Go for the gold with a winning combination

By Alana Schofield - Kohl

AdvisorPR


The art of growing your financial advisory business can be loosely compared to playing a sport. You've got competition; in fact, there may be people bigger and stronger than you and your independent practice. But in order to win over new clients, you have to train, stay focused and keep your eye on the prize, and work towards reaching your business goals.

As we've seen with the recently concluded Olympic Games, the athletes that competed had to train in their sport, get plenty of exercise doing different activities, eat a healthy diet, and have the support of a coach to win a spot on the podium. It's never just one thing that gets you the gold, but a combination of many that will help you achieve your desired results.

Your business is no different. Most often, it takes more than one thing to reach your practice building goals, even if you do that one thing very well. Even though holding a seminar or writing a contributing article in your local paper is a good start, not one thing is the end all be all that will bring you success. It's a combination of many things that will lead you to your goals, including marketing, advertising and public relations. And when used together, they can help to build a winning combination, and all should be part of your winning strategy for 2010 and beyond.

Marketing

This widely used, somewhat monotonous term means different things to different people. The traditional definition of the word means selling of products or services. While all forms of promotion, including advertising and public relations, are often included under the marketing umbrella, it's direct marketing and marketing collateral that need the most attention in your practice.

One of the most common forms of marketing in the industry are direct mail campaigns, which have long been a common tool for lead generation. Direct mail can be used for seminar marketing, direct response, and branding initiatives. Keeping in front of your prospects and clients is important, and can be easily accomplished with direct mail.

A newer form of direct marketing includes e-media. This encompasses both e-mail campaigns and e-newsletters, allowing you to easily and cost-efficiently stay in front of your prospects and clients. And most recently, postings on Facebook or Twitter are becoming new tools for direct marketing, as well. All of these mediums allow you to stay in front of your prospects and clients, and keep them actively posted on news, products and services.

This form of marketing is the most personal (aside from referrals) and some form of direct marketing should be integrated into your marketing mix at a consistent pace.

Second, marketing collateral needs a place in your overall plan. How do you want your prospects and clients to think of you? Tell them what you want them to know through corporate marketing collateral, and tell them how you can be of assistance through service collateral.

One place where each are included is a Web site. A Web site is a must-have in today's electronic marketplace and, aside from the marketing potential, it's a great place to explain what you do, who you do it for, and why you're better (which are known as your corporate messages) as well as how you can be of service and why people should contact you now (which are known as your service messages.)

Other forms of marketing collateral include brochures, sales kit and media kits.

Brochures tell clients and prospects who you are and what you do in succinct, quick blurbs that are easy to understand. The great advantage of a service brochure is it can be used to talk about a new service, product or strategy in an easy-to-understand format, and allows for an existing client to pass along the information to friends or family members who are in need of financial planning services. A nice brochure should have an appropriate balance of pictures and copy, should evoke a feeling of the relief of financial security through the solutions you can provide, and not be overly busy or plain.

A sales kit is most commonly used at a workshop or to formally present your services to a potential client. It may include learning worksheets along with important facts and figures that help demonstrate your abilities and the importance of your services. It should also include corporate messages such as an executive bio, company overview, and perhaps testimonials regarding your services and client experiences.

A media kit is a variation of sales kit meant for the media. A media kit highlights your services, achievements and areas of expertise, and is designed help the media understand that you are the go-to resource for all things relating to financial services.

Some, or all, of the listed marketing collateral and correlating strategy should be included in your marketing mix.

Advertising

The purpose of advertising is to create brand awareness, so before you begin an advertising campaign you must establish or reaffirm your brand identity. A brand identity tells the public who you are, what you do, and why you are better than your competition. A brand usually includes a logo and tagline (also known as a slogan) as well. These components are important because they are the building blocks of all promotional efforts. Using an established logo, tagline, and associated messaging creates a consistent company profile for your target audience -- one that allows for memorability.

Successful advertising campaigns stick with you, they are the seedlings that begin generations of loyalty to a brand and they have turned small companies into recognizable corporations. The reason advertising works is it creates stickiness. a tagline that sticks in the mind of a consumer will increase the likelihood that they will think of your practice next time they need the help of an advisor.

Public relations

Public relations (PR) refers to the process of working with the media to build your brand identity and establish your authority and expertise on a topic or series of topics. Public relations will help build your reputation within a community. It can be done by seeking out media attention with opportunities to comment on breaking news or current events, allowing you to supply an opinion or advice on an important financial topic.

Public relations also includes working with media outlets to contribute weekly or monthly contributing articles, build an ongoing radio or TV presence, or to simply alert media that you are available to be of assistance should the need or opportunity ever arise.

A public relations strategy is not for everyone, but it does not generally create immediate leads (although it will absolutely help in the lead conversion process.) Seek a form of public relations that is right for you and include this in your marketing mix.

Earning a gold medal in the "growing your financial advising practice" competition will take work. You can't rely on just one strategy to help you accomplish your goals; you have to use a combination of marketing, advertising and PR to obtain the optimal outcome. But the hard work should pay off and hopefully at the end of 2010, you'll be ahead of the competition and standing victorious.

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