Executive SummaryIn the early years of my career, I genuinely hated the concept of marketing. I had learned about the powers of persuasion in school. I was taught during an internship that the success rate of closing a client was x times greater if you can stir up emotions like fear and uncertainty. I understood the role of marketing in the world of widget makers as a way to introduce their commodity to the market, but struggled to reconcile the use of these forces when dealing with individuals and families, many of which have little to no education around money and investing.In recent years, however, I have made a few discoveries that have completely reshaped my viewpoint on marketing. And while I may still not have all of this figured out, it has become painfully clear to me over the last several years that marketing our services and our value is something we, as a profession, are absolutely horrible at doing.
“People don’t buy
what you do, they buy why you
do it.” – Simon Sinek
In my travels to conferences and local FPA meetings, topics come and go, and new trends emerge and fade. However, one consistent struggle in this industry across the vast majority of planners involves marketing.
If you are unfamiliar with the work of Simon Sinek, the person quoted above, I would encourage you to watch “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, his TED presentation included below (video runs 18 minutes). For those who don’t have time to watch the whole thing, the basic gist of the video is the following paradox: there are companies in every industry that achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions and logic indicating that they shouldn’t. And in Sinek’s view, what makes them succeed is that they communicate in a manner completely opposite from everyone else.
Sinek illustrates his points by using a concept he refers to as the Golden Circle. Traditional marketing works from the outside-in, while Sinek suggests we ought to work from the inside-out. “When others know Why we do what we do, we become objects of desire. If they don’t, we’re just lumped in with others who do what we do.”
Your marketing content and communication will control who you attract. If, for example, your marketing emphasizes the “What” and “How” of your business model (fiduciary, fee-only, comprehensive, passive, active, etc.), you will only attract the very small minority of the population that understands (or cares) what it means. However, if you emphasize what drew you into financial planning and what you believe – in other words, WHY you do what you do – your prospective client base instantly expands.
In fact, what you stand for and believe in is a major factor clients use to determine whether you are trustworthy or not. Why did you choose the platform you chose? Why do you get up in the morning…and why should your clients care? Why are your existing clients referring people to you? Why do you do what you do?
Sinek refers to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the video. Dr. King was certainly not the only person seeking to advance civil rights, nor did he have the best ideas on how to close the gap between races. What Dr. King shared that the others didn’t was a dream. Everyone else had a plan. Everyone else focused on issues and poked holes in the injustice around them. People were drawn to Dr. King over the others because he simply shared what he believed and allowed everyone else to take his dream and make it their own. He never told people what they should believe or strive for, he merely told them what he believed. And they cared about him, because they understood why his actions and words communicated what they did.
Nothing about the decision-making process is rational, and that is the most important thing we all need to understand. The part of the brain that controls rational thought, language and analysis, does not control behavior. They are physically separate in the brain, and engaged in an eternal tug-of-war. Rational thought occurs in the outer two rings of the circle (How and What), while emotion and behavior are controlled by the center (Why). No amount of education and awareness is going to change this dynamic. People buy things because it makes them feel good, not because it makes rational sense. Consider how much time we all spend trying to rationalize our behavior after a decision has already been made!
I submit that in asking the “Why” questions about yourself and your practice, again and again, you are going to arrive at a place where you recognize that things like your business model and compensation structure (the what and how) really aren’t a benefit to your clients (as much as I have tried to rationalize it, it does not benefit my clients to pay me a fee). But what they get when they work with you – the passion and love you have for your work, your insatiable desire to see them have a happy life, the very things that made you want to become a financial planner – has a great deal of value, regardless of how you choose to deliver it!
In fact, when you really focus on Why you do what you do, communicating it becomes natural, and marketing transforms from being a chore or a challenge, into a series of positive opportunities to share your personal mission and passion for what you do.
So who are you when you are at your best? What are you doing at that moment? And more importantly, Why?