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.

Naturally, every vendor wants a piece of that action. Content creators, video resources, email services providers, web and app developers, and marketing agencies are all waving their hands in the air, eager to participate in the growth of advisor marketing. There’s nothing wrong with that. Growing demand leads to growing supply. Go, capitalism.

But something else is happening, too. Remember when I told you about all the cool tech at Joel Bruckenstein’s T3 (Technology Tools for Today) conference? The tools were indeed very cool. But there was just one problem. Many of them were being sold as marketing tools—even if they weren’t.

How is a portfolio accounting system a marketing tool? What is a software provider actually proposing to do about succession planning? What does an email vendor know about attracting women investors?

And most importantly, why do vendors think this bamboozle is really going to work?

Imagine you’re a fin tech software provider. Your marketing department or PR firm tells you that you’ve got to be more relevant. Write about the succession crisis, they tell you. That’s what’s trendy now. Give advisors some new ideas, fresh perspectives, or useful how-to information. So you do your homework and write an article yourself, or you have a copywriter bang out an article for you. You get a byline in the press, and maybe post it to your website.

Your article is a hit. Everyone tells you how great it is—so great, in fact, that an advisor calls your company out of the blue and asks to speak to you. He tells you all about his firm, and the challenges he’s facing trying to develop the next generation and attract more diverse talent. Then he asks you what you think he should do.
“How the flying freak do I know?” you think to yourself, although you don’t say it. “I’m a software provider. I just wrote an article to raise my visibility in the industry. You probably need to talk to somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about.”

Well, then why did you write the article in the first place, if you don’t have a solution for the people who read it? You just wasted time, money, and worst of all, a rare opportunity to connect with advisors on a deeper level.

Vendors are superb at recognizing topics that will catch advisors’ attention. Like marketing. Succession planning. NextGen talent development. But some vendors can’t always resist the temptation to make promises they can’t keep.

Be authentic to your product. Market it to advisors who really need it, not to advisors who really need something else.

It’s no wonder advisor confusion is so prevalent. They have no tools to sift actual marketing solutions from those that are just dressed up like one.