Seminars, referrals, cold calls, letters and emails: in the age of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, these “classic” prospecting tools can seem as relevant as a DVD player.
But advisors shouldn’t jettison old-school approaches in favour of an entirely new-media marketing strategy.
“The old methods of hand-to-hand combat still work,” says Richard Heft, president and co-founder of Ext. Marketing Inc., a financial services marketing firm with offices in Toronto and New York.
“But the new-media methods are very good ways to fortify those old ways and get them working better and smarter for you as an advisor. Why not leverage them to build out your reputation as a thought leader?”
The key, he says, is to combine old and new approaches: use new media to promote and repackage seminars, for example, and to target and reach clients at a time when the white pages are less helpful.
Heft jokes that advisors should take an “environmentally friendly” approach of reusing and recycling.
“If you give a presentation on estate planning, take that content and recycle it: repackage it into a white paper. Use it to create a series of blog posts. Pull out some facts and create an infographic that you post on your website. Use micro-points in a series of Twitter posts.” You could even post the presentation on YouTube, or repackage it as a webinar.
These approaches help time-strapped advisors generate relevant content on a variety of platforms, he says.
Similarly, new media can make “cold calls” more targeted and effective. LinkedIn’s geotargeting feature allows advisors to search for the niche audience they’re seeking within a given city — such as teachers, small business owners, or dentists — and then reach out via the platform’s messaging feature, he says. For a fee, LinkedIn’s sponsored content feature can help put an advisor’s content (e.g., an article, interview or webinar targeted to that niche audience) in front of their prospects.
But it’s not just the delivery method that’s changing. In an age when people can get a wealth of generic financial information online, today’s advisors need to engage with clients and prospects in ways that go beyond the basic “how to make the most of your RESP contributions,” Heft says. Rather than pushing products, advisors should be providing information that addresses prospects’ more personal needs.
“What people really want to know is if and how they will be able to afford to send their kids to school, retire more comfortably earlier, leave something to the next generation, pay down debt, take a vacation or give to charity in the most efficient manner possible,” he says.
Certified financial planner Sandi Martin, chief operating officer and partner at Gravenhurst, Ont.-based Spring Financial Planning, uses a number of prospecting channels. She’s active on Twitter, contributes regularly to Spring’s blog and monthly newsletter, and co-hosts the somewhat irreverent “Because Money,” a biweekly podcast on financial planning now in its sixth season. Her firm also has a presence on LinkedIn and Instagram.
The platforms introduce prospects to her and her colleagues. Martin mostly tweets (and retweets) about financial planning and investing, with the occasional nod to pop culture and the regulation of financial advice. Increasingly, she says, the firm is finding clients through these channels.
“A not-insignificant number of new clients have said, ‘I found out about you on your podcast,’ or ‘Oh, I’ve followed you for years on Twitter,’” she says.
These new-media referrals come pre-screened: her listeners and followers already have a sense of the firm’s philosophy and what Martin describes as her “sort of strange personality.” Existing clients are kept engaged with these platforms as well as by Spring’s blog and newsletter, all of which cross-promote content.
How can advisors maintain a regular, not to mention authentic, presence on so many platforms without getting overwhelmed? You can’t, says Martin — at least, not in a meaningful way or without a huge spend.
“Our strategy is to be where it’s interesting for us to be, so that it doesn’t feel like another job to find something to share on LinkedIn. I’m personally interested in Twitter, so that channel makes sense for me.”
She also relies on Spring’s editorial calendar — maintained by the firm’s chief marketing officer — which keeps Martin focused by letting her know what she’s expected to blog about, and when.
Finding the right clients
It’s important to go where your clients and prospects are — which means you need to find out, says Guy Ben-Aroya, Ext.’s digital account manager. He recommends surveying your top 25 clients or prospects to find out which platforms they use.
“Find your niche among those and drill down into it, as opposed to trying everything,” he says.
You can’t please everybody all the time, but that’s not the point, says Martin: the point is, over time, to build a book of business that reflects shared values and interests.
But be mindful of the differences between platforms, says James Pollard, the Philadelphia-based founder and owner of TheAdvisorCoach.com. The more business-focused LinkedIn is a great place to post a link to an article where you’ve been quoted, or about an award you received. Facebook and Instagram, on the other hand, are less formal and better suited for more personal posts.
Sharing experiences, he says — like a photo of a great restaurant meal or a selfie at the Elton John farewell tour — is what humanizes you and lets current and potential clients relate to you.
Wherever you end up, notes Pollard, remember that your ultimate goal is to drive prospects back to your website, where they can opt in to your email list or submit a contact form.
Ben-Aroya agrees. “Most people use social media platforms to gather relevant information quickly,” he says. Ideally, a prospect will be intrigued by a short post on Twitter or Facebook, and want more information, which will lead to a deeper dive on your website. Once they’re there, make it easy for them to sign up for your newsletter from multiple pages, including your landing page and at the bottom of every blog post; a timed, pop-up subscription form, he notes, is most effective on pages that tend to have longform content, such as a blog posts.
As Martin has discovered, when you continually engage prospects with compelling, relatable content, they may just become clients.
But Heft says advisors need to play a longer game: there is no direct ratio between publishing a blog post or article on LinkedIn and signing up new clients.
“Positioning yourself as a thought leader takes time and commitment,” he says. “Advisors need to keep publishing strong content over long periods to create real engagement. That engagement will hopefully lead to individuals reaching out for more information. When they’re looking to invest or change advisors, hopefully they’ll turn to you.”
Tips for creating content
Create an editorial calendar that keeps you on task. Tools like MailChimp’s autoresponder sequence, which allows you to automatically send the same series of regular email messages to anyone who signs up to your email list, can be a time-saver, says James Pollard of TheAdvisorCoach.com.
To keep in touch with your audience, retweet, share and comment (respectfully!) on relevant posts from clients, colleagues and prospects on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
For example, retweet an article written by a prospect or an expert, offer your informed perspective on a financial issue, or congratulate a client on a professional or personal milestone. Have a prospect who’s passionate about fly-fishing or artisanal bourbon? Send them a link to an article you read or tag them in a social media post on the subject.
Spring Financial Planning’s Sandi Martin compiles a list of her “top reads” from around the internet and includes them in each issue of Spring’s monthly client newsletter. Sharing clients’ business-related posts “helps build your own and their centres of influence and referral network, and clients love the exposure,” says Richard Heft of Ext. Marketing.