Marketing your advisory services can promote the intangibles of your business like brand and professionalism.

Marketing Your Investment Advisory Firm in a Competitive Marketplace

Investment advisors agree: Marketing is as important as ever in today’s competitive business climate.

A recent survey from SEI ranks digital marketing efforts and public-facing marketing activities among advisors’ top 10 priorities for 2018 -- ahead of such concerns as preparing for the impending fiduciary rule.

Enter Rebecca Hourihan, founder and CMO for San Diego-based 401(k) Marketing, a firm that teaches retirement plan advisors how to market themselves.

“In the previous world, wirehouses did much of the marketing for advisors, she says. “But now, these efforts fall squarely on the independent advisor.”

Not only does this add pressure to an advisor’s business, but it means they have to do more work to stand out in a crowded world.

As Hourihan estimates, the average person receives dozens of emails a day; additional studies show that consumers are exposed to 10,000 or more ads and other brand messages each day. Advisors must cut through this deluge and make meaningful connections with potential and current clients.

“Advisors may be technical experts, but they [also] have to be business owners, which means they need to know how to do marketing -- and they don’t teach you that with a Series 7,” she says.  

One area where Hourihan says advisors need work is in mastering. To that end, it’s important to create a marketing calendar that tracks the frequency of various activities.

“If you start a blog, do it every month,” she says. “Conduct a webinar every quarter. Create an email campaign that has a regular cadence to share the firm’s activities or perspectives.”

Hourihan notes that blogs can be a great starting point for advisors because they can be easily leveraged.

“A blog can be repurposed 10 different ways,” she says. “A monthly blog can be posted on your website, turned into an email, included in a newsletter, posted on your LinkedIn and Twitter feeds and even sent to local online and print media. Technology is a great multiplier, and advisors should use it to get their voice out there.”

What mistake do advisors tend to make once they get a marketing program going?

“When marketing starts to work, they stop marketing,” she says. Instead, they need to keep it going to keep their brand alive and relevant.

Advisors should also understand the simpler side of marketing to ensure that “professionalism comes across in different dimensions,” whether it’s an email template, brochure, business card or call to action.  

Hourihan also encourages advisors to perform regular internet searches for their name, since that’s one of the first steps a prospective client might take.

“You can gather your team and have them search the web on different browsers and review results, including text, images and even videos,” she says. “If your social media profiles are visible, what is the first impression they give someone?”

The question of how 401(k) advisors can differentiate themselves from generalists has also evolved over the past few years.

Initially, 401(k) advisors stood out as those who could meet the fiduciary standards and give competent advice to plan sponsors. In the last couple years, the concept of making employees “whole” via financial wellness programs helped 401(k) advisors position themselves even more as experts in guiding employees to eventual retirement. However, Hourihan says, financial wellness is becoming more commonplace at companies -- and less of a unique selling point.

The newest 401(k) marketing tactic is dialing in to outcomes, according to Hourihan. Advisors are focusing on how an employee is doing in the “last leg” of the retirement marathon. While decisions may be made at a corporate level and filter down to employees, advisors will stand out when they show they can take that information and make sure the employee that is nearing retirement is saving in a meaningful way that will garner the best outcome.

Lastly, Hourihan encourages advisors to step into their clients’ shoes and experience the sales process from their perspective.

“Advisors should understand that, in some cases, plan sponsors are scared,” she says. “They’ve been bombarded with awareness campaigns on regulatory or litigation risks.”

In other words, they are looking for answers -- and the right advisor.   

“Map the experience from all around the client journey,” Hourihan says. “How is every marketing outreach or collateral enhancing the advisor’s reputation and helping move the ball forward? Evaluate each of those interactions from a client standpoint: your business card, email signature block, your office, seminars, social media, etc. If you look at all of this and say, ‘These are great and I am proud,’ then you’re good.

“But if there is any hesitation, immediately make updates. Never forget to look at your marketing through the lens of your prospects, centers of influence and clients.”