Survey after survey suggests that marketing is a front-burner topic for financial advisors. Indeed, most of the advisors showcased on AdvisorTweets.com use their accounts to market what they know and what they offer.

In this guest post, @VitaVie (otherwise known as Kristin Harad, CFP®) provides tactical tips on another online marketing venture: advertising. Harad’s guidance is based on the 15 years she spent as a marketing and advertising executive prior to founding VitaVie Financial Planning in San Francisco. She also offers a series of free videos on marketing strategies for financial planners.)

Online advertising can be a cost-effective way to laser target your best prospects, yet few financial planners seem to have developed strategies that work. A recent marketing practices survey by the FPA (Financial Planning Association) found that less than 10% of planners utilize online advertising, and of those who do, less than 40% are satisfied with how it is performing for them.

While online advertising may not be able to single-handedly fill your prospect pipeline, I’ve found steady success with it and recommend that you include it in your marketing mix. You are in complete control of your budget, and for as little as $50 per month a well constructed campaign can consistently attract new prospects.

The secret to success with online advertising is to define your target market as narrowly as possible, and then present your prospects with a compelling message that speaks exactly to them.

Some planners may be trying to reach as few as just several dozen people via online advertising each month and then dazzle them with an exact match to what their needs are. Use online advertising to begin the conversation. You are not going to instantly convert someone who clicks on a 95-character text ad into a multi-thousand dollar customer relationship. Design landing pages with compelling incremental steps toward getting to know you better–give away a highly relevant free report, invite them to attend a workshop that addresses their current challenges or entice them to sign up for your email newsletter. You’ll gain a quality (virtual) introduction and permission to further develop the relationship with follow-up communications.

I recommend that financial planners explore four online advertising venues:

Facebook Ads Can Be Targeted

Facebook is the second most popular site on the Internet, and it offers a powerful ad targeting tool. You can easily create ads in theFacebook Facebook online interface and target prospects not just by demographics and geography, but also by school, employer and keyword. For example, you can create ads offering a free report on a specific company’s stock performance and then show ads for that report exclusively to local employees of that company. Prices vary by targeting and ad performance, but are usually less than $1 per click!

Yelp Ads Reach Investors Who Are Looking

YelpFinancialAdvisorsWhile Yelp is most famous for restaurant and entertainment reviews, a growing number of consumers are also turning to it to find doctors, lawyers and financial advisors. Yelp recently debuted a pay-per-click advertising program that will display your company’s listing at the top of related searches for $1 to $2 per click. (These rates will purportedly increase substantially once the program concludes its testing phase.)

Yelp doesn’t offer keyword targeting, so you have less control over where your ads will appear than other services provide, but most users browsing or searching for financial planners are likely actively seeking to hire someone. Be sure to explicitly state what types of clients you work with and the services you offer to best attract the right kind of prospects to click on your ads, while filtering out click costs from those who are clearly not a fit.

Competition Makes Google AdWords Pricey

Google’s advertising platform is the dominant player in pay-per-click advertising, displaying millions of ubiquitous ads each day on Google search results and millions of other Web sites of all sizes. I advise caution in advertising on Google for several reasons.

First, AdWords offers an opaque marketplace (the highest bidder is not necessarily the winner), and novice advertisers can quiGoogleAdWordsFinancialAdvisorsckly find their entire budget consumed with little to show for it. Click costs for terms related to financial planning are very high, often in the $5 to $10 per click range, inflated in part by the preponderance of advertising from financial planning certificate programs and lead generation programs.

If you’d like to test Google, focus your ads on only the geography that you serve and be sure to set a low spending cap as you familiarize yourself with Google’s system and monitor campaign performance. Also, think creatively about keywords that you target, rather than going straight into the headwind of terms related to financial planning. If you focus on serving women going through a divorce, keywords related divorce self-help may be much more effective and affordable.

Niche Web Sites Appropriate, Affordable

The best place to advertise is where you know your ideal prospects are already actively engaged. If you have effectively defined your niche, you’ll know the generally off-the-beaten-path that your clients frequent. These are often small, local Web sites with very affordable advertising rates–in some cases, you may even be the first and only advertiser! For example, my practice works with new parents and young families in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nearly all of my clients belong to the mothers/parents club in their city or town, and I am able to purchase large display ads on each club’s Web site for as little as $80 per month.

It takes some creativity, testing and patience to find success with online advertising, but I encourage you experiment with this advertising channel!

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