This post was originally written for and published on the FPA Practice Management Blog.
Toward the end of the year, there’s a lot of buzz about annual marketing goals. I think I’ve read five blog posts this week alone on what annual marketing goals I need to check off my list before December 31st, or how to set new annual marketing goals next year.
Here’s the thing: these pieces of content only do one of two things:
- Affirm that you’ve done everything right and you can pat yourself on the back.
- Affirm that you’re the worst and haven’t accomplished anything on your annual marketing to do list.
I’d say that the majority of us fall squarely into Camp B—myself included.
I think there’s a time and a place for annual marketing goals. They can be incredibly helpful guides and a great way to organize ideas. I also believe that they often cause a lot of marketing problems for business owners and are often more hurtful than not.
When Annual Marketing Goals Help (And Hurt)
Annual marketing goals offer a space for business owners to dream big, and that’s valuable. When you set your yearly goals, you’re allowing yourself to stretch out of your comfort zone. You’re thinking critically about where and how you want to grow your business, and that’s not something I’d ever want you to tamp down. Annual marketing goals help you accomplish so much. For example, they:
- Act as a content scheduling guide
- Force you to think outside of the box when it comes to promoting yourself
- Help you to think critically about how your ideal clients can be reached and what problems they’re facing
- Guide your marketing efforts toward an end-goal, rather than diving in willy-nilly (which can cause frustration, shame and burnout)
Unfortunately, many annual marketing goals aren’t sustainable for a variety of reasons.
You can say:
I want to blog once a week for the entire year.
I’d love to do monthly Q&A events for teachers where I am able to answer financial planning questions pro bono.
These are big goals that could have an incredibly positive impact on your business. But what happens when you want to blog weekly, and immediately remember that you hate writing and have an anxiety attack every time you open a new Microsoft Word document? Or when you decide that you want to change your niche, so monthly Q&A events for teachers no longer makes sense?
A year is long, and so many factors that impact your marketing strategy could change in that time frame. When you remain inflexible, you’re closing yourself off to a lot of opportunities that could crop up.
Changing goals shouldn’t make you feel ashamed. We’re all human, and sometimes we don’t know what we want until the opportunity presents itself. If your goals for business development change, you need to be willing to restructure a marketing strategy that supports your new goals.
It’s also wise to “check in” with your annual marketing goals a few times a year. Do they represent the growing goals you have for your financial planning practice in the same way they did when you wrote them down at the beginning of the year? Are you sticking to a marketing strategy that isn’t serving you anymore? Did you learn about a cool new marketing strategy that would be more efficient or more enjoyable?
Sometimes we luck out and the annual goals we set in January are perfect. Most of the time, though, this isn’t the case. We need to be willing to tweak our goals and embrace a fluid marketing strategy that changes as we grow and learn. I suggest checking in with your annual marketing goals monthly or quarterly. Track your KPIs and do a gut-check to see whether they’re still working or if you need to move the goal posts.
Done Is Better Than Perfect
On the other side of the coin, I find many advisers getting “stuck” after setting their annual marketing goals. They set the bar too high for themselves and get caught in analysis paralysis. They’re overwhelmed trying to figure out the best way to execute their strategy perfectly and get nervous that they won’t do it “right.”
Here’s what I hear people say:
This year, I want to create a lead magnet and promote it once a month, have a blog post a week, and I’d love to launch a podcast. I’m not sure how to do those things, so I’m going to take a few courses, do a little bit of research, and hopefully get started by X date. I really want to get it right, I know I need to be doing these things.
And then they do exactly none of those things. Sound familiar?
News flash: there isn’t a right way to go about marketing. There are certainly best practices, but there’s no one solution that will ensure your marketing plan will go off without a hitch. You need to show up anyways.
I’m a big believer in two things:
- People are waiting for you to show up, because they need the services you’re selling—so show up, even if it’s uncomfortable at first.
- Done is better than perfect.
If you wait until you have a perfect marketing strategy, and a perfect set of writing/podcasting/video editing skills, you’ll be waiting for forever. Your financial planning practice is worth executing a marketing strategy right now, as is.
So, if you’re using your annual marketing calendar as an excuse to not put anything out there to market your financial planning practice—stop. You deserve better than that.
What To Do Instead
Whatever reason you have for struggling to stick with your annual business goals, you’re not alone. Yearly goals are tough! That’s why I prefer to think of annual marketing goals (or an annual marketing calendar) as a launchpad—not a checklist.
There are several things you can do to make your marketing goals both more flexible and more manageable:
- Set big marketing goals, but schedule check-ins. Check in quarterly to make sure the marketing goals you set at the beginning of the year are still serving your business.
- Think outside of the box. Don’t jump on the blogging bandwagon if writing makes you break out into a cold sweat. Find ways of creating content or connecting with potential clients that’s fun for you.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. The fastest way to derail an annual marketing strategy is to set goals that replicate someone else’s marketing strategy. Do what works for you—not what worked for someone else.
- Set monthly goals instead of annual goals. Breaking things into bite-sized action items to do each month is so much more manageable (and sustainable) than sweeping annual goals without a plan to back them up. Work to do one new thing each month that markets your business—start posting on social media, create a lead magnet, host a client and prospect event or post a blog a month. Don’t try to do everything simultaneously in the beginning of the year. You’ll burn yourself out.
- Know yourself. Annual marketing goals are a great place to dream big, but we shouldn’t set marketing goals for ourselves that we know we’ll hate executing six months from now. Set goals that you know you’ll be able to fit into your schedule or consider outsourcing elements of your strategy that you know you might not excel at.
- Know your why. This is the biggest piece of marketing or goal-setting advice I can give you: As you start to set goals around your adviser marketing, get clear on your why. Blogging for the sake of blogging doesn’t make sense. Shooting for 1,000 email subscribers by year-end won’t do you any good if you don’t have a strategy for converting them to clients. Take some time to sit with how you want to grow your business and who your ideal client is. From there, put marketing goals in place that reflect your unique why.
Annual marketing goals are a tricky thing. They can be useful guides, but marketing often doesn’t fit into a neat “yearly” box. If you feel yourself setting yearly marketing goals, but struggling to follow-through, it might be time to rethink your process.