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Is Your Marketing Helping or Hurting Your Brand?

In a recent conversation, a very experienced retirement plan advisor shared with us that for years, he could walk into a prospective company, immediately demonstrate his value, and easily close the deal.

He even said (in an old-timey, reminiscing kind of way), “One time, I sold a plan sponsor with a napkin.” He went on to say that now companies want to do more research, due diligence, and have a prudent process structure. This has been bad for his business.

It’s important to note: This gentleman works as a fiduciary advisor, respects the fiduciary process, subscribes to the industry’s best retirement plan governance tools for review, analysis and benchmarking, and has over 20 years of working exclusively with retirement plans. To say he is experienced is an understatement. He is not struggling with experience nor knowledge – he has that in spades – instead, he is struggling with his presentation; the “beauty pageant” if you will. As we continued our conversation, we began to discuss first impressions. We started by gathering and reviewing his digital footprint, physical marketing materials and on-going content marketing strategy.

In the digital analysis, we found a dated website, virtually zero search engine optimization, a lackluster LinkedIn profile with little to no social engagement, and not much more. For the physical content review, we found mismatched logos, a “kitchen sink” pitchbook, and a service overview document “designed” by adding a blue border box, among other items of concern. Lastly, for ongoing content marketing, he laughed and said, “What’s that?” He went on to say that he did a little of this and a little of that, but nothing is really consistent. This is normal; from top 100 retirement plan advisory offices to solo firms, most advisors can relate with at least a portion of this story. You are not alone; all offices have marketing pain points.

Focus on the Foundation

If you are going to invest in marketing, focus on the foundation. Eighty-six percent of prospects are going to Google you, and most will visit your website. From there, you have seven seconds to immediately impress them – seven seconds! So, even If you have the world’s best newsletter, blog, podcast or direct mailer, if you fail the first impression with an outdated website, potential customers will simply close out their browser and move on.

What builds your foundation marketing? Think about business items that immediately create an impression, snap. They should be quick, lasting, and set the tone. For example,

  • Logo

  • Business card

  • Website

  • Service overview(s)

  • PowerPoint presentation

  • Social media profile(s)

When you encounter a company that has a crummy logo, what do you do? Wrinkle your nose? What about holding a flimsy business card? Do you smirk? Think about clicking onto a bad website. Do you recoil and your eyes pop? As an exercise, the next time you knee-jerk at something, stop and ask yourself why. What about your current marketing materials? Are they helping or hurting? Take an objective look at them and –  here’s the hard part –  be honest. Are they awesome? Do you feel proud? If you don’t know and want advice, contact your local service provider and DCIO regional vice presidents. They have lots of experience working with retirement plan advisors. They have been in hundreds (if not thousands) of finalist meetings. They can help you look at your materials and provide feedback, ideas and objective thoughts. Leverage them; they’re usually great people with oodles of insight.

How to Win the Beauty Pageant

From client feedback revealing their experiences, we have noticed three things that happen after a retirement plan advisory office goes through a rebranding and/or refresh:

  1. Increased close ratio

  2. Shortened sales cycle

  3. Increased inbound referrals

From advisor feedback, we see that they attribute the increased close ratio to having a unified story. Through the marketing process, they have had to communicate, explain and define their “Why Us?” mission statement. Now, their marketing materials reflect this mission, highlight their experience, and echo the value that the offices brings. Each touchpoint works to strengthen their brand image and professional retirement plan advisor office influence. This serves to increase the advisory firm’s confidence, unity and ability to effectively communicate why plan sponsors and retirement plan committees should hire them.

Experiencing a shortened sales cycle is attributed to brand consistency. Each time a prospect visits the advisory firm’s website, social media page(s), views brochures and additional interactions, the messaging and positioning are all consistent. So, if the plan sponsor needs to present a compelling case to the retirement plan decision-making committee, the marketing materials complement and enhance the conversation, thus requiring less time from the advisory firm to keep constantly selling themselves. Marketing materials are an integral part of the sales process.

Lastly, when you look good, you make others look good. More centers of influence, prospects and clients refer more business. They see a professional website, content, and ongoing marketing campaigns. Thus, the office is staying stay top-of-mind with their quality content. When you look amazing, professional, polished, put together and wow-worthy, more people want to work with you. Therefore, you win the beauty pageant (and more retirement plan clients).

Rebecca Hourihan, AIF, PPC, is the founder and CMO of 401(k) Marketing.