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Advisers can beat out firms like Fidelity with this marketing approach

Planners can't compete on ad spending but local Google Search results can be even more beneficial to business development

Mar 8, 2019 @ 2:39 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Independent advisers may not have the budgets to match what a company like Fidelity Investments can spend on advertising, but they can take advantage of what may be an even more effective tool for generating business leads for them — using paid search engine results. They just have to get a little creative.

According to research from Kantar Media, a firm that measures advertising across media, Fidelity led the way in spending on television ads from Oct. 24 to Jan. 21, costing the firm about $11.7 million. Following Fidelity was Pacific Life and Voya Financial, which spent $7.3 million and $6.5 million, respectively, to air their brands on TV.

Yet these same firms aren't doing particularly well when it comes to sponsored search.

Kantar Media tracked clicks to advertised Google results of 65 keywords that are relevant to the financial planning and retirement industry.

On mobile searches, Fidelity earned 3.4% of clicks for those terms, good enough for eighth place, according to Kantar Media data. The firm only earned 2.0% of desktop search traffic, ranking the investments behemoth number 11.

Pacific Life and Voya Financial didn't crack the top 20.

While TV ads can generate brand awareness, influence consumer sentiment and educate about new services, paid search can be more effective, and certainly cheaper, at generating business leads, said Jim Leichenko, Kantar Media's director of marketing.

"Unless you're a large company, television is not really an option because of the sheer cost," Mr. Leichenko said."There is not a large barrier to compete in paid search."

Leading the way on desktop searches with 15.1% of clicks is LetsMakeaPlan.org, the Certified Financial Planner Board's website for connecting investors with CFP accredited advisers. The website also earned 8.9% of mobile searches for those 65 financial keywords, good for fourth place.

(More: New CFP Board ads feature lesbian couple)

Prudential Financial came in first on mobile click share with 11% and fourth in desktop click share at 9.2%, while also spending the seventh-most on TV ads, about $1.5 million. Morgan Stanley earned second place on both desktop and mobile searches.

While the enormous advertising budgets of these firms will ensure they dominate the most popular keywords — "financial advisor," "retirement plans," "retirement investment" and "certified financial planner" — independent advisers can find success with what Mr. Leichenko called "long tail keywords."

Instead of spending money on the keyword "financial adviser," a smaller firm can spend on "financial adviser in [town name]" or "retirement expert near me" and take advantage of Google's preference for local results. Or they can focus on a niche service it provides.

"You may not be at the top right away, but if you are locally based and people are searching for 'financial planner near me,' then Google and other search engines are going to serve locally based ads to those people," Mr. Leichenko said.

(More: Digital marketing strategies take years to perfect, but can yield prospects galore)

Even more than beating large institutions to the top of search results, long tail keywords can help connect advisers with an investor closer to making a decision than someone doing some cursory research.

"They are looking for something more specific than someone just typing in 'financial adviser,'" M. Leichenko said.

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