So You Got a Job in Marketing. Now What?

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(Note: In this post, I’m speaking directly to all the marketing coordinators, marketing directors and marketing managers ensconced at their lonely posts inside advisor firms. This one’s for you—but it might do some good if your boss reads it, too.)

“What have you done for me lately?”

If you haven’t heard your boss say that yet, you probably will—and sooner than you think. You were hired with high expectations. You see, your boss thinks that, as soon as you arrived, all of your firm’s marketing challenges would be instantly solved. You’re supposed to be a one-person band, able to edit a podcast with Audacity while writing a prospecting letter with your other hand and laying out a brochure with InDesign while coding a website with your toes. This is how you’ll be able to triple revenue in six months, right? Right?

Time for a reality check.
Look, I love and respect financial advisors. I spent the first decade of my career on the inside working directly with advisory firm owners, and co-founded this company because of my genuine passion for the profession and the industry. But I have to be honest about my experience and what I’ve learned over the years. Most advisor’s expectations of what a single marketing person can do are just not realistic. And there’s only one solution.

You have to push back.

When they come to you after a year, or six months, or three, asking you where are all the new leads you’re supposed to be generating, stop them. Turn the questioning back on them. Ask:
What exactly are we trying to accomplish here?
Whom are we targeting?
How do we want them to perceive our firm?
What action do we want them to take?
How much are you willing to invest to make that happen?
Are you willing to listen to my ideas, even if they are contrary to your own?
As you try to manage your bosses’ expectations, your biggest challenge may be getting them to understand what to expect from you. Many advisors think they can easily find some guru who will step into the role and instantly understand every aspect of their business. The truth is, unless a firm is hiring from a direct competitor, that person does not exist. Really high-level marketing people—say, CMOs from accounting firms—are prohibitively expensive. Even then, they don’t know the industry.

Frankly, you need time to succeed. You need to learn about the business and your firm’s target markets. And you need a chance to learn from the firm’s clients, COIs, and colleagues, and also your vendors, who are your best source for marketing know-how and best practices.

No one can perform magic overnight, even if some claim they can. So the next time your boss says, “What have you done for me lately?” ask what they tell a client who expects a 20% return after three months. They already know the answer: Good things take time.