It doesn't take a lot of extra money and time to make a big difference in your marketing results.
That's one of the key takeaways from new Fidelity research that zeroed in on the way advisors market their business to new customers.
The new research was based on the Fidelity Clearing and Custody's 2014 RIA Benchmarking Study, which asked firms to self-assess their marketing and business development capability and strategies; it then focused on the best practices and differentiated efforts of those respondents who said they had strong capabilities -- or were, as Fidelity labeled them, "marketing leaders."
Fidelity identified three tips for improving your marketing approach.
1. SPEND A LITTLE MORE -- BUT SPEND WISELY
The study found marketing leaders spent 2.4% of their revenue -- a little more than half a percentage point more -- on business development and marketing than other RIAs, according to the study.
But these same marketing leaders reported 40% more client growth, 23% more asset growth and 20% more revenue growth than their peers during the same time period.
Targeted spending had the most payoff, says Mathias Hitchcock, vice president of practice management and consulting at Fidelity: While these firms spent more across the board, he notes, they spent incrementally more on events.
"Events stand out really as an area where marketing leaders are investing more and seeing greater returns in terms of effectiveness," he says.
While spending a little extra helps, Hitchcock says, it's a small factor when it comes to what makes these firms' approaches successful. "It's far more about focus and discipline and allocation of time and resources within the firm," he says.
2. PUT YOUR PLAN IN WRITING
A huge way to make sure your firm is managing its marketing strategies efficiently is to actually write the plan down, says Hitchcock.
The study found the marketing leaders were more than twice as likely as other RIAs to have formal, written marketing and business development plans.
Those plans capture key details, Hitchcock explains. "The plans the marketing leaders have are much stronger," he says. "They're more likely to have goals in them, more likely to have defined owners and deadlines."
And those advisors who took the time to write out their plans were far more satisfied with their results than those who didn't, he adds.
3. KNOW (& SHARE) YOUR STORY
Leveraging and communicating a compelling firm story can not only attract clients, Hitchcock says, but also bring in the right clients -- those your firm is best positioned to work with.
"It can be your elevator pitch, it can be what's represented in your website, it should be what your firm should be telling prospective clients," he says. "It should be consistently pulled through all of your marketing materials. ... It really should be tailored specifically based on the target client of that firm."
In addition to prospects and clients, RIAs should convey their firms' story to centers of influence, who can then use it to refer their own clients, says Hitchcock.
"The reason that the firm story is important there is that the center of influence is going to be an extension of your firm's sales force," he says. "When they're speaking with someone who's a potential referral, that could be the first time that prospect is hearing about the firm."
Carefully crafting your firm story can also help your firm avoid taking on clients who aren't a right fit, simply out of respect for other relationships.
"Firms often take those referrals and take them on as clients because they want to maintain a good relationship with that referral source," Hitchcock says. "It's an unfortunate cycle and one that could really be improved upon if firms would refocus and recommit to effectively communicate that target client profile."
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