Financial advisors, like doctors or lawyers, are more often than not highly trained professionals with one job: taking care of their clients. The amount of time it takes to attain a CFP, a CFA or countless other credentials, and to look after people’s financial lives day in and day out, 24/7, 365 is often staggering. It is hard work. Being a trusted financial expert is a full-time job. If you add business ownership to that already substantial responsibility, the job is even more challenging.
Given that advisors are already under immense pressure (even in a good year, much less 2020) to deliver for clients, and to grow their client base and assets, can you blame them for looking for any competitive advantage they can find? Hence their affinity for traditional marketing: website development and enhancement; blogs; podcasts; social media; social media advertising: these are shiny toys that advisors pressed for time are lured to like a moth to flame, with dreams of growth dancing in their heads.
The conceptual allure of referrals rolling in on account of your dynamic, modern website, designed specifically to engage the visitors who have connected with you on social media or watched your wisdom-filled podcast, is strong. Yet, it is unhealthy to the point of obsession in the new world of marketing advisory firms.
Hindsight Is 2020
Advisors are quick to admit that they know little to nothing about marketing, but still they flock to strategies that don’t work and repeat the cycle over and over. Not unlike clients who come to advisors for a quick fix to their financial woes and expect unrealistic returns, advisors who turn to traditional marketing to get them past growth hurdles are destined for immense disappointment.
It’s not that traditional marketing isn’t necessary—a good portion of it is. Your brand and messaging must be squared away and clear, if you want clients coming, repeatedly. That said, let’s take a step back for a moment. Here are some cold hard truths:
- No matter what your marketing plan is, if you and other advisors in your firm cannot deliver what you promise, no amount of marketing will unlock your growth. Service to clients is always the best marketing because service speaks for itself. As a result, training financial advisors to provide consistent and reliable service to clients is the first and most important marketing tool. I know, training people is not the solution you want to hear when it comes to marketing your firm.
- In 2017 (yes, 2017) Accenture’s Financial Services Global Distribution and Marketing Consumer Study reflected that we were beginning to see a “shift in consumer behaviors and expectations.” Most notability, how consumers receive advice from their advisors. Over 78% of consumers cited that they “welcomed automated support.” These consumers wanted “speed and convenience.” This means that after you dedicate yourself to training your advisory team, the second-best marketing tool you have is technology to deliver advice to the client faster. Now, enter 2020 with a world-wide pandemic leaving millions isolated at home, what do you think the pandemic did to speed up consumers want and desire to seek financial advisors with “automated support?"
- Our own trends data reveals that of those firms we worked with in 2020 who grew the fastest, the majority of their growth came from their existing client base sending them referrals. How and why did those client referrals come in so rapidly? No, it had nothing to do with traditional marketing. It was the rate at which trained advisors could respond to client requests using technology those firms already had in place prior to the pandemic. Simply put, the firms who grew the fastest in 2020 responded faster and more efficiently than other advisory firms. Based on our assessment of data from the advisory firms we work with, if 40% of your client base has never referred someone, you’re doing marketing all wrong.
Thinking Differently About Marketing
Here’s the good news: You more than likely have the best functioning marketing mechanism in place already—your client experience, or in consultant speak, your CX.
Now, to win in marketing, we simply have to digitize it. In other words, make it accessible from any device and/or another digital tools. This is called your Digital Client Experience (DCX). Convenience is the best marketing tool of all.
But, before we make your service more convenient we have to figure out what is so great about your client service.
You may not have the foggiest idea about websites, podcasts, and social media—all the basic marketing toys that everyone seems to tout. Great news is, now you don’t need too. What you need is to understand even better your client service, make it digital and accessible, and you’re an expert in client service already.
Once you’ve spent some time digitizing your firm, you will feel energized, focused and empowered to make important strategic decisions about your business, which may certainly involve a website refresh or deploying social media more effectively. The point is, you will have clarity or purpose, armed with the knowledge of how every nook and cranny of your business is contributing to the war effort in winning the best clients.
Making your client service more digital is the marketing insight that truly separates the great firms from the ones that are just getting by, albeit with a nice new website. Learning how to make your client service more accessible through CX and DCX, you will unlock the true secret of marketing. It might even become your next, rather healthy, obsession.
Brandon Moss, CFP is the Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Co.