On your mark, get set, go: An organized approach to DIY marketing
By Alana Schofield - Kohl
As a small business owner, you're responsible for it all. You're the visionary, the financial officer, sales manager, marketing executive and operations director, and are most likely wearing many other hats, as well. Some advisors are fortunate enough to have assistance along the way, but if a business busts, it will almost always fall on the owner's shoulders.
So, how do you stay on top and get ahead when it comes to marketing your insurance or financial advisory firm? Unfortunately, unlike accounting, there is no ready-made software program that incorporates it all, nor is there a one-size-fits-all, standardized marketing system that applies to every small business. Marketing is relative to an owner's specific strengths, service offerings, areas of expertise and budget. However, while there is no standardized system, fortunately, there is an organized and proven approach.
The approach to do-it-yourself marketing can be categorized and broken down into a three-step process: define, support and promote, and in that order. While it's up to you to fill in the blanks for each, the approach can be applied to a new advertising concept, public relations campaign, an event, or even to developing a brand for your advisory firm.
Effective marketing begins with defining the unique identity and purpose of what you're marketing, followed by creating the materials and systems to support that purpose, and then, by proactively promoting the concept, event or company through targeted promotional efforts. Done in this order, you will maximize the return on your marketing investment and accomplish the "stickiness" of your marketing messages.
Ready, set, go! Here is the approach to the do-it-yourself marketing of your insurance or financial advisory firm.
Define. Before you embark on any marketing initiative, it's important to become very clear with your purpose. It all starts with defining the identity of what you are marketing. For example, when it comes to your firm, ask yourself, what do I do? Who do I do it for? Why am I better? What's our competitive advantage? Areas of specialty? What problems do our services solve? What do I want my prospects to think when they hear about my company? Use these answers to create your messages, the headlines that will appeal most to your target audience. Define the desired brand identity. If you know where you're going, it's a lot easier to get there. This will create the "purpose" of your marketing. Be sure to stick to these key messages in all of your marketing initiatives. Messaging was an effective tool for our new President while campaigning. The country was clear that he was bringing "change" to America. If you stick to the messages, your messages will stick.
Support. Next, once your ideal identity is defined and your messages are set, it is important that you support your "purpose" through developing related marketing collateral, promotion concepts and/or systems and, of course, being consistent with the messaging. You only have one chance to make a first impression. If you tout yourself as the IRA rollover expert or the "income for life" planning specialist in your community, but have nothing to support your claim, the credibility of that statement is diminished. By developing supporting materials and systems up front, you are 1) reaffirming that you are the expert on the topic, 2) ensuring that prospective clients have an opportunity to learn more about you and the problems you solve, and 3) provide a nonthreatening method to contact you or your insurance or financial advisory firm for more information.
Examples of supporting collateral include: company- and/or service-specific marketing brochures, a Web site, sales kit, workshop materials, a professional biography, a media kit, and so on. If conducting a special promotion showcasing your expertise, such as offering an IRA rollover or income plan review, create items of interest for your prospects. In this example, if you are gathering leads by driving prospective clients to your Web site, consider having a downloadable document on the "10 most common mistakes made when rolling over your 401(k) or IRA," or "A Guide to Figuring Your Income Needs in Retirement." Not only does this instill credibility in the minds of these prospective clients, your document also becomes a research tool and names you as the expert to consult should someone need assistance in one of these areas.
If you plan on conducting an integrated marketing campaign, incorporate a number of different promotional strategies and create a platform to both collect the leads as well as the systems to track where leads come from. Understanding where your new business derives will lead to more targeted and effective promotions in the future, and most likely at a lesser budget.
It's important to develop your marketing materials with purpose, as you need not just tell, but also sell your story; clarify for your reader why you're better than anyone else in your community and why they should take note.
Promote. And, lastly, once the brand is defined and the supporting materials are in place, it's time to actively promote the brand. The key to setting yourself apart is by creating awareness of yourself and your services. But there is a big difference between just being seen in your community, and actually being heard by your community and, more importantly, your target prospects. Consistent messages combined with targeted marketing efforts can lead to a memorable brand, new prospects and business opportunities, increased credibility and already instilled trust from potential clients.
Traditional strategies for promoting your insurance or financial advisory firm can include print, TV, radio and even outdoor advertising, direct mail, marketing and public relations campaigns. New media strategies refer to Web marketing and the methods for driving people to your Web site where they can further learn from and interact with your company.
Generally, traditional advertising creates exposure and is best used as a branding technique. Public relations also creates exposure and increases credibility. Direct mail can be used as a branding tool, as well as a call to action method, and marketing strategies, such as network marketing, can do the same, as long as materials are structured accordingly. New media increases your Web traffic, and gives you an opportunity to "wow" and engage your prospective clients once they reach your Web site.
A strong, well-orchestrated marketing approach offers you the ability to break through the clutter of other insurance or financial advisory competitors in your community, and get more return from your marketing dollars. Conducting these steps out of order will dilute the impact of your marketing budget, send mixed messages to you community, and increase the amount of money and time spent on securing each new client.
Apply this approach to the DIY marketing of your insurance or financial advisory firm, and get on the fast track to success.
*For further information, or to contact this author, please leave a comment and your e-mail address in the forum below.