Wealth managers have a huge opportunity to grow through digital marketing, finding new clients, more assets, and potentially new advisors via mergers and acquisitions.
But there’s just one problem—most digital marketing is repetitive, ineffective and boring, said Niharika Shah, General Manager of Clout by TIFIN. And not just boring for the advisor or firm, but also for the target audience of prospects and clients. Clout is an automated marketing platform for wealth management firms designed to help firms from the solo practitioner to the major enterprise and everyone in between.
“I think that, today, anything that doesn’t really stand out quickly becomes boring to people,” said Shah. “Today, almost every marketing solution deploys a cookie-cutter approach to scale marketing, and if everybody does and says the same thing, there can be no opportunity to stand out. The cookie-cutter approach stems from many advisors seeing marketing as a chore, and they do not think of it as a strategic growth tool.”
Creating an effective marketing campaign requires creativity and expertise, not just to craft strong messages, but to choose the right time and targets for those messages.
According to Shah, most firms simply do not have the sophisticated resources necessary to craft good digital marketing campaigns or the time to think creatively.
“So the outcome is boring wallpaper, which leads to bad outcomes,” said Shah. “That creates vicious cycles – we’re spending money, but the campaigns aren’t working, so it doesn’t seem to be worth our time—and it’s true that if it all leads to poor outcomes, it’s pointless. However, it is the approach to marketing which is causing it to become wallpaper and not stand out.”
But in other cases, including those of some enterprise firms, another problem emerges—trying to do too much for too many with overly broad campaigns.
“Marketing is thought of as a blunt instrument but it needs to be a sharp instrument wielded with craft and precision,” said Shah.
Large or small, firms can inadvertently become complacent or even lazy in their marketing, and lazy marketing disappoints everyone, from advisors, to marketing professionals, to clients and prospects, said Shah.
So what can advisors do differently?
For one thing, Shah believes they should embrace both personalized digital marketing and consider outsourcing their efforts.
“It’s not rocket science, but advisors don’t really need to learn how the sausage is made,” she said. “They should outsource and play to their strengths within their practice. While small firms think doing this is beyond their capability of investment, Clout was created to address this very viewpoint.”
For example Clout uses artificial intelligence to help advisors design content, digital and social media marketing campaigns targeted and personalized to the individual client and prospect.
No matter the size of the firm, data is key to making digital marketing work for advisors, said Shah, for three reasons.
“The first is personalization, which is key to standing out, and that’s personalization in terms of who the advisors are speaking to but also themselves, because I don’t know that many advisors actually know themselves cold,” said Shah. “The second part is to think about marketing outside-in. To think of marketing at the top of the funnel bringing new prospects in is not enough. We think firms should start inside-out, take a growth-marketing mindset, as opposed to purely lead generation, and start with their existing customers, tapping into the value there.”
But there’s also a technological reason to think data-first, according to Shah.
“Every firm needs to think of themselves as a technology firm—if they don’t, then their practice is not going to be ready for the future,” she said.
Advisors might share webinars and thought leadership papers, as well as relevant news, with their clients on a regular schedule. Shah encourages advisors to then move from current clients to prospects close to the conversion line, to see what role marketing might play in the “last mile” of converting customers.
There are a few best practices that Shah says to keep in mind.
“The shortest distance between a brand and a consumer is a story, so tell the story of your firm and tell stories of success that will relate people to their advisors,” said Shah. “Be very clear about what your strengths are.”
Shah also urges firms to create a path where, at several points, it can stop marketing to or prospecting for a client or a group of potential clients. Advisors shouldn’t waste time and resources on people who will not be their customers, so their marketing should make it easy for people to say “no” and opt out of additional contacts.
Advisors should also abandon the consistent effort to get people to click on their links or go to their landing page in lieu of “meeting people where they are,” said Shah.
“That means you’re targeting the whole world with the same message, and that just won’t work” she said. “You can bring more value by doing it in a way that’s relevant to the audience, that’s an opportunity to stand out.”
Having a strong digital marketing strategy can catalyze growth for firms: converting more prospects while retaining clients and encouraging them to move a greater proportion of their assets to their advisor. The downstream impact of effective marketing not only helps firms grow organically, but also improves their brand reputation and credibility, potentially leading to more merger and acquisition activity.
But to create such a strategy, advisors need to know who their ideal client is, what types of planning and advice they are most skilled at and what their niche capabilities are. Those traits should inform any marketing strategy, said Shah.
Advisors also need to measure and track their results.
“You’re going to get what you put into it,” said Shah. “You need to measure every step, and if you are measuring the right way, you see the people opening the messages you send out and who is responding to your social media posts. There’s a feedback loop. Eventually you feel like you’re making an impact through analytics. You learn with agility, you’ll be able to quickly see the point and double-down on precisely what’s working.
“Your marketing strategy needs to be part of your overall growth strategy. Clout is an opportunity for advisors to make their marketing more measurable, more consistent and more personalized—that should all lead to better outcomes in a scalable way.”