The speed of technology advancement in the adviser space is blistering.

New products are being launched, smart integrations are available through increasingly opened application program interfaces and adviser feedback is inspiring more efficient features.

Tech advancement shows no signs of slowing, and in my experience with two of the smaller companies, there will be continuing growth and transformation.

Snappy Kraken brings a smile to my face every time I say it. The brainchild of Robert Sofia and his co-founders, Snappy Kraken is attempting to streamline the online content marketing process for advisers.

Sofia is no stranger to adviser marketing.

Prior to launching Snappy Kraken, he co-founded Platinum Advisor Strategies in 2009 and oversaw the company’s 6,000% growth through early last year. Although Platinum Advisor Strategies provided marketing tools, much of the heavy lifting was still on the back of the adviser, something that Sofia wanted to change with this venture.

Snappy Kraken seeks to provide an all-encompassing approach to adviser marketing.

Its platform is set up so that advisers can log in and determine the kind of campaign they would like to run, whether they are marketing to a new client base, specific niche or just want to deliver content to existing contacts. It is customizable, branded and has features that allow it to be approved by compliance.

Once advisers have selected the campaign (for example, “Why hire a CFP to manage your finances?”), they can determine a medium – email, direct mail, social-media marketing or Google Adwords – and click to get started. They can enter existing email addresses or use the campaign to drive new contacts to their list.

Using non-adviser specific marketing features such as landing pages, lead magnets -- think eBooks and free reports -- and sales funnels, the goal is to make driving prospects to an adviser as automated as possible.

“It works for any budget, so you can get started for under $100 a month or you can spend thousands a month. It helps in both the RIA, independent, broker-dealer model, insurance model and any financial services company can leverage our technology in content to grow business,” Sofia says.

BEYOND THE FIRST PROMOTIONAL WAVE
This platform appeals to me as an adviser. Creating content is challenging, and it isn’t uncommon to come up against a creative energy brick wall.

I can understand the appeal in having a platform such as Snappy Kraken at the ready. It is often hard to consistently promote via multiple marketing channels to generate new interest.

The first wave of promotion is easy, but doing it consistently requires discipline and time.

One mass-marketing quandary remains. If there are 30,000 advisers projected to be using the same content, how do they differentiate themselves?

“There are three ways that we combat that problem,” Sofia says.

“The first way is by allowing personalization of content. You can use the same campaign, but you can modify them, change the images, change the colors, change the audience,” Sofia says.

“The second thing is that we allow the user to connect with one of our vetted and approved content developers to order their own campaign … share what makes them unique,” he says. “The third thing is that we also allow for users of existing content that we have created to do a zip-code check and see if anybody in their zip code is using that content,” he says.

Much development has gone into the product and after having worked with advisers for almost a decade, Sofia was aware of how to combat the problems that they face.

TOOLS FOR ADVISER BLOGGERS
Another platform making waves is Twenty Over Ten. The company’s aim is to make a web design or redesign project cost-effective and quick.

By using the latest design trends, an adviser’s website looks current. But what makes the Twenty Over Ten platform different is a built-in compliance engine.

It backs up the website, sends edits to compliance before being published and provides a support team to make adjustments.

Twenty Over Ten has been building websites since 2014, but the company’s official launch was at the T3 Conference in Las Vegas in November. With the announcement came a much-needed boost to its blogging architecture, user interface and the possibility to include lead pages for marketing.

The company has labeled it Version 2.0.

As I was talking to Ryan and Samantha Russell of Twenty Over Ten, they explained why the latest platform is so much improved.

“[Version 2.0 is] going to be a complete overhaul of our interface, new capabilities including blogging, including the ability to add lead pages. We are also going to be publicly unveiling ‘Providence’ – tools for broker-dealers to make a review of all these online marketing materials very easy,” Ryan Russell says.

“Their advisers then can have that ability to stand out, have their own voice, but they still meet pretty strict guidelines from compliance, and compliance will always have complete oversight,” he says.

In my opinion, this overhaul is much needed. The need for advisers to be able to blog and have the full suite of tools for customization is growing.

As I have put websites in place, the WordPress platform has been my default as its blogging and plug-in setup has allowed me to create a customized back-end solution. As Twenty Over Ten built an unrelated website for me, it struck me that it was lacking in this area, so it is great to hear that along with all the compliance tools, which WordPress doesn’t have, it is becoming a strong competitor to WordPress for advisers who blog.

BECOMING A MAJOR PLAYER
Twenty Over Ten was co-founded by Ryan Russell and Nick DiMatteo in 2014.

Russell, a professor of graphic design at Penn State, has been a consultant for financial services companies. DiMatteo, also a financial services consultant, supplied the coding knowledge, combining a strong theoretical background in coding and design, as well as first-hand knowledge of what advisers need in a website.

They knew they had to have compliance in mind as well as the consumer, something that an average designer wouldn’t know about.

“I think the approach [web design] simply from the perspective of the adviser is incorrect. You also have
to come from the perspective of compliance, whether that’s your broker-dealer or otherwise, so it’s really two conversations that are going on,” Russell says.

“It’s a conversation of what the advisers need, what the advisers want and a conversation with the compliance team,” he says. “Ultimately [compliance] needs to be able to approve and review and have all the necessary materials to meet all of the SEC, etc. rules and regulations … so as we sat, outlined and defined exactly what both groups needed, that’s how Twenty Over Ten was really put together.”

As I have used Twenty Over Ten to build two websites that I use, knowing that it understands the compliance needs as well as having a great design eye is important. It has allowed the company to stand out in the crowd.

The support team flexibility and the speed at which the company creates websites has helped me understand that this website build and re-design process doesn’t have to be painful and time-consuming.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on strategies to boost your practice. It was originally published on Nov. 18.

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Dave Grant

Dave Grant

Dave Grant, a Financial Planning columnist, is founder of Retirement Matters, a planning firm, in Cary, Illinois. He is also the founder of NAPFA Genesis, a networking group for young fee-only planners.