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How to Minimize Your Marketing Budget and Still Get Results

Want to know my favorite thing about inbound marketing? Anyone can do it, and you often get the best results from organic efforts.

Organic refers to campaigns and strategies that naturally attract your ideal prospects and clients to you—rather than paying to get in front of them. Organic marketing is free marketing with no barrier to entry.

So before you throw money at AdWords, before you rush out to hire a professional to do all your marketing for you, take a step back and consider that the only thing you actually have to invest is time.

How to Market Your Firm for Free

There are countless marketing strategies that don’t require a dime to implement. If you’re short on budget—or just want to stop massive marketing spends—try free or inexpensive tactics like:

  • Blogging and creating content (and publishing on platforms like LinkedIn, Medium or Tumblr);
  • Engaging on social media;
  • Creating a podcast or a video series;
  • Responding to reporter’s requests for stories or media queries;
  • Pitching influencers and media members with relevant, timely stories that contain something their audience would really want;
  • Developing your own event series where people can come and learn something for free (this could be a workshop, a webinar, a class, or just a networking event for a specific tribe of people);
  • Joining online communities and participating in discussions; and
  • Becoming part of in-person networking groups, business development initiatives in your area, and professional organizations or associations.

Minimize Your Budget Without Killing Your Time

Of course, the fact that all of the above takes a lot of time is the downside. That’s where organic, inbound marketing gets tricky.

It takes a lot of time to see results and as a firm owner or decision-maker in a financial planning practice, time is one resource you probably don’t have an abundance of. Still, that doesn’t mean you need to spend a ton of money or keep a massively inflated marketing budget to get results.

If you want to minimize your marketing budget but it’s not realistic to do everything yourself, here’s what to consider instead.

Know Your “Who” and “Why”

Always start with who you want to reach before you try and figure out what tactics you’ll use in your marketing. Where does your target audience live—online and off? How do they like consuming content? Understand your audience and what they want.

Then, be clear about what you want from your marketing. What’s the purpose or the goal? What does success look like for your firm? Marketing goals could include:

  • Brand awareness;
  • Greater visibility and name-recognition;
  • More referrals through word-of-mouth channels; and
  • Establishing thought-leadership or generating new business opportunities.

Your goals will also help inform your tactics. If you only want more exposure in the media and don’t care about creating your own blog, direct your attention to outreach strategies and PR campaigns.

If you want to be known as the go-to firm for a certain niche or as a thought leader on a particular topic, on the other hand, you’ll likely want to create a blog, podcast or video series establishing your expertise.

Build a Simple Strategy

Once you know what you’d like to do, map out a simple marketing strategy. You should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Goals: What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Metrics: How will you know if you succeeded? What does “successful marketing” look like for your firm?
  • Audience: Who is this marketing for? What are you trying to communicate to your audience?
  • Channels: What mediums or methods will you use to reach your audience?
  • Call to action: What will you ask your audience to do once you reach them?

Identify What You Love (and What You Hate)

With your simple marketing strategy in hand, it’s time to implement. Look at what you love doing, or what only you could do. Keep these tasks on your plate as long as they’re enjoyable.

Then, list out all the steps you absolutely hate doing—or just aren’t any good at. You should also list action items that you don’t know how to do (and would waste time on if you tried to figure out how to DIY).

Now, it’s time to divvy up those tasks. First, look around at your existing team and connections. Are there people in your firm who could take on some of these tasks (and want to)? Let others volunteer to help, especially if they have a passion for something like creating content, making connections and forging relationships with media, or managing systems and processes.

Outsource Wisely (and Cheaply)

Look at what’s left on your list of tasks that someone else needs to complete in order to implement your marketing strategy and plan. Sort these into two categories:

  • Time-intensive: These are relatively simple or basic tasks that most people could do—even if they don’t know how (by teaching themselves or getting a quick lesson in what to do).
  • Skill-intensive: These are tasks or projects that you need a trained expert to help you with. Not just anyone could complete these to-dos; a specific skill set is required.

Most tasks are time-intensive. Here’s where you can outsource cheaply to minimize your marketing budget:

  • Hire a virtual assistant: A virtual assistant and can help with most administrative tasks and very basic marketing functions, like scheduling social media posts, researching speaking opportunities. Good VAs range from $15 to $30 per hour.
  • Hire an editor: Can you jot down rough drafts for articles or marketing materials? If so, you might not need to spend hundreds on a freelance writer. You could simply hire an editor for about $50 per hour to wordsmith your drafts into polished pieces of content.
  • Hire an intern: You may feel wary about bringing a college student into your team, but younger talent can be immensely valuable when it comes to marketing. For best results, map out the marketing projects you want help with first and be as specific as possible. Don’t expect your intern to work for free, either. Show that they and their work are valued in your firm by paying them a reasonably hourly wage and help structure their workload by agreeing to a set amount of hours each week.

As for those remaining skill-intensive tasks? Consider working with an expert on an as-needed basis. There’s no need to keep a professional or an agency on a 24/7 retainer if you’re trying to minimize your marketing budget. A periodic consulting call or help with a few projects throughout the year may be all you need to market successfully.

KaliHawlk
Kali Hawlk is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.


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8 Questions to Evaluate Financial Planning Research

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Dave Yeske at Closing Circle of FPA Retreat 2016

In order to emerge as a true profession, the financial planning industry needs to base its practices on research-based writing.

That’s what Dave Yeske, DBA, CFP®, co-owner of the planning firm Yeske Buie, told FPA Retreat attendees at his session on how to read and apply research-based writing.

“We need to deepen our connection with academics,” Yeske said. “They know how to conduct research but they don’t always know what the critical questions are that you need answers to.”

The Journal of Financial Planning, of which Yeske is practitioner editor, is one of many outlets that supply practitioners with research-based writing, but those articles aren’t so helpful if you aren’t sure exactly how to read them.

Yeske provided eight questions to ask yourself in order to better evaluate research-based writing.

  1. What is the problem or question? What are the researchers trying to address?
  2. How did they conceptualize that problem, how did they structure it? Look for what the researchers are measuring. For example, client trust and relationship commitment have become well-represented measures in financial planning literature.
  3. What are the key findings from prior research? Good research will build on research that came before to lay the foundation for the current research to build upon.
  4. What was their methodology? Does it seem like the researchers make sense?
  5. What were the results of the testing? A formal academic paper will never prove anything, Yeske said, rather it will fail to disprove something.
  6. Were the results compelling? Did the authors connect all the dots for you? Did their data answer the question?
  7. What are the practical applications? Do the researchers tell you how you could use this information? If not, are you still able to find a practical use for the data that is being presented?
  8. Will this change the way I practice? Will I be able to incorporate this into my practice?

“As a profession we need to all become better at recognizing research-based writing and be able to apply it,” Yeske said.

See Yeske’s presentation here.

Yeske also has a remote course on this subject through Golden Gate University, where he serves as the director of financial planning. Find out more here.

Also, you could participate in the Financial Planning Association’s Theory in Practice Knowledge Circle.

Did you miss Retreat this year, or just want to register for 2017 early? Join us next year at Château Élan in North Atlanta, Georgia April 24-27, 2017. Use the code PARET17 for $100 off if you register before May 31, 2016.

AnaHeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.