Need Marketing Ideas? Ask Your Target Audience

Journal of Financial Planning: November 2017


Kali Hawlk s the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content.

Have you ever worked really hard on a marketing campaign? Be it a blog post, social media ad, landing page and lead magnet, in-person event, or anything else you tried to use as a way to grow your firm, you poured a lot of hours and energy into the effort. You were proud of what you created. And yet, when you hit publish or sent out invitations or pushed send on that email…well, cue the crickets.

Nothing. No response, not even a nibble from a curious prospective client. Unfortunately, this happens all the time to financial advisers looking for new, innovative ways to market and grow their firms.

Why do your best efforts and intentions fail to resonate with the audience you want to connect with or reach the prospects you want to convert into clients?

Why Your Marketing Efforts Fall Flat

The best way to waste a lot of time with your marketing efforts is to generate ideas on what to do next on your own, in a vacuum, without getting feedback.

This is the mistake most advisers make—they think they find a great marketing idea and want to try it. They do an excellent job executing, except for one fatal flaw: they try to guess what their target market wants. They spend a lot of time brainstorming and wondering what to write in a blog post, or record for a video or podcast, or how to host an event.

Doing all this hard work of pinpointing exactly what to create or do takes a lot of effort. It’s also completely unnecessary. Instead of guessing what kind of content your ideal client wants and would find relevant, just ask them.

Your Target Market Can Generate Ideas for You

The best way to create a marketing campaign that resonates with the right people is to understand the following about your audience:

Demographics. Data like age, gender, ethnicity, and location.

Psychographics. This information tells you about their beliefs, philosophies, biases, fears, aspirations, and more. It gives insight to their perspectives and viewpoints.

Pain points and challenges. What do they struggle with? What do they see as a problem in their life? What causes pain or prevents them from living the way they want?

Needs, desires, and goals. What do they desperately want to achieve more than anything else? What do they need in their lives?

Preferences and habits. What magazines do they read? What websites do they browse? How do they interact with media? How do they prefer to learn new information?

Objections. What stops them from taking action? What causes resistance or friction when they make purchasing decisions?

If you know this information, you can craft messages that directly hit on pain points and offer appealing solutions that get around sales objections. You’ll also know where to go to deliver your message and how to share information about what your firm can do for clients.

Try one of these strategies to understand what your target market wants from you before you start your next marketing campaign:

Message Boards and Social Media

People are already talking about the topics you’re an expert in. And because they’re not the experts, they likely have questions they want answers to.

If you can find the questions your audience is already asking, you can design marketing content that answers those questions and positions you as the solution to the problems they face.

So how do you do it? Two ways: (1) use search functions on social media to find and monitor relevant conversations; and (2) search for keywords, phrases, or hashtags that relate to topics on which you can serve as an expert resource.

Comb through forums, communities, and message boards for relevant conversations. Facebook groups, comments on posts on Instagram or LinkedIn, and Reddit forums can all provide ways to “listen” to what people talk about online—and find your next campaign topic idea.

Invite Your Target Market to Coffee or Lunch

You can’t invite everyone you want to reach to grab a cup of coffee with you, but you can identify a handful of people who represent your ideal clients or who already are your ideal clients, and ask if you can interview them over lunch sometime.

This isn’t a sales pitch. It’s a learning opportunity. Design eight to 10 open-ended questions for your meetings, ask them, and sit back and listen to the answers. The idea is to let your guests speak openly and freely about whatever comes up.

After conducting a few of these conversations, compare your notes. Do you see any trends or patterns? Were any phrases used by more than one person? These are things that can help you better understand your audience, how they think, and most importantly, the language that makes sense to them.

Start Conversations Instead of Sending Out Surveys

Sending out a mass email with a link to a survey and asking people to take the time to fill it out (even if it only takes two minutes) is not compelling. Instead, try opening a conversation.

You can do this by tapping into your contact lists, but take a personalized, personable approach rather than seeking the opinion of the crowd. Here is sample email to help you get started:

Hi [Name],

Hope you’re doing well. I wanted to reach out to share some news I’m excited about: I’m working on a new [whatever you want to create and launch—new blog, new podcast, new video series, etc.] for my firm, and I want to make sure what we put out into the world is valuable.

Here’s where I need your help: I don’t want to create something for us. I want to create it for you.

I have a few ideas that I want to explore for the [blog/podcast/video/social media/email course/ebook/etc.], including [list your initial ideas that you think might work well for the audience].

But I don’t want to just assume you’re interested in that.

I would love to actually talk to you about what you’d find most interesting, valuable, or useful.

What can I share or explain that would help you achieve your goals? What kind of topics interest you, or what do you want to learn more about?

Please let me know! I look forward to hearing your ideas and opinions.

Next Steps

By using the strategies shared here, your target audience will develop your marketing ideas for you. They’ll also give you a clear picture of who they are, which allows you to develop client personas. Use those personas now and in future marketing campaigns. They’ll tell you what your audience wants to hear—and how they want to hear it.

This article originally appeared on the Journal's Practice Management Blog. Read more at

Professional role
Marketing & Communications