Marketing: Hit them with real information

By Shawn O'Brien | January 9, 2009 | Last updated on January 9, 2009
5 min read

The purpose of marketing to clients and prospects is to get their immediate attention. So many financial advisors, though, keep telling me how difficult it is to market these days. Why is that? I suggest that most are benchmarking their current results against the result of marketing efforts they made back in the early- to mid-1990s. Hello? Those were different times! Different times require different measures.

In the early 1990s, most people were savers, not investors. With the legitimization of mutual funds, though, and access to robust global investment opportunities, savers turned into investors very quickly. People were starved for information and they came running to virtually any event.

Today, things are different — very different. Long gone are the days where a staged expert pontificating or selling get-rich-quick strategies could fill 1,000-seat auditoriums. Today, with rapid access to information and choice, your prospects are likely the skeptical, dissatisfied clients of some other advisor.

They are skeptical because they believe they’ve seen it and heard it all before. Most clients feel like the promises of the past have led to their current disappointment. Many view large seminar auditoriums, associated with talk about investment using leverage and limited partnerships, as enemy territory.

How do you market to break through this skepticism and doubt?

I believe that good marketing today is the effective delivery of relevant and topical information that helps an investor make the right decisions. The current marketplace of financial products is filled with campaigns, platitudes and “the path of least resistance” suggestion. These campaigns merely reinforce the idea that real information is an endangered species.

I conducted a client survey this past June. It was a small survey of 70 clients, but I believe the results were telling. I asked if they would prefer to attend an education event or an entertainment event. The majority, 88%, said they would prefer to learn something. I then asked if they would attend an education event held by their financial advisor. Only 20% said they would. Wondering why? Here is a sample of their comments:

“I feel the need to learn, but the topics are oftentimes boring and redundant.”

“The speaker at the last event talked as if what he said was unimportant.”

“I have an interest, but so few events have any real appeal.”

“For me to take a night out for an event, the topic must be compelling and interesting.”

“The last session was painful. It might have been of interest to some, but the speaker spoke a language I didn’t understand.”

“I want to hear what my advisor has to say; I am not interested in listening to a canned product pitch from a wholesaler.”

From this survey and my experience in the field, I have substantiated two things: First, your clients and prospects have an interest in learning new information. Second, most financial advisors do a poor job of creating and delivering information that connects with their audience.

Tips on effective marketing campaigns:

1. Identify your natural market. Your “natural market” is the group of people who resonate with you. If you don’t know who these people are, take a look at your top clients; success leaves clues.

2. Understand their stressors. Determine what is currently problematic to your natural market clients. What are their existing “hot button issues” related to your services? Hot button issues can include tax, income, performance, lack of communication from their advisor, marketplace complexity and others.

3. Develop a multi-pronged strategy to deliver your message. Information that would typically be delivered in a seminar can be shared in many effective forms. This information can be delivered in a report, workshop, white paper, blog, video blog or web presentation.

4. Deliver your information in a factual, informative format. I suggest that instead of providing “your spin,” present the facts, including the pros and cons. People are tired of being sold half the story. Imagine presenting your information to a jury — they are not looking for opinion; they are looking for you to lay out factual information. This information should assist your audience by reducing their stress.

5. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Don’t jump on the bandwagon of marketing the latest and greatest. In fact, a challenge to contemporary thinking is effective. Ask yourself “how authentic is my information?”

6. Use statistics to substantiate your facts. A campaign is more effective when you say “according to the Fraser Institute, 78% of Canadians don’t have a financial plan” than “most people in Canada don’t have a financial plan.”

7. Be creative and interactive. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and deliver your information in unique ways. Instead of hosting a seminar called “How to prepare for aging parents,” or some such thing, conduct a boot camp called “Are you worried about your aging parents? An interactive family boot camp for helping parents maintain their dignity and independence.”

Exhibit your expertise

There is a financial advisor in my area who has created a dominant brand by advertising on television, in newspapers and on billboards. There is no doubt this marketing has had an impact on his business. However, I do wonder if this campaign could be more impactful.

The campaign directs prospects to the advisor’s website, to sign up for a complementary review or seminar. I wonder how many “unripe cherries” visit his website looking for more information, but are not yet ready to meet with him or attend a session. They are actively looking for information, but their stress isn’t so great that they will take the plunge of entering the advisor’s lair.

Offering these prospects more information — real information — a topical report, checklist or video blog, may warm them up more to the message or prospect. Unlike the early 1990s when prospects went from stranger to client in a “nanosecond,” today’s prospects need to warm up to you and be certain you have the capacity to help them overcome their fears and concerns. Marketing today is less about product or ideas and all about exhibiting your expertise.

Shawn O’Brien is president of Shift Consulting.


Shawn O’Brien