When I work with financial advisors during a Strategy Session, we focus on a few key components of their marketing endeavors to look at what’s working, what’s not, and what’s missing that we can create.
Over the past 6 months of consulting with financial planning firms on their content marketing, I’ve noticed a few specific mistakes or trouble spots that come up over and over again.
The bad news is that these mistakes are widespread. The good news is, in each case, we only need to make a few small adjustments or tweaks to get things on the right track.
Sometimes, the trickiest issues to troubleshoot are those that are really close to hitting the mark, but just need to be dialed in a little bit. One small change can make the difference between a campaign that flops and one that takes off and potentially goes viral.
Here are the most common problems I see financial planning firms make when they try to engage in content and inbound marketing — and how to fix them.
Mistake #1: Stating the Obvious
One of the first things you learn about inbound marketing is the value of extremely valuable content. Your posts, podcasts, videos, social shares, lead magnets, and so on need to be educational and useful to your audience.
But they also need to be entertaining and engaging, and this is where a lot of advisors can miss the mark.
You’re the expert. You have a wealth of knowledge on a vast array of personal finance and investing topics. But it’s not enough to simply recite that knowledge like you’re a living encyclopedia.
A blog post about Roth IRAs, for example, could be rich with facts and information. That makes it highly valuable to people seeking that information.
The problem is, writing down the facts is the easy part — so a lot of people do it. This creates a few problems for you:
- You have a lot of competition to be the go-to resource on the web to learn everything you need to know about Roth IRAs.
- Facts are facts across the board. If you only write down information with no context or emotion, you don’t actually mark yourself as a valuable, trusted resource because any advisor can produce the same blog post.
- As bad as it sounds, a list of true statements just isn’t that compelling when it comes to consuming media and content.
A quick note on that last point: This is exactly why mainstream media outlets put out stories and articles with sensationalized headlines that can drive you, as a rational, reasonable financial professional with experience and expertise, absolutely crazy.
I’m not suggesting you go out and start tweaking your headlines to fit a clickbait kind of style. (In fact, please do not do that. It’s annoying and makes you highly unlikable.)
What I am suggesting is to consider that there are lessons we can still learn from that approach and apply to our own firms in a way that is authentic and helpful.
How? By sharing the facts, staying objective, and offering comprehensive advice — with a side of empathy, emotion, and maybe even your own personal perspective.
Solution: Share Your Unique Perspective
Your facts and data need stories and context to deliver them.
There are a couple of ways you could take our example of the in-depth Roth IRA post and make it much more engaging and even entertaining for your audience.
You could share a personal story about how you use a Roth IRA. You could explain what you think about Roth IRAs as they relate specifically to the audience you want to serve.
You could even share mistakes you’ve seen people make with that Roth IRA (kinda like what I’m doing here with you in this post).
This transforms an encyclopedia entry into more of a story — and stories capture people’s attention and leave them interested in hearing more from you.
Give people the facts. Tell the truth. (This should be obvious.) But do so within a framework that allows for things that aren’t facts, too, like emotion and curiosity.
When you can share information or data from a unique or even personal perspective, your content becomes exponentially more compelling.
This is why developing a niche is so important. Your niche can help inform the content you write, because it becomes much easier to understand what angles and perspectives that specific group of people might resonate with when it comes to framing useful information.
Information is more accessible than ever, and that’s not necessarily what we mean when we say “deliver high-value content” in inbound marketing.
The value lies in the context only you can give those facts and figures.
Mistake #2: Only Taking, Never Giving
We could phrase this a lot of different ways:
- Constantly talking about yourself on social media.
- Posting on platforms and channels, but never participating (by reading or commenting on other posts).
- Asking for others to do something that gives you a benefit, but doesn’t offer them value in return.
These are all mistakes I see all the time and it drives me nuts because they’re incredibly easy to avoid.
Not sure if you’re making this mistake?
Pull up your social media feeds. Look at your last few email campaigns. What have you been saying?
If it’s a mix of your commentary, ideas, suggestions, and advice, you might be on the right track. But if it’s just one big long list of links to the most recent post you wrote and that’s it, your marketing isn’t going to work.
Inbound marketing works like a two-way street in a lot of ways. You need to create content and share it — but you also need to consume the content other people produce.
Doing so is a great way to increase engagement, find excellent resources to share with your own audience, boost your own brand awareness, and gain exposure to new and different audiences.
We do this all the time when we network or just when we have conversations with others. Or at least, most of us do.
We all know that one guy who only talks about himself at the cocktail party, (or, you know, in any social setting) or that person who randomly hits you up for favors but never offers to help you out.
It’s super annoying when you encounter it offline — and online. Only sharing your own content and never engaging with other people on the platform is akin to asking someone a specific question just so you can steer the conversation back to yourself.
Solution: Be the Engagement You Wish to See in the World
If you want people to engage with your content, try engaging with other people first. Share their work. Talk about them. Refer them to people.
It really is that simple. To get the best results, you need to be present. Show up online just like you would if you were talking face-to-face with someone.
Think about it: You wouldn’t walk up to someone, shout your elevator pitch in their face and tell them to call you to learn more, then walk away.
That’s ridiculous, right?
It’s just as ridiculous when you do it online. Marketing is communication, and communication requires your active participation in the conversation. Show up and share — but be willing to listen, too.
Mistake #3: Not Having a Strategy or Plan
Almost every advisor I have ever worked with asked me, “What should I do now?”
They meant, what marketing tactic should I use to get prospects in the door?
The problem is, that is the wrong question to ask. If you find yourself wondering what you should do next — should you start a podcast? Create video content? What about that new social media platform, do you need to be on that now? — you triggered a red flag.
These are all tactics. And while you’ll need to use them eventually (and know which ones to use) for successful marketing, this is not the right place to start.
You’re making a big mistake if you try to leap into this without a plan, or strategy, first.
Solution: Understand Your Why and Who Before Worrying About What or How
A strategy lays out the big picture. Without it, you’re trying to make decisions on granular details without understanding where you’re trying to go, or why.
Just like a financial plan, your marketing strategy serves as your roadmap. And if you can nail it, you’ll find questions about “well should I try X? Do I need to do Y?” answer themselves. Doing so will either make sense, or it won’t, in context of your overall strategy.
A marketing strategy should:
- Identify the purpose of your marketing
- Outline your goals and the metrics you want to track to measure success
- Explain precisely who your marketing is for (and what your marketing promises to deliver to those people)
Once you have those elements in place, then you can identify a few tactics that are appropriate in the context of your reasons for marketing, what you want to accomplish by doing so, and who you want to reach with your communications.
Your strategy is not a to-do list — but you could potentially develop a list of tasks and tactics to use once you understand the larger framework your marketing works within.
Mistake #4: Using the Wrong Tactic to Reach a Specific Goal
Lack of a strategy is one mistake that usually leads to another. Advisors will often use a particular marketing strategy for no other reason than they heard it’s what you should do, or XYZ Firm used it and now they get a gazillion prospects in the door every month… you get the idea.
What works for one financial planning firm will not necessarily work for your firm. You wouldn’t create a financial plan for a client then go tell all your other clients to take the actions you recommended for the first based off their plan.
Strategies are tailored to you, your goals, your strengths, your opportunities. While you can audit successful marketers and gather new ideas and fresh inspiration, what other people do is largely irrelevant to what you should do.
Solution: Understand What You Actually Want from Your Marketing
Things only work in the context of what you want to accomplish and who you want to reach.
That means you have to start with why you’re marketing in the first place. I’m constantly amazed at how many “I don’t know”s I receive when I ask that question.
Know what you’d like to accomplish. Then, consider how you can get there.
If your goal is reach and brand awareness, that’s going to require a specific set of tactics that will look quite different from the steps you would take if your primary goal was just getting 2 new clients in the door every month.
Mistake #5: Being Afraid to Experiment
Part of the reason advisors ask me “what should I do to market my firm?” is because what they really want to know is, “what’s the best thing I can do to get the most results from marketing?”
Hey, I get it. I want to do the same thing. Who doesn’t want to do not only the right thing, but the best thing?
The problem is, you will never know the absolute best thing to do until you pick something to try (that fits into your overall strategy) and try it.
You’re going to fail. You’re doing to do things that don’t work or people don’t like. The mistake is to worry about that and not test out various tactics and campaigns because you want nothing less than success.
Solution: Create. Publish. Measure. Iterate.
The solution is simple: Always be testing.
It’s very tempting to sit around and tell yourself you need to think through it first, to plan out every step of the process, to make sure you’re doing the right thing. The best thing.
Planning has a place. But ultimately, it’s only guessing. The only thing you can really do is to use what you know now to make the best decision you can in the moment.
Then, in the next moment, take what you know then and decide again. As soon as you make your plan, it’s going to be out of date.
It’s far more useful to act first and iterate later. It gives you something tangible to work with.
Once you execute on a particular campaign, you can then sit back and evaluate the metrics. What did well? What flopped?
Then, you can work on what flopped and keep doing what worked. Simple.
Of course, that’s not easy to do. It really does take practice to create something, put it out there, see what it does, and iterate before starting the process all over again.
But the more you practice taking action, the easier it is to stay in motion. You build momentum, and more importantly, you start honing in on exactly what works for you and your marketing.