Advisors frequently express the desire to do more marketing. They embrace the planning phase with gusto, but, typically, their enthusiasm shifts when it comes to implementation. A key difference between firms that market successfully on a sustained basis and those that don’t is having someone to whom the advisor can delegate the responsibility of carrying out the marketing plan.
Make no doubt about it—the advisor must be strategically involved in marketing by identifying:
- Which niche(s) he or she is most passionate about supporting
- The pros and cons of targeting different audiences
- The characteristics that define the targeted realistic ideal client within each niche
- The personal and financial issues most troublesome to these clients
- Which clients in their current book of business fit neatly into each targeted niche
- What makes the advisor uniquely qualified to address the targeted clients’ issues
- The priority of marketing for the firm in terms of time and resources
Plan the work and work the plan
These decisions are all a part of the planning process, and the advisor must “own” them. But once a plan has been neatly laid out, is it wise for an advisor to spend time following up with a printer regarding an event invitation instead of meeting with a client or evaluating an investment portfolio? A better alternative might be to delegate plan implementation to a staff member.
Take the example of a marketing event, and break it down into tasks. Say the advisor wants to host one small informal gathering for three clients and three guests every quarter. Let’s review some of the details to be coordinated:
- Articulate the purpose of the event.
- Identify which clients to invite.
- Select and reserve the venue.
- Determine whether a sponsor will participate.
- Determine the “program” (if there is to be a formal presentation).
- Work with sponsors on potential funding.
- If the event has a program, coordinate content, speakers and agenda.
- Coordinate with graphic artists to design invitation and materials to be used.
- Get Compliance approval for the invitation and other materials.
- Complete the mailing.
- Receive and record RSVPs.
- Design nametags.
- Orchestrate the flow of the event.
- Determine an appropriate gift for attendees.
These tasks require hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and meetings to complete. Is it any wonder that an advisor would become frustrated and decide to cut back on marketing activities altogether?
Few advisors do only one marketing event. Let’s assume you want A clients to have 16 quality touches per year, B clients to have 10 and C clients to have six. If we assume that each touch requires a minimum of 20 details to coordinate, that’s 640 details to handle—and that’s a low estimate for maintaining client relations in a simple plan. What advisor has time to handle all that?
Strategy vs. Tactics
The role of the advisor is strategic. When it comes to marketing, the advisor should be involved in defining the brand, determining the ideal client, establishing the budget, influencing which tactics to apply and establishing the timing for implementation.
The role of staff is tactical. The staff person works with the advisor to create the plan and should be well-versed in the advisor’s thinking regarding targeted markets and niches. Once the plan has been finalized, however, the staff person takes charge of implementation. He or she should be ahead of the process and focus on tactics to be carried out four to six months or more in the future, identifying which tasks can be done only by the advisor and articulating deadlines for their completion. The staff member should bring marketing problems to the attention of the advisor—along with proposed solutions—and monitor implementation and track results.
As an example, the job description of a marketing assistant might include the following responsibilities:
1. With the advisor, create a marketing calendar for the year.
2. Coordinate implementation of all aspects of delivery—whether a drip for clients, sending birthday cards, or hosting a formal or informal event. Specific examples might include:
- Performing mail-merges
- Coordinating the production and mailing of the monthly client newsletter
- Maintaining the client birthday card/gift program
3. Set marketing deadlines for the advisor and keep him or her on-task with activities that only he or she can do.
4. Maintain the firm’s brand, as positioned through brochures, stationery, website and social media.
5. Manage the firm’s referral programs, including:
- Orchestrating campaigns
- Adding names to the database
- Using a drip approach for prospects
- Coordinating thanking referrers
6. Use a CRM system to monitor regular touches with clients.
7. Review third-party offerings to propose to the advisor.
8. Track results of marketing initiatives.
9. Make suggestions for systematizing and improving the firm’s marketing effectiveness.
Characteristics of an effective marketing staff Position
Many advisors simply add marketing implementation responsibilities to an existing staff position, but results can be mixed.
Adding this responsibility cannot be a forced fit. For example, both operations and marketing require detail orientation. But marketing details are far different from those required to implement investment decisions or determine tax basis. A customer service assistant may be focused on verifying data on a transfer of assets form; a marketing assistant is focused on matching the color of invitations to the firm’s logo.
As a firm’s revenue grows, if the firm is interested in seriously marketing itself, the need for a specific marketing coordinator position will likely emerge. For a firm ready to add a dedicated marketing position, here are a few things to consider.
Is previous marketing experience required? Having some experience can be very useful. On the other hand, a highly experienced marketer may be too expensive for a small business owner, or feel hamstrung by a small firm’s limited budget. The small business owner may think that hosting a quarterly marketing event is part of an aggressive plan, while one event per quarter may seem insignificant to a seasoned professional. To address that type of concern, many firms have sought a part-time marketing staff person, with hours correlated to the number of initiatives undertaken.
Regardless of the level of experience, a requirement of the marketing role is to write or work with a writer to create e-mails, newsletters, websites, invitations and more.
Event planning capabilities. Event planning requires excellent organizational and time management skills, coupled with an ability to think conceptually while attending to details. Event planner professionals have specific education and experience. Meeting Professionals International is a great place to begin the search. Advisors might also consider providing a training opportunity for a staff marketing coordinator who lacks this background.
Multitasking is the norm. A marketing staff person must be able to coordinate multiple initiatives simultaneously. And, as previously mentioned, each initiative will include many tasks and have various deadlines. Planning the client appreciation dinner, editing the advisor’s column for the website, and coordinating everything with Compliance are all in a day’s work.
Internally and externally focused. In a small office, it is likely the marketing person will be involved in the organization internally and will also have a key role in interacting with prospects, vendors and clients externally. A people-person who enjoys interacting face-to-face and over the telephone, the individual needs strong social skills.
Self-direction to work independently and according to plan. As with other office positions, attention to detail (albeit a different type of detail), technological proficiency, a great attitude and extraordinary customer service skills are required.
Instead of engaging in self-deprecation for failure to implement a marketing plan, advisors should understand that marketing implementation may not be the best use of their time. If a firm intends to actively pursue consistent marketing—rather than merely dabbling in it—the more focused approach is to create an infrastructure where the advisor “owns” strategic decisions, but delegates the rest: Right size a written marketing plan for your firm, plan the work, and then delegate to someone on your staff to work the plan.