By Anthony O’Brien, for Professional Planner, July 3, 2017


There’s a common view in the business world that marketing is a combination of “pretty pictures and nice words”. In other words, marketing is purely about brand and communications.

It’s one of my personal frustrations about marketing, and to be honest there’s much more to being a strong marketer than running campaigns and building engaging copy.

I’ve long been a believer in the theory that for a marketing strategy to work, the person writing the plan needs to truly understand your business, its balance sheet, fulfilment processes, how it generates new revenues, and so on.

Moreover, a firm’s core marketing strategy must be client-focused and should govern how it engages with its target market. In that sense, the marketing strategy should be THE PLAN that everyone looks to for guidance – and which your public relations, content marketing and social media strategies support.

It all starts with the client

A marketing strategy should always put the client at the centre of your thinking. Yes, there are plenty of internal business machinations that you might explore to improve profitability or drive down costs, but ultimately growth is focused on gaining a share of the client’s wallet.

It’s losing sight of clients that causes many marketing plans to bombs. If the business isn’t completely aligned, from the senior management down, on the core target clients, and what exactly you’re going to offer them, then you’re behind the eight ball before you start.

Business guru Michael Porter’s has been quoted as saying that: “Strategy 101 is about choices. You can’t be all things to all people.” Having a solid marketing strategy ties your client and your offerings together, and it’s not just about campaigns and advertising. Rather your marketing strategy must focus on the underling the pain points your clients are facing, whether it’s estate planning or building a decent retirement nest egg.  Then it must tell a story about why the services you’re offering will help address these challenges.

If your marketing people are not engaged, and in my opinion leading the charge on building the strategy, chances are your plan will be full of “brand awareness” and “communications tactics” that do little to generate leads or client engagement.

Your marketing must stack up financially

With any marketing planning you undertake, whether it’s to internal staff or with a consultant, be sure it is focussed on driving revenue and profit. If it isn’t numbers driven, then you’re wasting your cash.

To be fair, some marketing measurements aren’t purely financial. However, they should still have a target – whether its increased web traffic, total traffic for content, or the projected number of leads from an event. If you’re setting the sales and revenue targets, be sure to involve your marketing people. In fact, a good strategy involves aligning your sales and marketing people to the same revenue and GP targets. This the best way to ensure the entire team is aligned and pushing towards the same goal.

Be prepared to test and tweak

Ultimately, when the time comes to crank up the tweets, media releases or videos, if your marketing strategy is right, then your messaging will be concentrated on your clients. If your messaging is about “you and your business” chances are you’ll turn clients and leads off quickly as it fails to address their pain points.

Finally, be prepared for a period of trial and error when rolling out a marketing strategy. There’s no reason why you can’t test different campaigns, channels, and messages. Very rarely will the first action from a marketing campaign deliver instant rivers of gold. Marketing is an evolving process.