Faith Liversedge is a marketing and communications guru for financial advice firms. Like us, she is keen to stress to her clients that online search has changed the game. Now, when anyone can instantly find out all about your company, you have to make sure that your presence online is authentic, accurate and high quality. We’ve known Faith since she worked for Nucleus Financial, which is where she says she was really able to ‘unleash’ her creativity. With some great experience in the sector, Faith was the ideal person to interview to try and get some pointers for financial advice firms.
Ember: You’ve worked in the marketing departments of Standard Life, Prudential and Royal London. Big financial institutions obviously have big budgets, but what lessons can smaller firms usefully learn from them?
Faith: There’s a lot that can be learnt from them and reproduced on a much smaller - and less expensive - scale because it’s now possible to create great, high professional looking websites and marketing materials on a relatively small budget. Smaller companies also have the huge advantage of having a much more focused client base, so where large companies can end up sending out a generic message to their very wide audience, smaller ones can be much more focused. Even in some cases by 'piggy backing' on the same message but reproducing it in their own way. And because there are fewer compliance hoops to jump through, they can communicate it less formally, more humanly and more believably, but just as professionally.
You then worked at the wrap platform, Nucleus. I’ve always been impressed with their marketing communications. What did you learn there?
So much! That a small budget doesn’t have to limit what you can do, it can actually make you more creative. But mainly that it’s ok to try things out and if they don’t work - it's not the end of the world, but if they do, you have the potential to cut through and have a huge impact on the audience. You can wait until things are perfect, but you’ll learn nothing that way, you have to 'go live' in order to find out what works and what doesn’t in order to develop.
During your time at Nucleus, you obviously saw at first hand how financial advice firms are engaging with the outside world. What’s your overall impression of how they’re doing?
I think the main thing is that they recognise they should be doing something - they’re aware of the need to have a website that’s mobile responsive for example, and they’re worried their website doesn't have the right keywords to help people find them. But for many it’s just another thing to think about and understandably gets put to the bottom of the list. There are firms who have updated their websites to reflect the market they want to attract, and have a regular blog, and there are some who are going the whole hog and who have identified why they’re different and created a series of marketing messages around that. Those really stand out because so few people are doing that. But there are still lots of websites that feature generic, stock photography and formal language that talks too much about them and not enough about what they can do to solve their target audience's problems.
How important is it for a growing advice firm to be investing in marketing?
Hugely important. The customer is in control these days and can go anywhere online to order the service they need - from food to transport to selling their house. So what’s to stop the thinking they can go online and manage their finances themselves too? Alongside this is the lack of trust people generally still have for anyone working in the industry, despite RDR etc. So marketing yourself as a human, caring business with values and expertise and personality can be hugely powerful. You are the product. Which is great news because people buy people and it’s much easier - and more fun - to market you than an Isa or a pension!
In your view, where does content fit into that picture? How critical is it?
Content is hugely critical. Even if you've created a beautifully engaging website that speaks to your audience in their language, and shows how you can help them, it’s not enough to sit back and expect them to find it themselves. You have to keep feeding it to keep it alive. That’s where content comes in. By adding content to your site and promoting it through social media - whether it’s blogs, slides or videos - you get the opportunity to prove that the claims you’ve made on your website are true. You enable potential clients to get to know you and trust you, and you get to keep existing clients front of mind by reminding them about who you are and what you do. And Google loves new content so you keep it happy too. You just need a strategic approach to it to make it work - and to be prepared not to expect results straight away.
Which advice firms, in your opinion, do marketing best? Have you seen any campaigns lately that have really impressed you?
I recently signed up to Capital Asset Management’s website and they’re sending regular emails with useful content that promotes their fixed fee approach. It’s a great example of them having done the work to discover their ‘why’ and creating a brand identity around that. Once you’ve got something you stand for, marketing is much easier - because then it’s a case of creating a compelling series of messages that develop that theme for ever more.
In my experience, most advice firms acknowledge that they need to produce more content and be more active on social media. But they often keep putting it off. Why do you think that is?
I think it takes time to do it properly and it’s a long-term approach. One blog by itself isn’t going to to anything. Also social media is understandably a minefield for people who are time poor and aren’t sure what they should be saying. That’s why it’s key to do the brand identity work upfront, which allows you to work out what you’re about, then everything flows from that. You have solid foundations to work from. If you’ve never mentioned your dog before for example, and you tweet about the cute thing he did today, this is going to seem a little random, but if he’s on your team page (under ‘Security’) for example and they meet him when they come in the office, then it’s a logical thing to do - it makes you more relatable and gives you something to chat to them about next time you see them.
What would be your message to advice firms out there, who are reading this and thinking they really must take marketing more seriously? Where do they start?
Start with your website and give it a good going over with the viewpoint of your ideal client. Is it really speaking to them? Would you want to work with you? If not, let me know! You don’t have to do everything all at once, but starting with this lays the groundwork for developing a successful, consistent and compelling approach thereafter.