Your Annual Marketing Plan, Part IV: Try a New Way to Define Goals and Budgets

connect the dots

In my final post on annual marketing planning, I want to touch on two topics that always seem to generate a lot of confusion. How should you define your marketing goals? And how do you set your marketing budget?

First up: goals. I’d like to see advisors go back to their marketing goals and take another crack at writing them. I think if you push harder, you can come up with better ideas that stretch your business further than you think possible. You just have to define your goals differently.

1. Define Your Goals More Realistically

This is a mistake that drives me crazy: setting a goal you can’t possibly achieve.

What would you say to a prospect who walks into your office and says his goal for next year is to win the lottery? Or inherit money? Or stop random strangers from stepping in front of buses, hoping one of them turns out to be Warren Buffet?

You’d think he was nuts. You’d tell him: “Your goals are supposed to express what you intend to accomplish. Your goals can’t be something you hope other people do for you. You don’t control other people.”

Exactly. So please explain why the top goal on many advisors’ marketing plans is always, “Get more referrals.”

Do advisors control their clients’ behavior? Do they control their clients’ friends, magically prompting them to need the services of an advisor just in time to meet the firm’s quarterly revenue goals?

I want to challenge advisors to consider goals and objectives in new ways. What if instead of “generate more referrals,” you defined as a goal, “nurture client loyalty?” In other words, what if you set out to achieve something you can more realistically influence—like giving your clients reasons to become passionate advocates for your brand? What might that look like? What could it lead you to do differently?

Well, for one thing, you probably wouldn’t be putting those annoying little pleas for referrals at the bottom of your emails. Instead, you would be looking more closely at how your clients feel about you—and what they really want from you. Maybe they don’t want you to spend all that money on cheese Danish at hotel breakfasts just so you can review your quarterly market outlook. Maybe they’re approaching a new phase in life, and would rather know how other people spend their first day of retirement. If you have a multigenerational practice, maybe your clients would appreciate more educational opportunities for their “G2s” and “G3s.” Or they might like a dinner for the whole family, so the grandparents can get more face time with their grandkids.

See the difference? When you set goals, try to focus less on what you want your clients to do for you—which you can’t control—and more on becoming the kind of advisor they want you to be—which you definitely can change.

2. Define Your Goals Less Individualistically

Let’s look at another example of changing the way you look at goals.

A lot of firms are trying to attract younger prospects. So they hire junior advisors and assign them the goal of bringing in “X” AUM. This puts way too much pressure on nexgen advisors. After all, they’re just people with a passion for financial planning, not trained sales reps.

Step back and rethink. You’re writing a marketing plan for your entire business, not just for your junior advisors. Client acquisition is everybody’s job. Make it a firm-wide goal to develop a presence in the nexgen audience through social media and content marketing. Everyone from the most senior partner to the most junior professional should contribute thought leadership, regardless of whether leads flow through a junior advisor or not. Your whole firm should be working toward your goals together.

3. Define Your Goals More Strategically

About half of the advisor marketing plans I see list “Updating our website” as a major marketing goal. That’s not even a goal at all. It’s a tactic.

When you write a marketing plan, you need to start with strategy. Forget about your website for a moment. How about defining your goal as improved connectivity with your clients and prospects? Reducing the friction in client relationships? Create a whole digital social strategy around that. Then decide whether you need to evolve your website to make connections easier.

Finally, You’re Ready to Budget

Once you have your goals in place, it’s time to create your marketing budget for the year.

Remember: Be strategic. Take a step back. Don’t start with line items for brochures, stationery or events. Look at your biggest goals and objectives, and put dollar amounts next to those—not next to your tactics. Is it your goal to create client advocates? Then put the money right there, not under “printing tote bags.” Allocate funds for “acquiring Millennials,” not “buying iPads.” Tactics are just tactics. You need the freedom to move money around among different approaches until you see which ones work best.

That’s the end of my series on your annual marketing plan. I hope my posts helped you feel a little better about the exercise. Planning shouldn’t feel like a chore. It should be fun. In fact, it should feel almost as exciting as starting a business. Because that’s really what you’re doing when you make an annual plan. You’re relaunching your business for the future.