If referrals are the bedrock of success for your financial planning business, it doesn’t mean you can ignore the power of marketing as Faith Liversedge explains
I get it. You’re suspicious. Marketing isn’t for you. It’s for brands like Coca Cola and McDonald’s.
Marketing people speak gobbledygook about social media, analytics and the power of blogging. They only use Apple Macs and buy their lunch from Pret.
Marketing is an additional expense. And you don’t need any of it because you get your business through referrals. Yes, I hear you.
Marketing doesn’t have the greatest image
Even the good quotes, when taken out of context, can sound fluffy and naïve.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make but the stories you tell,” says Seth Godin.
Well, what are you supposed to do when you read things like that?
You’re busy, seeing clients, fielding calls, running the business and trying to keep up with regulatory requirements that seem to change with the weather; even if you know you need to ‘do marketing’ where do you start? With Hansel and Gretel?
Well, keep reading, because I’m going to tell you.
A changing landscape
There are some ‘marketing’ things that even businesses which run on referrals need to have these days, and that’s because of two main things:
- Consumers attitudes have changed
- The advice landscape has changed
Clients these days – even the baby boomer demographic – behave differently now that the internet is part of all our lives. The ‘information super highway’ as it was once called (remember that?!) has made us all more demanding, more powerful, more knowledgeable and discerning. Just think about your own buying behaviour.
In addition, developments in the advice landscape have forced advisers to be more transparent about their processes and charges. These have moved the spotlight to adding real value for clients. And when your value-add is largely invisible to the naked eye and based on a promise of something happening or not happening in the future, then it becomes difficult to sell the benefits without some input from marketing.
So what should that input me?
Even if your business is built on referrals, those people who are being referred to you will at the very least check you out online. They need to know you’re legit if they’re going to park their life savings with you and trust you to help them achieve their goals in life. So, at the most basic end of marketing you need a secure, professional and up-to-date website.
That’s because these days, clients aren’t just comparing you to other advisers, they’re comparing you to other service providers too: think Facebook, AirBnB, mature-dating sites, fitness sites, restaurant sites, shopping sites, museum sites etc. This means they know what ‘good’ looks like – and what ‘bad’ does too. They’re expecting VIP treatment.
Prospective clients will quickly pick up when a company is being transparent and also when they’re holding back information. They can tell when someone’s being honest and when they’re being cliched. They know how a real review should sound and what a made up one is.
The ‘bad’ things are going to confirm their deep-seated – may be unconscious – opinions of who a ‘financial adviser’ is: intimidating, unapproachable, stuffy, out of touch and difficult to trust.
Adviser website bingo
Not convinced? It’s time to play adviser website bingo. How many of these have you come across on ‘financial’ websites?
Stock imagery – senior couples with immaculately coiffed hair in co-ordinated beige outfits sitting on boats / the beach / in a creepily minimalist adviser office smiling at each other / their cherubic grandchildren / their impossibly handsome adviser.
Layout – content squashed into the middle of the screen like it’s 2005. Tiny images that can hardly be seen set within deep off-putting paragraphs of never-ending text that resemble a copy of The Times, 1912.
Text – wording that overwhelmingly talks about the adviser, their qualifications, how many years they’ve been in business rather than addressing the client and their problems. Overuse of impenetrable financial jargon, acronyms and names of services that are never explained. Cliched, catch-all phrases such as ‘peace of mind’ and ‘industry-leading’.
Fake-sounding testimonials – bland phrases from Mrs Miggins about she achieved ‘peace of mind’ and would ‘recommend you to anyone’ that sound as if they’ve been made up by the adviser and approved retrospectively.
Navigation – a menu of page titles that don’t help people find out what they want to know and make it hard for them to even get in touch. Ropey images of the team – taken on a mobile ensuring that uncomfortable, rabbit-in-a-headlights look. Or worse still, no images at all, leaving the client to guess as to whether the adviser is even real.
The FTSE – which contradicts the message if the message is (somewhere) that the adviser’s proposition is long-term financial planning.
Missing security padlock symbol – biiiiig red ‘x’ against a website purporting to be trustworthy. (This is the padlock symbol that shows your site is secure. Google penalises websites that don’t have this and Chrome will flag up a security warning for sites without this.)
Non-responsive – websites that aren’t designed for mobile use – not useful now that we’re officially ‘mobile first’, meaning that more website searches are carried out on mobiles than desktops.
The good news is that a website that’s the exact opposite of the above – one that looks and sounds authentic and genuine yet professional, and that shows you are, in fact, a real-life human who can help them with their own particular dilemma and make them feel comfortable about the process before they’ve even met you. This is going to stand out a mile.
There’s even more good news. In an increasingly cold and robotic world where so many transactions – from supermarket shopping to travelling – are done through an app of some sort, your clients are craving a real person who can reassure them they’re going to be ok with regard to achieving their all-important goals in life and in keeping their finances completely under control to achieve those goals. So this is what they’re actually looking for.
The right fit
Once you’ve shown them this, you can start to attract those people your business really wants to work with.
Because your website shouldn’t just a ‘qualifier’ it’s also a useful tool in its own right. If it’s set up properly, it can help to attract those ‘right’” clients and filter out the ‘wrong’ ones.
The ‘wrong’ clients are those who, though lovely, don’t fit your proposition. Taking on these clients is going to make your firm inefficient. It takes bravery, but in the words of former US first lady Nancy Reagan circa 1986 during the so called War on Drugs, to these clients, you have to “Just say no”.
I hope I’ve convinced you that marketing is needed.
Your company website is the one place you can really show what it is that makes your business special and your service so valuable.
Are you doing that? Because if you’re not someone else will be and we don’t want them becoming their client instead, do we?
Thanks for reading. For an in-depth, technical analysis of your website, contact me for your personalised digital marketing report.
About Faith Liversedge
Faith is a highly imaginative communications expert, with almost 20 years’ experience of creating distinctive and award-winning marketing content and campaigns.
After 5 years in journalism and 15 in financial services marketing, she set up on her own in April 2017 to help forward-thinking financial advisers connect with the right clients and become more pro table through having more effective websites, branding and marketing communications.
Find out more at www.faithliversedge.com. Follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram @FaithLiversedge.