Process matters

By Susan Weiner

Having started my career in investment management communications, I’m familiar with process as one of the essential three Ps of philosophy, process, and people. Since I expanded into the financial planning arena, I’ve learned that process is important in this field, too.

Recent articles in the NAPFA Advisor have reminded me of the importance of process to your marketing. It’s important in two senses: first, as something you communicate about and, second, as something you embrace in creating your marketing.

Process as a topic

Frequent contributor Steve Wershing took up the topic of process in the July NAPFA Advisor. You can’t guarantee the results of your financial planning, but “you can show evidence you deliver on the processes that generate the value,” Wershing said in his article, “To win prospective clients, provide proof.”

Also in the July Advisor, Jonny Swift suggested that you “include charts and graphics that detail your process” in his article, “How ideal client profiles and case studies improve advisor marketing.”

Addressing your process is also a great way to address the virtues of working with your firm while avoiding conflicts with your firm’s compliance professionals, as Scott Snipkie said in another July article, “Keeping case studies compliant.”

You know you can’t talk about results, so don’t. Instead, talk about what you know implicitly: your process. Use your case study to highlight the steps you’ll take to identify potential clients’ concerns and the methods you will use to try to address them; it’ll keep the regulators happy and make prospective clients more comfortable. 

Process makes marketing easier

In August, NAPFA member Steve Craffen said in his article on process control software that he and his colleagues, “realized that detailed workflows would help us catch things we might otherwise miss, execute things the same way, and make the client experience consistent. A single-person firm may not need detailed workflows, though they can certainly be helpful for even the smallest firm.”

In my opinion, this works for marketing, as well as for financial planning, client intake, and your other tasks. When you repeatedly follow a marketing process that you’ve documented, it eases the strain on your brain. You don’t start from scratch in identifying how to tackle your project. You simply check off the steps on your list.

For example, if Kim, the advisor in Wershing’s “Stick to a theme to make communications effective” in this issue, had a process that included checking to ensure her firm’s communications adhere to its themes, she could have avoided her disappointing website statistics.

Firms should move beyond simply identifying their target markets and the content that will appeal to them. They need a systematic process to effectively push out content at the right frequency and to the right channels. That could involve an annual editorial calendar produced in-house or a more elaborate plan created with a consultant.