Creative Advisor Marketing is an inbound marketing firm. We use compelling content to help financial advisors communicate their value, attract an audience, and convert interested web browsers into paying clients.
From a big-picture standpoint, we focus on what’s known as brand marketing.
Inbound marketing is the process of creating, publishing, and distributing something valuable and specifically designed for a particular audience. The more specific, the more defined, the smaller your niche, the better for this type of marketing.
Brand marketing is about building reputation. Connections. Authority. It’s about being the leader for a group of people who identify a certain way.
The opposite of brand marketing? Direct marketing. The opposite of inbound marketing: outbound marketing.
Outbound, direct marketing means things like paid ads. It means paying for the privilege to interrupt; it means buying attention rather than earning it.
There’s nothing wrong with either type of marketing. Both work.
Let me state that again: both inbound and outbound marketing tactics work. Anyone out there who will sit and tell you that one is definitively better than the the other no matter what is out to sell you something. They’re out for themselves, not for helping you learn and improve.
The key is not in choosing the “right” option (although one will serve you better than the other depending on your goals and the type of business you run).
The key is knowing the difference, mindfully choosing the kind of marketing you’ll do, and then committing to it.
The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound
This is the trap most advisors get stuck in. They don’t make a distinction between these two and think “marketing” just means all of it. They don’t make a choice and they definitely don’t have a strategy behind their actions.
They just do stuff willy-nilly and then wonder why it’s not working (or blame the stuff they didn’t like doing, when the real problem was the fact they took a scattered, slipshod, nonstrategic approach to everything).
Both outbound and inbound tactics are equally valid depending on what you want to accomplish.
It’s a bit like investing versus speculation. There’s nothing wrong with speculation. But to engage in speculation while thinking you’re investing — now that’s where you’re going to run into a problem. Same thing with speculating when you really should be investing.
Speculating is perfectly fine to do if you understand the differences, know what you’re doing, and speculation actually fits into your larger goals, aims, or desires.
The same can be said for inbound versus outbound marketing. There’s nothing wrong with either. It’s when you try to do one while thinking you’re engaging in the other that you run into trouble.
In case you’re not sure of the differences, let’s run through them together:
|Outbound Marketing||Inbound Marketing|
|Interrupt someone to get their attention||Earn someone’s attention, or get permission to communicate with them|
|Specific, tangible, direct cost to acquiring a lead or client||Low monetary cost of acquiring clients; only investment may be time|
|Dependent on your budget and a repeatable process||Dependent on your messaging and your effort to connect|
|Always costs money to run campaigns; the larger the campaign, the bigger the spend||Does not always cost money; reach is infinitely scaleable and costs can even drop with increased reach|
What does this look like in real life?
Outbound marketing includes…
- Cold calling (or cold emailing or messaging)
- Direct mail
- Paid advertisements (online or off)
- Paid publicity
- Trade shows
- Junk marketing materials delivered to an audience who did not request to receive them
Inbound marketing looks like…
- Content creation (written, visual, or audio — i.e., articles and downloadables, videos, or podcasts)
- Social media
- Public relations
- Supporting events
- Community involvement (or building)
- Public speaking
- Word of mouth
Now, you need to make a choice. What kind of marketing will you choose to do?
What to Expect When You Choose Inbound Marketing
Obviously, I’m biased toward the inbound methodology. It’s what I believe in and prefer. It’s what I chose.
And I stand for it. I stand by it. I’ve never run a paid ad for my services. I don’t have a pixel on my website and I don’t data for retargeting campaigns.
I do make some high-value offers that advisors can download in exchange for providing me with their email address. I’ll then continue sending them exclusive content and useful freebies over time because I earned the right to do so. Those advisors expressed interest in hearing from me, or receiving more resources for me in the future.
Eventually and occasionally, I’ll invite them to schedule a call if they think they might want to work with us to improve their marketing.
And so there’s also the expectation of showing up every day to offer something useful in one way or another — whether it’s a fresh post like this one, a helpful snippet on social media, or a new idea or insider tip that I only share to the people on my email list. I expect to show up to answer countless emails in my inbox full of questions and requests for resources.
Finally, I expect for some of my marketing ideas to work and some of them to not work. It’s tough to tell which is which all the time, because each individual effort serves as another piece in the piece by piece by piece building of expertise, authority, and usefulness of the complete environment I’ve created for advisors who want to communicate their value in a compelling way.
Continuing to create and publish and share useful content that matters and helps someone make an impact with their own business is tough, time-consuming, and so worth it. Because in exchange, I receive what all inbound marketers earn through their dedication and commitment to show up and offer value:
I earn trust. I earn attention. I earn credibility and connections. I earn a loyal audience full of people who want to hear what I have to say and would notice if I stopped sharing with them. They might even miss hearing from me if I stopped creating content for them.
And many members of that audience reach out to me, because they trust and like me, and ask for my help. They become clients (and it’s worth noting that we have almost nonexistent turnover in our client base. I attribute a large part of that to the fact we do inbound marketing and we build relationships first, before anyone pays us a dime).
You can expect the same when you show up to do inbound and content marketing if you commit to it. And it does take a commitment, because you should also expect for it to take months, maybe even years, to start paying off.
That might dissuade you from giving it a try, but here’s the thing: when you choose this marketing methodology, you build something that lasts and can scale in incredible ways.
Content Marketing Doesn’t Require Constant Infusions of New Investment to Work
There are limitations to direct and outbound marketing. If you don’t create an ad that works, it won’t generate revenue. If you don’t pay for an ad, you don’t get new customers. If you want to stop spending so much, you may stop getting so much business.
In other words, outbound marketing machines are like those mechanical rides that used to sit outside grocery stores. They don’t operate unless you put coins in first.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, may take an investment of time and effort to build — but if you suddenly stop producing content, your machine will still function and operate if you created a solid foundation. (Or, it will still function if you simply cut back on the amount of time and effort you spend on it).
Sure, attention may eventually die down because you’re not acting as the authority or the leader for the specific group of people you want to serve anymore — but you may still see a hum of activity around your evergreen content that you published and remains relevant for the people you made it for.
And don’t misunderstand: content marketing works best when you show up every day. But things happen. Things change. There may be a time when you still need your marketing up and running but there’s a lull in what you can create.
Your previous content efforts can keep you going and afloat during those times, and will make it easier to get back to work when you’re ready to ramp back up.
Direct marketing will always come with a tangible cost. It will always require you to insert coin here to get output there.
The Time and Place for Outbound Marketing
All this being said, you can also build some pretty impressive businesses with direct marketing. Think of all the retail chains that started with mail-order catalogs, the epitome of outbound).
If your business looks a little bit like retail — meaning, it’s transactional rather than relationship-based — outbound marketing is a good strategy to consider. It’s effective when you can build out a strict funnel that includes rigorously defined steps that are easy to measure.
It’s also effective as long as you have money to keep feeding into the machine.
If you want to try outbound marketing, you must take these steps:
- Create a campaign for a small group of people.
- Set a budget and run the campaign.
- Decide if it worked or not.
- If it worked, you got clients and the ad paid for itself. Run it again and again until it stops getting you clients.
- If it didn’t work, change something. Then run it again. Decide if it worked or not. If it did, see the bullet above. If it didn’t, repeat this step until it works.
That’s pretty much it. You have to measure every single step, you have to know the exact cost of getting clients, and you have to know if your campaign is ultimately working or failing.
If it’s working, keep doing it until it stops working. If it’s not working, keep iterating, changing one thing at a time, until it does work.
Boom. You’ll be an outbound marketing pro.
There’s a ton of appeal in this because it’s very systematic and you can tell right away whether it’s working or not. Inbound marketing? It’s harder to tell. A lot of the benefit is intangible and nearly impossible to measure (example: word of mouth), and that can be extremely frustrating.
If you don’t like the idea of inbound, that’s okay. Go use that formula above to rock some outbound ads.
But I do think the best place for outbound is with products, not with services. And financial advisors don’t even sell services in my opinion — they sell a promise, a hope for a better financial future, a relationship with an expert that will take clients from struggling to successful.
Again, outbound marketing seems to work best with products where the goal is a transaction. But advisors deal with human beings that are complex and nuanced and don’t just want a solution, they want a guide to lead them on a journey for years to come.
Choose What Type of Marketing You Want to Do, and Stick to It
Either way, no matter what kind of marketing you choose to engage in, you need to commit to it.
Remember, there’s no wrong answer (even for financial advisors). If you want to experiment with direct, outbound marketing, research how to properly set up and measure your funnel and then start testing ads until you hit on one that brings customers in the door.
And if you want to build with inbound, content marketing, know that you’ll need a solid strategy and a clear vision of what you want to communicate to the world. Then show up every day and share.
Stand for whatever it is that you choose and believe in — and know where you stand. Be clear about what message you’re here to share and spread.