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Marketing tips from Allison Baird of Boston Private

Allison Baird, Boston Private’s senior vice president of products & solutions, shared some thoughts on marketing as part of a Q&A panel at a conference run by Skyword on June 6, 2019.

Here are some interesting comments she made:

  • Typically, the board thinks of marketing as “fluff” that’s not really important. But now marketing is becoming more data-driven, which elevates marketing in the organization.
  • No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “I wish someone would sell me a financial product.” They’re thinking about their kids, about an upcoming trip, or things like that. That’s part of what drives Boston Private’s approach to marketing, including its separate microsite, TheWhyofWealth.com.
  • Big banks spend $1 billion or more a year on technology, so it’s very important for smaller banks to make the right technology choices and to find partners who can help them innovate.
  • Do client surveys to understand clients better—not just annual surveys, but also pulse surveys to follow up client interactions. For marketing, it’s very important to understand who you are and what you represent.
  • Boston Private is on all major social media channels except Snapchat. Employees are trained in compliance. The company also has monitoring so it can pull content quickly, if necessary—it’s good to put the technology in place to do that easily.

For a case study of Boston Private’s “Why of Wealth” marketing, read “Why Ask Why: How Boston Private’s Marketing Strategy Builds Trust Across Generations,” written by a Skyword contributor. Boston Private’s microsite at TheWhyofWealth.com downplays discussion of Boston Private in favor of zeroing in on its clients’ motivations for growing their wealth. This focus on clients and prospects fits with something I tell my clients: Focus on “you,” the client or prospect, not “we,” the providers of services or products.

If you’re marketing wealth management, it’s important for you to use all methods at your disposal—including the latest technology—to understand what drives your clients and prospects. Then, reflect that understanding in your marketing communications with them.

8 lessons from my marketing mishaps

As I reflect on 2014, I’ve learned some lessons that may help you. Two of my anchor clients—clients who gave me work at regular intervals—took their work in-house last year. Although a couple of one-time projects replaced that income temporarily, I eventually fell behind. Catching up would have been easier if I’d done some things differently.

Lesson 1: Don’t stop marketing

Complacency plus unrealistic expectations. That’s what hurt me.

On the complacency front, I had stopped actively contacting new prospects because I had plenty of work. I didn’t want to have to turn away work that I was too busy to take on. I did, however, continue raising people’s awareness of me in a general way via social media, my blog, my weekly and monthly e-newsletters, and public speaking.

As for unrealistic expectations, I’d dreamed that publishing my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, would sweep my business to new heights. Publishing my book was a wonderful experience. I’m thrilled by the enthusiastic reviews from my readers. I’m confident that it has brought me to the attention of new people. However, the book hasn’t directly created scads of new business for me.

Lesson 2: Use LinkedIn to meet targeted prospects

Following the advice of some fellow writers, I experimented with sending letters of introduction (LOIs) to a group of prospects. I used LinkedIn’s search function, focusing on keywords, to identify people who might hire me. Then I sent a letter of introduction via LinkedIn that focused on how I could help them, rather than how they could help me.

I gained three new clients from LOIs in 2014. Though some may call that a low success rate, it nicely complemented clients gained from other sources.

Lesson 3: Be politely persistent

People can’t hire you if they don’t have a need. That’s why polite persistence pays by keeping you in front of your prospects until they’re ready to hire.

When I meet people, I ask if I can add them to the distribution of my monthly e-newsletter of practical communications tips tailored to financial professionals. It’s great if I can win their permission to enter their email inbox. Sometimes that gentle reminder is the key to winning new business. However, I don’t add people without their permission. My newsletter has been an ongoing source of new business for me.

If somebody sounds like a great prospect for me, I try to follow up quarterly with a quick email asking about current needs. When possible, I share a link to an article of interest to that person. I’ve gained work this way, too.

Lesson 4: Go with the flow when new opportunities arise

Sometimes opportunities take you in new directions. In 2014, my opportunities to speak for pay to professional associations and corporate clients increased dramatically. It felt as if most of these opportunities fell into my lap. However, in every case I had some sort of personal connection with the organization through my newsletter, social media, or previous speaking engagements.

Feeling very pleased with the response I received from my audiences, I shared the information via social media and in my newsletters. Talking about my paid speaking gigs generated more opportunities. In fact, one time a simple tweet saying that I’d like more paid speaking gigs led directly to a new opportunity, as I described in “Secrets of a speedy sale via Twitter.”

Lesson 5: Try something new

I wondered about offering new products or services to attract business from individuals instead of large companies, which spurred me to offer my first self-sponsored paid webinar. In June 2014 I delivered a webinar version of “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read,” which I’ve also presented to CFA societies and corporate clients.

I was pleased with the enrollment and student participation. The technology drove me crazy, but that’s another story, which I’ve described in “Tech tips for your educational webinar–Learn from my experience.”

The webinar helped me indirectly, too, by giving me something to talk about with prospects and others.

Not every new initiative paid off with big sales. I’m glad I created Investment Commentary: Best Tips from InvestmentWriting.com, but I haven’t recouped my production costs yet. It’s hard to make a significant amount of money from selling inexpensive items in a narrow niche.

Lesson 6: Fine-tune your old techniques

My newsletter has been the foundation of my success, but sign-ups have lagged somewhat over the past year or so. As I discussed in “Your call-to-action choice makes a difference,” I initially thought the position of my call-to-action box was a problem. I moved the box back to the upper right-hand corner of my website. That seemed to help some. Still, new newsletter sign-ups lagged previous levels.

I mulled over adding a pop-up newsletter subscription box to my website. I don’t like them on the other people’s websites, but people whom I respect reported that pop-ups boosted their sign-ups. I heard this from Michael Kitces of Nerd’s Eye View, Blane Warrene, and fellow writers. Dave Grant of Finance for Teachers boosted my interest further when he guest-blogged for me on “How and Why to Use Sliding Pop-ups.”

I added the free SumoMe pop-up at the end of September 2014. Since then my newsletter sign-ups have increased. About one-third to two-thirds of my newsletter sign-ups come via the pop-up, according to my weekly reports.

Lesson 7: Track your results

Look at what techniques have yielded new clients in the past. I describe my approach to this analysis in “Learn what works in winning clients.” I’m able to write this blog post because I look at which tactics yield new clients.

I wish there were a quick and easy formula for me to win new clients. But there isn’t. My new clients come from a diverse array of sources including referrals, my newsletter, my LOIs, and my general presence on the Web. One new client told me, “I see your name everywhere.”

Lesson 8: Get your focus right

Your website should clearly communicate your business focus. If it doesn’t, you’ll get inquiries from people who aren’t a good fit for your services and products.

I’m still working to get this right. My online presence attracts more individual advisors than marketers and other managers from larger investment and wealth management firms, the ideal clients for my writing and editing services.

This mismatch is my own doing. I like writing blog posts that help individuals learn how to write better. My book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, is a self-help manual for these folks. I can’t stop writing this kind of content because I enjoy it too much. I also get satisfaction from my paid speaking gigs about “Writing Effective Emails” and “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read” for local groups of the CFA Institute and Financial Planning Association.

It’s time to tweak my website messaging. Emphasizing my white paper and commentary work to attract more ideal clients is on my “to do” list for 2015.

What about YOU?

Do you see ways that these lessons might apply to you? What are you doing to fine-tune your marketing this year?

Image courtesy of  KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Can mediocre blogs succeed?

“…Mediocre marketing with commitment works better than brilliant marketing without commitment,” says Jay Conrad Levinson, as quoted in C.J. Hayden’s Get Clients Now! The idea is that marketing on a regular basis is more likely to succeed than a rare but great form of outreach. After all, steady activity makes it likely that your name will appear in front of prospects when they’re finally ready to act.

How does this apply to blogs? Again, posting regularly is key. It would be great if every blog post boasted originality, helpful insights, personal passion, and excellent writing. Few people can hit each of those targets with every post. Despite my love of writing, I believe that your insights and passion are more likely to distinguish you.

If you post consistently, then when readers have questions in your area of expertise, they may seek you out.

Of course, if your idea of posting consistently is to blog once every three months, I doubt that’ll deliver much marketing punch for you. However, if that’s realistically how often you can write original content, then I suggest you turn your piece into a newsletter that you make available on your website and circulate via social media. You may do better as a content curator—a person who shares other people’s content, ideally while adding their own insights—than as a content creator.

How often is often enough to blog? Consider what your readers want and what you can deliver, as I discussed in “Three tips for how often to publish your newsletter.”

What do you think about the trade-off between consistency and mediocrity? Please share.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Marketing tips from referral expert Steve Wershing

These lines in Stephen Wershing’s Stop Asking for Referrals caught my eye.

I have looked at hundreds of advisor websites, and many
of them don’t just say the same thing — they use the same words. Make sure that your marketing communicates what’s different about your clients and what’s unique about what you do for them.

I agree with Wershing about these weaknesses, and I was happy that his book offered advice about how you can differentiate your marketing materials.

Some of Wershing’s tips resonated strongly with me. I discuss them below.

1. Define your target audience narrowly

Focus on a problem that you solve for a narrowly defined group of people, so it’s easy for people to recognize your ideal clients. This focus will differentiate from other advisors and make you easy to refer.

2. Focus on benefits

Failure to focus on benefits is a common flaw in the articles and white papers I edit for investment and wealth management firms, so I’m glad Wershing discusses this. I like his before-and-after examples of elevator speeches. Here’s an example.

Before: We do financial planning for the suddenly single.

After: When people come into money, it is easy for them to lose their values and make bad decisions. I show them how to avoid those pitfalls.

3. Ask for introductions or advice

Ask clients for introductions or advice instead of referrals, says Wershing. This puts less stress on clients than referrals so it’s more likely to be productive. To boost your introduction request’s effectiveness, do research to identify people who fall within your target audience. LinkedIn makes this easier than in the days prior to social media.

On the advice front, consider trying the following question posed by Wershing: “If you were in my position, trying to do what I am trying to accomplish, what would you do?”

Wershing’s suggestions about introductions and advice remind me about the power of informational interviewing, which has been essential to my career development.

In an email exchange with me, Wershing said, “The most exciting thing I have discovered in working with advisors on these strategies is the techniques that will attract more referrals also end up providing the client better, more expert advice.  Advisors can improve the industry while growing more successful. I cannot imagine a better outcome.” I agree.

Your suggestions?

If you’ve tried the techniques discussed above, I’d enjoy hearing from you. Please add your voice to the conversation.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from McGraw-Hill in return for agreeing to write about it.