This is the executive summary for an excellent article from Kitces.com on marketing approaches. The author, Kristen Luke describes three primary types of firm marketing strategies: Transaction, Relationship and Expertise.
For the equity compensation planning niche, a combination of the “Relationship” and “Expertise” approaches would be appropriate because this niche requires substantial planning expertise within a community of clients (company stock plan participants) that need ongoing assistance and can generate referrals. For more information check out my article on the equity compensation planning niche.
In the early days of financial planning, advisors often relied on marketing strategies that were based on a phone book, telephone, and their own ingenuity. As the internet developed, though, advisors became able to reach wider audiences, which has only compounded with the rise of social media. At the same time, advisors identified an emphasis on personalized money management as becoming more prevalent than the use of one-size-fits-all sales techniques. These shifts of focus and opportunity have provided advisors with liberating flexibility around the services they can offer and the clients they can serve; however, they can also be intimidating: how can advisors establish a niche and grow their client base with the right marketing strategy, when there are seemingly infinite ways to market effectively?
Given the dizzying array of marketing options to attract clients, it may help advisors to understand the three primary types of marketing strategies before they select the best approach for them and their firm. The Transaction approach has a culture focused on sales and is comprised of direct marketing campaigns such as workshops, direct mail, and ads to generate leads. Advisors who choose this approach rely on a numbers game of maximizing outreach to prospects, focusing on raising awareness of the firm, and capitalizing on call-to-action conversion. Alternatively, advisors may opt for a Relationship approach, which has a focus on service, and relies on clients, centers of influence, or community connections for referrals. Lastly, advisors may lean into an Expertise approach, which focuses on education. With this approach, advisors leverage their thought leadership by creating publications and offering workshops, for example, in order to establish themselves as experts in a particular niche.
Fortunately, advisors can identify an appropriate marketing approach relatively easily by assessing their firm’s style. Large firms that are willing to pour money into their marketing campaigns, looking for quick results, and have sales-driven cultures would likely find the most success in a Transaction approach to marketing. On the other hand, firms that focus on close-knit communities and who seek to provide a high-level client service experience for a large client base might benefit from a Relationship approach. Finally, smaller firms with energy (in lieu of financial resources), an education-based mindset, and that seek a specific type of client would be likely to find an Expertise approach most suitable. While each of these approaches can be helpful and has its own set of merits, it’s important to remember that there is no foolproof marketing method for advisors. It’s all about the approach that is most sustainable and that works best with the firm’s unique style!
Once advisors have determined which marketing approach best fits their firm, they can move into action to design a suitable marketing strategy. A firm looking to foster a Relationship approach to their marketing may decide to review their client experience, create marketing materials for their centers of influence, or host an annual holiday open house, whereas a firm choosing an Expertise approach may develop weekly blogs or a podcast. Advisors might also choose to incorporate a blend of different approaches, adopting a primary marketing approach serving as their top priority strategy, with auxiliary activities involving a secondary approach. Other advisors who have realized they want to transition to a different approach can begin to gradually shift their marketing investments of time, money, and energy towards the new approach, while letting original marketing resources gradually trickle over.
Ultimately, no matter what approach advisors end out using, being thoughtful, intentional, and dedicated can help them ensure they stay on the right track to effectively market their firms. Investing the time and energy to find the right marketing approach can make all the difference in ensuring not only that advisors are providing the best service and experience to their clients, but also that the right clients are being attracted to the firm!