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Phil Bray: How to become a ‘go-to’ local expert

Bray-PhilTop tips on building your reputation in your local area

One of the most successful ways to grow your business is to make yourself the “go-to” planner for your niche in your local area. The long-term aim is to achieve such local dominance that, when someone thinks about your niche, they immediately associate your name with it.

So, how do you do that?

First things first, you must know your niche. Niches are a good thing; they allow you to become a true expert and they certainly make marketing easier.

However, it needs to focus on people, not product. Remember, you are a specialist in helping people retire successfully, not in pensions.

Alternatively, you might specialise in helping people rebuild their financial life after a divorce but you are not an expert in pension sharing orders.

Forget faking it before you make it too. You genuinely need to be an expert.

Demonstrate your expertise

Naturally, you need to be suitably qualified and experienced in your niche. Ideally, you will also be a member of the relevant trade bodies and associations: for example, if you specialise in financial planning for divorcees, Resolution membership would be advantageous.

Communicate your expertise

Your website should explain the types of people you specialise in advising. But you need to do more; you have to prove it. The best way of doing that is by telling stories:

  • Content: Writing informative, relevant and interesting blogs will demonstrate your expertise, add value and show you are prepared to give before you receive. Distributing the content via a newsletter and promoting on social media will maximize its reach.
  • Case studies: Descriptive stories, explaining how you have helped your clients, are hugely powerful. Case studies accompanied by the client’s photo are great; videos, even better.
  • Testimonials: Powerful endorsements of your work, testimonials should ideally be 100 to 150 words long, written by the client themselves, explaining how they benefitted from working with you. Ensure they include their name, location and the length of time you have been advising them (to prove you give consistently great service and advice).

Keep it local

So, you have demonstrated your niche. It is time to start becoming more visible locally. Begin by identifying the area where your target audience lives. We always recommend producing a list of place names; this will give you a list of keywords to include in the blogs and website copy you write.

  • Train existing clients: We can all agree that best type of new enquiry is a recommendation from an existing client. Therefore, make sure they know you want to build your business (not at the expense of your service levels, though), as well as the type of client you want to work with. This could be done face-to-face at the end of a review meeting, or in a regular communication, perhaps once or twice a year.
  • Be found online: A proportion of people will look for an adviser online. Search volumes are often lower than most people expect but it is still important to rank well on Google, especially for local searches. You want to appear in the first few results of searches for advisers and planners in your area and niche. That means, among other things, making sure that the search engine optimisation basics are complete on your website and suitable keywords are included.
  • Engage on social media: The targeting options Facebook allows, as well as local discussions such as Twitter’s “business hours”, make social media an effective way of engaging with local prospects. Understanding which social media channel your target audience uses, then how you can harness its power locally, is the key to success.
  • Get involved: Some advisers and planners have had great success in raising their local profile through sponsoring events or raising money for a local charity. Attending events as a delegate or offering your services as an expert speaker are also excellent ways to raise your profile.
  • Local advertising and editorial: Locally produced publications often focus on the community, both in terms of events and businesses. They can be an excellent source of new business, just do not forget to include a method of tracking the returns you get.

Making yourself the go-to local adviser or planner takes work, but it can be such an effective strategy in building great local reputation and a sustainable flow of new enquiries.

Phil Bray is director of The Yardstick Agency

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