Building a Practice on Personality and Performance
Personal marketing and custom services—a powerful combination
The common model for building a practice is hardly individualized. Typical is the consultant using template brochures and business cards provided by an online service or company. Marketing efforts are often minimal, since there’s little incentive to build relationships with clients who see the advisor as identical to the rest of the pack. This route provides an income but little more.
However, a growing group of leaders are cultivating business from other professionals in similar and non-competitive industries.
Consultants who employ this business model do so because it offers unique benefits that go largely untapped by their competition:
• Greater differentiation from others in marketing
• Business built on relationships, which enhances marketing
• Flexible pricing as a client benefit
• The ability to build salable equity in the practice
• Client perceives relationship as inherently fair
• Allows the consultant to be seen as partner versus sales person
What is Personal Marketing?
Personal marketing defies the generic marketing model relied on by most commission-based advisors. Simply, it’s the marketing of an advisor’s personal strengths and a carefully-developed market image, rather than products or the financial firm.
A carefully crafted “brand identity,” emphasis on relationships and high quality production are all hallmarks of personal marketing in financial services. It’s a philosophy that is gaining in popularity as fiscal prosperity creates an ever-greater demand for services such as portfolio management and asset allocation.
Advisors engaged in personal marketing replace template corporate brochures and business cards with high-quality personal brochures, websites, custom logos and other tools designed to sell prospects on their unique strengths and create a person-to-person—instead of an service provider-to-client—rapport.
1. Targeting the Advertising Dollar
Niche marketing—which systematically excludes some market segments—seems crazy. Too bad it’s so effective.
“Because of my specialization in this business I have immersed myself in their world and I know their potential financial pitfalls better than they do,” says Stephen Wolff, an advisor who has built a thriving practice by focusing on providing services to families who own automotive dealerships. He currently has 35 such clients and grosses over $1 million per year in fees.
Wolff has built a powerful marketing strategy based on his unique niche. His tactics include:
• Renting exhibit space at the National Automotive Dealers Association trade show
• Advertisements in the industry magazine “Automotive News” offering a 12-minute audiocassette of dealer-specific information
• Articles written about him in those publications
• Speeches to various automotive trade organizations
• Networking to 60 CPA firms specializing in auto dealers, as well as law firms with the same profile
• Attendance at auto manufacturer sponsored events
“In three years, I expect to have 150 auto dealership clients, based on my current marketing plan,” says Wolff, who limits his services to these clients to succession planning and estate tax planning.
2. Competing on Price
Competing on price is nothing new, but if it is done with personal branding flair, it can add an additional layer and dimension to your practice and business.
• Personal marketing example: A small business advisor creates a direct mail card campaign which targets business owners, people who tend to be self-directed. His message is simple: providing planning based on performance based fees means you only pay when you make money. His six-month campaign drives the message home with repeated mailings and nets more than 25 qualified prospects.
3. Relationships Instead of Orders
A relationship-based practice is more interactive and open-ended, requiring professionals to maintain an ongoing relationship based on consistent returns, quality advice and mutual respect. For businesses using personal marketing methods, a position as a provider of highly personalized service is an irresistible differentiator.
• Personal marketing example: An advisor decides to launch a series of free community round tables. Each month, he mails invitations to a target audience of prospects in a different area, then rents a hall and holds an evening question and answer session for the respondents. At each event he distributes high-quality personal brochures, and over a period of months, builds a reputation as an advisor who listens, spends time and cares about client relationships.
Fact: People do business with people they like, and consumers like professionals who give them more than the latest advise chosen from a brochure.
Visibility Over Ability
Embracing personal marketing demands that you be willing to put your practice, and your personal beliefs into the marketplace to be tested. It requires a paradigm shift from reliance on a corporate image and the strength of products to reliance on a professional marketing strategy and personal “brand.”
Visibility is more important than ability, because even the most gifted professional will never communicate his abilities to prospects in a boilerplate corporate brochure. Marketing your fee-based practice demands individuality, candor, and a willingness to change the way you approach business development. For example:
• Hiring a professional writer, designer and photographer to create a high-quality personal brochure and matching website. This is the foundation of any rep’s personal marketing campaign, the must-have.
• Using public relations professionals to develop a full-scale PR campaign centered around ghostwritten articles, public appearances and press coverage.
• Developing a personal slogan that captures “mind share.”
• Changing networking tactics from Rotary clubs and Chambers of Commerce to other professionals—CPAs, trust and estate attorneys, etc.—who offer access to your prospects.
Personal Marketing Demands Rethinking
Some business owners find this approach a difficult leap. It’s more costly than corporate marketing, demands more time and commits you to a higher level of service.
If personal marketing of your practice sounds appealing, answer these questions:
• Are you willing to hire professionals to help you strategize and create quality marketing materials?
• Are you comfortable focusing your marketing efforts on your personal and professional background, and on committing yourself to a certain level of client service in writing?
• Do you have the time or the staff to implement a regular, repetitive marketing program using direct mail, social medias, email or other methods to attract prospects?
• Are you prepared to back up claims of customized service with action?
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Mark Montoya has been working in personal branding for more than a decade for hundreds of online and offline companies, small businesses and individual service professionals. His focus has been toward improving the way jobseekers find employment on the Internet. He has synthesized his expertise by helping job seekers obtain their ideal choice of employment over the Internet on his sites MyOnlineCareerSpace.com and MyOnlineCareerCoach.com, and through his books 101 Tips Every Job Seeker Should Know and The Ultimate Online Job Search eBook.
“It is the responsibility of the individual to reject the prospect of mediocrity and to strive for the betterment of society as a whole” ~ Mark Montoya