Own the message amid the turmoil

Anthony O'Brien


June 14, 2018

That it’s been a tough few months for the financial planning industry is possibly the understatement of the year. It’s now well documented that the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has uncovered some unsavoury issues that have become cannon fodder for the media.

We’ve found from talking to several financial planning outfits who prefer to maintain their anonymity that they have some reservations about how to take their marketing forward amid the fallout. In some ways, it’s tempting to batten down the hatches and ride it out.

In some elements of marketing, such as public relations, that’s probably a sensible approach; however, when bad news dominates, there is an opportunity to help turn the corner, with a thought-leadership program.

Why thought leadership is important

I’ve blogged before about the value of being a thought leader. Furthermore, I’d argue that, given the current climate, thought leaders from the financial planning industry must play a larger role.

Take Sarah Harding, the principal of WY Advice in Sydney. The Millennial adviser, who works with younger clients, isn’t sticking her head in the sand regarding the royal commission fallout. “The people making the biggest kerfuffle are people in the industry and not so much the clients,” Harding says. “Many clients don’t seem focused on it.”

A valuable thought-leadership program is designed to help drive engagement with a client in a way that positions you, and your business, as a leader. The idea is to engage consumers by offering them content that educates and interests them, without having a clear sales focus.

Excellent thought leadership, produced consistently, will add value to your sales pipeline and help you engage potential clients who are not yet ready to participate in some paid services. The fact that thought leadership is a healthy way of showing you’re a voice of reason is precisely why this variety of marketing is so important right now.

A strong industry voice is vital

Good content is precisely what the industry needs. Unless they’ve been living under a rock, most Australians will have some familiarity with stories from the royal commission of those wronged – although maybe not as many as you think. Let’s face it, in the popular news stakes, a royal commission isn’t on the same level as a royal wedding!

That said, for those of you engaged in thought leadership, I would suggest you not shy away now. I think valuable, ethical content has its place in keeping potential clients aware that despite the challenges the industry is facing, the clear majority of planners are delivering exceptional outcomes for clients.

What you talk about matters

Valued thought leadership doesn’t mean always delivering hardcore retirement planning advice, the need for insurance cover or estate planning. The cream of the programs we’ve seen, or have been involved in ourselves, talk more about the challenges that take hold as we travel along from university, to home ownership, marriage, children, retirement and so on, and where finance can play a role.

Notwithstanding the royal commission, consumers are still seeking answers to their financial challenges. While the fallout has wobbled some consumer confidence, it’s up to the industry to promote the link between sound financial planning and better life outcomes. Harding, for example, is getting on with the job of collaborating with her clients and talking with them about their lifestyle goals and how financial advice can achieve those goals. She is an advocate of traditional networking and social media as a way of communicating with her target Millennial audience.

My suggestion is to look for themes that demonstrate the breadth of your knowledge. If you have an interest in technology and how it is changing the way we work, and therefore get paid, why not talk about it? Don’t know where to start a thought-leadership program? Then it might be time to seek some external help from a marketing consultant.

Showing your potential clients that you can offer wider knowledge and value has never been more crucial. The case for good thought leadership is evident.

TOPICS:   anthony o'brien,  marketing

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