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More Tips for Your Marketing Plans

These great ideas will put some sizzle in your marketing plans.

By David Willis

When we submitted three marketing plans to a panel of judges for an “extreme makeover,” we received something else in addition to their suggestions for fixing those plans: helpful hints for enhancing marketing plans. Here are Marty Baird’s ideas for upgrading your plans and Paul Balbresky’s “questions you should answer” as you develop different parts of your plan.

Start with your goals. According to Baird, president of the consulting firm Advisor Marketing, the beginning of your plan is where you should describe what you want to accomplish for your clients. “What are you going to do to make their life better?” he asks. “While people go to Home Depot to buy a drill, they don’t really want a drill,” he points out. “They want a 2¼ inch hole in the door so they can install a door knob.”

In the same way, he adds, people don’t want financial advisors. “Sorry folks. I hope I didn’t offend anyone,” he adds. “They want to be sitting on the beach in Bimini, drinking cocktails and laughing at the poor folks who can’t escape the winter.”

So your “top-of-page” goal should read something like this: In 2008, we are going to help (our clearly defined and very specific market) get 20 percent closer to their ultimate goal of spending X number of months a year in Bimini.

Make your goals SMART. In addition, Baird says that those goals must be SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. “Identify the actions you will take to get clients to their goals,” he explains. Then add some numbers to your plan. “From a purely internal perspective, having a marketing plan without a specific revenue goal is a waste of perfectly good paper,” he says.

You should also share those goals with your staff to help rally them around to your way of thinking. “I need to be able to tell people in my office that we’re going to generate $2 million or $10 million in revenue,” he explains. “I need my assistant to understand the reason she answers the phone each day is so we can help the caller have a better life, like she wished her parents had. But if your goal is to simply be the premier source of financial-planning advice, there’s no reason to get going each day.”

Touch clients early and often. To cut through the clutter of mail pieces and advertising messages many consumers receive each day, you should also contact your target market frequently. “Sending out newsletters four times a year is a waste of time,” Baird says. “Nobody remembers seeing them; instead, hit them over and over again with a specific message.”

Depending on the target market, Baird likes to use technology such as emails, blogs and Twitters to reach his clients and prospects.
Use technology wisely. Depending on the target market, Baird likes to use technology such as emails, blogs and Twitters to reach his clients and prospects. “But you have to use technology with the right market,” he says. “I’m not going to send a Twitter to my 85-year-old stepmom who reads her email once a week whether she needs to or not.”

With people who are constantly online, Baird’s advice is to reach them frequently in a way in which they’re comfortable and with something of value. “But adding value is not about describing you or your services—it’s about telling him something that’s affecting him right now,” he adds. It could be something related to the market or an announcement about corporate earnings.

For instance, if you have a significant number of clients who work for a firm that reported worse-than-expected financial results, a valuable message would include an analysis of the announcement and its impact on the company’s employees. “Then, a few days later, send another message after they’ve had a chance to think about the original one,” Baird explains. “And a couple of days after that, give them an update. That way, they’ll know you’re as connected to their future as they are.”

Network correctly. Baird is also a firm believer in being “absolutely attached” to your target market. “It’s not enough to serve on the board or be a member of the club your target market belongs to,” he explains. “You need to lead that group.” For instance, biking is big in Boise, Idaho, where Baird has just moved to. “If my target market is 45-to-55-year-old bicyclists with two children who are trying to figure out how to own their fourth home, I will do things connected with biking weekly.”

“That means distributing water bottles, hanging out at the bike shop on Fridays when riders stock up for the weekend, supporting local biking teams, offering bike safety education or hosting a charity event to raise money to buy helmets for kids who can’t afford them. I need to be an integral part of that community,” he says.

Also, if you're going to join the Rotary Club, do so because you want to help people, not because it will help you generate business. If you want to increase your business leads, join a networking organization.

Whenever Baird talks about marketing, you’ll never hear him use the word “spend.” For him, marketing is an investment.
View marketing as an investment. Whenever Baird talks about marketing, you’ll never hear him use the word “spend.” For him, marketing is an investment. “If you think of it as an expense, you might as well not do it. You are investing in your business the same way you are investing in new computers or software. If you don’t see it in that way, pack up shop,” he says.

There are exceptions, though, he points out. If you're a one-man band in a small town and everybody knows you, you may not need to do much marketing because everybody you want to reach knows you and your dad and his dad.

It’s alive!
Many advisors fail to realize that a marketing plan is a living, breathing tool. For instance, when you first created your plan in November, there was talk about a housing bubble and the subprime market, he explains. There was no way to know that six months later, the “R” word would be the accepted term for what we are currently in. So you may need to pull out Pages 2 through 6 of your plan and redo them now because you did not write a recession plan. You wrote a standard business-marketing plan.

Key questions to answer
The following is Balbresky's laundry list of questions advisors should answer when they are designing their marketing plan. Balbresky is principal of Balbresky Consulting Services.

General marketing and visibility

  • Do you have a website?
  • Does the site serve prospects, existing clients or both?
  • What feedback do you get about the site and its content?
  • Do you send newsletters to your clients and prospects?
  • Do you think you are reaching the right people with those newsletters?
  • Are you sending them frequently enough for your clients and prospects to remember receiving them?
  • Is the content so valuable that they share it with others?
  • Do you have a referral process in place?
  • Does this process include plans to get referrals from both your clients and your prospects?

Competitive analysis

  • What is the competitive advantage or disadvantage of each of your competitors?
  • What is your value proposition against each of them?
  • What is your strategy against each?

Market segmentation

  • How does your breakout of current clients compare with the potential marketplace figures you target?
  • How do you intend to grow any underserved segments?
  • How do you intend to defend any dominant segments?
  • What is the profitability of each segment?
  • Are all of your segments equally profitable?
  • How does this profitability factor into your strategy for growth?
  • Is each segment you target equally accessible?
  • Is each segment you serve equal in terms of needs?
  • Can you deliver the value each segment seeks?
  • Is your value geared more to one or more segments?
  • How does this affect your value proposition and your strategy for each segment?
  • How does your marketing plan for new business take into account your preferred segments? Will you be spending time and resources on the right segments?
  • How can you leverage any existing key accounts to grow more clients that are similar?


  • Do you have a calendar of specific actionable items to support your measurement and accountability?
  • How will you monitor these actionable items in terms of determining their return on investment?
  • How will you revise your plan as needed, based on constant monitoring or other factors?
  • Do you support your income projections by identifying specific and measurable tasks you'll perform to meet those projections?
  • If you do, what are they and how will you measure them?
  • Have you involved your entire team in the development and implementation of your plan?

Dave Willis is a frequent contributor to Advisor Today.


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