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The Proper Role of Digital Marketing for Financial Advisors

It’s clear to us, after observing our more than 150 clients over several years that, for most financial advisors, digital marketing – including blogging, social media, and lead generation through email lists – is not productive.

As a follow up to our recent article – For Financial Advisors, Blogging and Social Media are a Waste of Time and Money – What Really Counts Online – we wanted to provide some thoughts about the proper role of digital marketing for financial advisors.

First some background. In the previous article we talked about how the push for financial advisors to join the masses and spend their time and marketing budget on blogging and social media marketing has increased significantly in the past few years.

In some quarters, digital marketing is even promoted as the holy grail of new client acquisition.

In some quarters, digital marketing is even promoted as the holy grail of new client acquisition. Unfortunately, despite the hype, the results are reminiscent of what Geraldo Rivera found in Chicago in 1986 when he opened up what was supposedly Al Capone’s vault on national TV – very little.

We know this to be true from our own experience. We operate a compliance consulting practice for RIA’s and a website development company focused on financial advisors. We’ve also done some digital marketing.

It’s clear to us, after observing our more than 150 clients over several years that, for most financial advisors, digital marketing – including blogging, social media, and lead generation through email lists – is not productive.

In our first article we gave a few reason why. Here’s a few more:

1. Financial information is found everywhere, all the time! No matter how brilliant your content, people will go to other places first. The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Fox Business News and literally thousands of blogs and hundreds of thousands of financial advisors are all providing information and vying for attention. You’re just one grain of sand in a huge sandbox.

2. People are busy. Too busy to read your blog and look at your Facebook posts and Tweets. They work, they eat, they go to their children’s events, they sleep. Despite what we’d all like to think, our digital content is not at the top of everyone’s list.

3. You’re busy! You have a practice to manage, investments to make, people to keep happy and compliance to supervise. Do you have time to consistently write a blog, tweet, and keep up on Facebook and LinkedIn? Do you have enough money to pay someone else to do it?

4. Compliance. In our business, digital marketing comes along with significant compliance risk. Adding another category of compliance supervision can be expensive, time consuming and risky. Are you ready for the increased scrutiny from regulators?

5. Does it work and is it worth the expense? We believe the evidence is mounting that it doesn’t work unless an advisor exerts a tremendous amount of effort or pays a marketing company a lofty sum of money. Without the investment of significant amounts of time or money it’s almost never worth the effort.

So what sort of digital marketing should a financial advisor be doing?

The kind that supports their offline activities of relationship building and local networking.

When someone decides to contact a financial advisor they’ll often use a search engine to seek out information as part of their due diligence process. They aren’t just searching for an advisor in your city, they’re searching for your exact name in your city with perhaps the additional “financial planner or advisor” words attached.

You’re no longer lost in a sea of websites.

When they do this they will find your website if you have one. You’re no longer lost in a sea of websites. And unless there’s another financial advisor in your city with your same name, you’re at the top of the search results list.

Under these circumstances your website will be the first point of contact for your prospective new client. It really needs to make a strong, positive first impression.

What your website doesn’t need to do is the following:

It doesn’t need to get them to sign up for an email list. They’ve arrived at your website to learn a little about you before contacting you. If you go too heavy on email list gathering tactics like pop-ups, it more than likely will be a turn-off.

It doesn’t need to educate them about a broad range of financial topics. If they were after specific answers to a financial question they would have searched for that specific answer. They want to know about you; who you are and a little about your services. Make it easy on them to find out these details and they’ll appreciate the clarity of your website.

Some marketing professionals will tell you that you need a website that will generate leads and propel you into notoriety.

Your digital marketing effort should consist of a professional website that communicates: Who You Are, What You Do and Why You Do It.

A simple website is sometimes referred to as a “brochure” website and some marketing professionals will tell you that you need so much more than that. Something dynamic that will generate leads and propel you into notoriety.

Before you take them at their word think about your most important visitors and decide what you think they want out of their visit. We’re suggesting that a brochure website is exactly what they’re after, as long as the content of the website fulfills their need to know about you and your firm.

Keep your website simple, concise, and well-designed and your referred visitors will come away with a positive first impression before they meet with you in person.

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