Have you ever searched for an online marketing agency with experience in digital marketing for financial advisors, RIAs, and wealth managers?
There aren’t many.
Back in 2019, I was fortunate enough to take on a client who is a wealth manager, and I learned a great deal about the industry.
The first thing I learned was that the lifetime value of a client (client lifetime value, or CLV) is so high in this vertical, the importance of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy cannot be underestimated. If you could spend $10K to get a $100K return, you’d make that investment every time. And that’s the low end.
Of course, there are no guarantees in marketing and advertising. But without visibility, your wealth management firm is not even an option to most prospects.
Search engine stats show that as many as 92% of people don’t look past the first page of the Google search results.
There are many strange rules and regulations within this RIA domain that can come back to bite you if you’re not careful. Many of my favorite digital marketing strategies are not employable as an advisor, given the various considerations around compliance.
But there are ways to make everyone happy.
Bear with me here, as I’m going to work from “the bad news” (Which you probably already know) to “the good news”, which you may not know.
Marketing for Financial Advisors: The Bad News
RIAs and wealth management firms have some rather severe marketing restrictions placed on them due to industry regulations. However, in December of 2020, the SEC made some changes to their regulations, and we are monitoring the situation to see how it will affect digital marketing.
Either way, we always need to stay letter-perfect on marketing compliance.
Online reviews are one of the biggest drivers of “social proof”. In fact, according to an INC.com survey, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend. 68% of people form an opinion after reading between one to six online reviews.
Online reviews are a modern and easy way for busy people to quickly determine if people are generally happy with the conduct of a particular business, or unhappy. 10s or hundreds of five-star reviews probably suggest the business is interested in making their clients happy.
However, the mere asking for a review from a client by a financial advisor is currently not allowed. Not only that, but even responding to a nice review from a happy client means you are out of compliance with Section 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.
Didn’t they have more things to worry about in 1940 than this?
Investment Advisors are essentially prohibited from advertising, according to this outdated law. However, when a client leaves a review, they are acting as the publisher, with Google as the owner of the means of publishing. This is fine, as long as the advisor didn’t solicit the review.
The review must be solely the idea of the client, and not in any way encouraged or endorsed by the financial advisor.
Marketing for Financial Advisers: The Good News
The Good News is that online reviews, while nice to have, are far from everything that can be done in the online marketing realm. Of course, all wealth managers and financial advisors must play by the same rules. That means the smart RIAs who employ a multi-pronged digital marketing strategy will result in the most AUM and ultimately build the most value in their business.
So what are some of the ways I can help my clients who are RIAs and wealth managers with their online marketing?
(Yes, I know I spelled “Advisers” incorrectly in the above headline. Blame search engine users: people search and misspell when they search, and I want to capture that traffic! Now, back to our regularly-scheduled article.)
Now, back to our regularly scheduled post.
Stand Out from the Pack
Step 1 is not doing what everyone else is doing.
Most wealth manager and financial advisor websites all pretty much do the very same thing.
I actually did a deep-dive survey of 43 wealth manager websites in the “Tri-Valley”*, measuring technical SEO as well as presentation and engagement. The survey rated a website’s adherence to best practices, including proper use of titles and meta descriptions, H-tag usage, schema usage, etc.
The median rating of these websites was 46 out of 100, leaving a lot of room for improvement.*
While some of the errors were technical in nature, most were just plain “Marketing 101”:
- Wasted web real estate. Over 95% had giant, pretty-but-ineffectual photographs on their home pages. Presumably, these photos are meant to inspire or calm their visitors. In fact, this is a faceless waste of valuable “above-the-fold” web real estate.
- No personality. Few of these websites first allowed their visitors to know, like and trust the company, or the people within the company. Most went for the contact and close right away.
- No differentiation. Of course all wealth managers and financial advisors want their clients to be happy, and take good care of your money. This virtual commoditization makes it especially tough to stand out from the crowd of wealth management firms out there.
- No emphasis on location. These companies could have been located anywhere in the world; there was no overt connection made to the community in which they reside, aside from a few which featured the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Technical website errors. Most of these websites had multiple technical errors which, no matter the presentation, are preventing them from achieving authority in the eyes of Google and Bing.
Better Digital Marketing for Financial Advisors
Wealth managers and financial advisors must emphasize locality and accessibility within a particular region or community. In fact, your locality is your best weapon against the faceless “big box” wealth management firms like Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan, whose own advisors often feature an ironically meager web presence, other than a desultory listing of their office address and phone number.
This leaves these advisors with the phone, email, and the local Chamber of Commerce or BNI group as nearly the only means of outreach. While these traditional sales outreach methods may never be completely defunct, your ideal prospects are bathing in the online marketplace for every other conceivable need. From a client’s perspective, why should shopping for a great financial advisor be any different?
The trend these days is to “buy local”, and consumers (even high-end consumers) are buying into that message more than ever before. Wouldn’t your best clients rather meet in person and shake the hand (well, you know, post COVID-19, if there is such a time!) of the person who’s going to be managing their precious life savings?
Google My Business
Your Google My Business (GMB) listing is one of your most important social properties. In my RIA Digital Marketing Survey, most financial advisor’s GMB profiles were often cobbled together by a machine (Google), or at the very least, sub-optimally utilized.
You need to feed your GMB listing with fresh posts, photos, and laser-accurate NAP (Name, Address, and Phone) information. If your NAP info doesn’t match everywhere on the web, Google may give your listing less prominence.
Emphasize Who You Are
So who are these mysterious “wealth managers”? What do they think and what do they believe? Your best clients want to know you before they park their money with your firm.
A written bio is a must-have. Even better is a “video bio” from each of your advisors, introducing themselves and telling a little bit about their background, education, and experience. Include something out of the ordinary (hobbies, sports teams, etc.) to help cement the mental connection.
Video is going to become even more important in our post-Coronavirus world. People will do more and more comparison shopping from the comfort of their homes and offices, and your video bios will become even more impactful.
Create Helpful Content and Build Relationships
Your ability to help your prospects will keep you front and center in their minds.
Answer questions. Search for “financial advisors” in Google, and look for the “People also ask” section. Write articles and create videos that address these questions.
Create downloadable financial wellness and tax-time checklists as Lead Magnets.
Write articles and make videos with titles like “The Top 5 Worst Money Mistakes to Avoid”, “10 Astonishingly Easy Ways to Save for Your Child’s Education”, “The Beginner’s Guide to Stocks and Bonds”.
If you’re fairly comfortable speaking extemporaneously, videos are your most effective marketing tool, as they’re the most personal, and can be repurposed as podcasts and as a standard blog or written content (usually with a bit of editing).
To make a solid video, make a punch list of topics you’d like to hit and speak on each topic. Resist the urge to become a “broadcaster” or news anchor. Simply speak to the camera as if it were a person.
Mostly, don’t overthink it. Your iPhone or Android, on a suitable stand with decent lighting, is more than adequate in order to create videos. If you’d rather use your webcam, OBS is a great and free video recorder and streamer.
In the video, the enemy of progress is the insistence on perfection.
Your Website is the Hub of Your Online Marketing Strategy
Your website is the only online property you truly control.
People can become enamored with various social media platforms. Recently I asked a CMO if her company had a digital marketing strategy.
“Oh yes, we do social media.”
Your business will never own the friends or followers on any social platform. The social platform is the owner of those connections.
Social media is an important component of an overall digital marketing strategy, but it’s not the be-all, end-all. People hang out on social media anyway and feel as if they “get it”. However, organic social reach is declining every year as platforms discover they need to sell advertising to pay their employees and satisfy investors or shareholders.
And people are fickle; social media platforms have a lifespan. Will your firm outlive Facebook? It’s quite possible.
Remember, no one can take your website away from you, as long as you keep paying your hosting bill and your domain registration.
Be sure your website is engaging. Anyone can put together a website. This was obvious from my RIA website survey. However, it takes more than a few photos and some inspirational text in order to create an engaging and effective marketing presentation.
First and foremost, your website needs to answer the “Big 3 Whats” for your visitors:
- What does your company do?
- So what?
- What should the visitor do to engage with you?
What is your Unique Selling Proposition? Your website’s presentation should emphasize the transformation and benefits of working with you as opposed to any other RIA.
Your website should also feature phrases that a searcher looking for your types of services would type (this is part of our Intelligent Web Design process).
It’s always surprising to me how many companies take a “we” approach to their financial advisor marketing presentation when it’s the visitor who should be held up as the “hero” of the story you’re about to share.
Lastly, be sure your website is technically sound. A poor user experience, broken SSL certificates, slow loading time, broken links, inaccurate HTML tags or meta tags, lack of structured data…these are all problems that must be fixed to rise above your competition in the search engine rankings.
Build Your Email List
It is estimated that 80-90% of the visitors to your website are not ready to buy yet. These people are in browse mode. Many will get distracted, get a phone call, a text message, an email…for whatever reason, they leave your website and they may never return.
Since you did get them to your website (one of the toughest things to do!), you owe it to yourself to at least try to capture their email to stay in touch with them.
Your email list, which you develop primarily through your website, is your marketing lifeline. A healthy email list enables you to stay top of mind with your ideal prospects.
Growing, nurturing, and emailing to your email list is the most important marketing activity.
Digital Marketing for Financial Services
Do a great job with your RIA marketing online, and it will pay dividends.
A truly great digital marketing campaign will create engagement with your ideal prospects and ultimately, generate inbound leads. Who wouldn’t take orders from new clients over the phone over the prospect of sitting in another leads club meeting?
And just like any new prospect would check out your firm, you must do your own due diligence when looking for a web marketing company to help you raise your visibility above the other local RIAs and national firms.
The idea that you as a financial advisor could crush digital marketing without professional help is as suspect as a web designer who thinks they can do a bang-up job managing their own investments.
To paraphrase a smart man, if you think it’s expensive to hire a pro, try hiring an amateur.
However you accomplish the mission, work with a professional digital marketing agency that understands the financial services industry, and you will realize a tremendous return on your investment.