Advisers are reaching out to new and existing clients through a wave of innovative marketing efforts to raise the profile of the profession.
As part of Financial Planning Week, which kicked off on Sunday, advisers around the country are offering free surgeries, producing videos and podcasts, and engaging with local and national media.
And outside of the Institute of Financial Planning’s annual consumer awareness campaign, a number of advisers are investing in unusual marketing approaches such as e-books while social media strategies are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Marketing and PR consultancy Mitchell Moneypenny managing director Nicola Mitchell says: “The efforts made by advice firms this year to educate clients and prospects have shown impressive ingenuity. Despite having busy days many advisers have realised that half an hour spent in an evening producing a blog on a topical issue can bring great benefits.”
Lucian Camp Consulting founder Lucian Camp adds: “Historically, advisers have depended on referrals for new business. But for ambitious firms that want to grow, it can’t be right to stick with only one club in the bag.”
In a bid to show a small advice firm can compete with larger outfits, Yellowtail Financial Planning last year hosted its first client conference at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, at a cost of around £20,000.
Managing director Dennis Hall invited each of the firm’s clients to attend for free and bring a guest, and hosted speakers including Barclays Wealth Management head of behavioural finance Greg Davies.
Hall says: “It was ambitious but the event was successful and we recently held our second conference. What we learned last year is clients are really interested in why they make the investment decisions they do, so this year we had more speakers from the fields of behavioural economics and psychology.”
The event attracted 70 delegates this year, up from 50 last year, and cost Yellowtail around £30,000.
Hall says: “We have had a couple of new clients join us as a result, but we would never expect to make the money back in just a year.
“What the event does is lock in existing clients, give us marketing material to use throughout the year, and create the sense that we want to deliver more educational value than the average financial planning firm.”
Another firm punching above its weight is Informed Choice, which this week is launching a feature-length documentary on the financial planning challenges for the baby boomer generation. The documentary was funded through a crowd-funding campaign which raised over £3,000.
Managing director Martin Bamford has also co-authored a book with MFP Wealth Management managing director Justin King, to be launched alongside the documentary. Ready, Steady, Retire! aims to deliver planning solutions to the issues raised by the documentary.
The film, Boom!, includes interviews with a number of industry figures and is narrated by BBC Moneybox presenter Paul Lewis.
It is being screened at 10 venues around the UK this week to coincide with Financial Planning Week, and has won an IndieFEST Film Award.
Bamford says: “I wanted to start conversations about financial planning and some of the issues faced by the baby boomer generation. There are some big challenges to address around how we make money last and hand it on to the next generation.
“We hope the documentary will help raise our profile, attract new clients and demonstrate we understand the issues clients face in retirement; not just the financial aspects, but everything that is important to them.”
King is also offering free surgeries and speaking on Bournemouth radio station Hope FM as part of Financial Planning Week and has been running local seminars to promote the book and documentary.
Hall also wrote and self-published a book on financial planning and bereavement last year, while Principal Financial Solutions director Chris Daems is planning to publish a book in February called The Money Manifesto.
Daems says: “I have been writing articles for the business for several years and realised a book would be a great way to use that content.”
Hall says he is already planning a second book, on angel investing and peer-to-peer lending.
He says: “Even though the first book has not sold in volume, it has been incredibly helpful in attracting work from new and existing clients.”
Mitchell says changes to the publishing industry mean book writing is now far more accessible for advisers.
She explains: “Although writing a book may seem daunting for some, the free online applications from Kindle, Amazon and others make producing e-books so much easier. It’s a great way to show prospects expertise and thought-leadership and unlike the hardback equivalent, so much easier and cheaper to share.”
Other advisers are getting involved in pro-bono work to help boost financial awareness.
As well as offering free surgeries during Financial Planning Week, Freedom Financial Planning has been working with upcoming professional rugby players to deliver financial education sessions.
Managing director Andy Nevett says: “We run workshops for rugby players at a number of clubs, and were recently asked by the England Rugby Football Union to run a session for 18-year-olds.
“I love rugby so it is a way for me to combine work and pleasure and give something back to the community. Rugby players just starting their career may be full-time but earning as little as £10,000 a year. We can help them with budgeting and managing their first pay cheque.”
Elsewhere, early adopters of social media are seeing their efforts pay off.
Jacksons Wealth Management managing director Pete Matthew set up financial education site MeaningfulMoney four and a half years ago, and is now planning to turn it into a revenue stream.
He says: ”The site began with videos and last year we started doing podcasts, which have gone crazy. We have over 500 downloads per day and MeaningfulMoney has become our biggest source of clients.
“Next year I plan to monetise the site by charging for certain services, such as an online course on budgeting.
“I have invested a lot of time in the site, and before you can charge you have to build up trust by consistently providing value week after week.”
Mitchell says producing regular webinars and video-based tutorials is the most accessible and cost effective way of keeping clients loyal and encouraging referrals.
But she says advisers need to have an attractive and engaging online presence first: “Ensure your website is robust, timely and interactive before spending any time and effort on more complex e-marketing. Simple tools like ‘nibbler’, which are free to download, can give you an instant and professional review of where you are going right or wrong.”
It is hard to capture the public imagination on the subject of financial planning. But within Financial Planning Week and beyond, some advisers are redoubling their efforts to get their message across.
Martin Bamford of Informed Choice has made a full-length film about the issues facing the baby-boomer generation as they move into retirement, while several other advisers are writing books on similar topics. And as for social media, there are enough Facebook pages, Tweets and podcasts out there to engage us all for months, not just a week.
To be honest, the boring old marketing professional in me is a bit dubious about much of this. Reading Martin’s website about his film, you do get a slight impression that his motives were more to do with the excitement (and also the affordability) of following in the footsteps of Steven Spielberg, rather than a rigorous marketing analysis of the best way to reach new prospects.
I suspect the same can be said of many of the other activities that I am aware of: they have been chosen because they are enjoyable and cheap to do, not because they are what the target market is most likely to respond to.
Quite often it is the harder and more expensive activities that deliver the best outcomes. Last year I was impressed by the private wealth summit conference, held at BAFTA in Piccadilly, by Dennis Hall’s firm Yellowtail. I am sure this took a huge amount of work to organise, and hiring BAFTA for a day doesn’t come cheap.
But as a value-add for existing clients, and as a taster of the Yellowtail experience for prospects, I suspect it was well worth the time and money.
Historically, most advisers have depended on referrals for new business. But for ambitious firms that want to grow, it cannot be right to stick with only one club in the bag. Raising your profile must be the right thing to do.
Lucian Camp is founder of Lucian Camp Consulting