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Money for nothing? 5 marketing activities which will cost a lot of money but deliver very little return

There are many examples of financial planners and advisers spending lots of money on marketing activities which have generated very little return.

We’re keen to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes, so take a look at our top five marketing don’ts…

1. Don’t spend lots of money on advertising in print media

When I started out in marketing, more than 20 years ago, the word ‘marketing’ was interchangeable with ‘advertising’. Most people just assumed “that’s what marketing is” – how else would you market your products and services to the outside world?

And yes, in the early days advertising in printed magazines was a core part of my job, as was direct mail (you know, in the post). But today, there are far better ways of getting your message in front of the exact people who you want to attract as clients (more on that later).

Too often, the publications available for you to advertise in; for example, the local newspaper or business magazine, will not reach the right audience for you. Is your local newspaper read by people who you actually want as clients? Is that glossy business magazine full of adverts (and barely any editorial) actually being read by businesspeople?

The other problem with this form of advertising is that one advert simply won’t make any impact. No-one will remember your name because you ran a quarter-page advert in last week’s newspaper.

For advertising to be effective, you must do it regularly and consistently[1]. And then you have to be realistic about what it will achieve; people may start to recognise your name, but don’t expect the leads to come flooding in.

But if you really have to….

If you really want to support your local rag (and they are rapidly disappearing) then advertorials are generally better than adverts. These are paid-for articles which look like editorial, albeit there is usually some small print to indicate that it’s an advert.

For professional advisers, advertorials are an effective way of demonstrating both your expertise and how you help your clients. But, as with traditional advertising, they need to be frequent and consistent. They also need to be interesting and informative; you cannot simply regurgitate sales messages.

For some tips, read: 10 sneaky ways to make more people read your articles right now

2. Don’t spend lots of money on sponsorships

The biggest culprit for me is golf clubs. For several thousand pounds you can display your advert on a screen inside the clubhouse, sometimes even in the golf buggies. Or you might be able to brand one of the holes.

But what is this achieving? Are golfers really going to contact you simply because they’ve seen your logo flash up on a screen? I truly believe that there are far more effective, more measurable ways of spending several thousand pounds.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t consider charitable or community sponsorships; for example, a local rugby team looking for a few hundred pounds. Take these sponsorships for what they are – community or charitable support – although don’t forget to shout about them on your website and social media.

3. Don’t pay for speaking opportunities

If you have to pay to speak at a conference, it is highly likely to be a waste of time.

If the organisers are making their money by charging the speakers, instead of the delegates, the audience probably won’t be the right prospects for you. Your presentation should be a huge draw for the delegates and if anything, the organisers should be paying you.

I’ve known event organisers approach professional advisers and pander to their egos with the offer of a speaking slot. Just one caveat – it will cost you several thousand pounds.

No, thank you!

4. Don’t spend lots of money on exhibiting at events

Taking a stand can work if you are selective about the events at which you exhibit.

For example, Chamber of Commerce and other local business events can be an effective way of getting in front of business owners and other professional advisers.

But, be aware that the cost of the stand is only a fraction of the overall cost of exhibiting: you need to consider the cost of the stand itself (or pull-up banners) and the literature and freebies, not to mention your time out of the office.

Generally, the bigger the event, the more impressive your stand needs to be to attract people to it, and the more it’s going to cost!

More often than not, it’s better to attend as a delegate and use your networking skills to work the room, rather than the lure of a free memory stick!

5. Don’t DIY online advertising

Yes, you read that right…online advertising can be a huge waste of money.

Don’t get me wrong – online advertising is an amazing way to target the exact types of people who you want as your clients. For proof of how well you can target your advertising, take a look at Naomi’s recent blog: 7 social media targeting categories you didn’t know existed

The problem is that social media platforms such as Facebook and search engines (you know the one!) make it far too easy for you to set-up an advertising campaign. With a few clicks, your credit card details, a nice image and some beautiful words, your advert can be up and running in minutes…but it probably won’t be effective.

As with all approaches to marketing, you have to be clear about what you want your online advertising to achieve:

  • Do you want it to drive traffic to your website?
  • Do you want to build a database of prospects?
  • Do you want to generate actual leads (i.e. people requesting a meeting or a call?)

Each of these aims will require different approaches, budgets and time. This is why I would always recommend working with experts in Google and social media advertising to make sure that it delivers a return on investment (we specialise in digital campaigns and can help you).

Get in touch

So, there you go – five marketing activities that cost a lot but deliver very little.

Of course, none of these are absolute don’ts – they are more ‘think about it firsts’. Make sure you know what you want your marketing efforts to achieve; that way you can select the marketing activities that will deliver the ROI you need for your business.

If you need experts who can help support your marketing strategy, or a trusted provider to whom you can entrust your marketing, get in touch. Email or call 0115 8965 300.


[1] Some marketing types refer to the ‘Marketing Rule of 7’ which says that someone needs to ‘hear’ a brand name seven times before they’ll take notice of it. For more on this, click here.

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