Taking baby steps toward your marketing plan

Updating your marketing can be easy. Just do it in small increments.

Scott’s practice has grown substantially over the past couple years. Still, he has a long way from his goal. There is a lot to do to get him to the next level. So far, he has built his business entirely through sales – he has no brochure, website, or ongoing marketing activities. When I suggested we start the process of putting together a marketing plan for him I could see the color draining from his face. He is busy enough servicing existing clients and onboarding a couple more that just the suggestion of new projects made him nervous.

A new marketing plan can be overwhelming. Even if not a complete brand overhaul, it can mean lots to coordinate, lots of decisions, and new expenses. But it does not have to be. You can take small steps to start you moving in a productive direction. Even little changes to some of your daily habits can start bringing you results. And what you learn in the process may actually help refine the direction of your marketing for when you are ready to undertake a bigger project like a new brochure or website.

Marketing is for the long term. It evolves over time. And sometimes thinking about marketing as one big project that has an endpoint can be counterproductive. Starting to move in the right direction can help you gain momentum with the right mindset. Here’s how to get started.

Segment your clients – make a list of your clients that includes attributes important to the service you offer. Age, family status, profession may be a few. If you add assets under management then include total net worth as one way to gauge potential. Note whether they take advantage of all of your services. Do they provide you referrals? Are they an influencer?

Improve your referral tracking system – knowing where your referrals come from will help you get more and knowing how many you get sets a baseline to measure improvement. How well do you track the people who refer you? Take a little time to make sure you are using a field in your CRM to note who you met through referral and who sent them to you. Make sure you and your staff are noting the source each time you meet someone new.

Know your referral sources – once you have a way to track them, pay special attention to the people who provide them. In our study of referral behavior, Julie Littlechild and I found that providing special treatment to the people who refer you results in more referrals. It’s just common sense which, as you know, is not actually that common. When you do something special for them, make sure it is about the relationship and not about a specific transaction. It is much better to say “you are one of our biggest fans and I want you to know how grateful I am for your support” than to say “I would like to take you to dinner for referring Joe.”

Review your process – when you meet someone new can you articulate the steps you will take them through on their way to an ongoing relationship? Are each of the steps something that the client would see as a benefit or accomplishment? If not, how can you reorganize how you describe it (rather than changing the process itself)? Is it customized for the special needs of your target market?

Update and memorize your positioning statement – when someone asks what you do how compelling is your answer? Does it describe your target client and how they are changed because they work with you?

Develop a new habit of mentioning referrals – many of the things we say in conversation can be improved by adding a reminder that you are referable and get referred regularly. It can be the difference between “we have been working on a lot of college funding plans lately” and “our clients have introduced us to several people who needed college plans lately.” It can be small and subtle and won’t become habit until you practice it specifically.

Show your process to centers of influence – once you have updated and mapped out your process, take a COI to lunch. Say “we have a few clients in common and we have referred a couple back-and-forth but I don’t think I have ever actually stepped you through the process we use with clients. Would you like to see it?”

Any of these many projects can be accomplished in a couple hours. Eventually you may get to the point where you will undertake a significant marketing project. But taking small steps can move you in the right direction and begin attracting more clients today.

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