Selling and marketing are two critical components of any advisor’s practice. Although people sometimes use these two terms interchangeably, they are quite different.
In their 1985 book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout defined marketing as “the battle for the customer’s mind.” Selling is the result of marketing; it’s the practice of closing a sale.
Marketing is everything from discovering the name of a potential client all the way up until you are eyeball to eyeball, belly to belly in front of that person and beginning the sales process. Marketing is everything you do until you are face to face with the client and going through your sales process.
Finding names, qualifying individuals and having them understand what you do and how you work is all about marketing. Marketing is a process that begins with finding prospects and continues to converting them into clients and maintaining long-term professional relationships with them.
Although marketing and sales are two different processes associated with generating revenue, they must work in tandem with one another to create the optimum situation for both advisors and their clients.
Check Your Alignment
A 2018 article in Harvard Business Review describes the detrimental outcomes when a business’s selling and marketing processes are not aligned. The article describes a situation in which a Fortune 250 B2B company spent a quarter of a million dollars trying to solve the wrong problem.
A new product line had failed, and the company believed the problem was either poor product delivery times or a lack of effort by the sales force. After throwing millions of dollars at both problems, they finally realized what the real issue was: misaligned goals between marketing and sales. The product line was priced to grow market share, yet the sales force compensation was structured to incentivize salespeople based on maximizing the profit margin.
To make absolutely sure your marketing and sales processes are aligned, create a service level agreement (SLA) between your marketing and sales department. HubSpot’s State of Inbound Report 2018 found that organizations with a SLA between marketing and sales are three times as likely to be effective. But only 26% of respondents had a formal SLA.
To what extent is your compensation package designed to incentivize your sales team to sell in a way that supports your firm’s overall mission?
Marketing Gets You To the Selling Part
Agencies and firms that have their own marketing departments can devote resources to attracting clients with effective multichannel marketing efforts. Once customers respond, then it’s up to your sales team to carry the ball down the field to the finish line.
And what if your marketing team offers special promotions, consultations or other special offers that bring in a flurry of prospects — but no one ever told your advisors about them? The confusion that results can cancel out all that time, effort and money you’ve spent on getting prospects’ attention.
Again, make sure your marketing and sales teams are working closely together — not just to bring prospects to you, but to convert them into clients.
Focus on Product Knowledge, Customer Service and Accountability
Building this level of true alignment between marketing and execution depends on three factors: product knowledge, customer service and accountability.
Product Knowledge: Create an ongoing training plan to make sure that both your marketing and sales teams understand every product and service being offered, which of those offerings are ideal for which types of people, why some of them might not be ideal for some people, how they all differ, how to respond to objections and how to ask for the sale.
Customer service: Today, we’re all spoiled with Amazon-type service that’s informative and fast. Customers are in control in today’s marketplace, so to attract, earn and keep clients’ business, your entire team needs to be focused on your firm’s unique value proposition. Teach everyone on your team how to ensure that every prospect and client receives stellar service and individualized attention.
Accountability: Establish clear service standards and let everyone on your team know you will be measuring their ability to meet those standards. “Accountability is one of the hallmarks of our profession, and for good reason: holding people accountable adds real teeth to their ability to reach their productivity goals.” One consulting firm reveals that implementing retraining or conducting mystery shopping yields a 9% increase in performance, while financial institutions that implement both mystery shopping and retraining of employees experience a 19% boost in account openings vs. those that do neither.
Now, you might use different marketing techniques to acquire clients than you do to retain clients — but those marketing techniques still require a strong tandem effort on the sales side of your organization.
Keep adapting and evolving Marketing strategies need to change often to adapt to changes in technology, demographics and consumer demands. So, your marketing efforts need to be dynamic and always changing. Your selling strategies still need to align with your marketing efforts, but your sales strategy isn’t likely to change as much or as often.
According to Brandpoint, 51% of financial services marketers said in 2019 that their largest challenge was keeping up with new marketing techniques. The following are 3 marketing trends in financial services in 2019. These trends are likely much different than the trends we heard about 10 or even 2 years ago:
1. Providing a personalized and data-driven customer experience to earn trust and reach the right customers at the right place
2. Continued evolution with technology, including voice search optimization, mobile marketing and artificial intelligence
3. The growing importance of content marketing in financial service institutions
Brandpoint’s 2019 research report, The State of Content Marketing for Financial Services, reveals these statistics about content marketing in today’s firms:
• Two-thirds of financial marketers place a higher priority on attracting new customers than on informing current clients.
• As with last year, social media tops the list as the most important marketing activity.
• More than 50% of marketers said their biggest marketing challenge is keeping up with new techniques.
• Financial services professionals say that brand awareness and customer relationship building are the biggest benefits of content marketing.
Take a good look at your sales and marketing teams’ efforts. How well are they aligned? What can you do to create a stronger alignment?