This time last year, I wrote an article to help advisors improve their marketing and communications, “I Know Why Your Marketing Isn’t Working.” Let’s be clear: My advice was all about getting people to notice you by opening your e-mails, reading your newsletters and absorbing some of your information before the presentation hits the recycle bin. These are elements of classic marketing.

But all the marketing in the world won’t earn you a dime unless you have alignment between your sales and marketing processes -- we call that “Smarketing.” A lot of advisors practice random acts of marketing, one day doing print advertising, the next day running a seminar, then calling on COIs. They garner a large list of rather cool prospects that they may or may not put into a CRM system. After one sales attempt and no success (ouch, rejection hurts!) those cool prospects get chillier and eventually freeze into an iceberg of missed opportunity.

To better organize yourself for successful Smarketing, think about your potential pipeline as a funnel with three parts that require smooth coordination.

It’s very easy for marketing and sales people to blame each other when business is slow, but the point of Smarketing is to have clear roles and common goals. Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid:

  1.  Marketing that’s all sizzle, no steak. Your marketers should have measureable objectives and the responsibility for collecting and managing prospect data, with leads being reviewed and scored in conjunction with the sales team on a regular basis. Do not waste your money on marketing unless it’s disciplined and there is commitment from the advisors to have an aligned Smarketing process.
  2. Marketing impatience. Both marketing and sales should expect prospects to require time and multiple touches before they are sales-ready. Marketing prospects are not that easy referral from your Aunt Sally! You want to catch the prospect at the right time when they are motivated, and that could take six to eight touches (defined as calls, sending a personalized note, an event invite, etc.).
  3. Sales laziness. Marketing and sales should work on benchmarks to keep improving prospect quality and conversion rates, but many practices suffer from advisors being too sensitive or perhaps too lazy to really work the prospect list. Given the math (closing three out of 10 is great) you need to have a lot of activity to get the results. Remember, clients typically stay over seven years with an advisor, so they don’t switch easily, but are really valuable when they do!  

Here’s a story to illustrate my point. I recently attended a tennis tournament where Henry, a local advisor, has been an advertising sponsor for six years in a row. He runs a booth, he entertains his clients, and he has picked up a few prospects he has converted to new business, covering his $10,000 marketing sponsorship. He is very comfortable with his approach.

Then I talked to another sponsor, an insurance agent. Joanne treats her tennis prospect universe as a distinct and ongoing  Smarketing campaign with tailored content, such as pre and post-event emails, give-aways, information about the players, and reminders to stop by and say hi! Her booth has a photographer for fans to have pictures taken (give me your email address and I’ll send it to you!). Her Facebook and Twitter accounts keep people connected to the action. Joanne and her disciplined team have succeeded in adding roughly 100 new marketing prospects to the email list per year, converting 20 of them to sales qualified leads, and closing half of that business. Sure, it took some work in marketing and sales, but those 10 new clients per year added more than $300,000 in recurring revenue.    

You may not like the idea of building a Smarketing machine, but I think we are at a fork in the road where only a small subset of advisors will see real growth in client assets. The world has changed -- marketing today is far more powerful than in the past, there are more choices, including robo offers and vastly improved retail platforms at the big custodians. Top that off with the impact of an aging client base, and the different consumer behaviors of Gen X and millennials, and there is a huge argument to get out of your comfort zone.

Get with the Smarketing program!

Gail Graham is chief marketing officer at United Capital, an innovative and fast-growing financial life management firm with a unique approach to the market. Having earned awards in retail investor and advisor marketing, Graham is driving United Capital’s brand development, marketing and lead generation across all channels. Follow her on Twitter: @GailGrahamUC.