As we work with financial advisers throughout the country, we encounter inconsistencies in their thinking about marketing. Since there are few definitive resources on the “right” way to market financial services, it's easy for myths to proliferate. To clear the air, here are the most common adviser marketing myths.
1. SEO will get my phone ringing.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is ideal for a lot of industries, such as apparel companies, hotels and restaurants. The financial services industry is a different animal. Your clients aren't searching for the cheapest adviser, or an adviser running a special on services. About nine out of 10 clients are typically referrals, not random Internet visitors. When it comes to something as personal as one's finances, people want to work with someone they can trust. They are much more likely to trust an adviser a friend recommends than the adviser they found by a keyword search on Google, even if you do appear at the top of a page.
2. My website is an artistic expression.
One mistake advisers make when designing their websites is attempting to express themselves artistically. We've all come across sites that feature irrelevant imagery, distracting graphics or a cluttered aesthetic. A website is not art but design, and it should be governed by the rules of design. First, the user experience and navigation should be somewhat predictable so site visitors are not frustrated. Second, a maximum of four colors should be repeated for a cohesive look. Third, the site should explain who you are and what you do clearly in five seconds or less. If your site doesn't meet these basic criteria, it's time for a redesign.
3. There's a quick fix to get my website ranked first on Google.
It's commonly believed that if you can buy a website, you can buy a first-position ranking on Google. If that were the case, Google would simply serve as a bidding platform rather than an objective search engine. SEO is a game of strategy, not a prize that can be bought. Even if an SEO service company promises that you'll rise through the ranks, there are no guarantees. SEO best practices are constantly changing. In fact, according to Moz, Google makes more than 500 tweaks to its SEO algorithm every year. The moment your strategy falls outside the algorithm, you fall out of the top spot. Your best bet is to incorporate SEO-friendly practices (relevant content, an updated website, video, etc.) instead of buying into expensive SEO services. (And don't forget Myth No. 1.)
4. Canned content is bad.
Content that has been created by a third-party provider, often called “evergreen” or “canned” content, can be a valuable feature on your site. Top advisers outsource content creation and use canned content to save time and money in areas where they don't need to reinvent the wheel. Video, in particular, tends to be expensive to produce and can be effectively outsourced. Contrary to what you may have heard, canned content does not hurt your site's SEO score and can be very effective in keeping visitors in front of your brand longer, which is an important step in converting website traffic.
5. Canned content is all I need.
While canned content can be effective in getting visitors to your site and keeping them there longer, a marketing strategy with only generic material will fall flat. Custom content, including personal videos, blog posts and articles, is critically important in telling your story and connecting with clients and prospects. Top adviser and social media guru Michael Kitces spends 20% of his week creating items for his website and blog. Whether you take advantage of custom-written articles or create content from scratch, make sure that you post one-of-a-kind information at least once a month to improve your site's SEO and tell your story.
6. Asking for referrals is a marketing fundamental.
Oechsli Institute research shows that 75% of affluent people don't like being asked for referrals. It's old school, uncomfortable for everyone and makes it difficult for your clients to assist you. Your clients like you and want to help, but your approach must be natural and “non-salesy.” We'd recommend conversationally uncovering client connections and asking for specific, social introductions. (“John, why don't you invite your partner Jack to our wine tasting?”) Seventy-seven percent of the affluent said they would be open to that type of request.
7. Working with CPAs is a waste of time.
Twenty-five percent of affluent investors found their adviser through a recommendation from another professional. And it's the No. 1 way (tied with personal introductions) elite advisers bring in new business. CPAs will reciprocate if you find the right one and if you manage the relationship on a business and social level. Treat them as you would a top client, with dinners, review meetings, invitations and special events.
8. You need a 30-second elevator pitch.
Elevator pitches usually come across as canned and corny — exactly the impression you do not want to make. When someone asks you what you do, answer the question briefly and turn the attention back to them. You might say, “We just oversee the finances for some of the families here in Charlotte. Tell me, how did you first get involved here at XYZ Charity?” Through active listening, you build relationships and give yourself an opportunity to sell — when the timing is right.
9. Direct mail is an easy way to grow your client base.
According to the Oechsli Institute's latest research, direct mail and cold calling are the least-effective marketing strategies. Fewer and fewer affluent investors are finding an adviser through these “outbound” marketing methods. Public seminars aren't much better. In today's environment (with the financial meltdown and Bernie Madoff in our rearview mirror), the wealthy want to work with someone they feel confident they can trust. The trust bond is formed through repeated quality interactions, or can be passed along by recommendation from a friend, family member or professional.
10. Compliance kills my social media.
We've worked with front-runners in the social media space and heard advisers tell us “compliance makes it impossible to do social media here.” We've yet to see a compliance department hinder its advisers from doing the social media activities we deem most important, i.e., finding new prospects, profiling key contacts and branding yourself as a true professional. Look around your firm for those who are truly leveraging today's technologies. What are they doing? How can you model their approach?