News article

9 unique marketing challenges larger advice/planning firms face in 2023

Larger financial advice/planning firms are better at marketing than their smaller rivals and peers.


Well, not always. In fact, when it comes to marketing, larger firms are often miles behind their smaller counterparts, who often display:

  • Greater agility
  • A better understanding
  • An openness to new ideas.

So, let’s dive straight in and look at nine marketing challenges larger firms face and the consequences of each.

1. Collecting online reviews

Your Google and VouchedFor reviews impress prospects (who have often been recommended by an existing client or professional connection) when they search for your firm or a specific adviser/planner online.

However, compared to smaller firms:

  • Larger firms tend to collect fewer reviews
  • There’s often more pushback about using two platforms
  • The collection of online reviews isn’t given a high enough priority
  • Stakeholders (including the business owner, advisers, planners, and compliance) in larger firms tend to worry more about negative reviews.

The consequences:

Prospective clients are less impressed when they search for your business than when they look at your peers and competitors. That could cost you an enquiry, a new client, and years of lost revenue.

It also means your marketing will be in telling and not showing mode. We all know which is more effective.

2. No focus on marketing for recruitment

Recruitment is a key challenge right now for many larger firms. Unfortunately, very few do anything to align their marketing efforts with their recruitment needs.

  • Recruitment is reactive, kicking into gear when a position becomes vacant, rather than being a proactive and consistent activity
  • Job descriptions are used when advertising vacant positions (a description is very different to an advert)
  • Firms don’t build social proof to demonstrate the values and culture of the business by asking current and former employees to leave reviews on Glassdoor (more of which in a moment)
  • The recruitment section of their website (if there is one) is often unloved and out of date
  • The power of social media is overlooked.

The consequences:

Firms struggle to recruit the right people at the right time and often lose out in competitive situations. They also rely more heavily on recruitment consultants, which pushes up costs.

3. Ignoring the benefits of Glassdoor

We’ve already explained that Google and VouchedFor reviews impress potential clients on their digital journey to your door. Well, Glassdoor reviews benefit your recruitment similarly, impressing potential recruits before they make an application, and during the recruitment process.

However, most larger firms haven’t yet embraced the power of Glassdoor. Our analysis of New Model Adviser’s Top 100 in 2022 showed that only 20% of firms have reviews on there.

That’s because they often:

  • Haven’t heard of Glassdoor
  • Don’t understand the need to impress potential candidates
  • Are nervous about what employees might say in their reviews.

The consequences:

Candidates will struggle to understand the culture of your firm, or what it’s like to work for your business. That might make them less likely to apply for a role or lead to the firm missing out on a great recruit when a candidate has multiple offers.

It also means that, if a current or former employee leaves a negative review, there’s a scramble to collect positive reviews to reduce its impact. It’s far better to embrace Glassdoor and get ahead of the game by building up a portfolio of positive reviews.

4. Getting adviser/planner buy-in

When advisers/planners in larger firms buy into marketing, projects move forward with speed and momentum.

However, when they don’t, new initiatives move more slowly, stall, and are even pulled completely. Furthermore, worried about upsetting “the talent”, business owners and managers often let advisers’/planners’ lack of support go unchallenged.

The consequences:

Simply put, the firm’s marketing is less effective. Important projects never get off the ground, others move glacially slowly.

And it’s all counterproductive because advisers/planners generally want two things:

  • More enquiries
  • Better quality enquiries.

Neither of these will be achieved if they’re a barrier to effective marketing.

5. No client videos

Videos demonstrate the value of working with you by allowing clients to tell their stories.

However, video projects can be harder to organise in larger firms because:

  • Key stakeholders don’t see the need for them or don’t want to allocate budget
  • Advisers/planners are often a barrier, regularly suggesting that “my clients won’t want to do that” (when all the evidence shows that if you ask the right clients, in the right way, enough will happily take part)
  • Geographical challenges can make the project harder (but by no means impossible) to run than in smaller firms.

The consequences:

It’s harder to show (there’s that word again) the value of working with you when you don’t have client videos. Plus it can make your marketing, especially your website, less personal and empathetic.

And, finally, you lose the opportunity to differentiate your business from peers and competitors.

6. Not maximising the referral and recommendation opportunity

Referrals and recommendations from existing clients are the best type of new enquiry because they have the highest conversion rate and lowest cost of acquisition.

Despite that:

  • Very few larger firms have a proactive strategy in place
  • Advisers/planners aren’t (generally) doing the most basic of things by talking to clients about recommendations (research from VouchedFor shows that 85% of clients have never been asked by their adviser/planner for a recommendation)
  • The two building blocks of a recommendation strategy (a client survey and enquiry recording) are often not in place.

The consequences:

Firms that don’t maximise the referral and recommendation opportunity will spend more money on marketing. They will also work less efficiently because conversion rates on enquiries from other sources are lower.

7. Struggling to get content signed off

Content (including blogs, articles, guides, social posts, and newsletters) adds value to existing clients and helps nurture prospects who don’t immediately sign up.

However, in larger firms, advisers/planners rarely have the time, skill, or inclination to produce content regularly themselves. That means production is routinely outsourced, but often “too many cooks” can mean the sign-off process is difficult and protracted.

Simple tasks, such as selecting images to accompany the content, can take far longer and involve more people than they should. In turn, those extended sign-off periods can make it hard to produce and distribute content consistently.

The consequences:

Deadlines are missed and it’s hard for content to be produced, and distributed, regularly. Consequently, your business looks less reliable and it’s harder to nurture prospects effectively.

8. “I like” or “I don’t like”

All marketing, from your newsletter to your website, and your social posts to image choices, should be looked at through the eyes of your target audience.

However, far too often phrases such as “I like” or “I don’t like” dominate the conversation, with stakeholders and decision-makers making choices based on what appeals to them, not what will work for their target audience.

The consequences:

If your business is afflicted with the “I like” disease, the consequence is simple: your marketing is less likely to resonate with your target audience or achieve your aims.

9. Not collecting new enquiry data

Recording every new enquiry and collecting 12 key data points means your business:

  • Can make evidence-led decisions about your marketing
  • Nurture prospects who don’t immediately engage but whom you would like to work with.

Unfortunately, many larger firms either fail to collect any enquiry data whatsoever or have a patchy record of the new enquiries they receive.

In some organisations, that’s because management and internal stakeholders question the need to record enquiry data. In others, it’s because the advisers/planners don’t follow the agreed enquiry recording process.

The consequences:

Poor enquiry recording creates three main issues:

  • Decisions about marketing are based on gut feel or anecdotes, not evidence
  • Firms don’t know whether they are generating enough enquiries of the right quality to achieve their aims
  • Issues with conversion rates can’t be identified and solved.

Simple reasons

If you run a larger financial advice/planning business, or you’re responsible for the marketing, some, many or even all of these challenges may resonate with you.

There are several reasons why they occur:

  • Advisers/planners not buying into marketing and, consequently, not supporting projects/initiatives
  • Senior managers/business owners not leading from the front, for example not recording their enquiries but expecting everyone else to do it, or not asking their clients for online reviews but mandating the request for others
  • Marketing executives/managers are being stretched and asked to do too much, with too few resources
  • Senior managers/business owners getting involved with things they should be delegating to others in their team
  • An arrogance about some larger firms, who believe that their size means they don’t need to take marketing seriously. For example, 19% of respondents on a recent LinkedIn poll I ran said that they didn’t need online reviews.

Next week, we’ll look at the answers to the nine challenges, so you have some practical ideas on how to address them if they occur in your business.

In the meantime, if you’d like to chat about anything we’ve said in this week’s blog please email or call me on 0115 8965 300.

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