by Kristen Luke
Acquiring a new client doesn't happen by magic. Before a client ever sits down in your office to engage your services, he goes through a series of progressive steps to reach the decision to hire you.
First, he has to become aware of your firm. Maybe it is through word of mouth from a colleague, or maybe it is from a seminar invitation you mailed.
Next, he has to engage with you or your company to get on your radar. Perhaps he is introduced by one of your existing clients or registers for a workshop.
After that, he may not be quite ready to engage your services, but you continue to stay top-of-mind by sending monthly newsletters and inviting him to educational lunch-and-learn meetings in your office.
Finally, one day he calls to make an appointment to discuss his personal financial situation. At the end of the appointment, he decides to hire your firm and transfer his assets.
We call this progression through the different levels of engagement the marketing funnel. The funnel has four major stages:
- Create awareness
- Generate leads
- Nurture and educate prospects
- Convert to client
At each step, there is a more intimate level of engagement between you and the prospect until ultimately he becomes a client. As the marketer of your firm, it is your job to lead the prospect down this funnel until a conversion occurs.
It is important to keep this progression of events in mind when creating a marketing plan. As you develop your strategy, choose campaigns that address each stage of the funnel and that naturally lead a prospect from one stage to the next. To help you choose which campaigns are appropriate, here is a list
of possible campaigns for each stage in the marketing funnel.
The "create awareness" stage of the funnel is meant for the campaigns that will result in getting your company name in front of a potential client who has never heard of you. Campaigns that fall in this stage include, but are not limited to:
- Direct mail
- Press releases
- Radio shows
- TV appearances
- Print and online advertisements
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social media
- Speaking engagements
- Contests and awards
- Public relations
- Magazine, newspaper and trade journal articles
- Word of mouth
Rarely will a single instance of any of these campaigns lead a prospect to take action. Instead, the repetitive nature of these campaigns will create awareness and eventually lead a potential client to take action that will make you aware of his existence.
The next stage of the funnel, "generate leads," is when you receive the name of a prospect. This is your first introduction to a prospective client who may have known about your firm. The marketing campaigns under this stage of the funnel are focused on gathering names of prospects. These can include:
- Client referrals
- Center of Influence (COI) referrals
- Calls to action (e.g., download an e-book or white paper, schedule a complimentary consultation, sign up for our newsletter, receive a free book)
- Landing page with calls to action (for more on landing pages, see the September/October 2012 article "Capture More Online Leads With Landing Pages.")
After you have a name and other personal information, start customizing your marketing and communication around the prospect's specific needs. At this point, you move the prospect down the funnel to the next stage, "nurture and educate prospects."
Nurture and Educate Prospects
During this stage, you develop and deepen the relationship. The campaigns that fall under this category help you educate prospects about your firm's solutions and stay top-of-mind when your prospect has a need. These campaigns include:
- Email marketing
- Educational events (e.g., lunch and learns)
- Hospitality events (e.g., wine tastings, tickets to events)
- Marketing collateral
- Promotional products
- Article reprints
After some point in the "nurture and educate prospects" stage, the prospect will ultimately schedule that appointment and convert to a client.
Convert to Client
Although no marketing campaigns are associated with the "convert to client" stage, your work in the marketing funnel with this client is not over. You must continue to nurture the relationship to both retain the client and help generate leads in the future.
Nurture Clients and COIs
In the financial services industry, a significant percentage of leads comes from client and center of influence referrals. For this reason, it is important to create ancillary campaigns outside of the standard funnel that are specific to nurturing these relationships. Campaigns centered on nurturing clients and COIs focus on deepening relationships, building credibility and increasing understanding of your services. These campaigns may include:
- Client appreciation events
- Educational events
- Email marketing
- One-on-one meetings
- Client advisory boards
- Client focus groups
- Continuing education courses
- Hospitality events
- Email marketing
- One-on-one meetings
A quick way to develop a strategic marketing plan is to draw your own funnel with the four stages plus the two additional "nurture COIs" and "nurture clients" stages shown in the diagram. Under each stage, write out the different campaigns you will implement that will achieve that stage's goal. Make sure the campaigns flow together from one stage to the next in a logical order. After completing this exercise, you will find that you have a comprehensive plan to reach your prospects at every level of engagement.
Kristen Luke is president and CEO of Wealth Management Marketing Inc. (www.wealthmanagementmarketing.net), a firm dedicated to providing marketing strategies and support for independent advisers.
Download a free template to develop your marketing funnel at