You want to fill your pipeline full of prospective clients and grow your firm. But you’re a financial advisor, not a marketer (and hiring an employee to handle your marketing is probably really low on your list).
It’s tough to know the best way to go, because once you start looking into “how to market” you’ll find there are a lot of options.
Here’s what I’d suggest: use inbound marketing.
If you’re not familiar with inbound, you can read a good primer on it in this article I wrote for the Journal of Financial Planning.
But in short, inbound marketing is the term to describe a strategy with the goal of attracting prospects to you and earning their attention (instead of interrupting them via tactics like cold calling or buying their attention with advertising).
Inbound including activities like content creation (written, visual, or audio), SEO, social media, public relations, community involvement, and word of mouth.
And when it comes to marketing, this is where I recommend starting.
Use inbound marketing to get started, to build a library of content, and to build a foundation that you can add to later (with more complicated, and more expensive, strategies like paid ads and other outbound tactics).
Here’s why I recommend this approach for financial advisors.
When You Use Inbound Marketing, You Build Trust
People want to connect with other people. They want to feel seen and heard and understood. If you can do that — connect, and engage with them, and show you understand their problems and pain points — you can begin to earn their trust.
You can continue building that trust by working in their best interest and doing it over and over again.
That’s what valuable content that is freely available does: it shows you’re interested in your audience or prospects and you’re invested in their success, even when there’s nothing in it for you.
How are you supposed to do that with a paid advertisement? That approach only shows you’re invested (literally, with your ad spend) in what you want and what’s best for your business.
Of course, the goal of any marketing is to communicate your value to a potential client or customer in such a way that they feel compelled to hire or buy from you. But the way in which that communication takes place makes all the difference.
You can communicate in a way that’s generous and builds trust, and content/inbound marketing makes that very easy and natural to do.
Content Allows You to Establish Your Authority
Simply put, content allows you to put your money where your mouth is. Instead of trying to convince anyone that you’re an expert, that you have experience or are well-educated, that you have what clients want, you can show them.
Creating content through a blog, social media, podcast, emails, downloads, and more proves that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re an authority in your field.
You don’t have to wait for anyone to bestow honors and awards upon you. (Or, worse, you don’t have to pay some publication to give you some fake “best of” award.) You don’t have to sit on the sidelines hoping someone will notice you and call out your greatness.
When you use inbound marketing and create content via a number of channels for your audience to consume, you can actively stand up and prove you’re better than the rest.
Whether you want to be known as a tactical expert or establish yourself as a thought leader in your field, content will establish your authority and help you showcase your expertise (instead of just trying to tell people and hope they’ll take your word for it).
Setting Up Inbound Campaigns Allows You to Dramatically Expand Your Reach
When it comes to outbound marketing, there’s a cost associated with every tactic you try. Therefore, there’s limit to how widely you can spread your message.
There are only so many stamps you can buy for direct mail because your budget is only so big, right?
With inbound marketing, most of the time, you get free supplies and free distribution channels. That’s because you’re working with digital space and materials, which are free to create… and the Internet means virtually limitless distribution.
You can get far, far beyond your natural or local networks and reach people that, 30 years ago, would be impossible to get in front of.
If you consider it this way, it’s just a smarter business decision to invest in inbound marketing.
You get a lot more bang for your buck and you also have what essentially amounts to unlimited upside. Your reach is virtually limitless because you’re dealing with digital space.
Content Helps Eliminate the “Salesy” Feel
No one likes being sold to, but that’s exactly what some kinds of marketing attempt to do: sell consumers on a specific service.
Attempting to market with something like a paid ad or through a sponsorship can backfire for advisors, especially if you’re an advisor trying to combat the stereotype that all advisors are the same (and are only trying to sell stuff to earn commissions).
Why associate yourself with sales right off the bat? Inbound marketing puts you in the position of giving first. You give value and your expertise without asking for anything in return (at least, not up front; eventually you’ll probably make a request like “sign up” for a newsletter or “schedule a call” to talk about becoming a client).
This approach eliminates the slick salesy feel from the beginning of your relationship with a prospect, which allows you to build a connection faster since it’s based on offering value to someone. It allows you to create a better first impression that’s not necessarily associated with you being in it for yourself.
Compare that to an ad, which clearly says “I want something from someone and I don’t really care who it is, as long as you do what I want [and buy this thing.”
Think about it: as a consumer, how would you rather interact with a business?
Do you LOVE getting ads, direct mail, and a bunch of self-promotional emails from a brand? Or do you appreciate receiving something of value that helps you achieve an outcome you want over and over again — and when an offer does come, it’s just that, an offer or an invitation to work with the brand if it makes sense for you.
I know what I prefer, and I think most of us on the consumer/buyer end feel the same.
You Get to Diversify Your Marketing
You tell clients to diversify their investments for good reasons. Why shouldn’t you diversify your marketing for many of those same reasons?
Most advisors rely on a single tactic to get new clients (and often, that tactic is referrals from existing clients). You constantly risk your prospect pipeline drying up if your clients can’t do the work for you.
Not to mention, as financial advisors explore more niches and find ways to serve demographics that the financial planning industry previously ignored (like people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s), many firm owners find that the referral system doesn’t always work. Not all clients will have a network full of ready-made prospects for you.
That’s not because you’re going after the wrong clients, but because the nature of the industry is changing. Consumers are getting smarter, savvier — and pickier about who they work with while, at the same time, advisors are increasingly offering niche and boutique services they can charge a premium for.
When you walk away from a cookie-cutter service, you can’t expect to pick up all your current client’s friends and family as new clients because your specialized offering may not make sense for them.
That’s not a bad thing. It just means you can’t rely so heavily on referrals. But if you use inbound marketing and content, you can reach your ideal clients, pull prospects to you, and communicate why you’re the perfect fit for what they truly need.
The 4 Rules to Follow to Use Inbound Marketing Successfully
Okay: you’re convinced. It’s worth giving content a try and use inbound marketing to expand your business.
But before you get started, you need to understand a few best practices and rules for success — because just creating content willy-nilly is not going to get you the results you want.
It’s not enough to just write an article and publish it on your website’s blog, even if that article is good. Good isn’t good enough in this age of content marketing.
You need to strive to write the best article on your topic or subject that’s available on the web.
Is that going to be possible every time? No. There are millions — maybe even billions — of other articles out there, and to think you’re going to write the best of the best every single time is a little silly.
But you can strive for that level of excellence, and you’ll get better results than if you just churn something out for the sake of saying “hey I wrote a blog post.”
That’s rule number one: quality over quantity.
Rule number two? Promote that quality work and focus more on promotion than creation.
You’ll have better luck if you write just one post a month and then spend hours finding different and various ways to promote that content, than if you wrote a post every single day but never actively promoted any of them.
Spend just 20% of your time creating content for marketing purposes. Spend the other 80% of your time promoting that content.
Rule three also involves time. It’s about how much time you give your content marketing efforts before you expect to see them benefit you.
ROI is extremely hard to track with organic inbound marketing efforts. Word-of-mouth, brand reputation, and online reach doesn’t come with a nice, neat analytics dashboard.
And the things that do come with analytics may be misleading if you focus more on vanity metrics than the numbers that matter (like engagement).
As a general rule, you need to give yourself 6 months to a year before you can start harshly judging whether or not your content marketing is working well.
If you deem it’s not working, you then need to move onto rule number four: be very careful on where you place the blame for a content marketing failure.
It’s probably not that “blogging is stupid,” or “social media is a waste of time,” although both are easy answers to give to the question of why isn’t this working.
More accurate answers may be:
- The quality of your content is low
- Your content is generic and not different from the countless other pieces of content available on the topic you chose to focus on
- You don’t promote your content where your actual audience is
- You don’t promote your content effectively at all
These are the most common reasons I see content marketing fail — and in almost every case, the advisor or business owner blames the failure on the whole system of inbound marketing as a whole (and then turns to paid ads as a solution, which only ends in a bigger failure that cost a whole lot more; writing a blog post is free but boosting a terrible ad costs a lot of money).
There are plenty more rules we could discuss, but if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be off to a good start. To recap and help you set out to create content that works, you’ll want to:
- Strive to create the best content on the internet on a given subject (because even if you fall short of that lofty goal, you’ll still likely end up with some great, high-quality pieces). The “best” content will be in-depth, unique, authentic with a strong voice that aligns with your brand, well-written and well-formatted, helpful, relevant, and valuable.
- Focus on promoting the content you create (rather than just creating more of it without sharing it widely).
- Give yourself and your content time to gain traction. In other words, stick with it and be consistent (content marketing is not the way to an overnight success story, and going viral isn’t sustainable; work to build up a library of content rather than hoping for a quick hit).
- Know what really causes failures with content, so you can accurately troubleshoot (it’s rarely because content marketing as a whole doesn’t work; there’s something wrong with your approach).
If you’d like a little more guidance before getting started, consider chatting with a marketing coach who can help you lay out a game plan and answer any specific questions you have.