News article

How my 8-year-old nailed strategic marketing planning

At the height of the lockdown, when the temperature was soaring, my son Joe’s repeated refrain was “When this is all over, I’m going to start a lemonade stand outside our house.”

To my surprise, he took it upon himself to write down a plan of action. And believe it or not, this post-it note contains the key components of an effective marketing strategy.

At Yardstick, whenever we develop a marketing strategy for our clients, we focus on three key components:

  1. Defining your offering: In Joe’s case, it’s freshly made lemonade served in various portion sizes by him and his assistant Ethan.
  2. Identifying the right kinds of clients for whom you can deliver the most value: for Joe, it’s thirsty people walking past our house from the Rec.
  3. Communicating your offering to those people and explaining how you stand out from the competition: Joe’s assigned me the job of designing and putting up posters…

The interesting thing is that most people, not just financial advisers and planners, think that marketing is just about number three i.e. promotion.

Indeed, I’ve worked in places where despite huge investment in marketing, the general belief was that we were there to simply communicate messages about the business and ‘make things look pretty’.

The role of marketing is so much more than that.

So, what is marketing then?

The official definition of marketing by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) is: “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

Let’s take that apart for a moment:

  1. It’s a management process – not something you delegate to the office junior.
  2. It’s about identifying and anticipating customers’ needs – not coming up with a product/service and hoping someone will buy it.
  3. It’s about satisfying those needs – your product/service has to deliver what customers expect or they won’t buy it again. Neither will they recommend it to others.
  4. It’s got to be profitable – frankly, there’s no point being in business if you don’t intend to make a profit, at least at some point.

Nowhere in the CIM’s definition of marketing does it say, ‘communicating or promoting your product/service’ and, yet, this is what people think marketing is all about.

Getting down to basics

For financial advisers and planners, it’s important to have an understanding of the broader, more strategic function of marketing. This is why the marketing strategies we write for our clients cover three basic, but key areas:

  1. What it is you have to offer and how it’s different from the competition; is it an all-encompassing, life-long, financial planning service, or a more transactional offering focused on specific products?
  2. The types of people who will benefit the most from your service; are they people coming up to retirement or 30-somethings planning their next house move?
  3. Where those people ‘hang-out’; in other words, the channels that you can use to reach them and tell them about your offering. This could include Facebook, business networking forums, sports clubs, professional connections, Google…the list goes on. This generally forms the ‘marketing plan’.

The third area is usually the largest section of the marketing strategy, but we spend more time and effort on the first two. Why? Because if you don’t know what you’re offering and who is most likely to buy your offering, your marketing communications will be completely ineffective.

Marketing and websites

My role at Yardstick also includes writing websites for clients. We haven’t always written their marketing strategy for them, so clients are sometimes surprised when at our discovery meeting I am probing them about their proposition and their target audiences; it’s not something they’ve given much thought to.

Yet we cannot produce a website which achieves their goals if we don’t know what they have to offer and who is going to buy it! Interestingly, our website discovery meetings often make clients think well beyond what they want their website to do.

How can we help?

If you feel that your marketing is not working effectively for your business, it’s well worth taking a step back and addressing the three key areas outlined above.

If you would like some professional guidance to reinvigorate your marketing efforts, we can provide in-depth marketing strategies which include a full analysis of where you are, where you want to be and detailed plan of what you need to do to get there. For details, click here.

In addition, we have recently introduced ‘Ignition Days’. These are structured days (or two half days) where we start with a blank sheet of paper and finish with a defined way forward for your marketing. The resulting plan will be more succinct than a full marketing strategy (but more substantial than a post-it note!). If you would like more information on our Ignition Days, please get in touch.

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