For time immemorial, one of the crucial ways for businesses to drum up revenue was to be where their potential customers were, literally. It was little different for independent financial advisors – a substantial part of traditional marketing involved maintaining a presence in the community and meeting potential clients in person, through events or other face-to-face interactions.
The pandemic, of course, changed this practice, compelling advisors to rely more heavily on electronic communications and outreach. With clients, prospective clients and advisors all trapped at home, digital channels – websites, social media, newsletters, webinars, video platforms – became crucial.
Yet the shift to digital marketing didn’t start with the onset of COVID-19, nor will it end whenever the pandemic subsides. For years, would-be clients – particularly the younger ones – have increasingly been searching for and finding their financial advisors online. To capture that business, advisors must also be online, increasing their presence in the channels clients use, with messaging that resonates while, importantly, meeting all compliance requirements.
“We want to move those offline conversations online and be where people are spending their time,” said Samantha Russell, Chief Evangelist at FMG Suite, a provider of marketing automation tools and creative content for financial professionals, on a May 5 FSI webinar.
In addition to the webinar, FSI OneVoice 2021 featured a session exploring innovation through digital marketing. Both events leveraged the know-how of industry experts to support our advisor and firm members as they develop their digital marketing capabilities and provided insightful key takeaways.
‘Build the Trust’
The messaging in a marketing communication should feel to clients as though it’s genuine, authentic and personal, rather than manufactured in a cookie-cutter fashion, experts said.
Nowhere is this more significant than in video, said Robert Sofia, CEO of Snappy Kraken, who spoke on the OneVoice panel. After analyzing data from more than 250,000 marketing campaigns deployed by advisors, his research team discovered that clients and prospects weren’t engaging meaningfully with animated explainer videos.
When advisors recorded video that featured themselves, however, engagement skyrocketed; with clicks and views increasing by more than four times. The takeaway was that content with a personal touch performs better because it humanizes advisors and makes them more approachable. Even if the quality isn’t as high as a professional studio production, authenticity is what resonates with people – in videos and other communication channels.
“That’s how you build the trust,” said Leah Alter, the panel moderator and AVP, Advisor Marketing at Kestra Financial. “Letting them in, letting them see who you are.”
Similarly, the timeliness of content reinforces the perception that advisors are paying attention to what matters to their clients while driving engagement; this trend was especially pronounced during the last 18 months.
“Talking about the headlines one week later doesn’t cut it anymore,” said Russell. “We found that content sent around current events sees a significantly higher average open rate of about 40 percent when compared to non-timely content, which sees a 21 percent open rate. Early in the pandemic, FMG Suite created a content team devoted specifically to creating timely content, rolling out articles, emails and other compliance-approved content that are ready to use by advisors as the news breaks.”
Kevin Darlington, General Manager, Broadridge Advisor Solutions, added, “Advisors need to cut through the clutter with the four “T’s”: Topic, Tone, Timing and Technology. To engage prospects who are bombarded with information, advisors need to hit the right topic in a format and tone that is in tune with the prospect’s preferences and at the right time using the right technology to scale these efforts efficiently.”
Personal, Humanized Marketing at Scale
According to the panel members, advisors need to be able to produce this personal, humanized marketing communications content quickly enough that it will be relevant to current events or market conditions, and they need to be able to do so easily and conveniently. In short, they need to be able to market at scale.
This speaks to the need for wealth management firms to have sophisticated marketing platforms that build a strategic framework for helping advisors create awareness among prospective clients; target and touch those potential clients in a cost-effective way; and facilitate the conversations that help the advisor seal the deal.
Such marketing platforms should automate and streamline the production of communications vehicles and offer advisors a library of content that enables them to personalize and customize content while not demanding too much time or effort, said the panelists. It should do all this in a way that eases the potential burden on compliance professionals, who must review and approve all outgoing content.
Targeting is Much More Than Geography
With digital marketing tools provided at scale, advisors can more economically tailor their marketing efforts to specific client profiles and do so over a broader area than ever before. Though local geography remains an important aspect of pinpointing potential clients, according to data from Broadridge’s third annual advisor marketing benchmark, 36 percent of advisors plan to do more non-local marketing in the coming year, said Darlington.
They are identifying prospective clients using attributes such as gender, income sources, family situation and other, more granular characteristics than where they live.
As an advisor, “you can say, ‘Okay, that’s my target, but I can market across the United States,’” Darlington said. “You’ve just given yourself almost an embarrassment of riches in terms of a really targeted niche that there’s an endless demand for.”
Use Data to ‘Tweak the Things That Need to be Tweaked’
The 19th-century retail magnate John Wanamaker is said to have opined that half the advertising dollars he spent were wasted, but it was difficult to tell which half.
Yet, the adage holds less water today with digital marketing efforts. Firms have the marketing analytics capability to correlate advisors’ marketing activities with growth – be it through new client acquisition or increase in share of wallet – that is collected and housed in their customer relationship management platforms.
This capability turns marketing into an iterative, almost scientific process in which advisors can test out new tactics to find the attributes of their marketing communications that yield the best results.
Alter noted, “You can have the best marketing in the world, but it’s only ever as good as the process that you have in place to track it, so that you can go back and tweak the things that need to be tweaked.”