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Friday, August 9, 2002

Five Keys to Your Excellent Marketing Plan
Guest Column by: Martin Baird

Congratulations for having put together a world-class marketing plan! No doubt, you have a well-organized system you can turn over to an admin person so that your marketing will happen no matter where you are or what you're doing! It's a turnkey solution that allows you to turn on and off the prospect faucet at your choosing.

OK, so maybe not all of you have accomplished this. Perhaps you have a few thoughts and you have started to put a couple of ideas on paper.

Don't fear. I'm going to share with you five keys to an excellent marketing plan. This will make the process easier for you. It also will make it easier for you to follow your plan throughout the year.

Number 1: Short and Sweet

When I was a corporate marketing guy for a couple of companies, I learned that the merit of a marketing plan was not what it would accomplish but how much it weighed when the board of directors looked it over. If it was a multi-volume set in large binders, it had to be a great plan that was going to save the company no matter how lousy the products were.

This is just not true. In one of the Guerrilla Marketing books, they lay out how to do a one-page marketing plan. And that's about all most advisors need. Your one-page marketing plan needs to identify who you are and what your target market is, as well as what you are going to do for them.

This simple plan should be the guidepost for your marketing travels. You should look at each ad, brochure or mailer and see if it's in line with your plan. If it is, that's great; if it isn't, don't do it!

Number 2: Turnkey

I prepared a marketing plan for a wholesaler for 2001. The plan was one page. The supporting documents added an additional 40 pages. It was designed so that everything he needed to do in 2001 was in view for him or his admin. They could look at it at the beginning of the year, or any other time of the year, and they would know what was happening next week and even next month.

It included copy for faxes, e-mails and post cards that he would be using during the year. It was designed to allow him to select the copy early in the year and then turn it over to his admin for completion.

It takes more time on the front end to do it this way, but it saves a lot of time later.

Number 3: Delegate

Once the one-page plan is written and the supporting pieces are developed, it's time to decide who should do what. As an advisor, you shouldn't be doing all the activities in the plan. It's important that you decide which activities you will do and which ones will be carried out by other people.

I know some of you are thinking you don't have people to delegate to. The wholesaler we prepared the plan for used a contract admin person. They met a few times to review the plan and decided how much time it would take to perform the activities. They also outlined what it would cost for her to do it on a monthly basis.

He knew that his marketing activity would continue even if he had to be at a conference in Palm Springs for a week. He also knew that the person doing the admin was accountable for the marketing activities.

Number 4: Accountability

Speaking of accountability, one of the reasons more marketing plans don't succeed is because people don't work the plan. This has nothing to do with how good the plan is. For a marketing plan to work, it must have specific activities that happen by specific times.

If people are not accountable for making them happen, they won't. And if they don't happen, your marketing plan was just an exercise. Don't waste your time doing exercises. Put the plan to work and review it monthly with everyone involved so they know whether it's succeeding.

Number 5: Grade It

At the end of each quarter, look over all your marketing efforts and give them a grade. You want to be honest and critical. Did it work? Did it pay for itself? Were the results strong enough to do it again? Look over your report card and see what efforts were As and which ones were Cs or less, ones that you need to improve or drop.

Then think for a moment about when you should drop an effort and when you just need to improve it. You drop it when it doesn't generate the prospects that it should; you improve it when it develops the right prospects, just not enough of them.

Developing your plan is not an easy task, but it's very important. Invest some time and do it. You will be glad you did.

OK, You Did It. Now What?

You did it! You developed your marketing plan! You know who your target market is and what you're going to do for them So, now what?

The next step is to take action. The sooner you take action, the sooner you will see results. You need to get your marketing plan out of your computer or off the shelves and get it into the hands of the people who are going to make it happen.

Have a couple of team meetings to go through your plan with all the key people and identify who will have which responsibilities and resources they will need to accomplish them. During these sessions, you should also decide how often you will meet to review the opportunities that have come up since your last meeting.

These meetings are very important and they need to happen early and often. By giving your attention to this, all the people you work with will realize that marketing is a priority and one of the ways that you are going to grow in a challenging market. Now you know what to do. Just do it!

So You Want to Make Changes

Here's something else to think about later when your marketing plan is being implemented: you come up with new ideas and wonder if you should plug them in. What do you do? Do you change your plan or don't you?

The answer is yes.

Your marketing plan is a living document, and it needs to be altered from time to time. You need the flexibility to add a new strategy that you think will give you the results you desire. You also must have the strength to stay the course and not jump from marketing idea to marketing idea.

If you find a new strategy that you think will be a home run, you probably should apply it as soon as you can. Some of your new ideas may not work until next year because of the timing, so store the information someplace where you can find it next year when it's time to put it into action.

Quarterly reviews with the staff implementing your marketing plan are a great time to delete marketing efforts that have not worked well. They're also a good time to add new ideas.

The last comment I have on changing your marketing plan is simple. Before you alter your plan, look back at what you wanted to accomplish at the beginning of the year and see if that goal has changed. If it hasn't, make sure your new marketing efforts are still targeting that goal.

Martin R. Baird is president of Advisor Marketing, a full-service marketing management firm that provides a variety of services to financial advisors to help them improve their marketing methods and increase revenues, including seminars and conference speaking engagements on such topics as referrals, marketing, client communication and transitioning to fee. The firm's Web site, www.advisormarketing.com, offers free marketing information and tools for financial advisors, including a free weekly e-mail newsletter. Baird is author of "The 7 Deadly Sins of Advisor Marketing," a book that offers easy-to-implement marketing ideas for advisors. Advisor Marketing may be reached at 480-991-6421. Visit ww.advisormarketing.com for marketing tactics that will help your business grow.  

Martin Baird is president of advisormarketing.com., a Web site that offers free marketing information for financial advisors. Baird may be reached at mbaird@advisormarketing.com.

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