Over the years financial planners have had a love/hate relationship with marketing. In most of those years, though, it's more of a hate/hate relationship. The traditional methods of outbound marketing - from cold calling to traditional advertising - have had so little benefit for the overwhelming majority of planning firms, that most don't even have a budget for marketing in the first place. To the extent any business development occurs, it's strictly from referrals, and any "marketing" expenses don't extend much further than paying for social events with clients or centers of influence to cultivate more referrals. But as the digital age reaches financial planning, an entirely new marketing opportunity emerges: inbound marketing. The basic principle: instead of blasting out solicitations hoping you happen to hit a prospective client like finding a needle in a haystack, create content that is useful, relevant, and interesting for your target clients, and let them find you.
The key to success for inbound marketing is creating content that is useful, relevant, and interesting for your target clients. The content may take many forms, from blogs, e-books and white papers to videos, webinars and pinboards. Once created, the content is made public and available, so that your target market can find your materials when they search the web (the process of making your content more searchable is called "Search Engine Optimization").
However, if you haven't defined your target market, you can't create content that's relevant for them. And no, people who can afford my services, or meet my asset requirements, or pay my minimum fees, is not a target market. Because you can't create relevant content that attracts new clients and prospects with a target that broad. In fact, a good tip is that if you can't think of what kind of non-financial content would be relevant for your target market, you probably haven't defined it well enough yet.
Another upside of this approach is that in the digital world - where you can work with anyone, regardless of their geography - the techniques of inbound marketing are remarkably inexpensive. Creating a blog and a website costs almost nothing; most social media accounts are completely free. Creating content - not to mention sharing content you find that others have created but is relevant for your target market - is also free. At worst, you may spend a little bit of money having your website properly designed, especially to optimize it for web searches so your target market can actually find you when they search for information. But compared to outbound marketing techniques like traditional advertising, it's pennies on the dollar in cost, with a very high potential return on investment.
So what do you think? Do you work with any clients who are not in your immediate geographic area? How did they find you? Have you heard of inbound marketing before? Do you have a blog or use social media to attract "inbound marketing" prospects? Are you thinking about trying it in the future?