Top marketing pitfalls and how to avoid themArticle added by Jonathan Musgrave on August 2, 2012

Jonathan Musgrave

Centennial, CO

Joined: May 07, 2012

More advisors are not reaching their production potential because of bad marketing practices than for any other single reason. In this business, you can realize some level of success by pairing marketing skills with sales skills. You can even succeed by pairing marketing skills with a lot of knowledge. But it's impossible to run a thriving financial practice on just sales skills and knowledge. A deficient marketing plan is most likely to blame for an anemic practice.

While marketing may not be your forte right now, some basic principles can guide you to improved marketing relatively quickly. My experience with advisors across the country has taught me several things about marketing. Here are the three top pitfalls advisors fall into and how to avoid them.

1. Marketing death cycle

Death cycle sounds pretty extreme. It's no exaggeration though. Many a skilled financial practice has fallen on hard times because of this marketing peril. The death cycle begins with a successful marketing campaign — letters, emails and newspapers are delivered to your target market. Before you know it, you're meeting with two or three new clients per day and your practice is inundated with activity.

Intent on capitalizing on your marketing investment, you get to work doing all the things that make us financial professionals. Presentations are made, applications are written and commission checks begin arriving ... until one day when there are no more clients. Once the stream of leads generated from your marketing efforts dry up, you're left confused by the lack of activity in the office. Weeks go by and finally you decide to market again. Still more time goes by as letters, emails and newspaper ads are prepared and delivered and your cash is spread thin between living life and paying for more marketing. In this way, you cycle from feast to famine over and over again, without need of additional marketing in the frenzy of activity and without cash to fund marketing after weeks of inactivity. You are forced to spend money when you have the lowest volume of cash flow.

2. Marketing rut

Ruts in a road are formed when cars drive the same route over and over again, wearing the road away and creating a deep track. You may not have thought of your practice as a vehicle before, but give it a try. Is your practice driving down the same path all the time? Seminars have been, and continue to be, a popular marketing path for advisors to attract new clients. They're effective, they're proven and nearly all of the top producers use them in their practice. But not even seminars can be enough to sustain a thriving practice. Over time, the effect of mail diminishes in your area, and you over-saturate your market. Mailings that began at 6,000 per seminar grow to 8,000, or even 10,000.

Are seminars broken? No, they're alive and well. But your perpetual invitations now have less of an impact.

3. Discredited marketing

Imagine yourself before you start a big appointment. You look really sharp. You wake up in time for a good breakfast and a fresh shave. You bust out the power suit, and your wife picks out a great power tie. You're ready to go. Or are you?

You see, when we plan to meet clients face to face, we give a lot of thought to how we are perceived. But how about when we aren't meeting in person? How about when our clients are looking for us online? Even the best seminar and the best in-person meeting can be discredited in a moment by an incomplete image online.

Pointing out problems is the easy part. Anyone can tell you that something went wrong after the fact, but how can we learn from our mistakes and be better off for it? Here are three important first steps to bettering your marketing right away.
Marketing must be constant

The best time to begin working on your next marketing campaign is when your business is swirling with activity from the first marketing campaign. It may seem like you are taking on more you can handle at first, but the lag in lead time is such that waiting any longer will create a trough in your activity chart.

By engaging another stream of new leads, you encounter an ascending peak of leads when you otherwise would experience a decline in activity. Think of it as adding in another chart over the first peak and trough cycle that effectively eliminates your periods of low lead volume. This process starts with a pencil and a calendar. Apply your knowledge of the business and marketing cycles to a time period, and with a bit of planning, you've rid your practice of down time.

Getting your practice out of the marketing rut isn't as hard as you may think. It's as simple as branching out. Do fewer seminars and incorporate other marketing methods at the same time. Have you done a client appreciation event recently? When was the last time you mailed a letter to your neighbors? What groups or associations could you reach out to? How many CPAs have you approached about referring business to your practice? Have you ever tried radio commercials or a radio show? How about TV? How often do you email your list of dead leads?

Any combination of these marketing efforts will help you eliminate falling into a rut. Future seminars will be more effective, and you'll reach people you otherwise would have missed with just a single marketing program.

Marketing must be supported

Think of the Internet as real estate. It really is in a way, but with one huge difference. Online real estate is free. It doesn't cost you a thing to create a Facebook page for your practice. It costs nothing to build a professional presence on LinkedIn. You can even craft a pretty good corporate website without breaking the bank. Our clients are getting younger and savvier every day. The fastest growing sector of users in social media is senior citizens. Your clients are looking for you online and if you fail to create a presence online that's as appealing as you are in person, you may never meet some prospects in person.

My father once asked me, "When is the best day to plant a tree?" I shrugged. "The best day to plant a tree was 30 years ago — the next best day is today!"

Implementing marketing is more about taking the time to make a plan and then fulfilling it.

What were your biggest marketing pitfalls, and how did you recover?
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