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The Future of Financial Advisor Marketing: Well-Positioned, Human-Centered Firms

This article was originally published on MuirEdison.com and was migrated when Muir Edison became a Breakthrough brand.

Welcome to our first annual Future of Financial Advisor Marketing Insights Issue. We are including some of the market problems today, some of the shifts occurring and soon to occur, and the considerations Advisors should make when creating their marketing strategy for the next 5-10 years:

#1 – Mass Marketing Dwindles to Nothing

This is the first major problem that we are already seeing the shift for. Humanity is currently in a period of information overload.  There is no shortage of content online.

But the difficulty is finding information that is actually helpful. Advisors will benefit from moving away from mass marketing techniques and moving towards better targeted, more individual, more helpful techniques.

Examples of Mass Marketing

  • Any campaign yielding less than a 10% success rate (Includes: Ad campaigns, TV, email, writing / publishing online, video / podcast, social, digital, billboards, etc) 
  • Campaigns without a specified target audience (eg. Having only a geographic target, or only an age target, or only a demo target).
  • Creating a website that with no visible positioning, or an unspecified client target
  • Anything that isn’t helping one very specific group of people in a deep way
  • Anything you might label an ‘ad’ vs ‘helpful info’

The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs

A great read, The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs by Andrew Chen of Andreessen Horowitz (a venture capital firm in silicon valley), states:

Over time, all marketing strategies result in shitty clickthrough rates.

Here’s a real example – let’s compare the average clickthrough rates of banner ads when debuted on HotWired in 1994 versus Facebook in 2011:

  • HotWired CTR, 1994: 78%
  • Facebook CTR, 2011: 0.05%

That’s a 1500X difference. While there are many factors that influence this difference, the basic premise is sound – the clickthrough rates of banner ads, email invites, and marketing channels on the web have decayed every year since they were invented.

Takeaway #1) Good, Helpful Info Over Ads

This law provides a litmus test as to the difference between advertising and information. When you are marketing with useful information, then CTRs stay high. Advertising that’s just novelty and noise wrapped in a new marketing channel has a limited shelf life.  

One example of marketing with useful info: Create a well-researched content piece (ebook / white paper / book) specifically for your target client only (eg dentists) that solves ONE particular problem you know they are experiencing. Then create an ad or social campaign for the content piece, and target those specific dentists ONLY (Yes you can do this), you might also think to retarget this as well.

Takeaway #2) Find New Untapped Marketing Solutions

Finding a new untapped marketing solution will provide a much higher CTR, this is always a fun option to try, but keep in mind it will degrade over time.  Watch the Breakthrough Insights newsletter for a piece on untapped marketing solutions for 2023 soon.

Other Mass Marketing Tactics to Reduce / Stop

  • Third-party / sourced / purchased content: Advisors if you are paying a service or third-party to write or source content, please stop.  Canned content not only is unhelpful, it can actually turn good prospective clients away.
  • Advisors using Automation, we are seeing diminishing returns, users can smell automated messages a mile away and it actually turns people off.  We’re not selling ecommerce products, so you’re simply reducing your expertise and value in the minds of clients.
  • Cold Calling, Cold Emailing, Mailers, Spamming – There are better ways that don’t require completely cold outreach.  
  • Stop Commoditizing Human Engagement or Attention – Shift your marketing KPI’s from engagement / attention / traffic to human-centered metrics, and relationship tracking. More on this below.

#2 – Depth & Expertise Will Become Highly Valued

The Shift from Publicly Available Content to Deep, Expert Content

We are seeing a mass shift right now from publicly available content to private / paid education that provides a deep knowledge set.  Users are investing in education, coaching, courses, webinars, and books. (Eg. MasterClass more than triples valuation in one year).  Advisors can capitalize on this by focusing on the production of educational content for a specific target audience: Video content, online classes, webinars, seminars, presentations, ebooks, and books to name a few.

#3 – Advisors With Strong Positioning (Niche) Will Dominate as Globalization Continues

Positioning is very similar in nature Niche marketing (with the main difference being the depth of your commitment to the audience. More on positioning). Positioning allows financial advisors to create points of differentiation that distinguish them from soon to be globalized crowd.

Reasons for Strong Firm Positioning:

  • Higher firm performance: Higher AUM performance overall by firm, and by Advisor
  • Significantly reduced marketing costs: As you are working with the same types of clients, you organically drift into their watercoolers to meet others, you work w/ shared COI’s, and your marketing (message & content) becomes a stockpile of helpful reusable content.
  • New business (sales) time, cost, and stress reduced to near nothing – Sales is reduced to near nothing as you become the best in the industry for X audience, your reputation will speak for itself.
  • HIGHER IMPACT & MARKER LEADERSHIP: Possibly the #1 reason for positioning – Higher quality of work, higher depth of knowledge set, higher problem solving capabilities (pattern matching capabilities), and overall performance for clients (not to mention greater opportunity to change the course of life for your market and make real world change!)
  • Talent recruitment and retention: Becomes significantly easier as advisors join for the clients, culture, mission and impact you’re making.
  • Lower interchangeability in the marketplace: Meaning it’s harder to replace your firm once engaged
  • More on Financial Advisor Positioning

Financial Advisor Positioning Examples

Example 1: RAA positions itself as follows:

Our entire approach to financial services is built around the needs, concerns, and desires of the airline community.

As a generalist Financial Advisor, if you get a call from an airline pilot, you can see it would be difficult to provide the same level of service as RAA (Now you might, eventually provide a similar level of service as RAA, but you just wouldn’t have the industry knowledge, the contacts, the ease of referrals, the unique marketing & sales tactics, the awareness of what’s to come, etc. They have specific offerings by the individual airline!  Just imagine the number of problems they’ve solved, the things RAA has already seen, and already knows to prepare for given all the pilots they’ve worked with).

Other Positioning Examples:

  • Pre-retirement Educators (Professors / teachers) based in New York state
  • Overseas American’s, non-Americans living in US, those w/ multiple nationalities
  • Retirement and financial planning for post-divorce women over 50
  • General contractors, subcontractors and their employees
  • Federal / US Government employees

Continued Impact of Globalization on Financial Advisor Firms

  • Expecting continued encroaching on the “local” prospect & client bases as more well-positioned global firms continue to eat the edges of all markets (in all industries)
  • Expect COI’s to go global as well, and expecting specialized (well positioned) COI Partners (lawyers specializing in one target audience, accountants doing the same, etc)
  • RoboAdvisors expected to be customizable and employed by some financial advisor firms, offloading some of the intake process, low hanging / repeatable advising, and investing.

#4 – Human-Centered Firms Will Dominate

Human-Centered Marketing Definition

Human Centered Marketing for Financial Advisors is a system of firm growth based on improving the human experience of the firm members, clients, and all those connected to the firm.  Human-Centered Marketing involves measuring, tracking and improving: human health, relationships, privacy, safety, security, accessibility, overall happiness of clients, advisors, staff, COI / referral partners, vendors, families, and communities.

Human Centered Marketing Seeks To:

  • Better understand stress, challenges, and problems in such a deep manner as to apply the firm’s resources to solve the problems, and even potentially change the nature of these problems for future clients.
  • Better understand life changes, and upcoming events and then make a plan that is uniquely impactful for the specific target client group.
  • Better understand client health, interests, desires, loves, strengths, and seek to fuel that which grows them personally and professionally.
  • Better understand and assist the client’s families, friends, connections, and community members in this process, thereby improving the overall client human experience.

The Great Resignation Resulting in Human-Centered Practices

From a talent recruitment / hiring perspective, human-centered marketing is crucial.  According to PEW Research The Great Resignation: Why Workers Say They Quit Their Jobs:  

“At least half of these workers say that compared with their last job, they are now earning more money (56%), have more opportunities for advancement (53%), have an easier time balancing work and family responsibilities (53%) and have more flexibility to choose when they put in their work hours (50%).”

Human-Centered Firms are Winning the Talent War

In all the advisor firms we’ve seen, attrition is the top determining factor in AUM reduction historically. Losing a seasoned vet usually means losing his/her clients, and worse case: causes ripples through the firm.

Top Reasons why Advisors leave:

  • Compensation / Commissions
  • Culture
  • Compliance Procedures
  • Lack of Technology
  • Underwhelming Support

And looking at the top two: Compensation and culture make up 82% of those leaving firms. Human-centered firms focusing on open, authentic relationships, communicating directly, having a defined plan for the individual Advisor’s happiness, growth, partnership, and succession will find quicker culture matching for new hires, and stronger retention long term. Also this:

Managing Energy, Not Time for Elite Performance

In The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, Jim Loehr, trainer to the world’s top athletes tells:

Conventional wisdom holds that if you find talented people and equip them with the right skills for the challenge at hand, they will perform at their best. In our experience that often isn’t so. Energy is the X factor that makes it possible to fully ignite talent and skill.

The 4 Energy Management Principles that Drive Performance

  • Principle 1: Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
  • Principle 2: Because energy capacity diminishes both with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.
  • Principle 3: To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.
  • Principle 4: Positive energy rituals—highly specific routines for managing energy— are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

Firms adopting human-centered energy management techniques will see higher health and performance by principles, advisors, and staff.

Human-Centered Marketing Activities

When working with clients, human-centered marketing prioritizes human-to-human marketing activities first, and media that provides connection over general, disconnected methods.

  • In-person is the best always (informal / fun get togethers, get togethers, meetings, presentations, seminars, client events, etc)
  • Virtual Video Meetings are next best
  • Webinars nexts
  • Pre-recorded Video next (podcast, youtube channel, video voicemails, tv coverage)
  • Phone is next
  • Direct Email
  • Web (Positioning-based)
  • Email blasts (Positioning-based)

Making the Shift to Human-Centered Marketing

Some ways firms can begin to make the shift to human-centered marketing:

  • Shift KPI’s to tracking, measuring and improving the health, wellness, and happiness of yourself, your family, your principals, advisors, staff, your clients, and their families.
  • Shift KPI’s to improvement of stress / problems / challenges for clients: You take the time to understand the problems they’re facing (health, personal, or professional), and then as a firm, work to change the state of things.
  • Shift CRM systems to begin tracking and improving the above KPI’s
  • Create relationships not based on cold calling, or email blasts, but based on referrals, invites, trusted connections, speaking, helping, and teaching.
  • You are happy NOT working with a client (or advisor / COI / network) if they aren’t a good fit for your team, products, services, or culture.
  • You stop selling so much and focus more on creating things that people are thankful to have received, and they want to be around you more for doing so.
  • You have public and internal practices for: Privacy, data safety, security, and accessibility.

#5 – The Changing Future of Social Media

In February 2022, Facebook (Meta) sees biggest stock market loss ever, and Meta also reported that Facebook’s daily active users (DAUs) had dropped for the first time in its 18-year history.

Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, and more. Social media is making us less social.

Social media will continue to be a tool in our lives, but won’t carry the regular dedicated attention spans as they do today. Social media platforms will become more seamless in our daily lives, yet less obtrusive. We will continue to share, but share less, and will work towards more privacy.

The move from ‘Viewing to Experiencing’

Our attention from social media will move to social experiences: Group gatherings, classes, events, and life experiences, virtual classes, virtual events, travel, and health & wellness-focused experiential activities (Physical fitness activities, yoga, meditation, breathwork, etc).

Advisors can get ahead by hosting fun events, travel events, hosting learning experiences, supporting local groups, and funding events that clients are interested in. (Experiences Will Be Top of Mind for Consumers in 2022)

In Conclusion

The future is bright in the marketing, web, and digital spaces where we help advisors. For most advisors we work with, advisors willing to put a stake in the ground with their positioning, to make an impactful, meaningful, and healthy change in the lives of their clients, and their teams, we couldn’t be more excited.

Picture of Tison Kelley

Tison Kelley

Kelley, B.S., helps firms achieve strategic goals through their web, digital, & human experiences. Kelley specializes in Human Experience in enterprise architectures. He has worked with the US Navy, Federal Aviation Administration, Higher Education Institutions, Health Care, Commercial Real Estate, Financial Planning firms, and hundreds public and private organizations around the world... (Continued)
The Future of Financial Advisor Marketing

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