Marketing Your Financial-Planning Firm in a Crowded Marketplace
From financial-planning tools to social media, it's important to invest in your firm's brand.
Similar to most financial planners, I spend a great deal of time developing financial plans and investment strategies for my clients. We identify goals and objectives and put a comprehensive plan in place. That’s a common industry practice, and we are quite comfortable in that space.
What I’ve noticed in my eight years of practice, however, is that outside of the multibillion-dollar advisory firms, who tend to excel in marketing, most independent advisers don’t appear to be as comfortable with investing in their business. I’m not talking about specific physical assets, such as office space or bringing on staff, but marketing and business development—essential pieces of any successful firm.
It’s been noted that a typical advisory firm spends a mere 2 percent of its revenue on all marketing and business-development activity. While the dollar allocation certainly varies by industry, company size, culture and lifecycle stage, most companies seem to invest anywhere from 1 to 10 percent in marketing.
The U.S. Small Business Administration suggests businesses with less than $5 million in sales should spend on average 7 to 8 percent of their gross revenue on marketing. And according to a 2014 Fidelity Clearing and Custody study, advisers who are marketing leaders spend 33 percent more on business development and see 40 percent more client growth, as compared to other advisors.
Advertising, PR, and other promotional methods aside, I’ve seen a number of independent advisers cut technology costs to increase their net take-home payout, relying on traditional and possibly dated marketing tactics, such as “networking” and “word of mouth” referrals. While these avenues can and do generate business, I would argue that by spending money on the right technology tools and integrated marketing approaches, you could better engage with clients and prospects and dramatically increase your revenue. We operate in a competitive marketplace. Why not invest a little to break through the crowd?
When I went out on my own in early 2014, I made a commitment to spend the necessary dollars on business development to stand out from competition. In addition to exploring the traditional communication channels, I was and still am a big believer in branding and creating an online presence. I started out by investing money into brand development and website design and infusing technology tools, such as Tamarac Advisor Xi, eMoney, Laserfiche, and Vestorly into my practice.
I’ve also implemented content marketing strategies, such as hosting a consistent blog and publishing videos on my site, and invested in PR and advertising to help improve brand recognition and build credibility in my community. I’ve also discovered ways to leverage SEO and social media to increase visibility and capture targeted leads along the way. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I have witnessed some great ROI from these efforts.
Of course, there are seemingly endless opportunities for paid promotion, and I’m not suggesting they should all be implemented. On the contrary, being strategic is just as important in marketing as it is in financial planning. It takes time to perfect the marketing formula, especially when it isn’t your full-time job, but with a good strategy and a bit of investment, you can break through the clutter and better connect with your potential customers.
Taylor Schulte, CFP® is founder and CEO of Define Financial, a San Diego-based fee-only firm. He is passionate about helping clients accumulate wealth and plan for retirement.
About the Author
Founder and CEO, Define Financial
Taylor Schulte, CFP®, is founder and CEO of Define Financial, a fee-only wealth management firm in San Diego. In addition, Schulte hosts The Stay Wealthy Retirement Podcast, teaching people how to reduce taxes, invest smarter, and make work optional. He has been recognized as a top 40 Under 40 adviser by InvestmentNews and one of the top 100 most influential advisers by Investopedia.