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7 Ways Advisors Can Market Financial Literacy

April was Financial Literacy Month—a national effort to highlight and teach the importance of how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits. It made me think about the importance of “marketing literacy” and what financial services companies need to understand to maintain healthy financial marketing practices.There can be a lot of confusion about what marketing terms actually mean, such as positioning or marketing funnels, or the difference between concepts such as branding vs. lead generation or paid for vs. earned media. Here is a quick reference guide to 7 marketing concepts that all financial services companies should understand and incorporate into their businesses.

1. BRAND

Just because you have a company, doesn’t mean you have a brand. A brand incorporates your visual representation of the company—like your logo, URL, fonts, colors, icon and similar—as well as the verbal aspects of your company—including tagline, core messages and positioning statements, which are often communicated through the famed elevator pitch or boilerplate paragraphs. These key elements need to be 100 percent reflective of the brand you want to build, not generic and “me too,” but unique and reflective of your unique value proposition.It’s important to always be consistent with your brand, too. Doing something out of character will only confuse people and possibly detour them from wanting to work with you. People like to know what they’re going to get when choosing to work with an organization.

2. BRANDING VS. LEAD GENERATION

Branding and lead generation are not one-in-the-same. Sure, there is some branding involved with lead generation and vice versa, but each has a very distinct role in the marketing process.Branding is displaying your company in prominent locations to generate awareness and keep your firm top of mind. Branding strategies can be traditional forms of advertising like print or billboard, sponsoring an event in exchange for prominent signage or appearing in the media sharing your expertise.Lead generation, on the other hand, is a direct call to action. You are very specific about an action step you want the receiver of the information to take. Call for a free appointment, invite your friends to an event, download this whitepaper… you want someone to essentially exchange something they have of value to you (i.e., new business opportunity) for something that would be of value to them (information, experience, etc.) There is some crossover between the two, but they each have an important role in the marketing mix.

3. POSITIONING

Simply put, positioning is telling a story in a way that the person listening would be most interested in hearing. It’s talking about your services or expertise as it relates to the person’s needs. It shouldn’t take you 45 minutes to explain all the great things your firm has to offer and expect your audience to decipher what’s important to them. It’s your job to identify what would be of value to them, and then craft your story to highlight those points clearly and succinctly.

4. NURTURE SEQUENCE

You may have a database of leads from past marketing campaigns but are you still engaging them? A nurture sequence refers to the ongoing communication you send to a new lead to help them take the next steps to becoming a client. For example, say someone is interested in a white paper you have to offer but doesn’t take action after that.You should have a nurture sequence in place to consistently send new information about the topic, your product or service to the person with each form of communication highlighting a different benefit. They’ve expressed interest once but didn’t take the next steps. Either they’re busy, (so an ongoing stream of emails will remind them to take the next step), or they haven’t reached their tipping point to take action, in which case the emails with varying messages could potentially touch on the point that is of most importance to them.

5. ORGANIC SEO

The elusive organic SEO—what is it, and how do I get it? Well, it’s not paid for Search Engine Marketing (SEM) through pay-per-click advertising via Google or social media. It’s using organic methods to get a higher page ranking with Google.The best way to generate organic SEO though is through unique content. This can be through keywords sprinkled throughout your site, fresh content through a blog and active social media profiles with links back to your site. There are a lot of great resources out there on how you can do it yourself, but it’s important to note that technical improvements to the backend of your site will only be effective if you have unique content on your website. Template websites with template content aren’t as effective (in many ways) with helping you stand out from the crowd; Google actually recognizes the non-original content and will penalize your rankings for this practice. For more on this topic, check out our past blog “SEO Best Practices for Professionals in the Financial Industry.”

6. PAID FOR VS. EARNED MEDIA

This has turned into such a hot topic in recent years with the onslaught of blogs, social media channels and other digital mediums. The concept crosses over to traditional media too. Paid for media is essentially adverting, which may include pay-per-click, paid content promotions, boosting content on social media, advertorials or even an infomercial.Earned media is just that—earned exposure based on your expertise or value; this may include shares of your blog post on social media or direct engagement. Earned media also includes PR, which is the integration of your unique expertise into media channels. Earned media is more difficult to achieve, but more valuable in building your brand and credibility than paid media.One major red flag for financial advisors in this space is to not represent your paid media as earned media. You can’t run an ad on your local NBC affiliate and then say you’ve appeared on NBC, for example. This is an area that many financial organizations have run into compliance and even regulatory problems.Both paid and earned media has a place in the marketing mix. For more on this topic, visit our blog “Diversify Your Marketing Mix: Understanding Owned, Paid & Earned Media.”

7. MEDIA MATERIALS VS. MARKETING MATERIALS

Just because you have a bio, doesn’t mean its media ready. Media materials are different than marketing materials as they validate your expertise, demonstrate your knowledge and credibility and offer an array of options that media could turn to you for when seeking a financial expert. It’s important that your media bio stands apart and is not generic to separate you amongst your peers vying for the same media recognition.Marketing materials, on the other hand, tend to market you; they’re more promotional, can be more service- or experience-oriented rather than the technical information media would need to build a story that includes you. When wanting to work as a media resource, your media materials need to illustrate your specific points of expertise, offer unique stories, insights and topics, and typically, your marketing materials don’t accomplish this objective.