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Practice Management

The latest trends in marketing are ideal for financial advisors who want to grow their practice.

This Practice Management article is intended for financial advisors only (registered representatives of broker/dealers or associated persons of Registered Investment Advisors).
 

As children, we were taught to always tell the truth. Today, we’re expected to adhere to this guiding principle in our daily lives and in business. But what about truth when it comes to marketing?

Unfortunately, marketers have a reputation for being crafty. Through decades of experimenting and developing new strategies, successful marketers have come up with a million and one ways to get consumers to buy what they’re selling.

Too often, companies turn to a “gotcha” marketing technique: tricking the consumer into purchasing something and not delivering on what was promised. We’ve all been victims of such a scheme. Unfortunately, your clients and prospects may be wary of your marketing efforts because they have had bad experiences with “gotcha” marketing.

While some may consider this the nature of the beast, there is a new trend arising in marketing that’s ideal for financial advisors, particularly in the wake of the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule. It’s known as “transparent marketing.” Simply defined, it means telling the whole truth about your product or service and explaining exactly what the consumer will get.

What’s Old Is New
Transparent marketing is an age-old principle with new-age implementation. Avis is a great example. In a now-famous advertising campaign, the headline read, “Avis is only No. 2 in rent a cars. So why go with us?”

With that headline, one can’t help but keep reading! The ad continues to explain why customers should rent a car from Avis, as opposed to the top car rental company. Instead of claiming to be the best in the business, Avis was honest and showed the customer what he or she could expect from the rental company.

Since Avis’s early experimentation in transparent marketing, many companies have followed suit.

One T-shirt company, Everlane, provides what it calls “radical transparency,” sharing information on all of the factories with which it works, including the location, materials produced, and the number of employees.

When McDonald’s came under fire for its increasingly mysterious ingredients, they launched a transparency program called "Our food. Your questions," responding to frequently asked questions and providing facts on how their food is prepared. And Buffer, a social media marketing platform, went so far as to publish the salaries of all of its employees, including the CEO.

Open and Honest Marketing
If there’s any industry in which transparent marketing would make the most sense, it’s financial services. Finding a financial advisor is a very personal process, and requires extensive deliberation and comparison. When clients decide to work with you, they are trusting you to manage their assets appropriately. You have the unique task of building a strong level of trust early on in a relationship with a prospect. Through transparent marketing, you have the opportunity to be open and honest with prospects, while simultaneously revealing what makes you stand out from the competition.

There’s a good chance that you’ve already been utilizing transparent marketing to help you build this trust, from serving as a fiduciary to providing objective financial information and advice. However, you may not be strategically using it to your best advantage. Let’s look at a few different ways you can make your marketing more transparent for the benefit of your prospects and clients.

Developing a Digital Property
While it may seem like many financial advisors’ websites read the same, it’s not without reason. Pages about your process, how you are compensated, and what a client can expect when he or she works with you helps put a prospective client’s mind at ease.

New clients may have little to no experience working with an advisor and may be nervous. By populating your website with honest content, prospects may feel more inclined to reach out because they know what they are going to get.

As you build or update your website, consider including pages such as:

  • “Our Process”
  • “Our Fees”
  • “Our Investment Philosophy”
  • “Who We Serve”
  • “Why Choose Us”
  • “Our Story”

On your team page and bio, don’t forget to include personal details. Undoubtedly, prospects want to know where you went to school and what certifications or designations you received. But they also want to know what you enjoy doing in your free time, if you have a family, and what you’re passionate about. These details are what make you, you!

Clients Want Backstage Access
Apps like Snapchat and Periscope offer a fresh new way to approach social media. Rather than posting edited, carefully curated images and videos, they offer a “behind the scenes” look into a user’s life. For example, Snapchat users typically post photos and videos of things they are doing at that moment, without many filters or editing.

Here are some ways advisors can use social media to aid in their transparent marketing:

  • Show videos of your everyday office life (even the less glamorous parts!).
  • Show you and your team at an event outside of the office.
  • Show you and your family spending time together.

Just as adding personal details to your bio makes you seem more relatable, sharing “real” social media posts accomplishes the same thing. Your clients and prospects not only want to see what makes you a great advisor but they also want to see what makes you a great person!

Getting Personal
Investopedia says two of the most common reasons clients fire their financial advisors are a lack of proactivity and candor. Many people complain that they only hear from their advisor when the markets are up, though investors need their advisors most when the markets are rocky.

The strongest client-advisor relationships form when the advisor connects with clients 12–18 times a year. One of the simplest ways to maintain such frequent communication is through email marketing.

Whether it’s market commentary or a simple holiday greeting, clients appreciate high-touch, personal marketing. You may consider doing a monthly newsletter that provides timely and topical financial information, holiday greetings, and reminders regarding annual reviews or upcoming events. You’ll stay top-of-mind with clients and encourage more referrals.

Building Trust Through Transparency
There are few professions in which transparent marketing is this important. For financial advisors, the first step to getting a client to trust you with his or her finances might involve being more upfront with your own marketing efforts.

Transparent marketing isn’t easy, and it can be very intimidating. However, providing a window into your business can attract more prospects and build respect and trust with your clients. You don’t have to post your salary on your website, but you can start right now by thinking about the honest and share-worthy elements of your business—and how you can communicate them more openly with prospects and clients.

—by Craig Faulkner
Craig Faulkner is the CEO of FMG Suite.

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