Does anyone remember what life was like before the Internet for the independent financial advisor? From a marketing perspective it was a constant resource and time-consuming uphill fight to overcome the enormous costs associated with creating and printing hard-copy marketing material, to say nothing of the countless man hours invested in knocking on doors and cold-calling potential leads.
Today, times have certainly changed. Now, virtually every independent financial advisor practice has a web page, and while an increasing number of advisors are seeking to make better use of other digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, far too many still do not have a coherent digital marketing plan in place to complement their overall marketing strategy.
The easy part, of course, is simply having a digital presence. Putting that digital presence to practical use, however, is another thing entirely. Indeed, the most successful independent financial advisory practices are now devoting considerable time and energy into devising a clear and easily-accessible digital marketing strategy, using the above social media platforms to greatly enhance the way they communicate with existing clients and prospect for new business opportunities.
But even more than that, the electronic space, more and more, is being used by independent advisors to remerchandise original content on an automated basis over multiple communication channels – a priceless marketing tool that allows firms to establish themselves as industry thought leaders and announce firm-wide successes.
Driven by repeatability, message consistency and quality of insight, a built-out and all-encompassing digital marketing strategy can help advisors working in the independent space further differentiate themselves from their brethren at the wire houses. Given those three principles what are the things independent financial advisors should be doing to better build an effective digital marketing presence?
- Build an editorial calendar for original content that is not only consistent but aligns with key economic issues or dates throughout the year, like tax season. Arbitrarily posting material about issues that are neither timely nor useful is the best – and quickest – way to lose an audience, not to mention cause your existing clients to question your credibility as a thought leader.
- Remerchandise your content. Large corporations don’t come up with an elaborate ad campaign, only to run one commercial and hope for the best –and neither should you. If you have relevant and interesting original content or a firm-wide success story, get it out there, multiple times. HootSuite, for instance, enables you to schedule multiple posts across several different social media channels far in advance, facilitating the roll out of content on a quarterly, monthly or weekly basis. Remember, investors are just like you: They are busy people with careers and families, and most don’t have time to check their social media accounts every day. But they might do it every week.
- Tie your digital marketing efforts and client relationship management strategy together. You want to know what types of efforts are helping you convert leads into prospects and ultimately into clients. You must, therefore, have an appreciation for who is visiting your firm’s web site, along with why and for how long. Without a digital marketing presence you will have no way of knowing what content others are finding valuable. Knowing what content clients, potential leads and others within the industry find valuable allows you to concentrate on generating more just like it, further establishing a foothold as a thought leader.
- Use the various social media platforms differently, maximizing the strengths of each while limiting their potential weaknesses. Facebook, for example, through the use of pictures, is great for interactive storytelling, allowing people to get a better feeling for the personality of the firm, as well as the people who work there. Twitter, on the other hand, is best for short, crisp thoughts that enhance your brand and show that you are continually dialed in to current market conditions, while LinkedIn is the perfect platform to network with peers and get involved in different groups. Use your social media efforts to drive people to the content on you web page, which should be the main hub of your digital marketing efforts. Remember, opinion is the currency of social media.
- When you are building your website, make sure to choose a provider that will allow you to update in real time, track usage all while providing you with the capability to add Calls to Action, Landing Pages, videos and blogs. Highly customized websites, while pleasing aesthetically, are often very difficult – or prohibitively expensive – to update. Apple has a clean, beautiful and well-organized web page, but chances are, unlike them, you don’t have a legion of coders, designers and programmers at your disposal. You want to be able to effortlessly update your content without losing too much time – or money. Fresh new content is the key not only for better search engine optimization but it also increases engagement and provides a reason for people to keep coming back.
At the end of the day, people want to do business with advisors they like and trust. In the past, getting a meeting with potential prospect and building that type of relationship perhaps meant handing out 100 business cards or hours of cold-calling – and even then, it usually took several more meetings before ultimately winning the business. While establishing trust is no less important today, an effective digital marketing strategy makes that process much easier.
With the ability to perform their own due diligence on practices via a simple Google search, investors are increasingly seeking out wealth managers who have a built-out presence online, one that chronicles the history of their ‘digital persona,’ ranging from videos they have posted to blogs that provide a record of opinions during different market conditions to other hosted content that is either informative or educational. This emerging dynamic eliminates much of the sales component for both wealth managers and investors, and in turn establishes you as a thought leader, leading to more meaningful discussions about solving problems and meeting long-term objectives – a win, win for both parties.
So while you should never abandon your traditional marketing efforts, which should still include mailing and print versions of your content, firms who are not actively engaged online are going to lose out to practices that have put the requisite time and effort into building an effective digital marketing strategy.
Dave Armstrong is Managing Director of Monument Wealth Management (www.monumentwealthmanagement.com), a Washington DC-area based financial advisory and wealth management firm that helps accomplished entrepreneurs transition toward long-term financial independence.