Marketing is a term you’ll hear a lot. As financial advisers, we have to communicate the value of our service or brand in order to generate custom. This might be to attract new clients to your business, or simply to keep existing clients happy so they don’t look around for someone else. Either way, marketing is an essential activity.
After celebrating our 20th birthday last summer, we at Informed Choice Ltd reached the stage our evolution where we needed some professional help with our marketing. Although members of our team have a great deal of experience and enthusiasm for marketing, it was time to take our own medicine and employ a professional consultant who could help take our marketing to the next level. Put simply, we wanted to develop a marketing plan which got the results we desire, rather than follow our historical approach of trying various things to see what worked best.
This process started with our business targets. We know as a business how much we are likely to spend each year, how much revenue we expect to receive from existing clients and the level of profit we want to achieve. This meant we could establish some revenue targets, and then work backwards based on our experience from previous years to understand how many new enquiries it would take to acquire the desired number of new clients bringing the desired level of fee revenue to the business.
With these business targets firmly established, and agreed as reasonable by the entire team, we held two half-day workshops with our chosen marketing consultant. These workshops were a mixture of brainstorming and very honest reflection; understanding what worked well and what didn’t work so well, our preferences for different marketing activities and who we felt we best served as a business. There was a lot of discussion around our ideal client profile, based on the types of clients we already work with and those we feel we can add the most value for.
As a result of these workshops, our consultant created for us a series of marketing objectives, numbering eight in total. These include being clearer in our proposition to clients and professional contacts, so they recognise us for the expertise and strengths we deliver, and protecting our key clients from competitors. There were also objectives to maintain our relationships with journalists and fine-tune the search engine optimisation of our website, to attract the right quality of online enquiries for our services. Each of these marketing objectives has its own strategy, directing our activity to ensure we satisfy the objectives documented in our marketing plan.
A fresh look
Some of the findings from this exercise were surprising. We learnt that too much energy was being expended in some areas of our marketing, for example writing blog content for our website, and not enough time was being spent face-to-face with specific individuals; key clients, professional contacts and local organisations. It often takes a third party to point out the blindingly obvious and encourage you to take the right action.
Running alongside this marketing planning project was a decision to undertake a redesign of our brand identity. After twenty years of presenting the same brand to the outside world, it was time for a change. We worked through a brand pyramid, starting with the features and attributes of our brand and working all the way up to describing our brand essence. This helped us focus on a series of qualities in all we do and in the feel of our marketing materials; qualities including supportiveness, clarity, expertise, being friendly and being local. We used this branding exercise to brief a graphic designer to develop a whole new look and feel for our branding, which is now reflected in all of our materials and the entire client experience.
One outcome of the rebranding was putting our office building, Sundial House, front and centre of our branding. It’s an iconic local building with a lot of character, so using it as the basis for our new logo made real sense to reinforce our local presence.
Creating a marketing plan which gets results is a lot of hard work. Even with the input of a professional marketing consultant, we devoted several working weeks of time to the project, along with tens of thousands of pounds, which is a significant amount of money for a small firm to spend. But the result is, I think, well worth the investment of time and money.
It’s still early days for our new marketing plan. The first couple of months of the plan in action have seen us achieve our new client acquisition and retention goals, which are more ambitious than we have ever had before, and approach our work with greater confidence. If nothing else, having a new marketing plan created for us has given the team real clarity around the advice markets we best serve, and our ability to win business from firms of all sizes among the local competition.