Dan Martin is the Director of Marketing for the Financial Planning Association, the premier membership organization for CFP® professionals and those who support the financial planning profession. He is an award-winning author, writing on marketing and communications strategy, change management, investor education and practice management for financial planners. Dan earned his journalism degree from the University of Denver and his MBA in marketing from the Daniels College of Business. You can follow him on Twitter at @DanW_Martin and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/danmartinmarketing.
The vast majority of financial planners I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have at least one thing in common; they freely admit they’re not marketers. That does not mean, however, that they get a free pass to avoid marketing their business in the right way (in other words, you need to stop making excuses and start marketing).
While I think most planners agree that they need to do a better job promoting themselves and their businesses, the next (and fair) question is, “OK, how can I get started?” At this point, a common next step is to review your internal budget and objectives, and to make a decision on whether to hire an internal marketing person or people, or to outsource marketing altogether. Either path has its pros and cons, but before you make the decision, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what marketing is, and what it is not.
One of the things that really grinds my gears is the deluge of advertisements and pitches planners and other small business owners are exposed to every day that shout about how they can just “buy 10,000 Twitter followers” on the cheap, purchase “Content Marketing-in-a-Box” for just three low installments of $39.95, or how “easy” their marketing lives can be if they just buy this one cool thing. Beyond being annoying and tacky, these messages have created the dangerous perception that marketing is a transaction; something you can buy, and that with that purchase, you are “doing marketing.” Spoiler alert: you aren’t.
There are so many metaphors and analogies that can be (and are) used to explain marketing in simple terms that it’s difficult to decide which one to go with. Although apt, I don’t love the “sprint vs. marathon” analogy, as many people are not interested in doing either, and it makes marketing sound more grueling than it needs to be. I like the plant metaphor (i.e., if you water it every day, it will grow…), but it’s a bit overused.
For our purposes, I’ll use “brand building,” as we’ve all heard the term used ad nauseum, and it actually provides a valuable way (buzz phrase though it may be) to think about marketing in its simplest form. Marketing is never one-and-done – using this analogy, too many marketing consultants, providers and “gurus” (barf) will tell you they can slap together a house out of plywood, glue it together, helicopter it out and plop it on a piece of land – Voila! Marketing! Don’t believe anyone who tells you they can help you build your brand overnight – it simply doesn’t work that way.
Healthy, powerful marketing lives in a place above the industrial terms we use to describe it. Far from a series of “transactions” or “touchpoints,” it’s your way of telling your current and prospective clients that you care so much about what you do that you’ve created an entire business just to serve their needs. It’s not just about “SEO” and “distribution,” although these are important components to understand, it’s about showing the world who you are, what you’re passionate about and why you’re so proud of your business and practice that you want and need everyone to know it.
Every asset you create, every post you send, every interaction you earn and every life you touch adds another brick, thoughtfully and affectionately placed, to your brand – and that’s why it’s called brand building.
Marketing is the very definition of the long game, and those who succeed are those who are willing to put in the work over time. Individually, each element, message and vehicle will perform well, poorly or just above average based on your specific objectives (and a variety of other factors), and it can be easy to place too much importance on the return on investment for that initiative or that day.
Whether you choose to outsource, hire internal staff or a hybrid of both, I urge you to try your best, even as your marketing plans and strategies begin to get more complicated, not to lose sight of the fact that your most important goal is building your “structure” (brand) the right way. Marketing should be a labor of love, and it certainly won’t be easy, but I can guarantee it will be worth it.