You’ve likely heard of the Strategy-Execution Gap. It’s the friction in business that keeps your great ideas from being as good as you imagined once they become a reality – or from ever becoming a reality at all.
This is especially prevalent in marketing, where the ideas can be very exciting (“Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a giant Snoopy balloon in a parade?”) but the details of execution can be as mundane as anything else (“Does anybody know how to sew together a 49-foot-tall balloon?”).
Strategy and execution are two very different worlds, and according to Harvard Business Review, only 8% of business leaders are good at both. While they may not be as celebrated, a good project manager is just as essential to a campaign’s success as a visionary leader.
Advisor marketing suffers from a huge Strategy-Execution Gap for many reasons—from poor project management, to a lack of knowledge of the tools needed, to that ever-present struggle for advisor owners: CEO-ADD, where the person leading the charge gets sidetracked by every shiny new object they see.
But at the most basic level, advisor marketing often fails because it requires three essential elements—and many advisor campaigns are missing at least one.
The three elements of successful content marketing are pretty self-explanatory, but here’s a brief description of each.
Strategy – Setting goals and drawing out the roadmap for how you will accomplish those goals
Execution – Taking your strategy and turning it into real deliverables.
Analysis – Looking at key metrics after you have sent/published all of your deliverables and using those metrics to inform future marketing strategy/execution.
In my experience, somewhere around 85% of advisor marketing plans come up short in at least one of these three essential components of content marketing – and not everyone misses the same factor. The failures of advisor marketing can’t be chalked up to execution or strategy or analysis alone.
Advisors who excel at strategy often fail to follow through with execution, and those with consistent execution tend to lack either strategy or the analytical follow-up needed to verify what’s working and what needs to be tweaked.
Advisors who champion execution in content marketing are typically spinning their wheels while going nowhere. They publish blogs frequently, but lack the overarching strategy required to ensure their content has any impact beyond their immediate circle of employees and friends and family.
Typically, these advisors’ execution consists of publishing whatever anyone in the office wants to write. You can often recognize these advisors because their blogs are full of personal stories and articles written by interns.
This approach is so prevalent that the marketing world has a phrase for it: Content for content’s sake. In other words, these advisors are writing and publishing content solely for the purpose of ticking off the “write and publish content” box on their marketing checklist.
Today, I want to talk about why each of these elements is so important in marketing, and how you can get better at them all.
Let’s begin with strategy, since that’s where quality content marketing begins.
I met with a business owner recently who was looking for someone to help him take care of a few basic things on his website. He had just broken off a relationship with an agency because after a year with them, he looked around and realized they had spent a lot of time talking about different directions they could go but hadn’t actually gone anywhere.
Everybody wants to talk strategy – especially agencies. This is the real moneymaker for most agencies, and it makes sense. It is simultaneously the area where advisors struggle most, and the foundation of what makes content marketing successful.
A lot of agencies major in strategy these days, and it’s easy to understand why. When the agency is bought in on the plan, then it’s easier to understand how the logistics should go.
The problem is that a lot of advisors get stuck at the strategy stage, and they typically do so for one of two reasons:
They believe that they don’t have enough time/skill/energy to brainstorm/write/design/publish their own content. This is the most common problem, and often comes down to learning how to create content faster.
They fall so in love with the view from 10,000 feet that they never take the important step of landing on the ground and getting to work.
And if you want to talk strategy all day, there’s no shortage of agencies who will gladly accommodate you if you pay them for it. Agencies love talking strategy. It’s the most exciting part of the whole process! And it’s easy to get so caught up in all that strategic talk that you forget to actually accomplish anything.
It may sound like I’m ragging on agencies, but that is not my intention. I actually think agencies get a lot of undeserved flak for being all style and no substance, when in reality the majority of firms are champing at the bit to build awesome campaigns. I love agencies such as my own, where we build real solutions with real results.
The problem is that the typical agency is beholden to whatever direction the advisor wants to go, and when the advisor suffers from CEO-ADD, the agency can only push back for so long before they follow the advisor’s lead. After all, the advisor is paying the bills.
Here are four ways you can make sure your strategy doesn’t become diluted in execution:
Set a goal for your business. Advisory firms often spend thousands and thousands of dollars on marketing with the vague goal in mind of “growth.” When you start with a more specific goal in mind (e.g., increase # of consultations requested on the website), then your campaign is more likely to stay on task.
Begin with execution in mind. You don’t have to pick all of the tools you’ll use upfront, but you should think through where you will need to employ software and/or contractors to make sure your strategy is realistic. If your campaign has a $50k budget, and you’re going to have to spend $60k on software and outside help alone, then you’re starting off on the wrong foot.
Build a timeline. If you’re going to hire an agency to help you with content marketing, make sure you set the goal of deciding what you need in the first few meetings and then build out a timeline with specific deliverables to make sure things are moving.
Create waypoints. Build check-ins into your timeline where key campaign stakeholders discuss what has changed, why, and how that will affect the outcome. Don’t be scared to stop and go back if the team has gotten too far off-course.
Execution without strategy is the reason I never win at Monopoly. I get bored, lose sight of the end goal, and just start spending money willy-nilly.
Strategy without execution is the reason my brother never wins, either. He bides his time, saving money for some big move, but someone always beats him to the punch.
I sent a proposal to a prospect once that included info on some basic SEO work that their website needed. They hadn’t asked for it, but we knew it was important enough to include.
“We don’t need help with SEO,” they said after reviewing the proposal. “We know how to do that stuff.”
I bit my tongue and moved on, but I wanted to respond, “That’s the point. You have the knowledge, but not the time to see it through. By hiring us to do it, it would actually get done.”
All the knowledge in the world is worth nothing if you never get around to applying it.
This is the space where many advisors live – knowing what they want to do, but never getting around to it.
Growth always takes a back seat to administrative duties, and execution is the most time-consuming part of marketing. But if you’re not executing on your marketing campaigns, then you’re not investing in your sales funnel – and bad things can happen when a firm’s funnel dries up.
One of the most common areas of digital marketing where advisors drop the ball is in sticking to the publishing schedule for their site’s blog. Here are three tips that can help you stick to yours:
Keep it simple. A new website can be a blessing and a curse. Sure, your copy needs to be updated, but during the redesign process, it’s easy to fall into the “fancy trap,” where you start adding things just because you can. Go ahead and spruce up all of your website’s pages to your heart’s content, but please – for your own sake – keep your blog simple.Like I said above, sticking to a publishing schedule on your blog is already hard enough. Every piece of flair you add to your blog (header image, article previews, icons, etc.) is an obstacle on the path to “published.” You have to choose an image, make sure the image is the right size, pick a section for the article preview, pick icons that fit your company’s style, recolor them to match your brand…When you struggle with sticking to a schedule at all, you’re far better off keeping the publishing process simple. Keep your blog style simple to limit the number of decisions you need to make to publish articles.
Make sticking to deadlines someone’s job. Everyone sets deadlines, but if it’s not an essential part of your job, it often falls to the wayside. It can even happen to the professionals. . We publish dozens of pieces of content every month for our clients, but when it comes to our own blog, it can be all too easy to say “we’ll publish that next week instead.” . Hitting deadlines is easiest when someone’s salary or bonus depends on it. If you know no one on your team will be able to stick to the deadlines, hire a marketing specialist (part-time or full-time) or outsource your blog content to a content marketing agency.
Set a realistic schedule. Yes, publishing more frequently brings better results, but the best publishing schedule is the one you can stick to. If you can only realistically publish once a month, then start there.
“How many visits does your website receive in a given week?”
It’s one of the first questions I ask advisors and fintech companies when we first talk, and the answer 99% of the time is “I have no idea.”
Analysis is the secret sauce missing from a lot of marketing – not just in the advisor world. In fact, 52% of social media marketers say their biggest frustration is trying to accurately measure ROI. If it’s that hard for full-time marketers to measure, it’s no wonder advisors often don’t even try.
Click here to watch the webinar “The 20 Most Common Marketing Problems Advisors Face (and How to Solve Them)”
But analysis is the difference between operating on a “gut feeling” and making data-driven decisions. On several occasions, I have written articles I thought would be a “hit,” only to see them fizzle. On the other hand, several articles I considered ordinary have become surprise hits.
If I always went with my gut, I would have no idea what truly resonated with readers.
And the best part of all is that you can begin analyzing the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts at a basic level for free thanks to a bevy of free tools.
Set up Google Analytics
Install the Facebook Pixel
Get the Linkedin Insight Tag
Turn on Twitter Analytics
Use Bitly links to track sources more easily
Set up Google Search Console
Set up these tools, choose a few key metrics to monitor, and start making marketing decisions based on hard, cold data.
I’ve only fired a gun a couple times in my life, but I know the basic steps:
Look at where the bullet went and then adjust accordingly for the next shot
When you remove any one of those components, things become either dangerous or pointless immediately.
Make sure you’re taking all three steps in your advisor marketing going forward:
Looking for help with any of these three essential ingredients? Click here to schedule a meeting with us. We’ll talk about your firm, what you want to accomplish, and recommend ways we can get you from idea to done.