Most planners struggle to grow their businesses and bring in as many clients as they wish. With the surge of social media in recent years, from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, an increasing number of consultants have hailed social media as the great marketing equalizer, capable of allowing even small planning practices to establish a marketing presence. Nonetheless, most planners are thus far reporting limited success with their social media efforts; a recent study suggests interest may already be waning. Yet at the same time, most planners have had little success with any form of targeted marketing efforts, relying instead of the slow flow of referrals from existing clients as a primary source of new business. Which raises the question: is it that social media in really ineffective for growing a practice, or is it just that our woes with social media are representative of our ongoing difficulties in clearly defining the value we provide and the target clientele we wish to reach, leaving referrals as the only option left?
The inspiration for today's blog post comes from a recent article cited in last week's Weekend Reading, discussing research results from the Aite Group showing that marketing through social media is losing some appeal amongst advisors. The article notes that "the absence of benefits from social media may be muting advisors' views of the potential impact of social media on business objectives." In other words, advisors are losing interest in social media for marketing because they're not seeing the results. Consequently, they're leaning back to their old business development stalwart: referrals.
Is Social Media An Effective Financial Advisor Marketing Strategy?
Yet I can't help but wonder if the disenchantment that planners are having with social media's weak results are because... well, most planners are doing a weak job implementing social media. Effective social media - or really, any form of effective marketing - is about communicating information that's relevant and pertinent to your target prospects, that engage their interest and draw them to learn more about what you offer. Yet in reality, many planning firms are so broad and undefined in who their target prospects are - for instance, stating their target clientele are "anyone who can afford my services" - that it's no surprise social media is ineffective. Because the target clientele are so vague and undefined, it would be impossible to target relevant and pertinent information at them in the first place! This is why it's ultimately so crucial for financial planning professionals who wish to grow their businesses to develop a niche - because when you do have a clearly defined target market, it's radically easier to reach out to them to communicate!
For instance, look at how Kristin Harad reaches out to New Parents trying to plan their finances at the clearly named NewParentFinances.com, or Brittney Castro seeking women to want to empower themselves and their relationship with money to become FinanciallyWiseWomen(.com), or Jim Blankenship positioning himself as an expert available to those making decisions on Social Security benefits as the publisher of the SocialSecurityOwnersManual.com. All of these websites tie to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and/or social media accounts... delivering messages that are directly pertinent and relevant to their target audience.
The Average Financial Advisor Blog Is Not Successful Because It's Not Unique
These can be contrasted with the "average" financial planner's blog, which, I'm sorry to say, communicates virtually identical basic financial planning tips as every other average financial planner's blog. Articles might include tips for tax loss harvesting, or developing a budget, or the ill-guided explanation about why their competition is ethically inferior... all written in a manner so general, it could be for anyone. Which is exactly the problem. Because even if a prospective client actually needed your personal help to address one of these issues, the prospect probably wouldn't find your content, anyway. A Google search would turn up someone else's website first. The prospect's friends will likely share content from someone else's website that felt more personally relevant and connected. Your content won't connect, because it wasn't targeted to them, didn't communicate to them effectively, and therefore wasn't differentiated from everything else out there on the web. In other words, while it's true that nothing dies once it's on the internet, it's nonetheless true that it may never ever be found, either.
So it appears to me that "most" social media fails, simply because its content is so general and for everyone, that it fails to connect personally with anyone. And in turn, it's content that anyone who does read would probably not feel compelled to share with anyone else, because it is so bland and undifferentiated. Which means, in essence, planners may be relying on personal referrals because their social media content itself isn't very referrable in the first place.
This doesn't necessarily mean that social media is for everyone, or that all planners will excel with social media. The point is that the more effectively your business and marketing are targeted, the more effective tools like social media can be to growing that business. And from the opposite perspective, difficulties in obtaining social media results are often more the result of a vague, undefined value proposition and target clientele, than a flaw in social media as a marketing tool. Yet ironically, a planner who succeeds in clearly defining a value proposition for a well-defined niche clientele becomes more referrable altogether - both for in-person referrals, and social media sharing!
So what do you think? Do you use social media for marketing? Have you had any success with it? Is your content so general for everyone that it may not connect very well with anyone? Can you clearly articulate who you're trying to work with, in a manner similar to the other planners mentioned here? Is your content really written in a manner that would be compelling to them (your target audience), not just to you as the writer?