Over the last few years, we have seen RIAs that have traditionally focused on high-net-worth individuals and families become interested in marketing to millennials. This trend is a result of several factors:
By Kristen Luke
For advisory firms using online campaigns to generate business, I often recommend that they enhance their strategy with retargeting ads. Retargeting is the marketing technology that allows your firm’s ads to follow your audience around the internet to the websites they visit. In most cases, the targeted audience comprises the people who are already familiar with your brand because they visited your website or they are on your email list.
Here are the reasons why I am such a fan of retargeting ads these days:
- Low-cost brand reinforcement: You are charged a fee only when someone clicks on the ad, so you can potentially have your ads shown thousands of times for just a few bucks.
- Focused on the right people: Your ad dollars are focused on a narrow audience of people who are already familiar with your services, increasing the likelihood that your ads will have an impact on them.
- Re-engagement of website visitors: Instead of losing a prospect who visited your website but didn’t take action, retargeting ads re-engage them and give them an opportunity to return to your site to schedule an appointment.
If you want to see an example in action, just visit the Edelman Financial Services website and soon you will start seeing their ads everywhere you go. (Disclaimer: We do not work with Edelman Financial.)
While I have noticed a lot more of the larger firms using retargeting ads, the strategy is appropriate for firms of all sizes. The ad budget is usually proportionate to the number of website visitors you have or names of prospects on your email list, so if you have less traffic, you will spend less money.
If you are interested in learning more, the retargeting software we use, AdRoll, has great resources on its website: www.adroll.com.
I often speak to financial advisors who are frustrated by their marketing numbers. They are not frustrated by the number of prospects who have contacted them, or by the number of clients they have acquired, or by the number of assets added. They are frustrated by their marketing statistics, such as their newsletter open rate.
If you have been on Facebook lately, you can't help but notice that live streaming is everywhere. Media outlets, businesses and bloggers are using it to authentically interact with their audience. YouTube, Facebook and Instagram all have live-streaming options integrated into their platforms, which means the rest of the social media sites will eventually follow suit. Now that live streaming is popular and easy to implement, you may be asking yourself, "How can I use live streaming in my business?" Here are our top five recommendations.
Create educational content. Use live streaming as an avenue to educate your clients and prospects. This can be a "whiteboard" segment where you deconstruct a specific concept, or you can do a Q&A session answering the questions you hear most often. If education is already an important part of your marketing strategy, then live steaming is a natural extension.
Stream events. If you are hosting an in-person workshop or client event, stream the event so that people who cannot attend may still participate. This is especially worthwhile in metropolitan areas where heavy traffic can dissuade someone from coming to your event.
Promote an upcoming event. Use live streaming to give a preview of what to expect during an upcoming webinar or workshop.
Interview influencers. Use live streaming to interview centers of influence, business owners, consultants or anyone else who may be of interest to your target audience. This helps build a relationship with your interviewee, provide varied content to your audience and lessen the burden for you to come up with all the content.
Offer a behind-the-scenes tour. Take your social media followers behind the scenes of your business with an office tour or perhaps the taping of your company's podcast. Give them a glimpse into your business that they wouldn't otherwise see.
These are just a few of the ways to use live streaming in your business. Of course, as a financial advisor, you always want to check with your compliance officer prior to implementing any new marketing idea.
Whenever we speak with advisors, we always ask, “How is your firm different from other independent firms?” Despite the advisors’ insistence that their firms are unique, we tend to hear the same general answers:
- We truly care about our clients.
- We have great service.
- We actually do financial planning (unlike firms that just say they do it).
- We follow through on what we say we are going to do.
- We act in the best interest of our clients.
.While these all may be true and may help clients perceive you as different from other advisors once they are in a working relationship with you, these answers won’t help prospects understand how you are different from the other advisors they are interviewing. Every prospect is going to assume that you care, provide good service, do what you say you are going to do and are ethical. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be talking to you.
Three Steps to Differentiate Your Firm
So, how do you differentiate yourself from your competition? The answer is not just in your marketing, since your marketing simply conveys the message of how you are different.
You differentiate yourself by drawing on all areas of your business, including your vision, service model, ideal client profile, investment philosophy, client service process and organizational structure. Below are three steps to help you identify these unique factors.
Step 1: Answer the Important Questions
To define your differentiators, start by asking—and answering—the right questions. Once you answer the following questions, you should know what separates your advisory firm from others:
- What niche markets do you specialize in (e.g., dentists, business owners)?
- Which areas of expertise or life stage do you specialize in (e.g., retirement income distribution, young families)?
- What services do you offer that are unique and that differentiate you from an average financial advisory firm?
- How is your fee structure different from that of other firms?
- How is your investment philosophy different from that of other advisory firms?
- What is the size and structure of your business (e.g., national firm, team, solo practice)?
- What unique or specialized education or designations does your staff hold?
- How is your service model different from that of other firms (e.g. “We have a service model that grows as a person’s career grows, from their first job to retirement”)?
- What is your reputation in the community?
- What is your firm culture (e.g., how do clients feel when they leave your office)?
- What results do you achieve for your clients that are different from that of other firms?
- After you have answered all of these questions, ask yourself, “How does the client benefit?” If the client doesn’t benefit, then it doesn’t matter if it makes you different.
Step 2: Narrow Things Down
Once you have answered all of the questions, whittle the answers down to the ones that make you stand out the most. If your firm is different from other firms in only one or two ways, that’s perfectly fine. You’re better off being narrow and focused than too broad.
While it is good to understand all the ways your firm is different, you are going to be most effective in your messaging if you can focus on one overall theme.
Step 3: Develop Your Statement
Now that you’ve chosen your differentiators, you should use them to craft a short, cohesive statement. Here are two examples:
Example 1: While many financial planning firms are a jack of all trades, we focus on one thing: retirement income distribution strategies. That means we only work with people who are already retired and want to maximize their income from their retirement accounts, pension plans, Social Security and other investment vehicles they may have. Because we focus on just that one thing, we have the expertise in all the possible strategies that can help our clients make the most out of their retirement income.
Example 2: We are conservative investment managers. The types of clients who hire us are more concerned about protecting and preserving the money they have saved all these years than beating the market in bullish years. We aren’t exciting and that’s exactly what our clients like about us. They know our number one priority is protecting their money.
As you can see, you don’t have to be all that different from other firms in the industry to differentiate yourself to a prospect or client. You just have to understand the one thing that makes you different. Then you need to communicate that message over and over again. Only when you get this message out and are attracting clients will you be able to prove how you are different through your service and relationships, cementing those relationships in the long run.
In the financial advisory business, client referrals are important, but so are referrals from centers of influence (COIs)—the attorneys, accountants and other professionals who also serve your clients. In fact, a well-developed, reciprocal network of COIs can bring in many more clients and help you keep your existing ones.
So, how do you find good COIs you can trade referrals with? Follow these steps to create a powerful COI network:
Step 1: List Each COI Your Clients Are Working With
When you work with clients, you’re bound to end up interacting with other professionals also working with those clients. Write down each COI’s name, company, the type of COI (attorney, CPA, etc.) and the name of the client. Once you’ve listed this information, reach out to these COIs and discuss how you can help each other gain and serve more clients.
Step 2: List Each COI In Your Professional Network
Who are the accountants, attorneys and other people within your network? Are you optimizing your professional relationships with them? Add them to your list of potential COIs and bring them into your network.
Step 3: List Each COI in Professional Associations You Belong To
Are you a member of your local chamber of commerce or another professional association? List potential COIs in these organizations and make them a part of your network.
Step 4: List Each COI In Your LinkedIn Network
Are you on LinkedIn? Which COIs are you connected to directly, and which ones are you connected to via other people? Ask the people connecting you to them to make introductions.
Step 5: Do a Web Search and Find a COI You Can Work With
If you’re thin on potential COIs, do a web search of accountants, attorneys and other influencers in your area. When you find a COI who you think would be a good fit, develop a relationship.
A productive reciprocal relationship is not something that develops overnight. Studies show that it takes, on average, two years of building trust before a COI begins referring clients. However, through hard work and relationship development, you may eventually enjoy a steady stream of new clients through your COI network. When this happens, all your effort will have (literally) paid off.
In our experience, traditional advertisements such as print ads, radio commercials or TV commercials rarely yield the results that financial advisory firms are looking for. You should consider ads only in the following situations:
- They are part of a long-term, consistent advertising strategy in which your goal is to gain greater awareness and not generate leads within a small audience (e.g., a specific niche market, a small town).
- You are advertising a special event where the goal is to get people to register for your event.
- The advertisement will produce a tool that you can use for credibility marketing purposes (e.g., San Diego Magazine's Best Financial Advisors profile where you purchase a plaque of the profile to put in your lobby or you hand out reprints to prospects).
- You are advertising in order to support a charity, association or organization that you are trying to build or deepen a relationship with (e.g., advertising in a program for a local charity's gala).
Even in these situations, our experience has been that results have been mixed at best.
You should never advertise in the following situations:
- A one-time advertisement that does not provide you with a credibility marketing piece
- If you plan on advertising for less than one year
- If you are relying on the ad to generate leads
- If your call to action for the ad is to schedule an appointment
- When the advertisement is a significant percentage of your marketing budget
A general rule of thumb is if someone is reaching out to you to do an advertisement, it is probably not a good idea. Instead, you should look at how advertising plays into your overall marketing plan and then reach out to media outlets that make sense with your strategy.
Maintaining multiple Twitter accounts and attracting followers to multiple profiles can be challenging, so in general you'll be more successful with fewer profiles. Whether you should have a business profile depends on the size of your business:
For a solo practitioner, you should have one personal account to use for business purposes. Because it is a personal account representing an individual, the mix of content should be both professional and personal. You should experiment to find the appropriate mix for your target audience. If you find yourself using the Twitter profile more than 50% of the time for personal use, then you may want to have two profiles: one with a business slant and one that is purely personal. You may also want to consider a pseudonym for your personal account to avoid content you post showing in search results for your name. This approach should only be used for advanced Twitter users who have the time and passion to successfully grow and maintain multiple accounts. Otherwise, one account that is more professional than personal is recommended.
Silo and Ensemble Firms
For firms with multiple advisors, a business profile is recommended. This account should be used entirely for professional content; however, showing a human side of the firm through this account is also encouraged (e.g., candid office photos). This account should be managed by a designated person(s) in the firm to ensure consistency in the firm's voice and in the frequency of posts.
Individual advisors may also have their own accounts if they are interested in engaging on the platform. If an advisor is representing the company in any way, they should tweet a mix of professional and personal content. There should be more emphasis on professional content, but the personal content gives the advisor more depth and, as a result, makes it easier for others to personally connect with the advisor online.
If advisors find that they are using the Twitter profile more than 50% of the time for personal use, then they may want to have two profiles: one with a business slant and one that is purely personal. Advisors may also want to consider a pseudonym for the personal account to avoid posts showing in search results for the advisor's name. This approach should be used only for advanced Twitter users who have the time and passion to successfully grow and maintain multiple accounts. Otherwise, one account that is more professional than personal is recommended.
We have seen a few firms that have had tremendous success with paid radio and TV shows. We have also seen more firms fail with these same initiatives. The difference between those that fail and those that succeed comes down to a few factors:
- Successful firms make the radio/TV show the central focus of their marketing plan, not merely a part of their marketing mix. All other marketing campaigns complement this strategy (e.g., educational workshops, social events, podcasts, videos, books).
- They mentally commit to the show indefinitely, not just for a few weeks or months.
- The shows are on a consistent schedule, usually daily or weekly.
- They constantly integrate a call to action in their show, such as registering for a workshop or signing up for a complimentary retirement review.
- The show reaches the same demographic as the firm's ideal client (e.g., retirees).
- The advisor host usually has an outgoing personality and loves to be on the radio or TV.
- The host is willing to make the personal sacrifices it takes for a successful show. This usually means giving up weekends or forgoing flexibility in their schedule.
- The firm gets corresponding spots or advertisements to promote the company.
You should not consider a paid radio or TV show if:
- You are considering it only on a short-term or limited-engagement basis.
- It is not part of your core marketing strategy.
- You are paying to be a guest on someone else’s show unless it is a long-term cost-sharing partnership opportunity.
- It is something that was recently presented to you and not something you have been considering for some time.
A general rule of thumb is if someone is reaching out to you to offer you a TV or radio show over a short period of time, the opportunity probably benefits them more than it benefits you. Instead, you should look at how radio/TV plays into your overall marketing plan and then reach out to media outlets that make sense for your strategy.
Websites can really vary in price. We have seen advisory firms pay anywhere from nothing (or nearly nothing) to in excess of $50,000. How much a website costs depends on a variety of factors including:
- Is the website custom coded or coded based on a template? Custom coding adds a lot of time and, as a result, a lot of expense.
- Is the website custom designed or designed based on a template? Custom design adds a lot of time and, as a result, a lot of expense.
- Can you take your website with you to other hosting providers? If you can take your website from one host to another (such as a WordPress site), usually the website will be more expensive. If it is a captive host such as Advisor Websites or Squarespace, you will usually pay less since the provider is guaranteed revenue as long as you keep the website active.
- How much consultation will the web service provide? If they have a process that is well thought out and they provide recommendations, the website will cost more. If they expect you to lead the relationship, the site will cost less.
- Do they provide copywriting services? We have rarely come across a website provider that offers copywriting, but if they do, you can expect it to be expensive.
- How many add-ons or integrations will you need? The more you add on, the more you can expect to pay.
Below are some providers in different price ranges. Please note that all websites will have a monthly subscription or hosting fee, which is not included in the prices below.
Inexpensive (less than $5,000)
Mid-price ($8,000 to $15,000)
Expensive (more than $15,000)
When making a decision about how much to pay for a website, take into consideration how much a website plays into your marketing strategy. If it will be used simply as a tool for prospects to research your company, a less expensive site is probably appropriate. If you want a top-notch site, don't skimp on price. Generally, you get what you pay for.