By Tamara Bohlig
Marketing to financial advisors is no easy feat. In the current competitive landscape, third-party platforms and service providers are under heightened pressure to demonstrate their value. Yet despite these challenges, there are many ways service providers can differentiate their business and earn advisors’ trust. The first step is to ensure that you know your advisor base inside and out: their challenges, needs, long-term goals and more. Only when you have a precise understanding of your customer base can you create services that are most responsive to their needs—and therefore most attractive to them. But offering the right services alone is not enough. You need to clearly and concisely articulate the value of those offerings in a way that both advisors and investors will understand.
It is certainly true that marketing to financial advisors comes with a host of challenges, especially in today’s market. First off, as with most business-to-business marketing, the services you are offering are technical in nature and can be difficult to make sound exciting, even for financial advisors who actually need them. In addition, given the number of competitive pressures advisors are currently under—from new regulation to robo advisors—they are increasingly disciplined with how they spend their money. All of this means service providers need to work harder and smarter to win over advisors.
Overcoming these challenges starts with understanding what your advisors require—and shaping your services to reflect those needs. Learning about your advisor base requires a concerted effort. Providers should regularly survey advisors to better gauge their preferences, and take a look at internal data to see which offerings are most popular. Once you know what your advisors need and want, you can structure your offerings to meet those needs.
Take, for example, the Department of Labor's fiduciary rule. Nearly every advisor is concerned about the uncertainty surrounding this looming regulation and looking for direction on how they should prepare. Service providers can and should be responding, creating specific practice-management resources that will help advisors prepare. These could include exercises on how to potentially approach shifting clients from commission- to fee-based products and advice on how to take advantage of increased M&A activity due to the rule. Beyond the DOL rule, there are a number of other industry trends like increasing investor expectations that are putting new pressure on advisors. At AssetMark, we regularly hear from our advisors that they are concerned about how to grow in this climate. Service providers that recognize this issue can focus on providing a host of services like record keeping or portfolio construction, which will free up advisors to serve clients and grow their business.
While offering the right services is crucial, it’s all for nothing if you can’t communicate their value effectively—both to advisors and the investors they serve. Even when dealing with a complex topic like financial services, marketers must remember that less is more. Simple and clear messaging will be most effective. It’s also important to keep the message intuitive, because you’re not just speaking to the advisor, but also the investor. For instance, in the case of portfolio-construction tools, it’s important that they are built in such a way that advisors can use them with clients. They need to be able to explain to investors how the portfolio would fare in a number of different climates, and the impact of different investment approaches. Both the marketing of the tool, and the results it provides, must be conveyed in a way that a lay investor can easily understand; otherwise, the impact is compromised.
Marketing to advisors isn’t always easy, but service providers can break through by tapping into their advisors’ needs. More importantly, the ones who clearly and simply articulate the value of their services in a way that advisors can easily understand—and leverage in their conversations with investors—will find the most success.
Tamara Bohlig is chief marketing officer at AssetMark, Inc.