7 MIN READ
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: marketing is nothing more than a series of experiments. There’s no silver bullet that everyone knows and you're missing. To be good at marketing, you simply need to obsess about what your audience wants, and then put in the work to run experiment after experiment, getting better over time.
This may feel daunting, but it’s actually good news. You can stop the search for the secret. I just told you the secret. Now, go put in the work.
But what should you experiment with, exactly? Your options are endless. Anything and everything can be improved through an experiment. However, that’s not the most actionable advice I could give, so I’ll start by sharing nine powerful experiments you can try when marketing your RIA.
A powerful first step, before reading further, is to identify the biggest problem in your marketing funnel. Do you need more “top of the funnel” awareness of your firm? Or do you have enough awareness and exposure, but struggle to convert those eyes to interest?
Think about where you can get the most bang for your buck and start there. Next, step into the shoes of your ideal client avatar and consider what they’d actually want or what they actually do at that point of their browsing and learning experience. It’s the job of your marketing to inform, guide, and delight them. Now, to kickstart your experiment brainstorm, here are several valid ideas:
Experiment #1: Switch Up Your Email Message
You may find yourself sending the same email message to COIs in hopes they get back to you. Break out of your current habit and consider a different message that may work better. The goal of your first outreach is to get a response and start a conversation. You don’t need to say everything in that first email. Instead, think about the exact sentence or two that will be most intriguing to the COI, and emphasize that. Include a direct question that’s very easy for them to answer to eliminate any need to “think about it” before hitting reply. Once you have your new, shorter, more targeted email message, send it to a mixture of new contacts and some of the people you’ve contacted already (at least 4+ weeks ago). Wait to see if you get a better response rate than your original message!
Experiment #2: Try a Google Search Ad
If you want more awareness of your firm and traffic to your website, I highly recommend running an experiment with Google search ads. According to Google’s Keyword Planner, more than 112,000 searches occur for either “financial planner” or “fee-only financial planner” during an average month. Why not place an ad so you appear when someone in your niche is actively searching for an advisor like you? Before you worry about budget, it’s totally fair to start small. I suggest spending at least $10 per week ($40 per month) because a single click typically costs around $2-$3 each and you obviously want to generate some traffic. If you have $40 (or more!) and want to try this out, head over to my in-depth post that outlines A Strategic Guide to Google Search Ads for Growing Advisory Firms.
Experiment #3: Try a New Title
“I post all the time, and it’s not working.” This is a common challenge I hear from independent financial planners who post content online (videos, podcasts, articles, social posts, etc.). Luckily, there are several experiments you can try to improve the outcome of your content efforts. My next four ideas (this point, and experiments 4-6) will address experiments you can try in content marketing.
The quickest way to experiment with content is to adjust the title. The title of your work has a big impact on engagement; it can be the difference between a click and a scroll past. Take a look back at the content you’ve created and pick 4-5 pieces of work that your niche would LOVE... if only they read/listened to it! Skim through each piece so you’re reminded of what it contains, and then create a new, captivating title. This should take you no more than 15 minutes per piece. To test the new title, share the content again. After 24 hours you can look back at your analytics to see if there was a bump in engagement with this reworked title. Moving forward, you may choose to experiment with the title of every new piece of content marketing you create.
Experiment #4: Try A New Topic
If changing the titles of your content doesn’t increase engagement, perhaps it’s time to experiment with new topics. It may be that your audience is interested in topics other than what you’ve been writing about. For this experiment, you can stick with the same format of content you’ve been using, but switch up what you’re saying.
If you’re low on ideas, start by brainstorming a list of questions your favorite clients have asked you. Go back through early meeting notes and collect tidbits from your conversation that could inform your next blog topic. If you’ve already covered these things in your content, the next place to go for inspiration is your ideal client avatar. Imagine you’re on a Zoom call with your avatar. What would they want to talk about? How would they phrase their questions? Would you get into the weeds on something specific?
If you’re beyond that, it’s time to think outside the box. Ask others to help you brainstorm new ideas or approaches to your topic generation. Members of XYPN: Bring this to your study group, or post to the marketing forum!
Experiment #5: Try a New Format
It doesn’t matter how great your podcast is if your dream client doesn’t like podcasts and consume information through that channel. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how great your Twitter page or long-form articles are if your dream client isn’t on Twitter or prefers short, to-the-point blogs. You get the picture. The value of your content could be totally stellar, but if your format is missing the mark, it may not be getting much love. Consider reformatting the pieces you’ve already created to something your ideal client would actually want. For example, if you’ve been blogging, might that content translate well to a video course, Instagram captions, or short-form daily emails? Think about the life and behavior of your ideal client and adjust your content to fit what they truly want.
Be sure to treat this as an experiment. Don’t convert everything. Begin with a handful of pieces, launch them, watch the metrics, and wait for signals before fully committing. This task is heftier than others listed above, but don’t sweat, it’s also a perfect opportunity to delegate or outsource and could make a world of difference in your marketing.
Experiment #6: Put “Ads” for Your Services in Your Content
Let’s say your content is doing pretty well on its own but falls under the category of “not sending people to check out my services.” This is a hole in your funnel! Let’s experiment with ways to fill the hole. It’s your responsibility to guide your audience to the next appropriate step. Beyond hyperlinking some of the text in your piece, I also like to experiment with placing “ads” in content to send readers to other pages. The blog is yours, so placing ads within and around the content is completely free. If they’re reading your blog, might they be interested in reading about you, the author? Or might they want to read more about a concept you reference? Perhaps they may want to see details about your services? Guide them there. The first experiment can test whether placing “ads” in and/or around your content will move people to click and explore more. If it does, a second experiment should test which ads are most effective for what kinds of content.
Experiment #7: Test the Timing of Your Activity
This experiment may seem like an obvious one, but few advisory firms actually test the timing of their activity. If you’re posting content online, sending emails, making phone calls, offering webinars, or doing anything that is paired to a time of day, then test the timing of when you do it.
For instance, posting to LinkedIn on Monday morning will likely work better than Friday evening. But what about Monday morning at 8:00 am EST versus 8:00 am PST? Or even more variable, perhaps you offered a webinar last quarter and no one showed up. What if you change the timing of your promotion and the timing of the event? Think about your audience and what their days look like. Experiment with the timing of your marketing to best fit their life.
Experiment #8: Rename Your MOFU Offer
Many firms work hard to create valuable offers for the middle of their funnel (aka MOFU, the phase of your marketing that helps convert awareness into prospects). Whether it’s an ebook, video course, calculator, template, event, or other format, please know the name you give this piece matters. If the content of your MOFU is highly valuable and closely tailored to your ideal client avatar, but isn’t getting engagement, try a new title. “7 Financial Discussions to Have With Your Fiancé Before Getting Married” is a lot more intriguing than “Financial Topics for Couples,” and could be the difference between people clicking and not. Just make sure the title is true to the value you give; a captivating title that overpromises and underdelivers is damaging to your brand’s reputation.
Experiment #9: Rename the Prospect Call
Similar to points 3 and 8 above, it may be time to experiment with the name of your prospect call. For starters, if you refer to it as a “Prospect Call” on your website, then run, don’t walk, to try this experiment. When coaching advisors through this decision, I start by asking what happens during the call. If you’re willing to answer three questions in 30 minutes, start brainstorming names around that. If it’s more like a 15-minute call to make sure a prospective client is a fit and to set an agenda for the next call, work with that. There’s also the opportunity to be vague with the headline and more specific with the sub-header. For instance, “Get Started” with the sub-header “Learn about our background and new client process. Get answers to any questions you have” is a nice start.
Your options for experimentation are endless. And chances are most things you’re doing can be improved through an experiment. Start by focusing your attention where it will matter most. Very few independent financial planning firms have a large marketing department who can dedicate their time to experimenting with every step of the prospecting process, so it’s important to focus on the biggest problems first. Identify the "leaks" in your marketing funnel, and launch an experiment to fix it. Put in the work, and don’t be shy about trying innovative things. After all, you’re not your parents’ financial advisor.
About the Author
Carolyn Dalle-Molle is a professional marketer with several years of experience helping small businesses reach their growth goals. Her approach to marketing is both creative and analytical; helping people achieve a creative flow that’s unique and exciting, while using tracking and metrics to learn what actually works for their business. Based in Boston, she's honored to work with XY Planning Network from coast to coast. Outside of work, she enjoys volunteering with elderly, making videos, and traveling with her friends and family.