Monday, November 8, 2010

Read before you start a business

Do You Look Cheap?

Many clients buy the least expensive Web site, newsletter, or brochure they can find because they don't see direct results from it. That's bad thinking. If the impression you make on people relative to your competitors is unfavorable, you could be losing business. For instance, If I was online shopping on the Web for cutters for my electric shaver. One site I went to didn't have pictures of the products and the site was ugly graphically--just a bunch of text thrown on a page without any planning or regard to aesthetics. The other site I went to was slick. It had pictures of all the products and was better organized. Its prices were about the same. Guess which company got my order? The one that made the better impression. And that's when I'm buying new shaver blades. People are going to be a lot more careful when they check you out on the Web looking for a financial advisor. Looks do matter. Sure, that sounds shallow, but making a good impression is critical. You can refuse to believe that people evaluate you that way. If so, you're just fooling yourself.

Don't Hire Cousin Vinny

In the Hollywood version of life, "My Cousin Vinny" showed Karate Kid Ralph Macchio being defended successfully by Joe Pesci on charges of murder. Vinny, played by Pesci, had never tried a case. He was not even a lawyer. But that's the movies. In real life, clients rely on a brother-in-law, spouse, or cousin to design marketing materials. But just because your cousin dabbles in graphic design does not mean he or she can do a credible job of creating your marketing materials. Even if your relative is a full-time marketing pro, she probably doesn't know anything about the financial advice business. Even if she does, she probably won't spend enough time on getting the job done right.

Me! Me! Me!

Probably the most common mistake clients make is to fill their brochures and Web sites with self-centered copy. It's as if you think that telling people about your technical skills will convince them to do business with you. Good marketing copy addresses the reader. It's about the benefits your clients get from working with you. Instead of telling people about what you do, tell them about the benefits of working with you. Tell them how you can help them.

Talk to Your Mom
Avoiding jargon in marketing copy or when you're talking to people helps them understand what you're talking about. If you speak in clear terms, it helps you to be perceived as an expert. Try to speak and write in language that would be understood by someone who doesn't work in the industry. Ask yourself: "Would my mom understand what I'm talking about?" It is all about education - educate your clients.

No Logo? No Clients

When you see the hood ornament on a Jaguar, you know it. When you see golden arches, you know you just passed a McDonald's. You, too, can create a strong brand. Everyone has a brand--moms, dads, doctors, barbers. We all put our distinct imprint on what we do. Your logo is a graphical device that stands for your brand. It is your seal of integrity and acts as an implicit promise from you when people look at it. It captures the quality of service your firm gives and the intelligence of the advice you provide. This simple graphic device helps spread the word about what you stand for. Your logo should grace all your marketing materials--the banner on your Web site, the masthead on your newsletter, your stationery, brochure, and the pens you give to clients. They should all feature the same colors. Themed materials support your brand, and a logo is a central part of the effort.

Have a Marketing Budget

The great irony about people who start up their own companies, when it comes to their own business, they don't plan. Do you have a marketing budget? Do you have 12-month marketing goals? Have you written a formal plan outlining who your ideal clients are? Do you know who your most profitable clients are and how you plan to get more clients like them? To make money on your business, you will need to set aside money to achieve your marketing goals.

Guts Equals Glory

If you want to get press, you need to have some guts. My advice: Read the newspaper. Know which reporters cover areas you care about and read all their coverage. Then, call them up and tell them what you like about their coverage and give them ideas about how to make it better. It's that simple. The dentist soon was being quoted in The Wall Street Journal on a regular basis. That was his local paper. Call a reporter. They don't bite, and you have the ideas they need.

Have an Elevator Speech

Can you explain your business in less than 20 seconds? You must be able to tell a stranger exactly who you are, what you do, and what's unique about you in one concise 20-second statement. Write it out and then practice it. While your elevator speech takes only 20 seconds, creating it could take years.

Do it With A Pro

Some clients think they can write their marketing copy. Some think they can produce their own newsletter. Some believe they can script their own seminars. But writing is a skill professionals spend years mastering. Creating your own marketing materials is the same. Write a first draft or spend an hour or two outlining ideas for your brochure. Then hand the draft to a pro. There is a good chance you wouldn't find the time to finish the job anyway.

Most of this info is from a smart -Editor-at-Large Andrew Gluck, a veteran personal finance reporter, is president of Advisor Products Inc. (, which creates client newsletters and Web sites for advisors. Advisor Products may compete or do business with companies mentioned in this column. He can be reached at

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