Marketing your business is important for small and large advice firms. As Andrew Marshall of Cognito Media, a financial services marketing agency, can attest: “Nearly 90% of financial adviser firms still have five or fewer advisers, despite consolidation. Smaller firms like that have to lean hard on their personal networks, but for bigger firms especially, marketing can build a brand that is bigger than the individuals, and ultimately have equity value.
“In a business like financial advice, where clients associate strongly with an individual adviser, that is always the challenge, but it can be done.”
Before starting your marketing, Octo CEO and founder Lee Robertson says advisers should consider how much time they can dedicate to marketing, their budget and how consistent they can be. They should then pick a medium or how they are going to use media to market themselves. “This is such a broad subject covering external communications that a marketing plan will address these issues.”
There are also many marketing tactics firms can use and that, of course, may feel overwhelming. “It’s important to think through, candidly, where you can best grow clients and have a clear plan with good measurement,” adds Marshall.
“Maybe you have a strong local focus, or maybe it’s built on a profession or economic sector, we worked for a financial planner with a strong position in sports and advertising high net worth individuals.”
Likewise, Claire Bending, founder of CuriousCat Digital, another financial services marketing agency, says working out what your unique selling point is important. “Discovering what makes your firm unique through a brand positioning exercise and then crafting messaging that really sets you apart and is designed to resonate with potential clients.”
Content marketing specialist Andrew Gibb, from advice firm Old Mill, adds: “By thinking about content marketing more strategically in terms of where it fits in the marketing funnel you can begin to create content that adds value and resonates. So, a white paper will showcase you as the authority while a case study is more about mapping out ‘how’ you have helped others.”
The World Wide Web
One marketing tactic that might well be your first port of call, is how and where you showcase yourself online. Unsurprisingly, online marketing, as well as the quality of your website, is vital to improving your business, the experts say. According to Portent, the first five seconds of page-load time have the highest impact on conversation rates. These rates then drop by an average of 4% as each second of load time goes by.
How compatible your website is with devices other than a computer is important too. As of July 2018, 52.95% of people use mobile to browse the internet, compared to 43.11% who use a desktop. As the majority of people use the internet, what your website says about you is important. Cognito’s Marshall says a website is critical and often advisers focus on the wrong things through their website.
“Design and content matter, certainly. But most critical is to audit how your website is working technically, in terms of content optimisations, user journeys and analytics.
“You need the technical capability to sort out things like semantic mark-up and metadata to support your search engine optimisation and quality score. Organic rankings and domain authority are now increasingly crucial.”
What Marshall means by this is ultimately ensuring your website will be one of the first to show up on Google when a client searches ‘financial advisers in North Yorkshire’, for example. This is what search engine optimisation, or SEO, is and is crucial in driving the quality of website traffic.
Data from imForza shows that 93% of experiences start with search engines and 91% of pages on the internet never get any organic traffic. To improve SEO, your website should include keywords that clients might search and you should regularly update your content and fix any broken links.
Of course, you might want to market yourself online in ways other than just a website. Blogging, newsletters, social media or virtual events are all viable options. You may even want to use all these tactics depending on how much time you have to dedicate. Research by responsify shows that 53% of marketers say blogging is their top content marketing priority and firms can expect about 67% more leads every month if the brand has a blog.
Getting social on social media
Social media is also a popular way of getting people to reach your company website. According to Hootsuite, 52% of all online brand discovery happens through public social feeds. This number includes paid and organic posts.
Curious Cat’s Bending says tactics such as Google ads and display advertising could become costly and ineffective: “This can lead to budget wastage and the false belief that these channels don’t work.”
However, a quarter (27%) of internet users say they find new products and brands through paid social ads. “Throwing money at pay per click, Facebook advertising and the like – it is easy to spend a lot of money this way for limited results,” Robertson says.
“I am sure that it can work but I would suggest a good marketing agency would be able to help here and would be worth the investment if this was the way a firm wanted to go.”
According to Weidert, 61% of companies use social media to increase conversions and 50% use it to gain customer or market insights. “These have always been used, but there does seem to be growing confidence amongst advisers to get their messaging out via a variety of mediums. I have even seen advisers using TikTok,” Robertson adds.
Professional Adviser recently wrote about the dangers of giving unregulated advice via social media platforms like TikTok, so it is important advisers do not get mixed up with the bad guys or unregulated ‘finfluencers’ when using such platforms.
Marshall, on the other hand, believes paid search works well. “With one larger firm, we secured over 60 appointments with £500k+, at an average cost per appointment of around £260. Good training of advisers on social selling is critical – it is shocking to see non-optimised LinkedIn profiles, sometimes without photos, even.
“Spending 15 minutes a day on LinkedIn by every adviser can make a huge difference to your social footprint.”
Current marketing trends
In terms of current trends, Marshall says Cognito is seeing lots of ESG-related marketing. “On ESG, the trick is how to use the plethora of information and terminology in a compelling, simple way, and for some prospects that may be more around opportunities, for others more around risks. It’s an area that is moving very fast.”
Of course, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will have an impact on how businesses currently market themselves. Old Mill’s Gibb says: “While traditional, in-person events have long been the bedrock for many professional services firms in terms of their marketing activities, the pandemic accelerated the shift towards a more digital approach underpinned by content creation, but this transition also contributed to a lot of ‘noise’.”
Robertson adds: “Trends being seen at the moment include virtual meetups for clients and professional connections, an increased use of video and podcasts and a much greater use of ‘content’. This could be newsletters, blogs, webinars and articles all aimed at informing, educating and involving clients and potential clients.”
For marketing trends he believes do not work, Marshall says jumping on bandwagons can garner derision. “For example, diversity marketing can be powerful, but make sure it comes across as authentic and not clichéd.”
Other popular marketing strategies used, Robertson says, is events. “At my practice, I came up with the idea of a breakfast club to which we invited clients and professional connections to meet each other, hear a speaker and have a nice social breakfast.”
Bending believes the traditional tactics of webinars and roundtables are still a great way to build trust and credibility with potential clients. “Regular blogs covering topics like FAQs can not only help to add value to your potential and existing clients but can also improve your firm’s visibility in organic search results, so having a content plan aligned to an SEO strategy can be incredibly impactful.”
Robertson also says that building a sense of community seems to work for advisers. “Involving them [clients] and their stories, if willing. Interviewing them for testimonials. I really like the way advisers are now running podcasts, which feature their clients or other local businesses. This does really help them build community and it is lovely to see.”
Keeping on top of your marketing
Once your marketing strategies are in place, it is important to stay consistent and track where customers are interacting with your brand. Bending advises companies are led by the data.
“Ensuring all marketing activity is tracked in a platform like Google Analytics or HubSpot can help you identify where there is wasted budget or effort and also spot the biggest areas of opportunity.”
Marshall says it is important to not stop and start with marketing as the internet is “littered with abandoned blogs and Twitter handles”.
He adds: “The sales process in financial advice is long, and you need a lot of the right names at the top of the sales funnel.
“Remember, most of the time, people are not looking for a financial adviser any more than they are looking for a dentist, so they tune out. Repetition and keeping going counts, though you can measure much more effectively these days and fine-tune campaigns.”