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Escaping the content bubble: How RIAs can break out of a PR slump

Being the messenger of old news is a bad strategy

Author Guest Columnist Kevin Dinino March 29, 2013 at 7:11 PM
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Kevin Dinino: I keep seeing financial advisors, big and small, making use of the same stale marketing content ... it drives me crazy.

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

March 29, 2013 — 10:59 PM

We are all pretty much groping in the dark here. We don’t really know: – If or how content may have direct business benefits – Which channels of communications are effective, although the data favors email and not web-based locations and social media. – How to mix content, style of writing and channels.

We simply have no data or evidence from which to make decisions.

We are big on high quality content and have seen it work for our clients. But — it may not work generally. The industry just doesn’t know.

We can say that writing in general and B2B, expert problem-centric and problem-solving writing is very hard work and demands skill. Skills that take many years and endless hours of work to develop and maintain. For example it is “social” median, not “personal” media.

We will also share that we are now moving more into videos. That is a whole other demanding set of skills, tools and questions.

The advice in the article is a good place to start. However, the data we have seen on expert, B2B content and website and social media traction suggests no business benefit.

Maria Marsala

Maria Marsala

March 30, 2013 — 12:53 AM

Do we know, for sure, how Gross’ Pimco twitter account (@PIMCO) landed 100,000 followers? Or if Lynn Ballou’s features in major magazine are because of her blog, or other PR/marketing efforts?

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

March 30, 2013 — 11:43 AM

No, and we don’t know if these #'s are meaningful in a business outcome.

But we do know that Bill Gross’ prediction have become far less accurate since he started using social media. Likely correlation not causality.

Like any professional — if we are making statements about the business value of something we need evidence and independent validation — not just anecdotes, stories and opinions.

Kevin Dinino

Kevin Dinino

March 30, 2013 — 6:00 PM

While many advisors continue to ask if marketing/PR “works” for their business, many of your peers are moving ahead of the pack, creating strategies to connect and reach the next wave of consumers. For most, their definition of “works” needs to evolve into setting definable marketing goals and objectives – new leads, shaping opinions, making current clients better referral candidates. Content can do just that if done properly and in conjunction with a set strategy that you can commit to. If you are still asking what the benefit of investing in a website or marketing/PR, then how else do you expect to grow your business? It’s about connecting your message and voice with new audiences and having a “sticky” strategy to engage.

The “data’ in PR will always be ancedotal, however there are many other data points to consider such as opportunity cost of not investing in marketing content, etc. The good news is that there are several great analytic vehicles that can help connect the dots of marketing campaigns, content, website traffic and referral website traffic. Many of them free or low cost. Your marketing content should be focused on getting traffic/views/leads and to improve your sales cycle or supplement other methods like referrals. It also greatly enhances referrals.

Appreciate the back and forth on this topic.

Maria Marsala

Maria Marsala

March 30, 2013 — 9:04 PM

“If you are still asking what the benefit of investing in a website or marketing/PR, then how else do you expect to grow your business?”

I agree that it’s helpful to FAs to have a website and do marketing/PR. However, what’s really important is who a FAs ideal client is and how they want to be marketed to. FAs can have “brochure” websites more often than not. Just 5 basic pages about their company because prospects who meet them in person “will look”.

Some FAs are doing very well doing TV/radio shows, while others wouldn’t think of doing that. Same with blogs and any other of the 100’s of types of marketing, networking, PR, sales, seminars, etc. that someone can do.

I find that it’s more about the number of touches. Meet someone, call them, etc. etc. that really the social networking and other ways to market count — as ways to be in front of someone, to be first thought when they require the services.

But then again, if you’re going to have a blog (and no contact us page) which I see often, or have a website and no newsletter, or create something on the web with not enough “sharing” vehicles, then why bother? Maybe you’re not ready.

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

March 30, 2013 — 10:27 PM

Anecdotal “evidence” for any professional activity seems dangerous and wasteful.

As marketers ourselves, we have to say the data we see contradicts most of the statements made in above comments.

Not mentioned, are much more technical topics like Google’s new algorithm and how it affects search results, etc.

Overall communications of expert B2B content, and B2B expert prospect development has gotten very technical and complicated. Here is a critical question not asked — where does a firm/site ut the paywall. What processes are put in place to produce, edit, format, publish, curate content. We’ll mention video again. All this demands hard skills now.

Another example – pretty much no advisory firm even has a line item for business development – yet they all have one for copier paper! Easy, vague claims are of little value.

Maria Marsala

Maria Marsala

March 30, 2013 — 10:59 PM

In moving out of wirehouses/BDs, by going independent, and changing the fee structure from commission based to some sort of fee schedule (hourly, flat, project, whatever — just like consultants have been doing for many years), FAs have moved into new territory for themselves.

I mean back in the 70’s-90’s, I met maybe 2 FA. I worked with 1000’s of RR’s who worked for the same firm I did. Their business development materials and supplies were paid for by the firm (with the firm keeping part of their commissions). I never saw an ad for an FA in the newspaper, they had to get permission to even speak to the media (if the firm allowed them to do that). Today, clients have lots of choices. Not only in the way they do business RR, FA, CFP but by owning franchises, businesses, “whatever”.

FAs, IMO, are best served by determining where they are, where they want to be, and how they will “sell” the business. The latter is unfortunately usually do when they’re getting older and customers start asking about succession.

How they want to run their business is up to them. Have they gone independent and… a) created a J.O.B for themselves b) started a practice, c) are running a business, and/or d) creating an legacy investment.

IMO, those who are in the A or B mode most often have no line items for business development, coaching, marketing, staff training, PR, etc. and “most often” they may have 1 person helping them in their office, and maybe that person is part time or on call.

(Yes, I’m generalizing)

Those who are shooting for or in C and D mode realize that increasing their staff and yes, growing their budget is important to sustaining the growth they want. Having an IT/Web/Marketing person (employee or consultant — part or full time) doing much of the online and offline updating, newsletter, etc. is just one decision they need to make. And/or do they want to look for software to help them automate some of what’s needed on their marketing plan?

To remain competitive in the “newer independent environment” — my clients who are in or shooting for B and C mode, read business growth materials that have <del>0</del> to do with the financial planning industry. They already read the FA business growth books, and won’t be leaders in their field if they do the same things everyone else is doing. PLUS what’s working in the consulting industry now, marketing wise, ends up in the FA industry in some part, 3-10 years from now.

And this way they can get a wider view of what they may want to do now and in the future, is by seeing how other industries, one that has been around for a “while” have been doing it — or have made mistakes — and they can take the best and leave the rest.

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

March 30, 2013 — 11:32 PM

All this elaborate view of getting prospects is fine – but there is simply no evidence/data to support any claim.

Let’s say, as we find, an approach works for one of our clients. We have no basis to claim it will work for another.

We have not seen any fact-basis for these kinds of claims and increasing data suggesting, for example that web-based channels are (maybe) useful for customer service but not business generation.

Email does have some data supporting it as a lead generation tool for B2B.

We can all agree that search is critical — but Google’s new item selection and ranking approach is too new to have any experience evidence.

Regardless, effectively no advisor ever budgets for prospect development. We know, we see those budgets. Without a dedicated budget – all the strategy and tactics are worthless.

But this is endemic to financial services which is sales, and not prospect development, oriented. Example: We had the CFO fo a major insurance company call us to assist on a “major strategic initiative, approved by the BOD.” We get many hopeful contacts – we always ask for the budget. They had none. That’s typical. We declined.

Without hard-nosed prospecting, there are no prospects to close > growth. But most firms stagnate and don’t grow. Real growth is very rare.

Maria Marsala

Maria Marsala

March 30, 2013 — 11:54 PM

Yes, if you find an approach that works well with one person, it may not work well with another. Just like you don’t create one sample portfolio and put all your clients into it.

That’s why you create relationships, create a series of touches, survey your clients, and always market to your ideal clients. And that’s why if you want to grow your firm, you hire others to help you. Your marketing person can help your firm create a system that works “most of the time”.

There is no one right way. But “spaghetti marketing”, as many do, doesn’t work either.

You can hedge your bets by:
a) Asking for referrals is the #1 way to get new business OR what seems to work even better is creating an event for a small group of your current ideal clients, based on a passion, and ask them to bring their referral to a special event.

b) when you’re looking for new business, create an ideal client profile and when you market to that niche and ideal client. It’s easier to see patterns and create a system that works “most times” as nothing is 100%.

c) make sure that when you get a new ideal client, you keep track of how they found you.

And it’s always easier to do what is comfortable, what you’ve been doing… but that only get’s you similar results to what you’ve been getting. Which is aok if you like things the way they are. Terrible if you are looking to grow.

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

March 31, 2013 — 2:08 AM

This is all conjecture and we should be honest about it.

Maria Marsala

Maria Marsala

March 31, 2013 — 4:46 AM

That’s a really good trick to end the conversation. I must remember and use it sometime.

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

March 31, 2013 — 3:59 PM

If this is a “trick” and not a statement of fact, please provide data and facts to refute. That is a simple counter-argument.

Brooke Southall

Brooke Southall

March 31, 2013 — 4:57 PM

For someone with such a passion for “data” Elmer, it is notable that you never provide any?

So your statements demanding data come across as best-defense-is-offense trickery.

Brooke

Elmer Rich III

Elmer Rich III

March 31, 2013 — 5:28 PM

If you go into the doctor and ask for research supporting their treatment recommendations – do you have to have data disproving or discounting yourself? If you ask a sales man for evidence of their statements – do you have to have evidence for another POV?

Asking questions about the evidence behind statements does not require other data to be legitimate professional questions.

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