A lot of advisors have traditionally viewed marketing as a cost center; they invest the money to revamp their website, logo and colors, and then they’re done. But the industry is entering a new phase of modern marketing, where advisors use digital channels as a revenue driver, according to panelists speaking at the MarketCounsel Summit in Las Vegas this week.
“We’re now in the space where we’re building trust online, so it’s really about reaching your target client wherever they hang out in a digital, human-first way, and ensuring you have a strategy and platform that leads them back to you where they want to relate with you,” said Candice Carlton, head of advisor growth marketing at FiComm Partners.
While traditional marketing was a sort of “one-and-done” type of thing, the advisory industry is now seeing an evolution of that, where they are evaluating marketing’s return-on-investment and how it can be used to drive business results, Carlton said.
“If it’s just a cool idea that gets you excited, but it actually doesn’t translate into new clients, it doesn’t really matter,” she said.
Anthony Stich, chief revenue officer of Entrustody, said there’s a science behind how you track that ROI. But he also pointed out that, especially with smaller advisors, if they don’t embrace modern marketing, they won’t accelerate growth and will get left behind over the next several years.
Registered investment advisors are already experiencing growth challenges, with the average RIA growing just 2% to 3% a year, excluding market activity. And almost two-thirds of RIAs rely on referrals for growth.
“You need to expand, and become more proactive in marketing,” Stich said. “Over the next two to five years, you will have continued growth challenges unless you’re leveraging marketing, believing in your staff and taking that message out to the market.”
Marketing involves a lot of fear, failure and experimentation, and advisors should embrace these things. “If you’re going to fail, fail forward,” he said.
One challenge that can come up is how a firm’s marketing department works with sales. Leads may come in, but if the sales team is not following up on them, that can cause fighting between those departments, Stich added.
“As you grow your marketing engine, you need to establish what we call SLAs, service level agreements,” he said. “You make commitments between sales and marketing.”
Those agreements shouldn’t be contentious, but rather, reasonable contracts between the two departments to make sure the leads are consistent from marketing and that sales are converting those into customers.
A lot of advisors expect their marketing to instantly produce results. But it takes time, said Matt Middleton, CEO of Advisor Circle.
“I think most people look at it and set an allocated budget and hire all these people, employ a couple campaigns and then next month, ‘We’re getting nothing out of this. Cut it,’” he said.
Set up a marketing plan and believe in your people, then you’ll see results, he said.
Carlton said an advisor doesn’t necessarily have to spend a crazy amount of money. It’s about being clear on who you are, who you serve and create such value for clients that it’s a natural evolution for them to speak to you and tell their friends about you.
“I would think about it as, not thinking about content or marketing for prospective clients, but thinking about creating content for your existing clients,” she said. “If you create content and value for your existing clients and you put it on public channels, it’s automatically going to appeal to your prospective clients.”