Developing & Executing a Marketing Plan
3 Basic Steps
1. Define Your Value Proposition and Your Target Audience
Your Value Proposition
Before you can begin effectively marketing your business, it’s critical that you understand exactly who you are and who you are trying to reach. Put a substantial amount of time into defining yourself and developing your value proposition. Write it down and realize that, while it is a fluid outline that can somewhat evolve as the world does, it should be a constant reference and point of refocus.
When developing your value proposition, ask yourself and candidly respond to the following questions:
What’s your niche? This encompasses anything that sets you apart from your competitors and differentiates you in the minds of your clients.
What do you do best? If you don’t thoroughly understand your competencies in comparison to those of your competition, don’t be shy to call on your best clients for help. Ask them why they choose you.
Keep in mind that it is simply impossible to be everything to everyone, so determine where you can add the most value and focus on that.
Your Target Audience
Chances are, your target audience is the group within which your very best clients fall. Since you want more like them, specifically pinpointing their characteristics is critical. So, be very specific in defining them so you can hone in on your ideal customers as much as possible.
- Where they live
- Where they work
- Their income range
- What they read, watch, and listen to
- Where they spend their free time and what they do for fun
- Where they shop
- What they value most about your service (this goes back to my original point about talking openly with your clients about why they choose you as their financial advisor)
You know from your value proposition where you can add the most significance. Once you’ve defined the specific group that will most benefit from that, focus on providing the best possible service to them.
Now that you know who you are, what you’re trying to communicate, to whom you’re trying to communicate, you can determine what media you want to use to convey your message and what your specific message should be.
2. Develop Your Message
Identify the WIFM
As business owners, it’s in our natures to want to talk about our business accomplishments and our longevity, but when you get down to it, all customers really want to know is ‘what’s in it for me?’ So, that should be the primary focus of your marketing messaging.
Play Up Your Niche
You’ve identified what sets you apart, so talk about it. Tell your current and potential clients why they’re going to get more from you than your competitors (without actually mentioning the competition, of course) and why you’re best suited to their needs.
Tailor Your Message
When developing ads and marketing, remember that one message is not applicable to all audiences and all media. Your message itself will be fairly consistent since you’ve already identified who you are, what’s unique about your financial planning business, and who you are trying to reach, but it should vary based on the communication vehicle you’re using.
For example, the verbiage you use would be drastically different if you’re trying to reach prospects through a small ad in a trade publication versus trying to retain current customers through an email newsletter.
Bottom line, credibility is key to gaining clients. While they don’t want to hear you brag about a business that has nothing to offer them, they do want to know you’re stable and someone they can trust. This credibility with your target audience is earned through a solid marketing plan.
3. Determine your Marketing Media
Do Your Research
While one marketing tactic may typically yield a higher response rate than others, it may also be much more expensive. So, you have to always weight the costs versus the benefits in the context of your marketing budget (and remember to have one of those! Experts often recommend it be 20 percent of your overall operating budget). Also, remember to refer to the precise details you identified about your target audience when determining what method to use. Some groups respond drastically differently to marketing methods than others. You’ve thoroughly defined your target market, so now use that information to determine how they want to receive communication.
Be Traditional, but Don’t Be Afraid of Innovation
Traditional. The world and the way we communicate are dramatically changing every day. But, that doesn’t mean that traditional methods of reaching customers and prospects are falling to the wayside. There are still plenty of reasons to used tried and true methods such as face-to-face (relationship) marketing, word of mouth (referrals), direct mail, printed ads and collateral, and public relations.
A lot of marketing methods don’t cost money either. For example:
- Become an expert. Write articles and submit them to your local paper, trade journals, and professional organization’s newsletters and send whatever gets published to your clients.
- Be a public speaker. Present at conferences in your area (check your local Rotary Club or Chamber of Commerce for contact names) and speak on radio shows – they are often looking for experts to interview.
- Be an educator. Those of us who work in service-oriented businesses such as financial planning have great opportunities to educate adults either through community college classes or by offering our own free or inexpensive seminars.
Innovative. That said, innovation is also critical. As the old saying goes, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. If you’re hesitant to try new ways of reaching your customers either because it’s via a medium that you’re not used to or because you don’t know if your clients will truly respond to that type of marketing, trying testing. Construct a small client list that’s representative of your entire target audience and try a new technique. If your response rate is good and you have the resources available, try that method on your entire target audience. Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once though; perhaps set a goal to incorporate just one new technique per month.
Some new and semi-new approaches to consider:
- Internet. Do you have a web site? If not, consider having one built. It can be elaborate if you have the means, but a simple one is still an effective place to start. The important thing is that you are increasing your presence on the web.
- Search engine marketing. Research how to use keywords to drive people to your site if you have one. If not, at least make sure you’re registered with Google so your business name and address will appear if someone searches for you.
- Social networking. Blogging is becoming more and more mainstream for businesses. They are easy to get started, but do require commitment. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace are also now appropriate for businesses as well as individuals.
- Email. If you have their addresses, keep in touch with your clients on a regular basis through emails and newsletters. Be sure to research CAN-SPAM, though, so you don’t get in trouble with the FTC.