Recently, someone asked me if I would sign an NDA before I started working with them. Because I treat every single piece of client information as confidential unless I receive permission to share something, I said sure, no problem.
But the request struck me as odd, because it came from this person’s concern that I would tell other people all their marketing secrets and strategies.
It took me a while to figure out, but it finally clicked.
This was entirely strange to me because, even if I wanted to shout about what so-and-so is doing with their marketing, it would be completely irrelevant to everyone else.
It wouldn’t matter, because if I shared the marketing plan I created for that advisor with their competitors, it wouldn’t work for those competitors.
Let me explain.
“Obsess About Your Clients, Not Your Competition”
Almost every person I work with starts with the same question: “What do I do to market better?”
The problem is that this is starting at the end. The things you do are tactics. And there are countless tactics you can use to market your firm.
If you start with tactics, you will always be lost and clueless about what to do, what works, and what doesn’t. That’s assuming you can even get off the ground with something, because there’s a limitless amount of stuff you could do to market yourself.
Good marketing does not start with tactics. Good marketing starts with helping people. Good marketing solves a need or inspires a change in others.
When you apply this to financial planning firms, it means good marketing starts with focusing on who you want to serve — not what your competition is doing or not doing (even if they’re copying every move you make).
Michael Kitces recently shared this snippet of advice that I absolutely loved because it really helps drive this point home: “Successful advisory firms obsess about their clients, not their competitors.”
It’s that simple. Whether you’re marketing or pursuing some other business activity, you should be obsessing about your clients, not about your competitors.
If you do everything you can control to delight your existing clients and provide value, your “competition” doesn’t stand a chance anyway.
There Are No Marketing Secrets to Jealously Guard
Everything you ever wanted to know about how to “do marketing” is on the internet already.
Have a question? Google it. Boom! Answer, right there at your fingertips.
What’s not there, and what is much harder to nail down, is a nuanced understanding of what keeps your ideal clients up at night.
What you won’t find on the internet is the voice and tone you should address your audience in to reach them, or the kinds of content you should produce to make them happy, or the offers you could provide them that would compel them to work with your firm.
That’s not on the internet because it lives in the heads of your target market, and the very trickiest part is that it’s so deep in those heads that not even the members of your target market may know it’s there.
I’m talking about people’s deepest desires, their fundamental wants and needs, the single driving factor or motivation behind their purchasing decisions.
Knowing some special marketing secret or tactic will not help you understand what truly motivates your target audience to do what they do.
For that, you need to take a very, very long walk in their shoes and use your ability to be empathetic to deeply, truly get what their life is like and what kind of worldview they use to operate day-to-day.
And that’s why there’s no need to worry about your competition. For one, tactics alone aren’t enough. And two, if people blindly replicated your tactics without the strategy behind it, they wouldn’t get results.
Only when you know the marketing strategy can you accurately pinpoint the marketing tactics that will make an impact with your people. Only when you know what your people really want can you position yourself in a niche that no one else is even thinking about, and addressing the needs that no other firm is meeting.
Where You Should Start with Your Marketing
Your clients — or the clients you want to have — should be driving your marketing strategy, not your competition.
Your marketing plan should be based on the needs of your target market. And if you serve a niche audience, you’re not competing for the same clients anyway.
So who cares what the competition is doing? And more importantly, why do you care if they know what you are doing?
It’s irrelevant, and worrying about that will only distract you from the things that matter.
And that is starting with what the people you can help need and want from you. Get clear on that, and you won’t need a single marketing secret or trick to successfully grow your firm and have a line of clients out the door.