DWN Op-Ed: WealthTech’s Three Marketing Mountains (And How to Climb Them)


By Kelly Waltrich

It came to me abruptly, while I was recording a podcast about what I’ve learned from working with so many wealthtech and advisory firms throughout my marketing career.

“In marketing, there are three distinct mountains you have to climb,” I said. I had never actually thought of marketing that way before, but the more I did, the more deeply it resonated.

The word mountain evokes, immediately, the idea of an uphill battle – and that’s why it feels so right to me. Often, I find business leaders struggling to really understand the true skill, hard work, sophistication and business acumen required to master marketing.

When executed properly, marketing is art, science, psychology, analytics, intuition and years of just plain putting in the reps to understand what drives results – and then being flexible enough to continuously adapt as the world and buyers evolve.

At Intention.ly, we work with clients at all stages of marketing mastery. I believe every firm, including businesses outside of the wealthtech space, can find their place on one of these three mountains, and relate to the victories, challenges and obstacles each one presents.

So what are they, and how do you move from one to the next?

Before we tackle the mountains, let’s lay the groundwork:

  • Making any progress up even the first mountain depends upon a prerequisite foundation of product market fit and basic brand elements, including visual elements like colors and logos, as well as written components like messaging, voice and tone.
  • Think of the mountains like steps (big, time- and resource-intensive steps). They’re in order for a reason; there’s no way to take shortcuts or skip around. Each mountain is dependent on the last.

Mountain One: Baseline Brand Building

The Goal: Growing your audience

The Climb: Finding your channel, frequency and content comfort zone

For your marketing to have any chance of working, people need to see it. Firms in the building phase should focus on defining the mix of content channels and topics that a) have the best chance of reaching their target audience, and b) they’re comfortable using regularly based on the time and resources they have available.

This might sound too simplistic to be considered a mountain. But for startups with only a few employees, and even for larger, more established companies just beginning to invest in marketing, it can be a staggering challenge to master content creation that’s consistent, enjoyable, relevant and distributed properly.

You’re on the first marketing mountain if:

  1. You’re starting to see a consistent uptick in engagement with your content
  2. You’re hearing feedback from prospects and customers about the content they’ve seen
  3. You’re getting more direct traffic to your website, indicating that people have heard of and are interested in your brand
  4. You’re beginning to feel confident that your messaging is resonating with your target audience
  5. You know something is working – you’re just not sure yet what it is

The keys to this mountain are relevance and consistency. I see too many firms and business leaders abandoning channels or tactics after a few weeks of little or no traction to try something different – essentially, starting all over again. What you’ll learn in the building phase is that marketing is almost always a long game.

Mountain Two: Introducing Optimization

The Goal: Get a solid sense of your most impactful channels and biggest audience opportunities

The Climb: Putting analytics and metrics in place to improve your efforts.

Now that you have an audience to target and segment, you can start to introduce a bit of sophistication into your efforts.

In the building phase, it makes sense to paper the proverbial town with your message to get your brand out there. When you reach Mountain Two, though, it’s time to differentiate between the prospects you can close quickly and affordably, and the ones with sales cycles that drag on, draining resources and budget.

You’re on this mountain if:

  1. You have some idea of your customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  2. You can identify the similarities between customers with marked affinity for your product or solution
  3. You’re beginning to segment your target audience
  4. You know which channels the majority of your new business came from over the past 6-12 months
  5. You’re developing a better understanding of where to allocate budget based on attribution

Mountain Three: Becoming Scientific 

The Goal: Continuously lower CAC and sales cycle length.

The Climb: Adjusting current channels and trying new ones.

In this phase, marketing becomes systematic and scientific. Pull one lever – let’s say, spending an extra $10K a month on Facebook ads – and you should know almost down to the dollar the additional revenue you can expect to see from that channel, when, and how it will influence your lifetime value to CAC ratio, which measures both customer profitability and sales and marketing efficiency.

But the third mountain isn’t exclusively about making minute tweaks to channels you’ve already mastered. Because you have a powerful pipeline-generation engine running, one that’s predictable and controllable, you also have the freedom to follow your intuition and experiment in new places.

You’re on the third and final mountain if:

  1. You’re refining your messages, channels and campaigns, rather than building from scratch
  2. You can accurately predict the impact of additional budget allocation on pipeline and revenue
  3. You have an ongoing system in place for gathering and implementing customer and prospect feedback about their experience with your brand
  4. You’re continuously looking for ways to improve complex marketing processes, like attribution and the lead handoff to sales
  5. You can keep your best-performing channels running smoothly while experimenting in others

Not many firms will make it here. Getting to this highly sophisticated phase and executing successfully requires an investment in resources, budget, and top marketing talent – and perhaps most importantly, leadership that believes wholeheartedly in what marketing can and should do for your business.

For over 15 years, Intention.ly Co-founder Kelly Waltrich has been championing the role of marketing in the financial services industry. As former Chief Marketing Officer at eMoney Advisor and Orion Advisor Solutions, she proved time and again that there is no better driver of an organization’s growth and overall success than a well-run marketing and communications team.

Intention.ly is the culmination of every lesson Waltrich has learned thus far in her tenure as a marketing disruptor, born from her passion and persistent belief that when it’s done right, marketing is the accelerant financial services firms need to transform their growth trajectory.