After a long period of pandemic uncertainty, financial advisers are starting to develop their practices again. According to Broadridge’s annual Financial Advisor Marketing Benchmark Survey, advisor marketing budgets increased 24% in 2021. However, as budgets grow, the results are very inconsistent. What many advisors are discovering is that when it comes to marketing, spending without a strategy is a lot like trying to drive to a new destination without your GPS navigator.
Every good advisor begins the planning process with new clients by identifying goals and developing a comprehensive plan to achieve them. Advisors should stick to the same formula when marketing their own business. Start by identifying the goals. These goals should be concrete and defined in measurable parameters such as new customers and assets, or higher lead conversion rates.
Next, counselors must create a strategy to achieve those goals. While advisor marketing strategies don’t have to be complicated, they should include at least the following three elements:
1. Define the target audience
2. Map the prospect and customer journey
3. Optimize digital tactics to nurture and convert prospects into customers
Defining the audience
Almost all financial advisers focus on one type of target client, usually defined by level of wealth (net worth) and region. Net worth is a good, practical place to start defining target customers, but it’s a bad place to stop. Using additional metrics such as age, source of wealth, and planning needs to refine the target customer pays more in terms of improved marketing ROI.
Adopting a more granular segmentation strategy makes every aspect of marketing more efficient and less costly. Take, for example, an advisor’s website and social media presence, two essential aspects of their digital personality. An advisor who targets a relatively small universe of small business owners nearing retirement will have an advantage over their rivals. She can more effectively use search engine optimization to become more visible online for inbound prospect searches, thereby attracting more good leads. Since the content of her website and social media posts will consistently be targeted to the needs of this small audience, she has a much better chance of engaging these prospects than competitors who take a more generic approach.
Map the customer journey
Mapping the customer journey means mapping the steps that prospects take from the starting point of zero awareness (never heard of you or your business) to satisfied customers. Typical steps on this journey include: (1) becoming aware of your company’s brand, (2) committing to learning more, (3) considering working with you instead of their alternatives, and (4) choosing to become a customer. Our research suggests that the average length of this conversion journey is between three and four months. (Unfortunately, this is rarely a straight path.)
When considering this process, recognize that control has shifted from sellers to buyers, especially early on. Today, individuals have access to huge amounts of information not only to identify advisors, but also to compare the quality and results based on online ratings and reviews. For this reason, it is imperative that advisors understand how individuals find, assess, and hire advisors, and develop a deliberate process to move prospects along the continuum from awareness to consideration and finally conversion.
Use the right tactics
Finally, advisors need to identify the right tactics to move people from one phase of the customer journey to another. In almost all cases, advisers will need to establish a digital presence that starts the process by getting their name known to people who are considering working with an advisor. Just a few years ago, advisers could create this awareness by posting high-quality organic content on popular social media platforms like Facebook. Today, Facebook is minimizing the visibility of organic content to drive demand for paid advertising. While this is a tough change, advisors shouldn’t underestimate the power of Facebook’s ad engine. Facebook can provide a specific paid post not only to people seeking information about financial advisors, but also to people in that group who are parents in their 40s in the greater Boston area in a specific income bracket with children approaching l. age of college. This kind of precision is a powerful weapon for breaking through the clutter and noise to reach prospects.
Despite this potential, advertising dollars can be wasted if advisors don’t have the right techniques and tools to maintain the relationship. This process of “consolidating” leads needs to be automated at least to some extent. The easiest way to do this is to use email campaigns that deliver personalized content to prospects in a scalable and efficient way.