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The 3 Golden Rules of Marketing

If you were to ask three different advisors what marketing is, you would get three different answers — and they would all be right! To most people, marketing can be a pretty vague term used to describe a number of things.

From business cards to blogs, everything you could, should or would share with a plan sponsor client or prospect is considered marketing. Additionally, the way you distribute these items may be considered marketing as well. We like to refer to this as your distribution or marketing strategy. So, with all of the different types of marketing out there, which forms are best for advisors, where should you focus your energy and budget? What is the best strategy, and how do you get started?

When a new prospect views your LinkedIn profile or website, or receives a piece of your marketing content, what is it like? We challenge you to think about creating an experience: the 401(k) client journey. Stepping into your clients’ shoes and assessing the experience from their points of view may provide insights into how you can strengthen your brand, demonstrate your expertise, and increase the long-term profitability of your practice.

We believe in these principles: the three Golden Rules of Marketing.

1. Know What You Stand For

What is your “why”? Why did you get into the retirement plan business? What is that powerful moment that stands out in your mind that led you to confidently say, “Yes, I’m a retirement plan advisor.”

That is your ultimate “why.” It’s your unique passion for this industry. What is that story? Why does it mean something to you? How are you upholding your mission with your clients, prospects and centers of influence?

Write it down. Write down what you stand for, then shout it from the mountaintops. When your marketing message is pure and truly comes from a place of heart, it is authentic — and authentically you.

Next, talk with your team. Be sure that everyone in your office can articulatewhy the company was founded, and its mission statement and purpose. It is recommended that your prospects hear a consistent brand message, starting from their first touchpoint and throughout every subsequent discussion, from the receptionist all the way up to the president. Get your whole team singing the same song.

2. Content Is King

Who enjoys robo calls? Spam emails? Unsolicited sales pitches? No one, right? That’s because thanks to the abundance of online education, the influence of social media, and a more informed consumer, marketing techniques have had to evolve. The days of interruption marketing are dwindling.

Plan sponsors can research their problems and select content that speaks to their needs (fiduciary governance, investment knowledge, plan design options, financial wellness programs, and much more). This means that your messages have to be relevant, helpful and interesting.

If plan sponsors don’t see the benefit of what we have to say, they’re not going to listen. This is why content marketing has become such an important strategy.

So, what is content marketing? It is a consistent marketing strategy that revolves around the creation, publication and distribution of content that demonstrates to plan sponsors that you are an experienced retirement plan advisor. It is primarily distributed through online channels such as searchengines, social media, emails, blogs, videos, infographics and other downloadable or interactive pieces that share your brand and expertise with your ideal 401(k) client.

Read more commentary by Rebecca Hourihan here

The more content you share with your target audience, the clearer it becomes that you are an authority in your field. Yet, content marketing is a softer sell, but much more effective at building loyalty and trust. People trust experts and hire them to help solve their problems.

In its recent 2018 RIA Benchmarking Study, Charles Schwab found that 46% of advisory firms had created a documented marketing plan and 49% had a marketing budget. It also found that in addition to referrals, firms are leveraging a range of digital marketing channels to help their firms grow: email newsletters (62%), social media (58%) and video (22%).[1. “2018 RIA Benchmarking Study,” Charles Schwab, July 2018.]

Additionally, the fastest-growing RIA firms found more new client assets coming from a combination of business partner referrals and other marketing (60%) than from existing client referrals (40%). One might say that the times are changing and content marketing is riding high.[2. Ibid.]

3. Future Fortune Lies in Following up

Did you know that only 2% of sales occur at the first meeting?[3. Clay, Robert. “Why You Must Follow up Leads,” Marketing Donut.]

There are the fabled stories: “I sold a plan on the back of napkin,” “In the first meeting, they appointed me broker of record,” and “I was sitting on a plane next to the CEO and by the time the plane landed, he was a new client.” Sure, they happen; but they are the exception — not the rule.

Instead, most retirement plan clients are courted for months and sometimes years, which is why it is important to know your numbers and how to follow up.

Know Your Numbers

  • Email campaigns: Track email interactions (open rates, click-through rates). These are your hottest prospects who are genuinely interested. An average open rate is about 10%, a good open rate is 15%, a great open rate is 25%, and above that is exceptional.

  • LinkedIn posts: Understand your engagement with your connections (views, likes, comments, shares). Respond to comments in a timely manner and thank those who share your article with a personal message.

How to Follow up

  • Email: Send an automated email to “opens” and “clicks” thanking these contacts for taking the time to read your email. Suggest another relatable piece of content, such as a checklist. Then track those email interactions and watch how the open rates become exceptional because you are now communicating with qualified prospects.

  • LinkedIn: Timely comments and personal messages. Ask for thoughts and feedback. Let responders know they can find more plan sponsor information on your blog. This is a great way to begin a conversation.

  • Direct mailOnce you realize that some contacts are consistently engaging with your content, go the extra mile by sending them a direct mail piece.

Then, keep delivering value and be consistent and always deliver on content. In a business study, it was found that 80% of sales require at least five follow-ups.[4. Ibid.] Instead of pushing for the meeting in the first follow-up, try adding more value before asking for your prospect’s time.

Taking Action for Success

As we know, more and more clients are self-educating online (Googling you in advance), and this means that marketing techniques need to evolve. Each and every time your brand is in front of the 401(k) plan audience, you are building more awareness. More and more professionals are learning about your retirement plan expertise. The more content you share, the more plan sponsors are going to start thinking of you when they need help.

As you continue to educate, entertain and inform your clients, prospects and centers of influence, they will sing your praises. Put that all together with a consistent, compelling marketing campaign and, wow, that’s when the magic happens.

Hope this was helpful and inspires you to apply the three Golden Rules of Marketing within your business to strengthen your brand, demonstrate your expertise, and increase the long-term profitability of your practice.

Thanks for reading and happy marketing!

Rebecca Hourihan, AIF, PPC, is the founder and CMO of 401(k) Marketing. This column originally appeared in the Fall issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.