Despite a dramatic increase in online audience, it’s been well documented that financial advisors have been slow to adapt to the changing digital-first preference of their customers. However, with significant upgrades in the availability and affordability of digital marketing tools, along with prodding by search giant Google, many advisors are starting to see the opportunity online.
Before beginning your digital journey, it’s important to get a clear look at the road ahead. To help you avoid many of the pitfalls that previous advisors have faced, I’ve identified 5 key digital marketing recommendations that will make your journey a lot more prosperous.
1. Start With An Audit
Before I begin working with any new client, I’ll conduct an in-depth marketing audit to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. This audit will give me an overall perspective of not only the client’s organization, but of the current status within the industry, their opportunities and any potential roadblocks.
One of the biggest challenges for any firm is to develop an unbiased assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, especially from a marketing perspective. Do you have the thought leadership or the capability in-house to create the necessary components of a digital marketing campaign? Do you have buy-in within the organization for digital marketing and making it a part of your corporate culture?
These are exceptionally difficult questions to answer internally. However, a digital marketing audit will help you get a clear view of the situation at hand. It will also help you see through assumptions, whether internal or external, that may hold your organization back.
Many small to medium sized businesses, including financial advisors, retain antiquated internal assumptions about their firm’s ability to generate leads and new business. When those assumptions are faulty, the firm creates a major obstruction that could be completely unnecessary.
Creating a detailed audit will provide a clear view of what is real and will help you identify what should be next. It can also help mitigate faulty assumptions that are costing you business.
2. Make a Plan – And Stick To It
One of the biggest strategic mistakes that hold back financial advisors from business development success is simply not following through with a consistent marketing program. Some advisors may take the steps necessary to create a digital marketing process, but get distracted or lose their focus, consequently limiting their potential for success.
By developing a plan of who, what, where and when your digital marketing will occur; you create a detailed road map from which to follow. Having an idea of where you need to be versus where you are will allow your firm to build up the necessary momentum within the organization to keep you moving forward instead of stagnating.
Before you begin, you’ll want to identify the people and the resources you currently have within your organization that could contribute to your digital marketing, and more specifically, your content marketing process. Your plan should also include where each individual person will be involved and what they will contribute.
86% of B2B marketers and 77% of B2C marketers use content marketing.
–Content Marketing Institute, 2015
Having a concrete plan with structured deliverables is an essential part of the process of digital marketing. Since nearly every financial advisor will benefit from diverse participation within their organization to contribute their thought leadership, the only way to achieve 100% follow through is with a structured, organized plan that will actually dictate the steps that need to be taken.
For example, when I’m working with a client on improving their lead generation process, I identify the key factors that can make the biggest impact on success. I then create a structured plan to sequentially test those important factors and diagnose opportunities for improvement.
You may have a single individual managing most of digital marketing – website, social media, email marketing, etc., but the greatest value of your firm comes from your internal expertise. It only makes sense to bring out the best of this expertise from each individual and to share it online, helping to build your authority in the eyes of the search engines.
3. Develop Processes
Nearly all small businesses have resource limitations, whether they be time or resources. It’s crucial to systematize as much as possible within your digital marketing to maximize your resources and build your marketing momentum.
If you’re developing a blog for your website, having an editorial calendar so that the content is created in advance of the post dates will allow you to schedule your promotional efforts for this content. The same is true for your email marketing campaigns where you’ll want to outline each step of the customer relationship so that it’s congruent with the motivation of your audience.
In addition to providing clarity, developing processes allow your organization to monitor all the moving parts that take place within a structured digital marketing campaign. By batching processes, you can greatly maximize your efficiency.
For example, if you’re conducting a paid advertising campaign, you’ll want to have a unique landing page that is optimized for collecting as many leads as possible from that paid advertising. If you just send that traffic to your homepage, the ad and the landing may not share the exact same message. The banner ad and landing page must be congruent so that the reader who clicks on the ad will see exactly the same message and related product. Building all of these elements together will ensure cohesion and efficiency.
As you can imagine, managing these types of detailed relationships across all your digital marketing channels could get overwhelming. Thankfully digital marketing has benefited from powerful new tools, including marketing automation, that allow for enormous improvements in efficiency. These new technologies have changed dramatically within the past 3 to 5 years, leveling the playing field for small firms to now compete with larger organizations that may have an entire digital marketing team.
Best-in-Class companies are 67% more likely to use a marketing automation platform.
– Aberdeen Group “State of Marketing Automation 2014: Processes that Produce” (2014)
4. Measure Everything
The saying “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” applies 100% to your digital marketing. Thankfully, measuring what we do in the digital world is literally built in to pretty much every aspect and program. Nowhere is this access to quality data more important than for advisors and their clients.
Today’s digital marketing tools have the capability to translate massive amounts of data into instantly relevant insights. By creating dashboards for each stakeholder within your organization, you give each of those groups the opportunity to not only understand where the leads are coming from and where the progress is being made, but how their group is impacted.
By measuring the results of each one of your digital marketing processes in real time, you can identify resource usage issues across all platforms and consequently adapt your time and investment wisely. This is another major advantage digital has over most forms of traditional marketing.
For example, a traditional direct mail campaign that would involve printing and mailing would typically take days and even weeks to provide tangible results. With digital marketing, your data will provide immediate feedback so you can make adjustments and maximize our investments.
5. Always Be Optimizing
One of the biggest strengths of digital marketing is the ability to optimize everything. Every piece of content, every call to action on your website, every email that gets sent, and every social media post is connected to an outcome. Identifying those outcomes and improving their results through testing will allow you to constantly improve your return on investment.
By testing two different subject lines within an email campaign, you’ll receive clear results as to which headline encourages the highest email open rate. By conducting these types of tests you can create a constant strategy of improvement that will allow you to get the most bang for the buck. You can also make sure that you current and potential customers are enjoying the absolute best experience possible.
64% of people say the customer experience is more important than price in their choice of a brand.
– Gartner, 2014
In addition, making these adjustments in the digital realm is often a lot more simple than in traditional marketing and advertising such as print advertising, direct mail or event marketing. Just by moving a few pixels around, we can drastically improve the performance of our marketing campaigns in minutes, instead of days.
Financial advisors that follow a clear path from the outset have a much greater chance of making a major impact with their digital marketing than those without a clear strategy. Learn to take a step back and audit your unique circumstances to help limit your assumptions when building your digital marketing process.
Systematization is a key ingredient that will help ensure consistency and congruency within your digital marketing. Without a clear definition of your processes, and without clear feedback in terms of analytics, you’ll miss out on the strength of digital marketing, which is the ability to maximize your return on investment.