What’s working for you?

I’ve been invited to speak at our local IFP branch meeting later this year, covering the topic “What’s working for you?”.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these; the last time I took along a box of my current favourite technology ‘toys’ and showed the audience of Financial Planners how client identification was made simple with a handheld scanner wand. This was, of course, before the proliferation of smartphone cameras made such tech wholly redundant.

This time around, I need to start collecting my thoughts on what is working for me in 2015. On the basis of helping me to start organise my thoughts, and share what are hopefully a few nuggets with this wonderful community, here is what is on my long-list right now.

Proper coffee

Back in the autumn, we hired a marketing consultant to come in and help us develop our first proper marketing plan in the history of our business. After twenty years of doing ‘marketing’ reasonably well ourselves, we realised it was time to take a dose of our own medicine and hire a professional.

Over the course of a few days of preparation, two half day discovery workshops and a couple of months of hard work to put the new plan in action, it is fair to say we learnt more about ourselves and our client proposition than we imagined possible. Take my word on this; spending a few grand on professional marketing consultancy is worth tens or hundreds of times that investment.

One of my favourite outcomes from the entire exercise was our work around the client experience. We are after all selling a reasonably intangible service for rather a lot of money. We can make elements of what we do more tangible, but a lot of what our clients will remember is the overall experience of becoming a client of Informed Choice. This is where the real coffee comes into play.

For twenty years we served instant coffee to our clients. It was a premium brand, not supermarket value crap, but it was still instant coffee.

In the autumn we switched to serving ‘real’ coffee. It’s a locally roasted and ground coffee, served in a cafetière and accompanied by a plate of posh biscuits. It’s only little thing, but as a part of over 100 different changes we implemented to our client experience, it’s an incremental improvement which contributes to a big result.

Chunky business cards

Another incremental change to our client experience was the quality of our marketing ‘collateral’. Once again, we’re selling a premium service, and we concluded that the folders, forms and files we present need to reflect that.

My favourite new bit of marketing collateral is our chunky business cards.

Put it this way; if my business card and your business card had a fight, my business card would be standing triumphant over the whimpering shell of your business card, arms raised aloft whilst unleashing a guttural roar of victory. Our new business cards rock.

If you spend any extra money on your marketing collateral in 2015, make it an upgrade to your business cards. The ones we picked are three separate layers of high quality multiloft paper, the middle layer coloured, bonded together magically with of 2.5 tonnes of pressure.

On each occasion I’ve presented my new business card to a prospective client, existing client, professional connection or random person in the street, it has never failed to elicit a favourable comment. These business cards could kill a Rhino at 20 paces. You get my point.

Getting in your ears

Do you have a regularly updated blog on your website yet? Really? Still?

Blogging has formed a pretty big part of our digital marketing tactics for over a decade now. In a typical week, we published 8, 9 or 10 new blog posts, covering topical Financial Planning and investing subjects, expressing our opinions and bumping our website up the search engine rankings for a very long-tail of phrases.

As a result, ‘online’ represents between a quarter and a third of our new client enquiries in any given month. We get calls from journalists asking us to comment on the stuff we write about. It worked a treat.

But, as with everything that was innovative a decade ago, the world is different now. Other Financial Planners and wealth managers have started blogging (how dare they!) and it is getting harder to generate the same results from the same level of activity.

Our marketing consultant suggested that, rather than upping the frequency of our blogging, we should cut it right back. Since then, we’ve been blogging just 2 or 3 times a week. The website traffic hasn’t diminished; in fact, the quality of our website traffic has improved, with more pages per visit, a lower bounce rates and longer site engagement times.

Some of that time saved on blogging has been diverted to creating a weekly podcast series. Each episode is 20 to 30 minutes of me rambling about my week, the latest Financial Planning and investing research, and occasionally an interview with an expert guest carried out over Skype.

If you’ve not considered the potential of the podcasting phenomenon yet, now is the time to set aside a couple of hours to check it out. A great case study is the Serial Podcast, from the producers of This American Life. For a more relevant example closer to home, check out what Pete Matthew has achieved with nearly 100 episodes of his Meaningful Money Podcast.

We’ve produced 12 episodes of our podcast now, received over 700 downloads and have already had the first couple of client enquiries off the back of it. I cannot stress how important I think podcasting is set to become for Financial Planner marketing over the next couple of years. More on this soon.

It goes without saying that what works for me/us might not work for you. All of the above is likely to work if you’ve got the solid foundation of a client proposition in place already. Pile it on top of shaky foundations (“I’m an independent financial adviser which means I pick the best funds for you, etc”) and it could do more harm than good.

But I’m confident that readers of these articles already have their propositions nailed down. So on that basis, what’s working for you right now?