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loic-djim-69263 Right this minute, we are watching the collision of two forces that are shaking advisor firms to their foundations. The first is the commoditization of advice, driven in part by technology. Face it: investment performance is no longer a credible differentiator. Between the popularity of passive investing and the convenience of robo-advisors, few prospects are likely to be persuaded that your firm is really, truly, reliably a better stock-picker than your competitors. Most advisors recognize this fact, even if they aren’t sure what to do about it.

ayla-den-ouden-119906 This is the story of how we lost an account. It was a painful lesson, but one that’s worth reading whether you’re an agency, vendor or advisor—really, anyone who’s invested in the growth of advisor firms. Of course, I’ve changed the story to the point where it’s now completely fictional and no longer resembles anything that happened in real life. Only the lesson remains the same.

awesome These days, every advisor is looking to buy a marketing tool. Which explains why every vendor is trying to sell one—whether they actually have anything to sell or not. As I’ve written before, the whole industry now understands that the golden era of organic growth has come to an end. Advisors know they can’t sustain themselves on referrals alone. Any firm that sticks to its old formula of rainmaking, pressing the flesh and relying on word of mouth is going to find itself eating the dust of its faster, more modern competitors. Digital marketing is critical. This is why advisors are finally, finally investing in future growth and ramping up their marketing budgets.

saksham-gangwar-159647 Why did you go originally into business with your partners? And as a follow up: how long did it take you to think of an answer to that question? I’ve worked with some advisor teams that seem like a natural fit. They finish each other’s sentences. Complement each other’s expertise. And even use the same words to tell their story. It’s usually a clean, simple story, too. One was a quant head, the other a people person, but they both served the same kind of clients. Or maybe they both have a special interest in eldercare issues, SRI or some other specialty. It’s relatively easy to walk them through the process of developing their brand and honing their value proposition. They already believe in their purpose; they just need help articulating it. Then there’s the other kind of team.

amelia-lego-67856If you want to build your business, become a Ghostbuster. I’m not referring to the movie, exactly (I didn’t even see the sequel.) I’m talking about the theme song.

If there's somethin' strange in your neighborhood 
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!
If that song were a real advertising jingle as opposed to a fictional one, it would rank right up there as among the best of all time. Its message is simple. If you have this specific problem—say, a slimy green ball of ectoplasm living in your fridge—then you know exactly whom to call. The song builds an instant connection between a customer need and a brand. You couldn’t ask for better marketing.

austin-neill-189146 As I said in my earlier post, some advisors are running on empty—and don’t even know it yet. They might be cruising smoothly for now. But if they aren’t adding enough prospects to the top of their sales funnels, they won’t be able to fuel their businesses over the long run. I don’t want that to happen to you. So I am going to share a few ideas for keeping your sales funnel filled—automatically.

stefan-kunze-16861 There’s a looming marketing crisis the industry isn't acknowledging. I encourage you to pay attention to it so that you can maintain sustainable growth for years to come. In February, I attended the 2017 T3 Advisor Conference. As you would expect, the floor was chockfull of vendors promoting the latest advisor technology tools. To be honest, I was blown away by some of the tool’s available today to help advisors engage with clients. The client video resources alone were amazing; I suggest you check out the vendor presentations and follow the T3 TechHub for highlights. The question is, who is going to watch the videos, or interact with these cool new tools?

siebe-warmoeskerken-190134 The financial industry overcomplicates things. Marketers across the industry will sympathize with me, we've all seen firms take more than a year to approve one 12-page brochure. It is not unusual for firms to appoint committees who meet to go over every single word of marketing copy with a fine-toothed comb. Of course, every part of the firm has to be involved, each contributing its own two cents. Every competing vision of the firm goes to war with every other—debating whom it serves, what its unique value proposition is, and even how it works. The brochure turns into a battleground where good ideas wind up dead and buried.

01-1 In my last post, I urged you to think carefully before launching a book or a podcast—not to discourage you from pursuing your dream to market this way, but to make sure your dream is grounded in reality. If you’ve decided that it still makes sense as part of your well thought out marketing plan, how do you introduce your new book or podcast to the world? Here are 9 marketing tips based on lessons learned from all the book and podcast launches we’ve managed at FiComm.

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Developing a Podcast Marketing Strategy

Have you ever pictured your name on the cover of a book—or your podcast at the top of the iTunes charts? If so, this two-part post is for you. Years ago, it felt like pulling teeth just to get advisors to write a simple personal finance article in the local newspaper. But that was before Youtube, iTunes and Kindle Direct Publishing gave everybody a shot at stardom. Today, advisors see The Reformed Broker Josh Brown everywhere—on blogs, in top tier publications, speaking at events, on broadcast television—and acknowledge what his notoriety has done for his career. They think, “I can do that, too.” Maybe you can. But should you?

fede-casanova-222667-1 Do you know how to take a compliment? More importantly, do you know how to use a compliment? Most businesspeople love positive client testimonials. Imagine restaurants without 5-star Yelp reviews, movies without 95% fresh ratings, weight loss clinics without before-and-after pictures. Amazon has architected its entire business around soliciting reviews for every product in its inventory, from books to electronics to spackle. They’re a critical success driver for its business. When it comes to the financial industry, though, advisors are gun-shy about testimonials. Obviously, advisors face significant regulatory restraints to using client statements in their marketing. At times, the rules can go beyond prohibiting testimonials in marketing materials to severely cramping your social media presence, forcing you to turn off comments and limit engagement. But just because you can’t publish testimonials doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to them. They have significant utility in opening your eyes to the real reasons why your clients love you—and they may not be the reasons you expect.

tim-gouw-60216 You’ve seen the stats. Women already control most of the wealth in America, and our share is only going up (1). Boomer women have started inheriting their husbands’ assets. Millennial women are outpacing men in academic achievement (2). So, if you’re an advisor looking to ramp up growth, it makes sense to target women as clients, right? Wrong. If you’re a guy, turn this around for a moment. Imagine you get a phone call from some other kind of professional advisor you might consider hiring—say, an attorney, or a CPA, or a small business IT consultant. The voice on the phone explains the offering, and then tells you, "I think you’ll definitely like our tech support, because we specialize in serving male advisors." What does that even mean? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

bethany-legg-14229 Do you plan to spend more on marketing this year? Apparently, your peers do. According to the latest TD Ameritrade Institutional RIA Sentiment Survey, RIAs expect to increase their 2017 marketing budgets by 27%. I wonder where all that money is going. In the survey, nearly 6 in 10 advisors say they’ll spend more on social media, and 37% plan to change up their marketing and networking to appeal to younger clients. Those trends make sense if organic growth really is slowing down, as some advisors are reporting. Some of that cash may be going to fight the robo "threat." As you may have read, Michael Kitces declared that independent B2C robo advisors are dying. Whether that’s true or not, the fact is that robos did disrupt the industry. They commoditized investment management, raised client expectations and catalyzed a new wave of innovation in response. Maybe a higher marketing spend is part of that trend. But frankly, I’m worried. All those extra dollars could go to waste if advisors make one critical mistake: trying to find a silver bullet. There is no such thing.

jeremy-cai-1171 Right now, you should be running. At top speed. With a flag in your hand, ready to plant it in the ground. Get the reference? It’s from Far and Away, that ‘90s movie where Tom Cruise plays an Irish immigrant on a land run in the Old West. He’s running across the open prairie with a flag in his hand, looking for a little plot of land to claim. Then, just in the nick of time, right as a posse of competing land rushers comes riding up over the hill, he and Nicole Kidman plant their flag and stake their claim. It’s very dramatic. It’s also an apt metaphor for RIAs. You occupy extremely desirable territory in the market. But a herd of new claimants is coming to take it from you, if you don’t plant your flag and stake your claim right now.

anthony-indraus-134161

Identifying Your Target Market

If you’ve ever been to an industry conference or read an advisor trade pub, you’ve heard an expert telling you the “best” way to define a target market is by profession. But is that notion true? Let’s think this through. Suppose you decide to target endodontists—the nice people who give you root canals. They’re affluent, busy professionals, and many own their own practices. Although they’re smart and educated, most probably still need help with financial matters. In other words, ideal client material.

7nrsvjvalna-denys-nevozhai I know, I know. Your integrations are real. Not like those other guys. You integrate with more vendors, or you have more APIs, or you’re the one who’s really seamless. Tough love moment: Integration isn’t a differentiator anymore. It’s just a buzzword. Jargon. In the past few years, media fatigue has completely drained the word of any meaning or importance.  At this point, it’s simply expected.

oiithc8wf68-matthew-smith Some advisors say they want to stand out from the crowd—but they’re fibbing. They really want to look and sound like everybody else. We can help them define their target market, identify clear points of differentiation, and craft a targeted message. They don’t want any of it. They just want a list of generic feel-good words to put on the website. Fiduciary. Objective. Holistic. Whatever. Basic, table-stakes qualities that every advisor talks about.

optrion-three How would you like to get so many referrals that they're your number one source of inbound leads? You potentially could—if you’re willing to to take an honest assessment of your approach to service models. If you’re like many other advisors, you probably segment your clients according to profitability. Then you create a different service model for each segment. The most profitable clients—call them level "A"—get face-to-face quarterly meetings, nice leather-bound financial plans, maybe some football tickets. The B-level clients get vinyl, not real leather, and they can’t sit in the skybox. And down it goes. It’s a very typical model (and yes, I'm exaggerating to prove a point). But I have a problem with it. Here’s where things get awkward. If I found out I was a "D" client, why wouldn’t I leave and go someplace where I could be an "A" client? If your book is really segmented "A" through "D," that means you are intentionally giving suboptimal service to 75% of your clients. In an industry that lives and breathes referrals, how is that supposed to help you grow?

image1 If you sell to advisors, you’ve probably experienced at least one deal that seemed like a sure thing—but you just couldn’t make it happen. You hit it off with the advisor. He or she seemed to really get your message. But the sale just petered out, leaving you to wonder why. On the other hand, maybe you had a client relationship that inexplicably soured. You lost the account without ever understanding what happened.

time-01 (Note: In this post, I’m speaking directly to all the marketing coordinators, marketing directors and marketing managers ensconced at their lonely posts inside advisor firms. This one’s for you—but it might do some good if your boss reads it, too.) "What have you done for me lately?" If you haven’t heard your boss say that yet, you probably will—and sooner than you think. You were hired with high expectations. You see, your boss thinks that, as soon as you arrived, all of your firm’s marketing challenges would be instantly solved. You’re supposed to be a one-person band, able to edit a podcast with Audacity while writing a prospecting letter with your other hand and laying out a brochure with InDesign while coding a website with your toes. This is how you’ll be able to triple revenue in six months, right? Right? Time for a reality check. Look, I love and respect financial advisors. I spent the first decade of my career on the inside working directly with advisory firm owners, and co-founded this company because of my genuine passion for the profession and the industry. But I have to be honest about my experience and what I've learned over the years. Most advisor's expectations of what a single marketing person can do are just not realistic. And there’s only one solution.

jrh5laq-mis-william-iven Sometimes, participating in an RFP process is like eavesdropping on an awkward first date. You can tell everybody is trying to say the right thing, but nobody really understands what the other person is talking about. Here are a few questions to incorporate into your conversations with vendors, so you can better understand what you’re buying before you sign a contract:

You and your vendors come from different worlds. Vendors love to work with large companies that have deep pockets and teams of experts to guide the project along. When they look at financial services, they see a vast opportunity representing one-twelfth of the entire U.S. GDP. What vendors don’t realize is that they aren’t dealing with 300,000 advisors in a single market, but 300,000 small businesses, each operating in its own market. Advisors’ needs vary widely, their budgets are tightly managed, and they may not have a fully dedicated internal contact to teach vendors the ropes. That’s why your most important goal in your due diligence and selection is to make sure your vendors understand your business. Do they know the difference between a broker and an advisor? Between fee-based and commission-based business?  Are they aware of the regulatory, sales and marketing review you are subject to? Do they even know how you get paid? If vendors don’t understand these basics, how can they possibly offer you anything useful? I’m going to come out and say it: You should only use vendors who have worked with advisors before.

photo-1424223022789-26fd8f34bba2 I admit it. I didn’t get it for a long time. There I was, working in-house at advisor firms, putting out RFPs to marketing agencies and consultants as part of my daily job responsibilities. The proposals would come back. I’d review them, cheerfully nodding at all the big promises, all the corporate happy talk. We’d sign the deal. Do the project. And then—nothing. The benefit to the firm, or advisor, rarely outweighed the cost. Eventually, I realized it was all wrong. The consultants were selling a high-sounding bill of goods that did very little for our business, largely because they didn't actually understand our business. When I started FiComm, I swore I would never do that to a client, and I’m still passionate about that commitment. (Maybe I’m just mad they had me fooled for so long.)

2agqwih49ua-john-mark-kuznietsov At FiComm, we attend conferences with a certain passion that can only be explained by our fangirl/fanboy like view of the independent wealth management community. We love the energy, the people, the networking, the content, and the access that we get at the conferences we choose to attend every year. But we often hear from fellow industry vendors a different tune. Generally speaking, hard working sales teams show up at conferences tired from all the travel, completely disenchanted, and wondering why they bothered to show up in the first place. They ask us questions like, "Why do we keep wasting our money, year after year, expecting different results but getting the same-old same old?" One answer to this question, as the Millennials say, is FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. We worry what might happen if we don’t show up this one time. People will talk! Or what’s worse, they won’t talk. They’ll forget about us. And so, once again, hope triumphs over experience, and back to the conference they go, setting out the collateral, putting on lanyards, and smiling. There is a better way. Here are some ideas to make your next event pay off:

I'm just going to get right to it, drones are everywhere. Every agency I know has or rents them, everyone has one on their Christmas list, and let's face it: they're pretty damn cool. But are they a valuable marketing tool for your business? No. Probably not. I mean, maybe...