by Bill Winterberg, CFP®
Bill Winterberg, CFP®, is a technology consultant to financial advisers in Atlanta, GA. His comments on technology and financial planning can be viewed on his blog at www.fppad.com.
Successfully marketing to a large audience of prospective clients used to require a budget beyond the reach of most financial planners. Unable to make substantial investments in marketing, planners often found themselves losing an uphill battle to the multi-million-dollar ad campaigns of brokerage firms and financial product companies. Many simply gave up and avoided marketing altogether, relying almost exclusively on referrals to grow their businesses.
However, the evolution of the Internet, social media, and mobile devices is forever changing the way service providers market to and engage with their audiences. Today, planners can use many of the same tools and techniques employed by large companies in marketing campaigns without spending millions, or even thousands, of dollars. This column highlights various solutions you can use in the new year to attract prospects and differentiate yourself from impersonal multi-billion-dollar financial service companies.
Embracing Inbound Marketing
Your audience of prospective clients consists of sophisticated and discriminating individuals. Reaching out and connecting with them through print advertisements, radio commercials, and cold calling, otherwise collectively known as “outbound marketing,” is not as effective as it once was.
Prospects have new ways to block outbound marketing messages of all kinds. They skip television commercials with DVRs, hide Internet ads with pop-up blockers and web content filters, and screen incoming phone calls with caller ID. With so many barriers to engagement, how can financial planners break through with their messages?
Planners can reboot their strategies and embrace techniques that fall under the principle of “inbound marketing.” Inbound marketing is the practice of making yourself or your firm easy to find, and drawing prospective clients to your website and other media through content they find valuable and personally relevant. Prospects then grant you permission to engage them, usually by opting in to receive your newsletter or by leaving comments or feedback on your website or blog.
Inbound Marketing Resources
The cornerstone of inbound marketing collateral for financial planners is an engaging website and blog. The content you post online should be written for your ideal client audience.
“If you are focused on the entire market, then your content will not drill down far enough to attract inbound traffic,” says Suzanne Muusers of Prosperity Coaching LLC, a business and marketing coach to planners.
Your content should address current issues important to your target client and be updated regularly, so the software that supports your blog and website should be easy to use. Look for website providers and content management software (CMS) that feature a “WYSIWYG” editor, an acronym for What You See Is What You Get. WYSIWYG editors offer basic features similar to those found in popular word processing software programs, so if you are proficient with Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, you can easily create new pages for your blog or website.
The following CMS programs are widely used today, and many of them can be customized for your specific needs through an extensive library of design templates and third-party plug-ins.
- Wordpress (www.wordpress.org)
- Drupal (www.drupal.org)
- Joomla (www.joomla.org)
- Tumblr (www.tumblr.com)
- Blogger (www.blogger.com)
Addressing current events with your online content means frequent updates, so you will need a compliance solution that can automatically retrieve and archive your online material. Advisor Websites (www.advisorwebsites.com) is a Vancouver, B.C.-based website provider to financial planners, and uses Drupal to support customer websites. Their software automatically saves archive and revision history of all website content, plus it includes a compliance module to allow pre-approval of content before it is posted publicly.
Smarsh Inc. (www.smarsh.com), the Portland, Oregon-based email archiving provider, also can capture your website’s content for compliance purposes with its web archiving product. A similar product is available from Arkovi, now a part of compliance technology and education provider RegEd (www.reged.com).
Financial planners also should consider enhancing their website content with online video material. You can purchase high-quality audio and video equipment for under $1,000 and post appealing videos to websites such as YouTube for free. Again, from an inbound marketing perspective, your goal is to publish content your audience is searching for, and YouTube happens to be the top online video search property, according to comScore.1
In addition to YouTube, you can explore other video hosting services such as Vimeo (www.vimeo.com) and Wistia (www.wistia.com), which support high-definition content, playback on mobile devices, and detailed video analytics.
Attracting Mobile Prospects
Facebook recently surpassed 1 billion active users, a significant number on its own.2 What’s even more stunning is that the company reported more than 600 million people regularly access Facebook on a smartphone or tablet. It’s clear that mobile devices are used for just about anything today, from shopping, to navigating, and the likelihood that your prospective clients use mobile devices is higher than ever.
One way you can attract prospects using mobile devices is through the use of Quick Response, or QR, codes. Anyone with a camera-equipped mobile device can take a picture of a QR code using an app such as Google Goggles for Android or the Google Search app for Apple iOS. The app recognizes the code and quickly takes the user to a specific web address. That web address can be one of your website pages featuring an introductory video, free download offer, or form to submit a contact request.
One easy way to create QR codes is with free URL shortening services such as bitly (bitly.com). You can use bitly to make a shorter version of a long URL, and bitly automatically makes a QR code image to go with it. Simply copy and paste the QR code image anywhere you want it to be scanned, including your business card, marketing brochures, and even silk-screen printing on the sleeve of a polo shirt.
Also, be sure that the web page associated with your QR code is mobile friendly, with content optimized for touch screens and smaller displays. One app that automatically formats your website content for a variety of mobile devices is Onswipe (www.onswipe.com). Onswipe can easily be added to most CMS programs mentioned earlier in this column.
Finally, once you attract prospective clients with your online content, make it easy for them to give you permission to include them in future correspondence. A simple way to do this is to add a newsletter signup form on your website. Popular newsletter services such as AWeber (www.aweber.com), MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com), and Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) support simple signup forms you can design and embed on your CMS-supported website.
One technique to incentivize newsletter signups is to offer a free download of a report or whitepaper you created. For giving you permission to send a periodic newsletter, you’re immediately rewarding each new subscriber with exclusive content that addresses his or her interests.
When it comes time to broadcast new content to subscribers, newsletter services allow you to create campaigns around your material, target delivery to specific prospects, and analyze the efficacy of campaigns through various metrics and reports. If you currently “batch and blast” content using your email program’s Bcc: field, you’re missing out on the insight that can be gained by using these services.
Digital Age Marketing
Today’s technology allows you to attract and engage prospects in so many different ways, but it requires a shift in how you may have traditionally marketed to your audience. Blasting your message using outbound marketing tactics is no longer effective in today’s digital age. Instead, you can cultivate inbound marketing content in a way that addresses the needs and questions of the audience you serve, and make that content easy for others to discover. Not only will you have the potential to gain the trust and permission of your audience, you won’t have to spend a fortune to support your marketing efforts.