How to market your financial planning services to local business owners and professional firms
By Ed Morrow
Intl. Assoc. of Registered Financial Consultants
By far, the largest, most profitable and most approachable group are business owners and professional practices. They not only have more employees, they have more problems and more money with which to solve those problems. They are better and bigger prospects.
Prospecting activity is normally thought of as various ways to approach individuals for planning, insurance or investments – hopefully all three! However, there are many other categories of prospects:
- Government agencies
- Non-profit organizations
- Professional associations
- Trade associations
- Educational institutions
- Newly wedded couples
- College and university students
- Mature couples near retirement
- Estate owners
Businesses are owned by individuals and are often used by the principal owners to acquire their income, benefits, capital gains and accumulate wealth on a tax favored basis.
However, they not only have more employees, they have more problems and more money with which to solve those problems. They are better and bigger prospects.
Business owners are accustomed to paying fees and many financial consultants observe they are more trustful of an approach that has a fee than one that is without any fee, implying that the purveyor of service works for free. Business owners become suspicious when someone offers to give advice and service that claims to be both free and objective.
Since a business can be a more profitable client, let’s review how you can market to them on a cost-effective and remunerative basis.
Your goal is to arrange private appointments with qualified enterprises; to discuss the financial planning issues that confront these firms. When that appointment has been set, then your attention should shift to conducting an effective introduction meeting. The focus is on planning for the business. However, sometimes this is superseded by issues of personal planning, such as retirement or estate planning for the firm’s principal.
The cost of marketing efforts
There are costs for marketing, of course. Some activities are quite expensive in terms of outlay, while others require more effort than cash. The key is to assign a value to your time and consider how to use your innate marketing skills and those of key associates. Then look for the cost/benefit ratio. One reason you should strongly consider pursuing business owners is the expected benefit is much higher:
- Initial fees for planning
- Commissions on products
- Ongoing retainer fees
- Subsequent product sales
However, many financial consultants somehow believe that if they are knowledgeable and qualified, or have somehow obtained the intellectual tools by attending a course, then clients will come to them. That does not happen. So, the cost of not marketing is the revenue you might have earned had you implemented an effective marketing plan.
When you evaluate the marketing options open to you, you must factor in several costs. Before looking at a cost analysis sheet, let’s examine the types of costs.
The first are your direct costs: what you pay to other parties, such as for mailer design, printing, list purchase, mailing services and postage.
The second are event costs: a seminar meeting room and setup, snack and beverage services, full meal or buffet if you are offering an event-based seminar of some type. This would also include any materials you distribute, such as a book on business planning, favors (gifts) or door prizes of some type.
The next are your indirect costs: the time spent by you and by staff members to market your services, in all the ways that you are considering. This could include planning review, presentation and follow-up actions with identified prospects.
The last are stress costs: which are almost impossible to measure. For example, you might feel extremely uncomfortable circulating around tables and chatting up attendees at a seminar dinner or, you might not enjoy making a presentation to 30-40 very successful business owners on why they need your services. Some consultants have no objection to making cold calls on area businesses, while others would slit their wrists before entering a business un-announced and asking to speak with the CEO. However, just because you are stressed, does not mean you would not do well, or even come to enjoy the marketing procedure after you have done it several times.
There are many methods of attracting the interest of a business owner or a professional (such as a practicing dentist, physician, chiropractor, attorney or architect). You will want to evaluate them and select those that seem to fit your market, your pocketbook and your personal style. Here are some basic vehicles and strategies:
- Advertise with free listings in directories
- Advertise in local newspapers and business tabloids
- Advertise in state magazines or association journals
- Ads or postings on blogs or business websites
- Direct mail – flyers, brochures with response forms
- Letters to CEOs
- Phone calls
- Seminars (public and invited)
- Presentations to organizations
- Presentation handout or guide
- Articles (reprints) for distribution
- Radio spot ads and talk shows
- TV spot ads
- Social media
- Response cards
- BRM postage-paid envelopes
- Website for you or your firm
- Website sections on other sites
- Your listing on association websites
- Internet mailings
- Book giveaway
Before you start even basic marketing, make a plan. What are your target markets? Do you classify them by location, occupation or size? Your goals? Your timeline? What can you delegate? An outlined plan will help you meet your goals faster and keep you on track. Spend the time upfront planning your marketing attack. It will be worth it in the long run.
How to get started
Most financial consultants are reluctant to start marketing before they have brushed up on their knowledge and analytical skills. This is commendable and the best way to avoid malpractice. But it is a form of procrastination. In a fast-moving, challenged economy, he who procrastinates on essentials will be lost. Effective marketing is essential for a growing practice.
Your professional studies
When was the last time you truly studied the issues and solutions within the business owner market? Are you up-to-date? Are you waiting for the magic webinar or email that will skyrocket you into this profitable market?
What is your most effective form of study? Yes, online learning saves you time and transportation. But do you do it consistently? My guess is that the way you were introduced into profitable business activities in the past was by taking an intensive class, presented by an experienced and successful practitioner, where you also received actual tools you could use.