Structure And Success – Abbie Tanner

by | Nov 26, 2013

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Abbie Tanner smallPart Three of Abbie Tanner’s Marketing Innovation Engine Programme: How to Create a Structured Business and Marketing Plan

One of the first questions I ask the financial planners I consult with is “Do you have a business plan?” Often the answer is “yes”, no matter how draft or loosely applied it is in their business. The response to my next question, “do you have a marketing plan?” tends to be far more vague – and might include a mumbled “sort of” or “we’re working on it”.

I’m always astounded by this, given that our profession is all about planning, and that the most over-used phrase I hear on the speaking circuit is: “people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan”. I mean, in your business, how do you expect to be successful in your marketing and business development efforts if you don’t have a plan? One that clearly sets out your strategy and business objectives then lists the related tasks, assigning responsibility and timelines for delivery?

In an old-school financial advisory business – the traditional ‘kill-eat’ model – implementing a structured marketing plan would be akin to spotting a Dodo bird. Financial advisers who are driven by sales targets and a mind-set that ‘activity equals results’ (those of you from a structured sales background will know exactly what I mean) will give little thought to the long-term marketing strategy for the business.

By contrast, the financial planning firms of today – genuine service-based businesses focused on sustainable growth and fostering long-term profitable client relationships (‘farmers’) – realise the importance of a marketing plan to drive business growth and to create embedded value. These firms are seeking to build their brand, forge strategic partnerships with other professional firms, increase client engagement and the referral potential of their existing client bank.

Now, I’m not saying this is easy…

Falling Down On the Follow-up  

Even some of the most high-profile and successful financial planners I’ve spoken to admit that, while they meet with some success in their marketing, where their strategy falls down is in the follow-up. They might run a seminar or workshop, for which they spend a lot of time pre-planning – perfecting the content and format, filling the room with the right prospects, clients or professional connections – and then fail to effectively follow-up. Thus missing out on the immediate opportunities generated by the event.

To be honest, it’s actually really quite easy to run a seminar. (I’ll be writing about this topic in a future issue of IFA Magazine). And no doubt, in the past you’ve hosted your own seminars or events. However, in my experience – and I’m sure you’ll agree – unless you schedule your follow-up activity at the time you plan your event, you will not be equipped to capitalise on all of the opportunities that present themselves.
Why not? Because we’re busy people. After the initial euphoria of hosting a successful event, you will get back to your office, back to your mountain of work, and all of the warm leads will get pushed to one side until you find the time to follow-up. Days become weeks, weeks become months, and the potential diminishes… You get the picture.

Planning = Results 

Imagine if you planned your follow-up activity at the outset, and assigned accountability for ensuring that it gets done?

You decided on the audience you wanted to target, considered their needs and the key messages that would resonate (what you want them to ‘know’, ‘feel’ and ‘do’). You booked the venue, prepared the invites, created the presentation (or briefed your speaker), followed-up on the RSVPs, printed delegates packs and feedback forms, created your follow-up email to send within 24 hours, scheduled time in your calendar to collate the feedback and call the ‘hot’ leads. You even created a cover letter and pack to send to attendees who couldn’t make it on the day.

By undertaking all of this work in advance of hosting the event, you can ensure that your follow-up will operate like clockwork – ensuring that you maintain the momentum and capitalise on the opportunities you create.

This is the power of marketing planning. It’s a process of streamlining and systematising your approach to ensure all activity is leveraged to the greatest advantage – minimising the wastage of time, resources and budget.

Getting Started 

Start by considering where you are today, and where you want to be. Have you set revenue or Assets under Advice (AUA) targets? How many clients or cases does that equate to over the next twelve months? What does that amount to in terms of new clients per week? Do you know where your revenue came from last year?
In the most simplistic terms, your plan will help you to do more of what worked and less of what didn’t. It will allow you to focus your efforts on the most value-added activities in a systematised and structured way.

I use a very simple three-question approach to help financial planners to get in the right mind-set:

• ‘What worked?’
• ‘What didn’t?’
• ‘What would you do differently?’

Once you’ve answered these questions, take an internal and external look at your business and opportunity set. I recommend using a SWOT analysis at the start of every year. It will provide a framework and context for where to focus your efforts.
Having already created your value proposition, you know which clients you’re targeting, their biggest challenges or concerns and how your solution will meet their needs. All you need to do now is establish a plan to reach them.

Plan Your ‘Touch Points’ 

I previously taught my clients about what I call the “marketing rule of seven”, whereby a prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they feel comfortable enough to work with you. But after reading Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) – an excellent marketing resource that I highly recommend – I have updated this to more than ten times, given the accessibility of information online and the in-depth research undertaken by Google.

So you need to establish at least ten points of contact – seminars, emails, blog posts, one-to-one meetings – in order to build rapport. Without a plan and sustained marketing strategy to systematise your efforts, how will you meet this contact target?
It is between five and 90 times more expensive to attract new clients than it is to retain your existing clients. So what are you doing today to keep your current clients informed and engaged? I suggest maintaining at least twelve ‘touch points’ each year. This might include quarterly newsletters, one in-person review meeting, an annual statement, hand-written birthday and Christmas cards, and invitations to at least four events or seminars.

By planning your activity you will know exactly how many touch points you will achieve throughout the course of a year. Initiatives will operate like a machine in the background, while you get on with what you do best – advising your clients on what matters most to them.

SWOT for Success

Set aside three to four hours for a marketing planning strategy session with your team. Begin with a blank piece of paper (or whiteboard, if you have access to one). Then follow these three simple steps:

Step 1. In the top left corner, draw four quadrants to create a SWOT analysis. From left to right, top to bottom write the words Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Brainstorm each area and list succinct bullet points to give you a clear picture of where, as a business, you should be focusing your efforts. This will form the basis of your strategy.

Step 2. In the bottom left corner, beneath your SWOT analysis, create a list of the marketing activity you undertook in the last twelve months. Beside the list mark those activities that worked well, those that didn’t work so well and what you would do differently, given your experience and learning in that area. This list will help you to determine the activities to include in your plan

Step 3. In the space remaining on the right, create three columns and add the titles Who, What, When (or How Often). In the Who column, add a list of who you intend to target with your marketing activity. For example, existing clients, referral sources or professional partners (be as succinct as possible, citing individuals or firms).

In the What column, list the activity you will undertake, for example email newsletter, seminar, bespoke client event. Lastly, in the When column, list the month of the year or frequency you will target.

Using all of this information, you will be able to construct your one page marketing plan and activity schedule for the next twelve months. Creating an action list for each month and assigning responsibility for delivery with ensure you meet your communication objectives for the year. 

Remember, marketing is about planning, and knowing which levers to pull to focus your efforts on the most value-added activities. This stems from taking action, then measuring, learning, refining and only focusing on those areas have the most impact and genuinely deliver results.

Capturing this in a succinct plan will systematise your approach and ensure continued momentum behind your strategy.


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