8 Questions for Developing Your Marketing Plan

8. Can I afford professional help? 8. Can I afford professional help?

8. Can I afford professional help?

You’ve got clients to meet and prospects to woo. Your time shouldn’t be spent at the computer agonizing over the wording for an ad or calling venues for an event. Get help, preferably from marketing professionals if you can afford it. Check with your broker/dealer or custodian first – oftentimes, they will have resources and/or recommendations for you. If you are a member of an association such as NAIFA, NAPFA or FPA, they may also have a library of content and/or a list of marketing professionals who will work with you on a preferred client basis. Depending on your target market and your ideas for strategies and tactics, you might need an advertising agency or event planner, a freelance copywriter, a PR firm, or a customer contact manager. Interns (yes, you should pay them) can be a great resource, but remember to look for their expertise, not yours. Hiring a finance major to come up with catchy web advertising will frustrate you both.

Kirk Hulett is a senior vice president of strategy and practice management for Securities America. He is the author of two books on human resources issues for financial planners and investment professionals, Hiring to Grow: A Practical Workbook and Managing for Performance: The Cycle of Success. Hulett is also co-host of the “Advisorpod” practice management series on www.AdvisorPod.com.

7. Can I commit? 7. Can I commit?

7. Can I commit?

Marketing and marriage often suffer from the same affliction – lack of commitment. It can take months or, more likely, years for a marketing campaign to reach its full potential. Set and manage your own expectations, or you’ll never get a true reading of what works and what doesn’t for your situation.

6. How will I measure? 6. How will I measure?

6. How will I measure?

Don’t treat your marketing efforts like messages in a bottle, set adrift in the hope someone will read them. Before launching any marketing plan or initiative, you need to have solid yardsticks in place. One of the easiest is to simply ask prospects and new clients, “How did you hear about me?” Be prepared for multiple answers – your message probably hit the target several times before he took action. Another technique is to assign a separate phone number or web address for a marketing campaign – the calls and hits tell you which message got the prospect to call.

5. What space can I own? 5. What space can I own?

5. What space can I own?

If a gigantic firm dominates the broadcast space, dumping your available marketing dollars into a single cable spot running at 2 a.m. once a week won’t make a dent. Look for the space you can own that is most directly related to your target. Think niche. Think big fish (you), and how you can be seen as most prevalent in a small but well stocked pond. Is one of your target markets business owners in a specific industry? Find associations and publications that cater to that group. High-net-worth single women? Consider local lifestyle magazines and event sponsorships. Small budgets do best when concentrated in a single effort for a specific period of time, rather than spread thinly over long periods or multiple tactics. For example, doing a full-page color ad in that lifestyle magazine for six months may have more impact than smaller ads in your community’s daily newspaper for a year. A well-worked booth at an annual business show can provide more leads than a single radio ad during the college team’s jam-packed half-time show (and will cost a great deal less).

4. What are my competitors doing and saying? 4. What are my competitors doing and saying?

4. What are my competitors doing and saying?

If you’ve had good clients leave, where did they go? Where did your new clients come from? What marketing strategies and messages are those firms using? Look for the markets or channels they may be ignoring. For example, if Elite Firm is targeting your community’s ultra-high net worth citizens, the mass affluent market may be underserved. In addition to reading community publications and being active in circles where your best clients (and key competitors) are likely to be, it’s a good idea to monitor keywords on the Worldwide Web.

If you don’t have Google Alerts set up yet, you should stop reading this article and to do that now. Put in keywords for your key competitors, best clients, hot prospects and other trends, companies or terms you should be watching for. Don’t forget to put your own name and your company name in the Google Alert system. You want to be the first to know when anything related to your company, your name, and these other key terms pops up online. Social Mention is another online tool that will tell you when your name and/or other key terms is being bandied about on blogs and social networking sites such at Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

3. Who is my target? 3. Who is my target?

3. Who is my target?

This question often prompts advisors to look at demographics such as age, income, assets and occupation. Don't forget to look at psychographics, too – hobbies, values, personal philosophies, etc. (the mindsets that you and your best clients have in common). One often over-looked target market is your existing clients. Client communication must be part of your marketing plan, especially if your client base review revealed a large number of clien