Early Adoption By Advisors. In the first wave of social media adoption by financial advisors, which began about four years ago, BDs led adoption by implementing compliance technology solutions with little regard to content. They flopped, according to executives at several large BDs. In that initial effort, a few social media marketing companies offered proxy software. An advisor would not log in to LinkedIn or Facebook to interact with their network. Instead, you would log into their applications, which were stripped down versions of the social networks. It was impractical because the apps advisors would use worked on desktops but often did not work on all the different mobile browsers, so you could not tweet from your smartphone.
The early solutions came from compliance apps or from companies whose founders were technology experts. They were not experts in financial planning. After selling the BDs on their solutions, these companies realized they were really in the content business. They've struggled to produce content. But they don’t know what a defective grantor trust is or why many wealthy individuals are asking judges to bust trusts created just five or 10 years ago. Content marketing, funny enough, depends ultimately on valuable content. Check out the two-minute video below to see a sample of client content for RIAs advising ultra-high net-worth individuals (UHNWIs).
Second Wave of Adoption Brings RIAs. A second wave is now under way in which advisor adoption of social media is driven by content, and now RIAs as well as BDs are adopting social media marketing. RIAs are hiring consultants to produce content, and the BDs are working with compliance technology companies and marketing companies. But based on my conversations with advisors and BD executives, neither of these efforts are working out very well. Why? It’s rare to find a consultant with the skills needed to do the job right.
Effective Content Marketing For Advisors. To produce effective content on the Web for advisors, a consultant must master three unrelated fields:
- Search engine optimization
- Financial planning
Finding a writer is easy. Finding a writer who knows about search engine optimization is a bit more difficult. Finding a writer who knows SEO and understands the financial advice business is very difficult.
Meanwhile, advisors are neither writers nor SEO experts. So they have no idea what they’re being sold. Consequently, advisors are often hiring consultants that know a lot about financial planning but little about SEO or SEO consultants that know very little about financial planning. I’m sure most of these consultants are good people who are trying to do their best. But they don’t know what they don’t know. Plus, they're local. You can often meet with them, and that's nice. But advisors wind up getting sold on content marketing solutions with big holes strategically or technologically.
Advisors Get Snookered. Where advisors fail in content marketing is because no one wants to read the information they're sending. Consultants are telling advisors that the only way to succeed in social media is by producing content. Yes, that’s true. You need to create content. But the content can’t be about nonsense. It must be timely and incisive. If you are not creating content people respond to, you’re wasting your time and your prospects'. Everyone is bombarded with a stream filled of unimportant ideas. Adding to the cacophony does not differentiate you. To digress, most writers don’t know financial planning or the financial advice business, and can’t be expected to write about the topics your high-net-worth target clients care about. People who write for a living generally don’t have a lot of money. That's why they're called "starving writers!" They’re writing about financial problems they've not experienced. They’re probably not reading The Economist every week and they probably don’t know that many investors are currently unhappy because their advisors diversified globally at a moment when the U.S. stock market has outperformed the rest of the world’s regions by a wide margin for several years. On the other hand, if you can fluently provide news for ultra-high-net-worth investors--uncommonly smart educational news content UNHWIs can't find elsewhere, then you are differentiating yourself. If your writing consultant could provide that kind of content, they would not be a writing blog posts for $100. An advisor I know, who is spending a $2,000 a month on content marketing--more than 10 times what Advisor Products charges for its top content package--told me he knows his content is "crappy."
Content Need Not Be Original. A big misconception is that you have to create the content or hire a writer to produce valuable content. That’s just not true. Last month’s Journal of Financial Planning contained an article written by a marketing consultant who stated as a fact that "canned" content solutions--a pejorative term for describing content for advisor clients not written by the advisor or private labeled by many advisors--do not work. But she provided no evidence, and she’s wrong. Consultants are biased. Telling advisors that all their content needs to be original supports their business purpose. The consultants get paid to write original content. Or maybe they simply don’t know any better because they've bias has prevented them from examining how syndicated content can be a more cost-effective and powerful solution. Who knows what's in their hearts? But the truth is your clients and prospects don’t care whether you write your own content or link to The Wall Street Journal to give them the valuable ideas they need to know about. Clients and prospects—your social media connections and email subscribers—simply want authoritative, informative, and easy to consume content about wealth management, and don't care if you write it or not. "Canned" content can be used to accomplish the same goals as hiring a writer who interviews you and writes for you, but at a fraction of the cost.
Tweeting Content You Did Not Write. Some advisors tweet articles written from authoritative publications and that’s an okay way to engage social network connections, but it has a couple of serious flaws. First, linking to articles and videos written by others drives traffic to those publications instead of your website, where you can market to your connections and email newsletter subscribers. Linking to newspapers, magazines, and mutual fund companies can, in fact, undermine your message, if that's the only content you provide. Newspapers and magazines are in the business of empowering investors to manage their money without an advisor. They’re not written from an advisor’s point of view. And while the finest fund companies, like DFA, might provide excellent content and research, their videos and articles trumpet their products and not your brand. Their materials are also not intended for clients and are produced for advisors.
What Advisor Products Is Doing. Advisors need authoritative, easy-to-consume content trumpeting their brands that reflects their perspective. So Advisor Products creates authoritative content that can be branded by you. We make it effortless for you to use that content to bring your social network connections to your website. Tweeting a link to an article that is authoritative, informative, and easy to read and that is posted to your website is a great way to communicate with prospects and clients--even though the article or video is not produced by you. So Advisor Products has been creating content in collaboration with thought leaders in the profession: Bob Keebler, an expert on estate and income tax planning; Prof. Craig Israelsen, an expert on applying modern portfolio theory to low-expense portfolios, and Fritz Meyer, an economist and investment strategist. Our content is based on in-depth analysis by the best minds in the profession, experts in specific areas of wealth management.
Social Networking Must Be Easy For Advisors. Content marketing using social networks must be very easy or effortless, or the vast majority of advisors won’t do it. Since content marketing is unlikely to bring immediate results, few advisors have the discipline and patience to make the long-term commitment necessary to and put the time into writing articles and posting status updates. I love this stuff and can go for days without offering a tweet when I'm busy. Advisors need to be able to get their names and ideas across to their social media connections with little effort. Most RIAs do not have the staff to devote or the time to tweet, write blog posts, and make videos and slide shows. Most advisors need a system that will be on auto-pilot, where they do almost nothing. We’ve got that.
How It Works. FINRA-reviewed articles and videos that we create are in a database that advisors access using the AdvisorSites BackOffice, our own content management system. You simply click on a check box when you want a story to appear on your website. Then, you use our social media dashboard to send out status updates about each articles posted to your website. We build sites on Joomla, an open-source content management system that we've integrated with our content distribution systems, and we develop sites on a proprietary .NET content management system for advisors affiliated with BDs and that allows pre-review of content by a compliance department.
Social Media Marketing Integrated And Lead Generation With Advisor Websites. The solution Advisor Products has developed integrates three crucial components in online marketing for advisors: high-value articles and videos about wealth management, status updates, and lead generation. We write and send for FINRA review, three status updates (tweets) for each article or video we produce for your website. The tweets can be posted automatically to appear in your profile and on your social network connections’ news stream on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. The tweets link back to the articles on your website. This solution did not come about overnight. It was built incrementally over many years. But now I am happy to report that we have it nailed. I believe we've cracked the code for mass personalization of quality content marketing campaigns for advisors to UHNWIs.
Lead generation. “Call to action” graphics on your website invite visitors—your social media connections and email-newsletter subscribers—to download a video, slide show or article and requiring they submit an email address and phone number, which gets emailed to you automatically and becomes a lead. This enables advisors to execute content marketing campaigns. The image directly above shows how call-to-action graphics (CTAs) can be placed on a site. The graphics on every page of your site prominently feature colorful Windows-style tiles linking to special reports for your target market. The uncommon knowledge conveyed in these educational videos generates leads. When you post a tweet about retirement income planning that one of your social connections wants to view, they click on the link in the tweet on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, which takes them to your website. At your site, your visitors see a graphic off to the side or on the bottom of the page that might say, “Special Retirement Income Report,” which they can view by providing their contact information. When visitors to your site click on a call to action graphic, it displays the special report only if they provide their email address and phone. They become leads for you. The snippets from a retirement income special report is embedded at the top of tbs post. Below is another special report about diversification and 2Q13 stock performance.
Personalization. All of components are personalized. The tweets are on your social profile. The articles and videos are on your website under your brand. The special reports are branded to you as well with your logo and firm name and contact information. If you want to do a little bit of work, you can append the status updates we have written with your keywords. For example, we may write a tweet, “10 ways retirement income investing is different in 2014.” You can append it to say, “10 ways retirement income investing is different in 2014 for doctors in North Carolina.” That will help your search engine rankings is doctors in North Carolina is your target market. You can pick your articles and tweets once a week or once a month in 10 or 15 minutes, append the tweets with your keywords and schedule them to go out on specific days and times. You have a personalized, social media marketing program with some of the best client education content available anywhere.
Blog writing. If you want to take things to the next level and invest in writing a blog, then you’re going to have more success with search engine optimization. That is, if you fill your blog with the keywords people are likely to use to search topics you advise on, then you’ll be helping people find you who are looking for solutions you provide. By combining keywords about wealth management niches with local keywords about your community, you increase the likelihood local people will find you. Often the topics are not about estate planning or wealth management. For example, I am working with an advisor now who is located in an area dominated by golf courses and country clubs. So we’re writing posts about the long term cost of golf club membership and listing he annual and up-front cost of the different country clubs in the small towns with the wealthiest residents. If you optimize your website and do not write a blog, your website still needs to be optimized for your keywords and you still need to optimize your title tags, metadata and perform other on-page SEO tasks, but your chances of success in using search engines to enable to find you are much lower than if you post articles with you keywords regularly.