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There’s More to Marketing Than Just Your Message

By Thomas Coyle July 20, 2017

Notoriously, marketing is harder than it may seem at first glance. It can be especially challenging for independent financial advisors whose skills lie more in analysis and client service than sales and self promotion.

In particular, experts say these FAs are apt to confuse the mere fact of articulating what sets them apart from nominal competitors with the actual business of turning that kernel into a full-blown and consistent marketing effort.

“It’s the reason I have a business,” says Mike Byrnes, a marketing and business-development strategist who works with advisors. For these FAs, he says, “marketing is a guessing game.”

For many of these tentative marketers, simply having some talking points is at least half the battle, says Byrnes.

For Jon Ten Haagen of Ten Haagen Financial Group in Huntington, N.Y., his talking point is the same for prospects and clients — that they’ll need to replace the two monthly employment paychecks with equivalent income if they hope to maintain their lifestyles in retirement — and it’s the sum total of his marketing.

“My marketing is basically telling prospects I will help them know where they are now, where they feel or think they want to go, and then create a game plan to get them there,” says Ten Haagen, who manages about $35 million.

Ten Haagen believes this resonates with clients as a result of “being in this business talking with people for almost 40 years,” he says. “They are usually hearing, ‘How much money do you have available?’ and ‘Have I got an idea where to invest your money,’” he says. “I try to make them aware it is their money and I want to ask as many questions as needed to get to a clear picture of what they really need and want.”

In short, Ten Haagen promises clients up-close and personal attention around the financial underpinnings of meeting obligations and achieving life goals.

Mike Byrnes

The centerpiece of Barry Flagg’s pitch to prospects is probing their life insurance costs, which he says vary enough — with no sure correlation with quality and value — to make his message “a real attention-getter.”

Despite “all the focus on and talk about costs and fees” in wealth and retirement-money management, Flagg says (with a nod to the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule and the rise of low-cost passive investing) “too few advisors are asking clients about costs inside their life insurance.”

FAs who do, says Flagg, “have a competitive advantage over all those who are stuck in the old way of doing things now considered “misleading,” “fundamentally inappropriate,” and "unreliable by financial, insurance, and banking industry authorities.”

Further, Flagg, who operates Triangulum Financial in Tampa, Fla., takes this message to so-called centers of influence – such as accountants and attorneys – to underline the value he can bring their clients by focusing on insurance costs as well as investments and financial planning.

Getting the word out about your unique ideas certainly helps make a compelling talking point the centerpiece of a thoughtful approach to marketing, but it isn’t enough in itself, warns Byrnes.

Effective marketing calls for aggressive but strategic blocking and tackling.

So, while talking points are great, they’re blunted if the advisor’s marketing collaterals — from websites and social media to pamphlets and business cards — don’t amplify the message.

“You don’t get married on the first date,” says Byrnes. By the same token, prospects — even when they’re steered your way by another professional — don’t sign on the dotted line as soon as you tell them something thought-provoking.

Prospects “do research first,” says Byrnes. In aid of this tire-kicking phase, it’s vital to have a website that supports the talking point and provides a reason to sign up for emails for more information on the firm or advisor.

This leads to the need for FAs to create native content around their attention-grabbing talking point. In this light, says Byrnes, fresh angles on time-tested themes can add credibility and reinforce core messages in support of ongoing marketing efforts.