In the world of marketing today, we’re seeing massive changes resulting from digitization, demographics and new forms of media. Frankly, there is a lot of clutter and competition for attention, making the art and science of marketing more challenging than ever before. As CMO of a fast-growing national firm, I need to stay on my toes, learn constantly and pay attention to trends and best practices.

If you’re running a smaller advisory firm, you’re probably not a marketing guru, and if you have a marketing staff, they may not be cutting edge either. That’s OK for now, as most firms are still winning business the old-fashioned way through word of mouth and referrals. But there are a few things you can do to make sure you are relevant in the modern world.

It’s that time of year to begin planning for 2016, and these relatively simple—but effective—steps will refresh your marketing mojo:

Step 1: Check Your References

In the old days, that would mean the COIs in your community and clients who offer themselves to speak to your prospects. Today, your biggest reference is the Internet. According to Forrester Research, a potential customer has completed over 50 percent of the buyer's journey (a fancy name for the selection process) before they ever talk to a salesperson. Maybe you think that’s true for things like cars, but not our business! Guess again.

In all likelihood your prospect, even one referred by a great client, has checked out your website, your LinkedIn profile and any personal or corporate Facebook pages. They’re seeing who your friends are, and if you’ve published or been quoted in any press. It matters (to them) if you don’t show up on page one of a Google search for “financial advisers in my town,” and everything about your website shapes a first impression.   

Take a look at the website my team built—we get great feedback and use analytics to constantly refine our approach so that our brand personality shines through. That’s what people experience when they look us up. Pick a few of your local competitors and compare what we call your “digital footprint” to theirs because that’s exactly what your prospects are doing.

Step 2: Humanize Yourself

I was at a marketing conference recently where the keynote, Brian Halligan, made a great observation:  “Companies are a figment of our imagination. We are all people, one human buying or selling to another human.” The irony is that in a machine-age world there is even greater desire to know others and be known, which drives all social media channels. On their computers, people are revealing a lot about themselves. 

In our industry, we’re tempted to show how big and impressive we are instead of how human and vulnerable. We take care of people’s money, and while that’s serious business, those humans we serve probably want to know we have a heart, too. Some ways to humanize yourself include producing content (blogs, podcasts, etc.) on softer topics, and making sure you have a Facebook page that just shares who you and your colleagues really are.

I’ve been tracking open rates on the material we publish in our newsletter and our blog, and some of our winners are topics like raising grandchildren or how to meditate. I’ve written about raising millennials, the way dads are underappreciated and how to find sea glass, and those columns sit side by side with our investment commentary and planning tips. When we developed our company voice, we described it as human, caring and candid. What’s yours? That is a question worthy of your time.


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