CaroleAnne Hardy spotlighted in SSG’s Best Practices series

Do You Know How To Make Your Marketing Stand Out?

How do you attract new clients: Do you rely on referrals? Invite people to workshops? Alone, these tried-and-true strategies are not enough. According to CaroleAnne Hardy, founder of marketing firm The Advisors Voice and a speaker during the 2017 SSG Conference, a strong digital presence is crucial for finding prospects and turning them into clients. That digital presence starts with your website, but should extend into blogs and social media.

Think about the way you behave in your personal life—you probably do an online search before meeting with any professional you rely on. Your prospects are doing the same for you.

When people find you online, you have a brief moment to create an impression. According to a 2012 study by researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, on online visitor’s first impression of your brand is formed in about two-tenths of a second. Your website needs to be personal and appealing—to create a connection, so prospects think they’ll be comfortable with you. It also needs to address the concerns of the kind of people you serve, whether that’s pre-retirees, young entrepreneurs, divorced women and widows, doctors or whatever slice of the market you target.

What attracts the right kind of people is a digital presence that is genuine and not generic. It’s not enough to say that you provide goal-based advice, even if that’s what you do. You need a message that clearly demonstrates why people should care about coming to see you. As Hardy explains, “if your audience doesn’t care about what you have to say, you don’t have an audience.”

Expressing Your Uniqueness

You may have trouble figuring out what’s unique about your practice—most people do. Hardy suggests some exercises for discovering what makes you special, and how you can express it.  Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What three words would you use to describe your practice?
  • What is your passion?
  • What brings you joy?
  • What do you care about most?

Spend some time thinking about these questions; they are the keys to your authenticity and individuality. This is what makes your clients trust you and believe in you, so bring it to your marketing. Remember, marketing creates your relationships, so you want your interactions to be genuine from the get-go.

Next, think about how to aim your efforts accurately. If you have defined your target client, imagine the website is speaking to that client. Address his or her concerns through images as well as words. Best of all, tell stories. People remember stories long after lists and bullet points are forgotten. Although you can’t put endorsements on a website, you can talk about how you’ve solved problems for your clients. Doing so in story form allows you to demonstrate your approach to client service as well as your planning abilities.

One way to tell stories effectively is through a blog. Entries don’t have to be long—in fact, it’s best if they’re not. Your blogs can take the form of videos as well as written narratives. Make sure you express feelings as well as facts; it’s feelings that make stories powerful. If you aren’t sure you can write with feelings, hire a professional writer to help you. It’s not that expensive. If you can only come up with original material sporadically, that’s okay; you can also link to published articles that you find valuable. For example, a planner who focuses on young parents might link to articles on saving for college, or how to find a great orthodontist.

Blogging gives you some marketing tools beyond your website. Frequent additions to your website make it more attractive to search engines, so your prospects will find you with less effort. New posts give you a reason to send an email to your list—invite them to read the article or watch the video. In addition, you can post a link to each new blog entry on social media, whether that’s LinkedIn, Twitter, or your firm’s Facebook page.

Building Your Brand

Don’t expect an update of your website and marketing communications to result in business right away, Hardy warns. “Creating an authentic brand is more important than ROI,” she says. “This is about branding, not transactions.” For the first several months at least, your marketing goal should be to make sure you’re connecting with the right targets.  Social media is very helpful in this regard, because it’s easy to measure your effectiveness.

Tracking your responses on social media with the aid of software such as HootSuite or Vestorly will help you refine your communications to make sure you’re reaching the right people. You can see whether your posts have been viewed and shared, and you can follow up with an invitation to sign up for regular emails—or, perhaps, an invitation to visit your website and complete a “financial issues” survey.

The hardest thing is to create and keep a habit of communicating, both via blogs and social. One of Hardy’s clients, Lauren Klein, CFP, in Newport Beach, uses her calendar program to keep her on track. She blogs every Thursday and emails to her list, using the application Constant Contact. She also posts links to her blog on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Each blog links to previous blogs, so, as Klein explains, “each post lifts every other post and leverages your brand.”

Klein’s practice focuses on women in transition. She describes her target client as a woman over fifty who is affluent enough to make choices, but not so affluent that she doesn’t have to make choices. Her clients are dealing with aging, divorce, loss and health issues. After years of worrying whether targeting these women would alienate the clients who are couples, she was reassured to find out that, in fact, her focus reassures them: husbands felt that if their wives outlive them—a statistical probability—they will be well taken care of by an advisor who understands them.

As you build your communications process, bear in mind some of the lessons that Klein learned:

  • A niche is much more than a gimmick. Klein cares deeply about her clients and makes sure that everything she writes, says and posts reflects her core values.
  • Your target is always moving. Clients get older and their needs change. You need to evolve your skills to meet the challenges posed by an aging population at the same time that you focus on attracting new clients.
  • Don’t be afraid to outsource. Klein does a lot of marketing and creates a lot of content. She does some writing herself but uses a marketing firm to create some blog posts and videos.