Why is Marketing a Dirty Word in Financial Advice?

Maybe it’s not, and it’s just my perception, but my experience of Financial Advice is that it looks down its nose at Marketing. Whenever I’ve pitched ideas around improving websites (or just having one at all, actually), advertising in local publications, social media presence, or networking, it’s always been poo-pooed.

A successful financial adviser shouldn’t need to market themselves, if they’re good at what they’re doing, they should be kept busy enough with Client Referrals. Or so I had been told.

Weirdly, and completely contradictory, cold calling (back when it was allowed!) was seen as a completely legitimate strategy. Having seen how this operates first hand, I’m incredibly glad this practice is officially dead in our world.

But what was also odd to me was that, there has been a push over the last few years for Financial Advisers to be viewed as being perceived as ‘equal’ to Solicitors or Accountants. Yet these businesses are completely comfortable with marketing, I’ve seen billboards and train station ads for both. Neither seem to feel any shame around marketing, so I have no idea why I felt like that had been instilled in me by our Profession. 

When I went self-employed, I almost felt embarrassed that marketing myself was something I knew I needed to do. Did that mean I wasn’t good at what I was doing after all?

I pushed forward primarily with face to face networking as, at the time, it was the only avenue I had available to me, and I made some really wonderful contacts. I’m not ashamed to admit that those contacts kept me afloat during my first 18 months of being self-employed. Although networking is no longer an option for me working around small humans, I still value many of the contacts I made during that period and regularly keep in touch.

When I decided to launch my own practice in 2019, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I actively invested in marketing research as a fair chunk of my set up budget. I invested in my branding to be designed around my target market, and it was almost number one on my priority list to have a decent, modern website. I paid to learn more about how search engine optimisation works and understand social media strategies.

One of the key things I did, which I knew would not be to the taste of most Financial Advisers I knew at the time, was invest in a personal branding photoshoot.

It felt cringy, and embarrassing, but I knew modern businesses put their faces out there for the world to see, so I bit the bullet.

My entire branding strategy was around ‘down to earth’ Financial Planning, which we took quite literally, with photos of me sitting on the floor in woodland with my dog and sitting on my laptop with my son while he played. Not at all the usual type of Financial Advice photography you see.

What? No stock photos of the London skyline?! No formal headshots in a suit jacket?? It felt important to be authentic, and give people a taste of me and my life.

One of the things I felt most conflict over was whether or not to include photos with my son, who at the time was six months old.

Was it unprofessional to show your home life? Would it make me look inferior to be ‘working’ in photos while also looking after my son?

I decided to go for it for two main reasons:

  • Firstly, it had always been part of my plan to be genuine and that really was what my life looked like, so wouldn’t it be disingenuous to suggest I was always sitting at my desk in formal clothing?
  • Secondly, I was acutely aware that there were people who would be ‘put off’ by the fact I was working around a young family. Well to these people, I’d honestly rather they not pick up the phone to me, it saved time.

I have never regretted my decision to be actively informal in my branding and I know for sure that it has worked as a strategy.

I’ve had people call me and say ‘I felt like I could pick up the phone to you’ and ‘your dog is so cute!’ which has then led to paying work.

So to anyone considering their options for launching a new business or improving an existing one, I can’t express enough how important I think it is to:

  • Pay professionals
  • Be authentic
  • And, don’t feel ANY shame around putting yourself out there.