Advisers need to get on board with the digital revolution

Both young and old clients expect to be able to have digital interactions with their advisory firm

Jun 16, 2017 @ 3:55 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

No matter the size of the advisory firm or the make up of the client base, it would be a mistake to overlook the marketing potential of social media and digital interactions.

Megan Carpenter, chief executive and co-founder of FiComm Partners, said there is a tendency for advisers to assume older and wealthier clients are not interested in digital interactions.

"You are totally missing the point if you don't think your older, wealthier clients are on digital, because everybody is on digital," she said during a panel discussion at last week's Pershing Insite conference in San Diego.

"I don't know many financial advisory firms that are thinking about their marketing that way," she added. "Most of you probably built your business on referrals, which is great, but I challenge you to think about if that will be enough. Will that help you meet your growth goals? I don't think it will be enough."

Fellow panelist Darren Reinig, chief investment officer at Delphi Private Advisors, concurred with Ms. Carpenter's perspective, but admitted it was something he had to learn firsthand.

"We used to have the mindset that nobody is going to Google our firm," he said. "I think there's a sea change coming in and even older and higher-net worth-clients are expecting access through their phones. If you don't play that game you're missing an opportunity."

Jerry Wackerhagen, executive vice president of operations and technology at First Command Financial Services, also confessed to waking up to the need to embrace digital communications, even though his firm that focuses on active military personnel is "100% referral."

"If you're not on a phone app, you're missing an opportunity, because we've had prospects tell us the last thing they will do is open up their laptop and look us up," he said. "Even in a referral business, they are going to check you out on social media long before they come to talk with you face-to-face."

Ms. Carpenter said it isn't as important to utilize every possible social media outlet as it is to send out a fine-tuned and targeted message.

Recognizing the short attention span of most consumers, she said advisers are missing an opportunity to connect digitally by loading up their websites with statements about their experience, credentials and assets under management.

"A lot of websites are saying they do everything for everyone, and there's no value in reading that," she said. "Identify your value and let your value drive your messaging. And the messaging shouldn't be about you, it should be about your audience."

Ms. Carpenter cited as an example, the way Mr. Wackerhagen's firm concentrates on members of the military and their families.

"What resonates with me about First Command is authenticity to the target market," she said. "It's important to have an authentic connection to your target market."

Ms. Carpenter added that the messaging should begin with and be driven by the clients an advisory firm is already serving.

"Listen when your clients talk, because they're going to give you all the information you need to define your value if you just listen to what they're telling you," she said. "Once you have your messaging in place, be bold and proactive about getting the messaging out in front of your target audience."

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