What comes to mind when you hear or read the word “marketing?”
For many of the financial advisors I talk to, common reactions range from feeling lost and confused to feeling indifferent or even irritated. Still others feel just plain stuck.
And I get it: marketing encompasses a massive range of activities (cue the confusion). Of the activities you’ve tried, there’s a good chance they didn’t do anything to drive a tangible result (cue the irritation).
Many people view marketing as something that’s either too much work to bother with, something that’s too ineffective to justify investment, or something that’s a total mystery with no clear answers.
If this all sounds familiar, I encourage you to read on. The problem might not be with marketing itself, but with the way someone else explained it to you.
I’ve found simply redefining what marketing really means helps people reframe how do it, and do it well — making it seem more manageable, easier to understand, and most importantly, more effective.
When feeling stuck on marketing, consider these 3 big mindset shifts that will completely change the way you’ve been thinking about it.
1. Marketing Is Nothing Magical. Marketing Is Communication
Whether you know it or not, you’re probably marketing every single day. It’s not a specific activity or tactic. In general, marketing is communication.
More specifically, marketing is communication with the intent to provoke change in the party receiving that communication. In other words, you’re a successful marketer if you can share your message and create change in the people who heard and resonated with it.
You communicate with people all the time. You do it in writing, when you send a letter, an email, or a tweet. You do it verbally, when you talk with someone on the phone, speak to a group, or make your way around the room at a networking event.
So if you’re thinking you don’t understand marketing, know that simply can’t be true because that’s like saying you don’t understand communication. You probably do “get it.” The question is whether you’re good at it or not.
The answer to that may very well be that you’re a poor communicator. And that’s perfectly okay, because communication is a skill you can improve. The key is having the self-awareness to know where you fall on the spectrum.
Thinking of marketing as communication can also help you understand the best place to start with your own efforts. What kind of communication suits you best? Are you a powerful speaker, or a persuasive writer?
Your answer can serve as a pointer to where to begin when it comes to content and inbound marketing.
I know I’m quite good at written communication — which is why my business specializes in content creation (things like copywriting, blogs, websites, marketing materials, presentations, and more). That skill is the foundation for deliverables that drive results.
If you excel at communicating ideas with the written word, fire up a blog and get those thoughts down in a written format. Share them with the world. If you struggle to communicate in writing but can persuade people when you speak, start a YouTube channel and create a vlog series.
These are just examples to get you started. The point is that reframing marketing as communication can help you understand where you may best succeed with your campaigns if you’re looking to get started on your own.
What medium allows you to communicate clearly and effectively? Start here. Branch out from there.
2. People Don’t Care About Your Solution. They Care About Their Problems
You know you can help people. You know you have the perfect solution to the problems they’re dealing with. If they only worked with you, they could improve their lives and resolve a lot of stress and worry.
Because you’re focused on that great solution rather than spending time talking to your target audience about them: their problems, their concerns, their thoughts, their roadblocks…
If marketing is communication, then you can’t open up the conversation talking about you, you, you. Well, you can — but you won’t come off as a very compelling option.
People don’t care about your solution, at least not at first. People care about their own problems, and are obsessed with their own situations, thoughts, feelings, and fears.
Failing to recognize how much we’re all consumed by our own thoughts is part of the reason why so many people are feeling stuck on marketing, or simply not doing it well.
It’s one of the biggest mistakes I see advisors make: in all their marketing materials, they talk about their solution; the features and benefits of their service; how they’re the heroes who can swoop in and save the day for their clients.
I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the reality: most people don’t care.
Talking about your solution doesn’t touch on any of this. Your marketing should revolve around the stories people tell themselves, and remember, in those stories, those people are the main characters.
They are the hero; everything is happening to and for them. No offense, but you’re always going to be a member of the supporting cast, so don’t try to take the limelight and make yourself the center of attention in your marketing.
Be empathetic. Show that you know exactly what your target audience is dealing with and what they face. Even if you don’t agree with their narrative, you better understand it. If you do, then you can create messaging that fits their narrative to grab their attention and engage them.
From there, and only from there, can you begin the process of leading your audience down a path that helps them get what they want — with you as the one who shows the path, but not you as the one who undertakes the journey and triumphs in the end. Leave the spotlight to your prospect.
3. Leave the Well-Reasoned, Rational Arguments Behind
We don’t make rational decisions most of the time. We think we do, and this is another place that you can end up feeling stuck on marketing.
Your campaigns appeal to logic and reason. And that makes sense — you’re a financial planner, after all. It’s your job to guide your clients to make rational, objective decisions around money.
You provide a huge value through doing so because humans are extremely emotional creatures. The same tendency to act on emotion rather than on logical thinking and decision making doesn’t just pop up with money, though. It’s everywhere.
To change the way you’re marketing to see better success and results, you need to know and truly accept two things:
- People aren’t rational. They don’t choose to work with you, or choose you over every other advisor out there, for rational reasons.
- You are not rational, either (sorry).
Let’s break that down point by point — starting with the second one. If you refuse to realize that even you make irrational, emotional decisions, you’ll have a much harder time understanding why other people do what they do.
You’ll also have a really hard time marketing to them because you’ll make assumptions about what they want and need and you’ll be wrong. That’s best explained with a close look at the first point above: people aren’t rational.
We don’t choose something because it’s “better” or “best” for us. We make purchasing decisions based on some really deep primary motivators, which can include the need for:
…and the list goes on.
I would challenge you to try this out on yourself. Think about a brand you’re really loyal to. If I ask you why you’re so loyal, why you purchase that product or service over any other, the answer is not simply “it’s better” or “it’s cheaper.”
(Although yes, in some cases, “cheaper” is absolutely why we choose something. But in the case of something like a financial planning relationship, if you’re trying to market on “cheap” I think we can all agree you’ve already lost.)
Force yourself to dig past “better.” The real reason for your purchasing decision is likely something like:
- Because it confirms the story I tell myself about the kind of person I am
- Because it positions me in a good light to others
- Because it allows me to feel superior in some way
These are some of the reasons why we act, at a very deep level. These are stories we tell ourselves — about the world, about your service, about us and who we are as people.
All this means when you create marketing content, it’s not enough to spell out your argument for why you’re objectively better than the next advisor. You need to deeply understand why people behave and act and decide the way they do, and that’s not based on rational thinking.
It’s based on emotion. It’s based on some really primal and universal needs, like status or security or belonging.
So the next time you think about marketing, remember these 3 different ways of looking at the task at hand. You might see it’s not about “marketing” at all, but communicating a story in a way that aligns with how people sees themselves, and convinces them to sit up and pay attention because you understand them and can provide with with something that confirms the narratives they’re already telling themselves.