As if the ever-changing conditions surrounding COVID-19 aren’t dizzying enough, there’s the speed at which digital engagement is changing. Online trends that were present pre-pandemic—from virtual meetings, furniture e-commerce and monthly subscription boxes, to restaurant, grocery, etc. pickup/delivery apps—have been accelerated, advancing their prevalence by several years in a matter of months.
The ever-present pandemic has created a triple threat for business owners everywhere: a public health crisis, an operational crisis and an economic crisis. Futurist Steve Brown, author of The Innovation Ultimatum: How Six Strategic Technologies Will Reshape Every Business in the 2020s, calls the crises a three-headed beast and explains that to thrive in the new normal, “every business must embrace technology and use it to drive innovation into every aspect of their business.”
On the Dynamic Resource Call in May, well-known advisor coach Dan Solin, a Dynamic partner and founder of Evidence Based Advisor Marketing, echoed Brown’s insights: “Advisors who are not moving toward digital marketing are going to have a very tough time competing over the next decade or so.
“So, I think some efforts should be made to start down that path, because I think that’s where most of the new business is going to come from in the future.”
According to Solin, starting “down that path” may seem daunting to some advisors given the current state of uncertainty, however, this is a good time to consider new marketing initiatives such as digital.
Where to start? At Dynamic, we reached out to our partners in the digital space, asking them to share on the July resource call their experience on content marketing and social media strategy, to email marketing and effective websites. Angel Gonzalez, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Snappy Kraken, told advisors on the call that “getting extremely clear on your why” should guide any marketing strategy. And that for financial advisors, it should be about making meaningful connections to drive business.
Gonzalez explained, “Marketing is not a monolith, it’s not just one thing that you do. If you zoom in, there are different stages and different key areas.”
To gain clarity on marketing strategy and campaign development, Gonzalez recommends that advisors: 1) think through your objectives on how to make meaningful connections with prospects and clients and 2) consider the stages of the customer journey.
Here, we’ve assembled tips and best practices on leveraging digital marketing to make meaningful connections and grow your business in an increasing virtual world:
The foundation of any effective digital marketing effort is a fully optimized for organic search, professionally designed and captivating website—one that makes an emotional connection with people, suggests Solin. “Your prospects want to know who you are as a person, rather than a huge data dump of investing facts. We don’t hire facts, we hire people.”
A startling stat on the critical importance of having an effective website, according to Emily Arvia, marketing consultant, Broadridge Financial Solutions:
92% of advisor referrals go to your website prior to contacting you. 52% will not call an advisor without a professional site.
A few ways to make an emotional connection and ensure your site is an effective centerpiece of your firm’s online presence:
• Use multimedia such as video as well as engaging content, professional photography and graphic elements to share your values, passions and activities such as sports, community involvement and your family’s interests.
• If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good time to reevaluate your service menu, your firm’s positioning and value proposition, according to Jim Palumbo, Dynamic principal and chief development officer. Make sure your website reflects not just what you do, but why you do it.
• In addition to making an emotional connection and conveying your value proposition, make sure your site has pertinent information on how you’re operating during COVID-19, i.e., changes to business hours and the way(s) in which you’re conducting meetings. If in-person, communicate your protocol on how you’re keeping clients safe, e.g., sanitizing, scheduling meetings far apart, wearing face coverings, etc.
2) Social Media
Does your firm have a LinkedIn and/or a Facebook page at a minimum? These are the basic social media platforms and good places to begin content marketing efforts, explains Solin. Being active on social media doesn’t have to be time-consuming for advisors. Sean Stone, strategic partnerships manager at OutboundEngine, suggests posting to social media a minimum of two to three times per week.
The importance of staying current on social media can’t be overemphasized. Kevin Mulhern, CEO and co-founder of AdvisorStream, added, “By nature of it being an outbound channel, you don’t know when people are going to come and visit, so you want to have fresh content.” Case in point:
“Most sharing happens in the first three days of a piece of content’s life,” said Mulhern.
To maximize your social media efforts, here are a few best practices:
• Use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for “content seeding,” i.e., sprinkle your content pieces across digital channels.
• Post timely content that encourages shares and above all, drives people to your website.
• To help develop your social media posts, identify topic categories of interest to your clients and prospects. First, determine your three to five core categories, like “retirement,” “wellness” and “investment.” Next, drill down to subcategories, i.e., trending topics and those that clients and prospects care about, keeping in mind your niche, e.g., “tax loss harvesting,” “charitable giving” and “values-based investing.”
3) Content Marketing
It’s no wonder “Content is king” (Microsoft founder Bill Gates, 1996) is an often cited (and celebrated!) quote by content marketers. Ninety percent of all organizations use content in their marketing efforts, and 91 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing, according to Demand Metric.
The outbound marketing practice of creating and distributing valuable, purpose-driven content to engage a targeted audience is a highly effective best practice. According to a Demand Metric infographic, “A Guide to Marketing Genius: Content Marketing”:
“Per dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing.”
“Nowadays, people don’t want to hear sales pitches; they want to learn and better themselves,” explained Arvia of Broadridge. “People are over 50 percent more likely to engage with the advisor when they’re to benefit, not being sold to,” said Arvia.
“Content” is a mix of articles, infographics and videos. Your content efforts should target existing clients as well as prospects. “It’s absolutely critical to communicate regularly with clients with credible content for high retention rates,” said Mulhern, citing an AdvisorStream study:
“Lack of communication is the No. 2 reason investors leave advisors. This is completely in your control (unlike high fees, No. 1) and it takes content marketing and digital strategy to do this.”
And according to Vanguard’s Driving Growth through Client Referrals study: Engaged clients refer five times more than disengaged clients.
Compliments of Dynamic’s digital marketing partners, here are some content marketing best practices to get started or enhance your current efforts:
• Compliance-approved content across subject areas should be a mix of fully-branded, original content in your “voice” as well as co-branded pieces that you’ve licensed from reputable sources. All of Dynamic’s digital marketing partners stressed the importance of original content as an opportunity to showcase your knowledge and experience to clients and prospects.
• All content should “be of value,” the resounding cry of content marketers everywhere.
• All content should “live” on your website free of paywalls and distracting ads. Encourage sharing of your content, but don’t point people away from your site to access it.
• Maximize your content reach by using it across your website/blog, social media, client newsletters and lead-generation email campaigns.
• Conversations with your clients and prospects are a great place to gather content ideas. Ask what’s important to them right now, what’s of concern to them in this environment?
Whether your focus is on growing your practice or retaining existing clients, Dynamic’s digital marketing partners agree that using digital tools in a thoughtful way, having a measurable plan and tracking effectiveness through analytics will go a long way in building meaningful connections with customers at various phases of their journey.
As Gonzalez noted, “From prospect to new client to ecstatic client…there is journey for every single one of your clients. You get to choose whether it’s intentional or by default.”