Inbound Marketing

Effective Marketing Starts with a Solid Foundation


You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.

-Gordon B. Hinckley


Having helped many RIAs with marketing, I find that the firms that are most successful in their efforts are those that have established a message, plan, and resources before they begin.  

Whether you’re just starting up or a well-established firm, here are 3 things to think about for your next marketing initiative:

1. Clear messaging is the way you will differentiate your firm.

As you develop or redefine your message, focus on how you are:

  • Relevant to clients—It’s hard to have a compelling message that really resonates with investors if you say you are serving individuals and families broadly. Defining a narrower playing field and creating areas of specialty can provide the opportunity to relate to your target audiences in a more personalized manner.
  • Providing solutions— In essence, “Know Thy Customer.” If you are targeting business executives, they may be receptive to a message about maximizing the value of their stock options and minimizing taxes. Likewise, if you are targeting young parents, they may be interested in a message about how to pay for daycare and/or the benefits of 529 plans.
  • Different…And better!—A good first step is to determine “What’s the one thing you do better than anyone else?” Also, make sure you speak about what you know and don’t try to compete with or copy anyone else.


2. The old adage “Plan your work and work your plan” may be cliché, but is often the difference between success and failure.

Start by defining very specific and measurable goals. Try to set short and long term goals that are both reasonable and achievable. Next, develop a strategy which details the tactics, resources, budget, and schedule.

  • Start with a clear and well-documented plan—that includes a budget, logistics and resource needs, schedule and, most important, what do you want to accomplish from this effort?
  • View all marketing initiatives as “works in progress”—always be looking to make small adjustments along the way that can push the needle forward to success.
  • Conduct after-action assessment—Take the time to see what worked, what didn’t, and what to needs changing. Analyze all aspects of your effort and set qualitative and quantitative goals for the next time around.

A question often associated with planning is How much should I budget? Although opinions vary, this fairly straightforward explanation from an SBA.GOV blog post provides some guidance:

‘Many businesses allocate a percentage of actual or projected gross revenues – usually between 2-3 percent for run-rate marketing and up to 3-5 percent for start-up marketing. But the allocation actually depends on several factors: the industry you’re in, the size of your business, and its growth stage. For example, during the early brand-building years retail businesses spend much more than other businesses on marketing – up to 20 percent of sales. As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between 1) brand development costs (which includes all the channels you use to promote your brand such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.), and 2) the costs of promoting your business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.)’

Once you’ve determined a budget, develop a process to closely measure both your cost and the return on investment (ROI). There are many ways to do this. Investopedia gives this simple example, ‘Take the sales growth, subtract the marketing cost, and then divide by the marketing cost like so: (Sales Growth – Marketing Cost) / Marketing Cost = ROI. How you look at the ROI of any marketing campaign ultimately comes in the form of increased business growth. The main thing is for you to have a way you track these efforts over the course of the year and beyond.

Make sure to also include tracking and reporting in your marketing and schedule a meeting at the end of each month to review your budget and results. Keeping a close eye on expenses will help in the overall performance of your marketing efforts.

3. Once you have your message and plan in place, it’s time to get the job done.

Start with a specific project to make the process less overwhelming.   For example; if you’re thinking about updating your website, assign a staff member to become the project leader to become familiar with the features and benefits of the different website creation firms, content management systems (CMS) and hosting services. Then, determine what internal and external resources are required for design, photography, copywriting, etc

If you are looking for a consultant to assist you in the process, ask them to provide examples and sample work on how they’ve helped firms in similar situations as yours. Make sure they have both strategic and tactical expertise. It’s great to have someone who’s able to tell you what you’ll need to do. It’s another thing to have the hands-on skills to get the job done.

Bill McGuire is principal of McGuire marketing a full-service marketing resource serving the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) community. We help with every aspect of your marketing from developing a foolproof strategy to seamless tactical execution and return on investment analysis. We help businesses grow by applying common-sense marketing with a keen eye towards your budgets, deadlines and results. Learn more here

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