 4 Millennials doesn’t trust anyone for financial advice.
(And if you’re automatically dismissive of Millennials as potential clients, keep in mind these aren’t just self-absorbed, vapid 18-year-olds that TIME article boiled an entire generation of people down into. Millennials range from about 21 to 37 as of today in 2017 and are in the prime asset accumulation phase of their life — and while they might not have a million bucks in assets yet, they’re earning high enough incomes to pay for their own financial advisors.)
If about 25% of Millennials don’t trust anyone, it means they don’t trust their friends. They don’t trust their parents. And they certainly don’t trust some financial advisor in a fancy suit behind a big desk who is decades older than they are.
And guess what? Even if you’re younger, dress appropriately for the clients you want to work with, and work virtually, those 1-in-4 aren’t quick to trust you either.
This matters, because another 33% of Millennials will turn to their parents first for financial advice before they hire a professional. That means roughly half of the 80 million plus Millennials out there don’t think “financial advisor” when faced with a need for financial advice.
Your Marketing Must Build Trust to Get Clients
Working with Millennials is tough because they’re skeptical of the financial industry as a whole. When there’s a lack of trust, advertisements, sponsored posts, and other types of paid content that interrupt someone’s experience of whatever they were previously engaged in isn’t very effective.
In fact, it can backfire and create negative sentiment around your brand.
Enter inbound marketing. As opposed to “interruption” or push marketing, inbound marketing is known as pull marketing: it’s designed to pull prospective clients in to you rather than pushing to get in front of them before they asked you to do so.
It’s the difference between paying to run an ad ahead of a YouTube video and writing a blog post that people find via a Google search and then share with their social network because they found it valuable.
When you’re dealing with a skeptical market that generally doesn’t trust you, pull marketing should be a vital part of your strategy to get clients and expand your reach.
I’ve covered the benefits of using content in your marketing before, but to recap, here’s why this approach is so effective. In short, it builds trust by:
- Creating an audience (or community), which is group of people who come to you because they want to know what you have to share. They like and admire you and want to learn from you. And, most importantly, your audience trusts you.
- Enabling a human connection in human connections in a world where we increasingly have less and less of them. By sharing our stories and our knowledge via content, we can connect with the people on the other side of the screen.
- Establishing yourself as an expert who not only has useful knowledge, but is willing to share it with the world and provide value for the sake of helping others.
For a refresher on why content marketing builds trust, see these posts:
Pull Marketing Doesn’t Have to Exist in a Vacuum
Here’s the bottom line with content marketing: it helps you build trust, authority, and connections which can evolve into client relationships. That’s a key ingredient to marketing successfully to Millennials (and anyone else under the age of about 50) when you’re running a financial advisory practice.
But pull marketing has its downsides — and its limits.
The biggest downside I’ve seen is the time required to strategize, create, and implement content marketing campaigns. It requires a lot of hours and a lot of creative energy to write even just a handful of blog posts.
That doesn’t include all the follow-up work necessary to post them, share them, distribute them, and promote them (which, hopefully, brings increased website traffic and leads — but just achieving that goal creates more work as you now need to nurture those leads and bring them further into your funnel!)
It’s a lot of work over a long period of time. Content marketing doesn’t usually see success overnight. It’s a long hard slog that can add up to a year before you start seeing tangible returns on your time and energy investments.
Which makes sense when you consider what’s actually happening:
Content marketing is relationship-building, and when done naturally and authentically, that requires a series of value-adds and touchpoints before you end up with a lead or prospect that feels deeply engaged and connected enough to truly trust you (and then hire you as their advisor.)
You don’t make a new best friend out of your most recent acquaintance overnight. Building genuine relationships, no matter where they happen (online of off, in business or in your personal life), takes time.
I certainly spend enough time extolling the virtues of inbound marketing while explaining why outbound, push, or interruption marketing fails business owners who try to use it. Bringing people into your brand through pull marketing or inbound strategies works.
But that doesn’t mean you need to swear off push marketing techniques entirely. Instead, create a balance. Lean on a few old-school marketing tactics as complements to your overall inbound marketing strategy.
How to Balance Push Marketing with Content and Other Inbound Strategies
Content comes first. You must put fundamental pull marketing strategies to work before you engage in things like paid advertising.
Don’t spend a penny on something like promoted posts on social media until you have the following:
- A well-designed, functional website that offers a great visitor experience (on any device).
- A well-written blog that’s regularly updated with fresh, relevant, valuable content.
- Active accounts on social media where you regularly share and engage.
- A system to capture visitors to your website so you can market to them over time with more content (i.e., opt-in forms that put . For examples, see my form at the bottom of this post. And, you know, sign up while you’re there!).
In other words, start organic. When you first get started with serious marketing campaigns, focus on the activities that only cost your time (not ad dollars). “Organic” activities include:
- Blogging and submitting content to other sites beyond yours.
- Managing your social media accounts and posting regularly.
- Optimizing your website (and blog posts) for SEO and the keywords and phrases you want to rank for.
- Reaching out to reporters and influencers to offer quotes for stories or to ask about collaborating.
- Creating and sharing other types of content, like videos or podcasts.
Again, content comes first. Focus on building this foundation. Once these critical pieces are in place, then you can look at incorporating a few push marketing activities into your overall strategy.
But why? Why wait until your content machine is up, running, and producing something new on a regular basis?
Because your content is what makes your advertisements compelling. You may get click-throughs to your website if you advertise on Facebook. But those ad dollars will go to waste if none of those new visitors convert (and they won’t if your site is a mess, hard to use, or there’s no clear call to action to convert).
Got it? Good.
Let’s assume you have a strong content marketing system and you’re doing everything you can to expand your reach and get clients organically. If you’re ready to take it to the next level, you can consider paid advertisements.
The best complements to an existing pull marketing strategy can be social media ads and PPC (pay-per-click) ads in search engines. You could also explore advertising with review sites like Yelp to reach new markets.
In any case, you’ll pay to distribute your content more widely than it can go organically. And with any paid advertisement you run online, there are some best practices you’ll want to follow to make sure you’re getting the most for your ad spend:
- Create consistency. Your ad should feel consistent with wherever you send the viewer of that ad. If you run a sponsored post on Facebook, for example, the visuals and the copy from the ad should closely match the webpage the ad’s link promotes. For that reason, it’s smart to create a specific, detailed, and custom landing page that corresponds with the sponsored post where you’ll send visitors who clicked the ad.
- Make a strong offer. Your organic marketing efforts should do a great job of building brand awareness and keeping your business top-of-mind. If you spend money on ads, you need to get more specific and tie your ad into a specific offer (rather than just trying to get more Likes on a Facebook page). Create a specific offer — like a free financial planning session for anyone who signs on to be a client before the end of the month, or $X off your initial planning fee — and don’t forget to give a compelling call to action (to call, sign up, etc).
- Test ads with organic content first. It’s very easy to take a “spray and pray” approach to paid online advertising. This is a great way to blow a bunch of money and get nothing in return. Instead of trying to throw a little bit of money behind multiple random ad campaigns, test every idea you have for an advertisement via organic content first. If you post something and it does well organically, take that content and create an ad with it.
Paid advertising can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to expanding your reach and distributing your content more widely than it can go organically. But it should be a complement your existing inbound efforts, not the first thing you attempt (or the only marketing effort you make).
Even if paid ads allow you to generate exponentially more website traffic than you see now, you need to know what you’re doing with that traffic.
No matter what you do — whether it’s push or pull marketing — you need a well-defined funnel to move leads through. In other words, you need a place to send website traffic, a way to capture that traffic, and plan to nurture those leads into prospective clients.