Have you ever wondered, “Do I really need a Marketing or PR agency? Can’t I just do everything myself?” If so, this posts—and the next four that follow—are for you.
Last week, I was on a call with an advisor who asked me those exact questions about working with a PR agency. He told me, he could just write his own press releases and send them out across the wire himself.
“I can do the same thing you do,” he said.
I told him: No, you can’t.
He took some convincing. Until that phone call, the only things he had ever seen coming out of a PR agency were poorly written press releases sent over for his approval. We gave him a glimpse of what really happens behind the scenes. We had to show all our work: the messaging, the strategizing, nurturing relationships with reporters, outreach, follow-up, and then more follow-up. Eventually, I did convince him, but the conversation was exhausting.
Surely there’s a better way.
As I said in an earlier post: when you sell to advisors, you have to be authentic to your own product. If you’re not, you’ll eventually be exposed as a fake. It’s inevitable.
Still, people keep trying to fake it anyway. Think of all the vendors who position themselves as “partners” or brag about their “consultative approach.” (By the way, who doesn’t have a consultative approach these days? Can you think of any providers who advertise their “arrogant dictator” approach or their “we-don’t-listen-to-you” approach? It’s meaningless jargon at this point.) Okay. So this joker is now your partner. Try calling this new “partner” of yours for help solving a specific, real-world problem in your own business—say, performing an advisor practice valuation or recruiting a Millennial woman. Chances are, you’ll get to watch them twisting in the wind until they finally admit they don’t actually do any of the things they talk about on their website. They just put the content up because they know you want to read it.
In my last post, I talked about why your story needs a good villain. About why you need tension, and conflict, and a reason for your clients and prospects to cheer for you.
Now I want to share two examples of relevant, real-world companies with stories that feature great villains.
I have a question for you. You won’t understand at first why it’s important. But it goes right to the heart of who you are, and what your business represents. Just bear with me.
Who is your favorite movie villain of all time? Darth Vader? Hannibal Lechter? Voldemort? Norman Bates? The alien in Alien?
I have two.
Right this minute, we are watching the collision of two forces that are shaking advisor firms to their foundations.
The first is the commoditization of advice, driven in part by technology. Face it: investment performance is no longer a credible differentiator. Between the popularity of passive investing and the convenience of robo-advisors, few prospects are likely to be persuaded that your firm is really, truly, reliably a better stock-picker than your competitors. Most advisors recognize this fact, even if they aren’t sure what to do about it.
This is the story of how we lost an account. It was a painful lesson, but one that’s worth reading whether you’re an agency, vendor or advisor—really, anyone who’s invested in the growth of advisor firms.
Of course, I’ve changed the story to the point where it’s now completely fictional and no longer resembles anything that happened in real life. Only the lesson remains the same.
These days, every advisor is looking to buy a marketing tool. Which explains why every vendor is trying to sell one—whether they actually have anything to sell or not.
As I’ve written before, the whole industry now understands that the golden era of organic growth has come to an end. Advisors know they can’t sustain themselves on referrals alone. Any firm that sticks to its old formula of rainmaking, pressing the flesh and relying on word of mouth is going to find itself eating the dust of its faster, more modern competitors. Digital marketing is critical. This is why advisors are finally, finally investing in future growth and ramping up their marketing budgets.
Why did you go originally into business with your partners? And as a follow up: how long did it take you to think of an answer to that question?
I’ve worked with some advisor teams that seem like a natural fit. They finish each other’s sentences. Complement each other’s expertise. And even use the same words to tell their story. It’s usually a clean, simple story, too. One was a quant head, the other a people person, but they both served the same kind of clients. Or maybe they both have a special interest in eldercare issues, SRI or some other specialty. It’s relatively easy to walk them through the process of developing their brand and honing their value proposition. They already believe in their purpose; they just need help articulating it.
Then there’s the other kind of team.
If you want to build your business, become a Ghostbuster. I’m not referring to the movie, exactly (I didn’t even see the sequel.) I’m talking about the theme song.
If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!
If that song were a real advertising jingle as opposed to a fictional one, it would rank right up there as among the best of all time. Its message is simple. If you have this specific problem—say, a slimy green ball of ectoplasm living in your fridge—then you know exactly whom to call. The song builds an instant connection between a customer need and a brand. You couldn’t ask for better marketing.