[IMGCAP(1)]I came into the financial industry through ad agencies in the 1980s. Back then, I was the head marketing writer for a large national financial firm. So, I’ve got a pretty broad and extensive background. Does that experience qualify me to manage your marketing? No.
Why? Because the model for effective marketing in this industry has changed. And, it’s a huge improvement over the traditional model! Let’s look at why:
Picture the traditional model as a flow chart, with your practice at the top. Let’s call it XYZ Accounting. XYZ hires LMNOP Advertising to serve as Thought Partner and produce all the firm’s marketing and advertising. LMNOP likely does not have a realistic grasp of the accounting business or even the dynamics of the industry. However, they have a staff of writers and graphic designers who can romance and finesse any type of promotion.
LMNOP probably says, “We don’t need to know your business; we only have to understand marketing.” That’s like telling your prospect, “I don’t need to know your business, I only need to know the IRC.” Big Disconnect.
Here is what the traditional model looks like:
The result of that model is often a dysfunctional message that fails to connect with your specific target market(s). It is a generic message that could fit any of a thousand other firms. Here are some theme lines of actual accounting firms.
• Helping You Get There
• Quality in Everything We Do
• Depend on Our People. Count on Our Advice.
• The Power to Make a Difference. The People to Make It Count.
• Inspiring Opportunities for 50 Years
• “A full service firm with a global reach”
• Global Reach with a Local Perspective
Consider the other industries those lines might be found in. Those lines are the typical result of the old model. Let’s look at some of the reasons that old model no longer works:
• The increased importance played by consumer psychology. The more you know about your target market’s psychology—why and how they make buying decisions—the more accurate you can be in your messaging. Ad agencies rarely know how to develop true psychological profiles of specific target markets.
• The agency is not able to coach and guide you in using the message. Why would you go to a meeting and deliver a generic message? Your marketing messages must be congruent and representative of your business development conversations. They must also be relevant to the specific prospect or client. Otherwise, your identity and value could disintegrate.
• Primary psychographic indicators. Things you should discover about your target market and each prospect:
2. Communication style
3. Job title and profession
4. Beliefs or expectations about:
o Your firm
o Your industry
o The category of service you’re selling
A Change Is Gonna – Oops! Too Late…
As you can see, that old model fails in many areas. It served us well for many years, and now it has opened the door for a better model to emerge. In this better model, the ad agency is no longer a Thought Partner. It has take one step backwards to being a high value vendor. The position of Thought Partner has been taken by a specialized type of firm whose job it is to develop specific messages. Those messages do two things: 1) they represent you faithfully, and 2) they’re relevant to your target market’s psychology.
This specialized firm develops the specific language of your message or messages, and then directs and manages them. It serves as your Marketing Director and Creative Director. Let’s think of it as a Message Development Firm.
Here’s what this better model looks like. It’s a subtle improvement with a huge impact on the effectiveness of your marketing.
Why is this improved model more appropriate for accounting practices? Because very few advertising and marketing agencies know your business, and even fewer know anything about your target market’s psychology.
What are some of the specific areas of psychology your Message Development Firm should understand? Think of your own target market. It doesn’t comprise one-dimensional shadow people. Your prospects are complex beings and even more complex organizations. They cannot be effectively described as a zip code or any other large-chunk descriptor. They must be described in multiple psychological terms. Thus, you might think about building an image of them that is similar to a hologram: multi-faceted and multi-dimensional.
At the simplest level, you would describe your target market by the professions that are most common in it. It could be that most of your best clients are attorneys or health professionals or engineers. From something as simple as that, you can make an accurate guess of the social styles and values of your target market. Once you have those, you will be able to speak in the mental code those people respond to.
At the more complex level, you could describe your target market by their FUD – fears, uncertainties and doubts. Add FUD to the social styles and professions, and you start to get an idea of who you’re talking to, and what makes them respond.
Then, at the even more complex level, you would look at the common mental filters of your current best clients. There are approximately 60 mental filters. A marketing firm, ad agency or writer who can’t describe the target audience in terms of mental filters cannot accurately know what the target is. Remember, in the absence of viable psychology, the result is typically generic.
The mental filters configuration of a target market might include these filters. Mind you, this is a very short list of mental filters. Each filter is represented by a continuum. All people have these filters. All target markets tend to cluster in their mental filter configuration.
Black/White.................Shades of Gray
Fear of Loss.................Need to Gain
As you can see, if your Message Development Firm knows how to stack all those different layers, along with the elements listed above, you will have a detailed hologram of your target market. You’ll know the specific words and phrases that are most apt to inspire those people to respond. You’ll know the structures and organization you should use in your marketing, selling, conversations and workshops. And, that’s just the start of the insight you’ll gain.
When your Message Development Firm has all this intel, they can create the various appropriate messages your firm needs. Then, hire the appropriate vendors to distribute the message in the most effective channels and in the most effective way.
Your Reward. A generic message undermines your credibility. If you want to learn more about building credibility, I have a treat for you. Just copy this paragraph into an email and send it to me at: email@example.com. I will send you our paper "The Credibility Process."
Michael Lovas is the author of 12 books, mainly on professional credibility and psychological communication in the financial industry. He currently writes several columns and has been published more than a thousand times since 1986. All of his work teaches professionals how to use simple, effective psychology to write more business and inspire their clients to love them.
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