Escaping the content bubble: How RIAs can break out of a PR slump
Being the messenger of old news is a bad strategy
I logged into my LinkedIn account last night and immediately rolled my eyes. My news feed was littered with the same update being shared over and over by my connections in the financial arena. “Act Now on Estate Planning Changes” was the titled status update and linked to an article provided to the advisor by a product sponsor. Rinse, wash, repeat. It was the same update four to five times in a row in a one-hour time frame. This is nothing new. In fact, with RIAs gravitating more to social-media marketing, it’s setting up what I refer to as “the content bubble.” See: 6 ways that RIAs can hone their expertise in social media by acting more like journalists.
As a communications executive with clients in wealth management, I keep seeing financial advisors, big and small, making use of the same stale marketing content to promote their practices, and it drives me crazy. Advisors looking to attract new business need to have effective marketing strategies in place and part of that strategy needs to be generating their own content. See: Advisor Tested: How LinkedIn can truly build your business and not just feed your ego.
What’s “content?” Content marketing is the practice of creating and sharing valuable and relevant information to attract and engage a specific target audience in order to increase sales. Essentially, you are communicating with potential customers without actually selling them. Content is more than just words — videos, charts with audio, photos with captions, animations, etc., are all great tools.
Unmire from the mediocre
If you’re an advisor asking yourself why your business is stagnant and you have no new leads, take a look at what type of message is being conveyed via your marketing efforts. Is it even your message? Or is it some template white paper that you post on your website in the hopes that someone finds it relevant enough to call you to do business? Potential clients notice that you’re sharing the same boring article about the Dow reaching new highs. People see that you haven’t tweeted since Halloween. They see that your website looks about the same as the brochure you gave them two years ago. See: How RIAs can maximize their web marketing with nary a 'friend-ing’ or tweet.
Sharing other people’s content is lazy and impersonal, and mass-marketed content has no real value when it comes to your SEO (search engine optimization) marketing campaigns. Ultimately, a lack of creativity in this area will hurt your business because you aren’t increasing your chances of being found on the web. Smart consumers are looking for you online, and fresh content will help them find you. See: How Google Love can put an RIA onto an equal marketing footing with BlackRock.
Creating engaging, sharable content goes a long way towards marketing your business and, much like any bubble, being ahead of the curve and recognizing an increasing trend is a key element of success.
Bill Gross, founder and co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co. LLC, writes a monthly column on its website that covers a wide range of topics. People absolutely love his column; they know they can count on it every month and they share it across their social channels. Mr. Gross grabs viewers with provocative headlines, such as “Money for Nothin’ Writing Checks for Free.” But he backs up catchy headlines by offering thoughts designed to connect dots that news sources are not designed to.
In this column Gross is explaining what he believes Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben S. Bernanke meant when he made a cryptic-to-most comment about how the United States finances its debt for “free.” Gross writes: “What Governor Bernanke may have been referring to with his “essentially free” comment was the fact that the Fed and other central banks such as the Bank of England actually rebate the interest they earn on the Treasuries and Gilts that they buy. They give the interest back to the government, and in so doing, the Treasury issues debt for free.”
Gross’ Pimco twitter account (@PIMCO) has well over 100,000 followers.You don’t get there by re-tweeting The Wall Street Journal 10 times a day.
Waterfront Financial Group in Golden Valley, Minn., regularly posts short videos on the home page of its website in which managing partner John Geenen gives his thoughts on topics related to retirement planning. He does so in a concise and practical manner, addressing topics he knows are of issue to clients and prospects, mixing in a bit of humor. Mr. Geenen is a nationally recognized speaker, and his unique marketing approach has generated a great deal of business for his firm. In his latest video, the scene opens with him under a sink with a wrench — an attention getter.
Lynn Ballou, managing partner of Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors LLC in Lafayette, Calif., uses her blog, It Really IS All About You! as an outlet to feature her clients’ charitable endeavors while also providing insight on financial planning and wealth management. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, Forbes, Time, USA Today, and Reuters, among others, and much of this material originated on her blog.
To make it in today’s business world, financial advisors need to place a greater importance on content as part of their overall marketing and communications strategy. Your goal should be to market yourself, enhance your credibility, and show your expertise in the field. Businesses are rising and falling faster than ever before, which means you need to emphasize innovation and differentiation to carve out your spot in the marketplace. All too often, we see advisors fall into a herd mentality where, if they see their peers marketing in a certain way, they assume it will work for them as well. Maybe it will, but the chances are small. Demographics, region, practice type, expertise, educational background: the list of variable factors is enormous. See: How exactly RIAs can leverage the new transparency as a marketing tool.
Positioning yourself effectively in the digital world is a major part of the equation, and content creation is a cost-effective way to market your services, build your business, and assist in developing your brand.
Content marketing provides you with a unique platform to share your voice and differentiate your services from your competitors’, while also providing a big boost in SEO. The overwhelming majority of Internet users say they use the web for product research today, so increasing your SEO is a must.
There are many ways to create content and share your voice, and believe me, you don’t need to be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg to be effective. Utilize your social-media platforms as a way to give your take on relevant current events or industry trends. These pages are likely your key asset in distributing content to your target markets. You can insert your own comments on related content that you’ve found on other blog posts or social media sites. Start a blog or e-mail newsletter that gives potential clients some basic financial advice and offers your services. Introduce yourself through a short, creative video or podcast and share that on your social-media sites.
[For example, below the aforementioned status updates was an update from an RIA who decided to discuss a contrarian opinion to a current event and linked to a piece of content on their company website that explained more clearly a controversial topic regarding a specific investment approach. Curious to read more, I clicked on the link and read the article. That’s the kind of thing we’re talking about here, people. ]??
Be inspirational. Be edgy. Have a voice. Engage your followers. Track your results. And if you don’t want to do this yourself, hire someone or outsource this function so you can focus on what you do best — advising clients. See: Top marketing trends for 2011, and checklists for handling each.
You’ll also want to take a look at your website and make sure that appropriate calls to action are in place. Does your home page provide links to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts? Can people easily sign up for your blog or newsletter? Is there any video content or a link to a YouTube channel? You need to use your website as a way to drive traffic to your other platforms and sources of content.
The key is to personalize what you put out there and be engaging. Your social-media channels will be most effective when you blaze your own path and share your voice. Good content is something you create yourself, so move away from the herd and do your own thing. Today’s consumers and investors want online relationships with both individuals and businesses, and you can provide them with both. You just have to make it a priority and jump in. Once you get comfortable sharing your content regularly and often, you will definitely start to see better results.
Kevin Dinino is president of KCD PR, a boutique public relations and marketing communications firm providing consultative support to clients in the financial and professional services industry since 2009. For more information on KCD PR, please contact email@example.com or 619-955-7759.
Elmer Rich III
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.
That’s a really good trick to end the conversation. I must remember and use it sometime.
Elmer Rich III
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.
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
This is all conjecture and we should be honest about it.
Elmer Rich III
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.
Elmer Rich III
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.
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.
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.
“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
If this is a “trick” and not a statement of fact, please provide data and facts to refute. That is a simple counter-argument.
According to CCTV’s “Focus” stories, the corporate in September 2009 because of irregularities, unlawful utilization of toxic chemical solvents, dismiss the sphere of occupational dangers avoidance and personnel defense, triggering many employees poisoned, aspect from the disabled staff members.
The biggest shop all-around the world Wal-Mart introduced its expectation to market place Ipad at approximately two,300 stores from coast to coast. The perfect Obtain mentioned in sure of their shops, the went within the tablet and it can be add-ons simply just consider underneath ten minutes. When the iPad2 will almost certainly be obtainable in much more merchants in comparison with initial model, with no doubt the device will outpace its predecessor from the beginning. Moreover to remaining provided at its very own shops within the U . s . States, Apple manufactured the determination to put the iPad2 on extra shop property home windows even to the world-wide-web.
Elmer Rich III
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.
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.
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.