News article

How to solve the 9 unique marketing challenges larger advice/planning firms face

Last week, you learnt about:

Now, having told you what’s wrong, it’s time for some solutions.

So in this week’s blog, we’ll remind you of the challenges and explain how to deal with them.

1. Collecting online reviews

Compared to smaller firms, larger businesses often have fewer reviews online, which means you’re less likely to impress potential clients on their digital journey to your door.

There are three main reasons why larger firms have fewer reviews:

  • There’s often more pushback about requesting them across 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 solutions:

  • Use two platforms to collect online reviews; ideally Google (to impress people when they search for your business) and VouchedFor (to impress people when they look up one of your advisers/planners and because it’s harder to get Google reviews)
  • Get buy-in from your advisers, planners and other key stakeholders by showing them success stories of firms who’ve collected reviews online. For added motivation, research your peers and competitors, a bunch will have no reviews (your reviews will help you get ahead of these firms) and others will have more than you (in which case, you need to catch up)
  • Run an initial project to ask all your clients for a review on both platforms (send one email, with two links). Then build on that success by asking clients for a review after you’ve done their annual planning meeting.

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. For example:

  • Recruitment activity is reactive, only kicking into gear when a position becomes vacant
  • Firms use bland job descriptions when advertising the role, instead, they should be selling the business and the vacancy with effective job adverts
  • No attempt is made to build social proof to demonstrate the values and culture of the business
  • The recruitment section of their website (if there is one) is often unloved and out of date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 solutions:

  • Change your mindset (and that of your team) to one of consistent activity; recruitment marketing isn’t something you can pick up and put down
  • The people in your business with recruitment and marketing responsibilities must be aligned and communicating constantly, so the needs of one (the recruiters) can be delivered by the other (the marketers)
  • Develop recruitment-focused social proof, focusing particularly on Glassdoor reviews (more of that in a moment)
  • Never simply cut and paste a job description into an advert. Instead, write engaging job adverts that actually sell the position and your business to prospective candidates
  • Build out a dedicated recruitment section on your website, including your latest vacancies and social proof to demonstrate why you’re a great employer. Then keep it up to date!
  • Be proactive on LinkedIn by connecting with the type of people you might want to recruit in the future. For example, if you know you are likely to have a paraplanning vacancy in the next 18 months, start connecting and engaging with paraplanners now. That way, when the time comes to recruit you have a ready-made audience of paraplanners to proactively approach who know you and your business.

We’ve previously recorded two webinars to help you align your marketing with recruitment. You can watch them back by clicking here and here, we hope they help!

3. Ignoring the benefits of Glassdoor

Google and VouchedFor impress potential clients on their digital journey to your door. Glassdoor reviews do the same for potential employees.

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 solutions:

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway. If your team is happy and your business has a great culture, it’s very unlikely something bad will happen by asking your team to leave reviews
  • Recruitment is competitive right now with high demand for quality candidates, so look at what your peers and competitors are doing. If they already have Glassdoor reviews, you need to catch up. If they don’t, get ahead of them by collecting reviews
  • Practically speaking, you need to build a Glassdoor profile and then ask current (and former) employees to leave reviews on there. Don’t tell them what to say, just explain why you’re asking and leave them to write authentic and truthful replies
  • Finally, once the reviews come in you need to reply and promote them on your job adverts, website and across your social media channels.

You can learn more about Glassdoor by clicking here to read an explainer we wrote a few months ago.

4. Getting adviser/planner buy-in

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

  • Avoid springing surprises on your advisers/planners, explain the benefits and understand their fears/concerns by communicating with them about each project at an early stage. For example, if you plan to run a client survey, explain why you’re doing it (and how it benefits them/the business) very early in the process. Then ask them to honestly explain their fears or concerns, so you can deal with them
  • Showing always beats telling, so win over sceptical advisers/planners by showcasing your marketing successes, and those of your peers and competitors (no one likes to think they are lagging behind)
  • Centrally manage as many tasks as possible. For example, if you’re asking your advisers/planners to send out requests for Google and VouchedFor reviews after annual client meetings, you’ll probably be disappointed. Instead, managing the process centrally means the emails are more likely to be sent, resulting in more reviews and less work for your advisers/planners. That sounds like a win-win to me!
  • Find your marketing champions. Every larger business has advisers/planners who hate marketing and others who love it. Make your life easier by identifying your champions and engaging with them.

5. No client videos

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

Unfortunately, larger firms are less likely to have client videos 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 in larger firms.

The solutions:

  • As I said above, engage with your advisers/planners at an early stage, ideally when you’re planning the project, to explain why it’s important and deal with any concerns that they have
  • Be pragmatic and accept that you’ll never get buy-in from all advisers/planners, instead identify those with a more open mind and focus on them. Ultimately, it’s those advisers/planners who make the effort who will get the benefit, with their clients talking positively about them
  • When the project is complete, celebrate the success internally by promoting the videos. Show the sceptics that clients are happy to appear in video and that the world didn’t come crashing down when their colleagues approached their clients. You never know, you might be able to change a few minds!

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 solutions:

  • Educate everyone in the business about the importance of referrals/recommendations and why the opportunity will only be maximised if you think intentionally and strategically about it
  • Run a client survey to understand who your advocates (the people who say that are happy to recommend you) and active advocates (the people who actually recommend you) are
  • Record all new enquiries (and yes, we mean everything, no exceptions) so you understand how many referrals and recommendations you currently receive
  • Calculate the Recommendation Rate (the proportion of clients who recommend you each year) for your firm and individual advisers/planners
  • Use VouchedFor reviews to understand whether your advisers/planners are having conversations with clients about referrals/recommendations (most won’t be)
  • Train your advisers/planners on when to discuss referrals/recommendations with their clients and how to do it
  • Build an appreciation programme to show clients how much you value their recommendations
  • Consider other ways to motivate (or reward) advisers/planners to improve the number of referrals and recommendations they receive
  • Monitor the results, identifying the advisers/planners who are doing well, and those who need extra support.

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.

The solutions:

  • Trust that the people writing your content know what they are doing!
  • Cut down on the amount of feedback by having an agreed style. For example, agree your policy on contractions (“they’re” instead of “they are” etc) and stick to it.
  • Think carefully about your sign-off processes and who is involved. Keep the team focussed, for example, do six people really need to approve the content? Does the Managing Director need to sign off an image that’ll be used to promote the article on social media?
  • Ensure everyone involved in the sign-off process understands the importance of producing content consistently and get them to subscribe to the “good and done is better than perfect” mentality
  • Be strict with deadlines; if someone misses a feedback deadline, they can’t have input into the article. Their opinion shouldn’t hold up the whole business’ marketing
  • If you try to produce content internally but keep missing deadlines, accept that it might be time to outsource the task.

8. “I like” or “I don’t like”

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

Unfortunately, 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 solutions:

  • Agree on your target audience/niche
  • Get to know the target audience/niche (yeah, I know that sounds like proper marketing guff but it’s incredibly important) by creating detailed client personas
  • When you review a piece of marketing, look at it through the eyes of your target client, not your own
  • Accept that their needs are more important than your own, or those of stakeholders
  • Ban “I like” and “I don’t like”!

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.

The solutions:

  • Agree on a simple policy: all new enquiries should be recorded with no exceptions
  • Adopt the 12 data points we believe you should record for every new enquiry
  • Agree where new enquiries should be recorded (for example, a spreadsheet, your back-office or a sales-based CRM)
  • Agree on the processes for recording enquiries
  • Implement processes for double-checking the quality of data entry
  • Regularly analyse the results and take appropriate action.

To help you collect and analyse new enquiry data we have produced enquiry recording and marketing dashboard templates. Click here to request free copies of each.

We’re experienced in helping larger firms

We work with many larger advice/planning firms, including those with existing internal resources, to help drive projects forward and bring our sector-specific knowledge to the table.

If you or your business are struggling with any of the challenges we’ve talked about over the past couple of weeks, we’re here to help.

Call me on 0115 8965 300 or email to book in a call.

I’d love to hear more about your business and your challenges.

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