A winning marketing strategy takes more than understanding your target market, creating a value proposition that will attract ideal clients, communicating well, and delivering on your promises. It takes courage. T
hat's one reason why so few business owners, including financial advisors, are effective marketers. As Seth Godin has pointed out, competitive advantage takes guts. The courageous ones are always in the minority. But what does bravery have to do with marketing? Here are a few ways they are connected.
Good marketing takes risks – Communicating the same message as everyone else (which is what most advisors do) is safe. Not particularly effective or profitable, but safe. No marketing director or consultant ever got fired because they encouraged an advisor to put on their website that they give their clients "peace of mind" or "exceptional client service." A great marketing idea might misfire, or fail to connect with clients, or turn off some prospects while exciting others. It is hard to know in advance whether a marketing campaign will succeed. Committing to it despite the possibility of failure is an act of courage.
It requires that you be different – Everyone knows what a financial advisor is supposed to stand for. Right? That's why so much advisor marketing looks the same. Of course not. Effective marketing makes you different, or portrays you differently, then the rest of the industry. It requires that you stand out. A successful strategy probably requires that you ignore or contradict the advice of some people, maybe people you respect. And who wants to stand apart from the crowd? Whenever you do something no one else is doing it takes courage.
It makes you stake your claim – When you identify a niche and craft of value proposition around that, it means you will be going out into public and announcing that you are focusing your business on a small portion of the population. It requires you to narrow your focus and limit your potential market. It means that you are creating a service mix that will be attractive to a minority. In a world with so many opportunities, it is a conscious decision to ignore most of them. Deliberately designing something that most people may not be interested in takes courage.
It involves turning away profitable prospects – Once you commit to a target market accepting clients outside the niche dilutes your brand. Having brand integrity involves putting limits on how many clients you will bring on outside of your target. Whether you help the prospects that don't fit the profile find more suitable advisors or you simply decline the opportunity, you are turning away potential revenue. Regardless of how compelling the logic and evidence that focusing on a niche will make an advisor more successful, many advisors cannot bring themselves to say no to a prospect with millions of dollars to invest. The ones who can have courage.
It involves developing new skills – customizing a practice to a target market usually involves acquiring new capabilities. By the time most of us reach adulthood, developing new competencies involves fear. We have to admit we are not good at something. We make mistakes when we try to do it. We stumble, are awkward and insecure. Adding a new skill requires taking time from things we enjoy and that we are good at and dedicating time to something we aren't good at yet.
And maybe most of all effective marketing requires courage because courage requires action. There are acts of courage – and no such thing as inactivity of courage. You can face your fear, take the leap, embark on a journey, make a bold move, start a campaign, even engage an opponent. But there is no such thing as "bravely sitting there not doing anything." Courage is in the doing. And, despite what the dictionary says, marketing is a verb.
What have you done that has had the biggest effect on business development? And what kind of courage did you have to draw on to make it happen?