The role marketing plays for RIAs in wealth management | Financial Planning
Brian Wallheimer: (00:10)
Thank you all for joining us today at this session of Leaders. I’m joined today by Meg carpenter. She’s the CEO of FCOM I’m Brian Wallheimer, editor-in-chief of financial planning. Meg, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Meg Carpenter: (00:25)
Sure. Thanks so much, Brian, to you and the Financial Planning team for having me on this webinar. My name is Meg Carpenter. Like Brian said, I’m the CEO at FiComm partners. Ficomm is a marketing and PR firm, and we have solutions for advisors and advisory firms at every stage of their growth. I have worked with financial advisors and advisory firms. My entire career started as a marketing intern all the way to today. So I’ve been very fortunate to work with thousands of advisors and advisory firms over the course of my career. And outside of work. I’m a mom. I have three young kids, two dogs. My husband and I are pretty focused on the chaos at home. But other than that, we like to cook together to unwind. And I’m also a big Peloton fan.
Brian Wallheimer: (01:15)
Well, thank you so much for joining us, Meg. We are so glad to have you here. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule. I know what it’s like in terms of the family with three kids of my own here. And speaking of being busy, if you are going independent these days, you have so much on your plate from dealing with all the regulatory and compliance issues that you have to get just right to hiring people. It’s a whole, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re setting up a whole business, and marketing is an incredibly important part of that that sometimes can get left by the wayside. Can you just sort of touch on why marketing is so important in the RIA space today?
Meg Carpenter: (01:57)
Sure. Thanks, Brian. I mean, I feel like we are at this moment in time where marketing is such a crucial part of an advisor, an advisory firm’s business plan and strategy, what we’re experiencing today. And like I said, I’ve been in this business my entire career. I’ve seen a lot of things. And what we’re experiencing at this moment in time is just a really significant shift in consumer preferences and in how consumers approach buying decisions. So if you think about sort of the arc of the wealth management community, some of the pioneers of the RIA space launched their first business 30-ish years ago. And traditionally over those three decades, RIA firms have largely grown by two things. One, they’ve grown by market movement and two, they’ve grown through client referrals. So they do great work. They build great relationships. And because of that, they’re referred, which really, if you think about it, like that’s the gold standard. You should always be striving to deliver such a great client experience that people are referring you.
Meg Carpenter: (02:59)
However, what we’re seeing today is that consumer preferences have changed. So there’s this really strong desire for people to learn and validate and start creating relationships in a digital and virtual way. So if you think about referrals, even that paradigm has changed. If someone refers a client to me, if I’m an advisor, that person, before they call me, they’re going to go check me out online and they’re going to see where I exist and what I’m talking about and whether or not they align with my worldviews. They’re definitely going to go look at my website, like that just happens. So consumer preferences specifically, as it relates to the buyer’s journey, have changed. That’s been driven by a lot of the technology that we’ve experienced and that evolution over the last decade. But in addition, we see like geography is no longer an asset, right? That accelerated throughout COVID.
Meg Carpenter: (03:51)
When we were able to have these virtual meetings, traditional advisors, you know, this community was sort of built by boomers for boomers. So we have an aging advisor and consumer population. And so when you sort of think about just these changes in the clients and how we serve them and how we communicate with them, it really does mean that marketing has become even more critical. And what we have seen to your point about inertia is that there is sort of this lack of understanding of like, what is marketing and where do I start and how will it benefit my business, and what we hear all the time is like, what’s the ROI. And so, because there’s this uncertainty and there’s a lack of familiarity, and there’s also a lack of experience, oftentimes advisory firms just get caught in this inertia or people get caught in the sense of, well, I tried something before and I didn’t think it worked, so I’m just not going to try it again. And so we see that quite a bit. And so I think the opportunity for today is to think about how can advisory firms really get clear on how to use marketing as their primary driver of growth, and how can they do so in a way that feels really good for them and their business and how they prefer to sort of present themselves to the world.
Brian Wallheimer: (05:10)
Great. Yeah. You know, you talked about referrals being so important in the past, and this is a relationship business. Everyone talks about that in wealth management. Talk about, a little bit about using your own strengths. I know that there are a lot of, niche offices popping up people who are serving certain, you know, certain types of clientele. But how do you build on your own strengths to develop those relationships through, through not only marketing, but through digital efforts?
Meg Carpenter: (05:43)
Sure. So, you know, one thing that I’ve learned in my 20 years working with advisors is that what works for my neighbor is not necessarily going to work for me. So in my former role, prior to starting my own business, prior to starting FiComm, I was in charge of two different firms on, either coast of the country with building out value-added marketing services for the affiliated advisors. And so I was really trying to think about scale, right? Like how can I scale these efforts at the firm? And what I learned is that if, you know, one advisor, you know, one advisor and it’s, their marketing is so dependent on who they are and the services that they offer and how they offer those services and in the types of clients that they serve and what those clients are looking for.
Meg Carpenter: (06:31)
So while we have at FiComm been able to achieve scale and teaching and coaching advisors on those frameworks, the actual execution is highly dependent on each specific advisor. So the framework that we walk people through that will allow you, the advisor, the advisory firm executive to really think about how to leverage your own strengths and relate those to your marketing efforts is to just get really clear on your why, which is sort of like your passion or your purpose, you know. Why are you a financial advisor? Why did you get into this business? Why do you love serving clients when you’ve had a really tough day? And I know that we’ve all had tough days this year, specifically as it relates to some of the market volatility. Like, what brings you back the next day? So that’s sort of like step one in thinking about how to personalize your marketing efforts and make marketing decisions for your business.
Meg Carpenter: (07:21)
It’s like, get really clear on why you do what you do. And then the second thing is to get really clear on who are you doing it for? And to your point, Brian, about niche markets, that has, and will continue to be something that successful marketers in this business will continue to deploy. Because, from my perspective, you actually want to focus on the smallest addressable market. You want to get really clear on who you’re serving. And I’ll tell you because I’ve had so many conversations over the course of my career that this step two makes advisors really nervous because they don’t.
Brian Wallheimer: (07:56)
I think so. Yeah. I mean, it seems, it seems like, you know, you want to try to attract as many clients as you can, right? I mean, that’s the, the name of the game, but, but it, it seems like there’s sort of, you’re, you’re casting a smaller net to get, to get these, these niche customers, but you also have the opportunity to cast it, not just in the town that you work in, but throughout your state, even throughout the country. Right?
Meg Carpenter: (08:23)
Right. Well, the easiest way to get the most clients is to be, become an influencer and to have influence in a market. And it’s really, really hard to do that when your message to external audiences is essentially like I do all things for all people, which is where we typically see advisor messaging sit, you know. It’s, we do comprehensive financial planning, wealth management, investment management for individuals, families, and institutions. So you’re essentially saying I do all things for all people. It makes it really hard from a digital perspective to make a connection when you’re not super clear on, like, I know you, Brian, I know what your needs are and I can serve your needs better than anyone else. And so that’s when I say like smallest addressable market and getting really clear on your who, that’s going to drive the most clients, rather than trying to say, I have to be open for business to everybody.
Meg Carpenter: (09:19)
And also keep in mind that your marketing is your external message to people who don’t know you. Marketing also applies to your client communications, but client communications are different than your marketing efforts. So I’m not telling you to exclude people in your client base. I’m telling you to focus your outbound marketing efforts for maximum success. So that’s really step number two is getting clear on who do you want to serve and targeting that message. And then it gets to the how and the how is really figure out where these people are, where are they going for information? Where are they seeking opinions and perspectives? What are they reading? What are they watching? What are they listening to? Who are they talking to? And it’s actually usually fairly intuitive. Like I think a lot of times marketers in this space can overcomplicate it. Marketing should be fairly intuitive.
Meg Carpenter: (10:16)
But if you think about your number one ideal client, if you could clone a client, right, ask them, where do you go for information? What are you reading? Do you listen to podcasts? Are you watching TV? Do you listen to radio shows? And just ask them those questions, figure out where they go to seek and solicit information. Where do they go to validate that information? And then meet them there. And so to your point, Brian, about sort of how people are showing up digitally and thinking about your web presence, your social media presence, you know, how you’re leveraging reviews, which I know we’re gonna talk about in a little bit, how are you leveraging, you know, the ability to connect with people in communities that exist online, but like really, how are you showing up in a digital and virtual way? How are you showing up on people’s phones in a mobile way? And then, and apply that sort of to where your market is, and that’s where you should be focusing your efforts. So to just recap, sort of the, like how to make some of these decisions in your business, let start with your why. Figure out your who. Figure out where those people go, and then start there. Start small, see what works and build from there.
Brian Wallheimer: (11:26)
And what about, I mean, I would imagine that there is a tendency or, how do you get people to resist trying to be like someone else they’ve seen, right? Like if you see someone who’s successful and you say, I want to do what they’re doing. That seems like an intuitive thing, right? To say, you know, this is a friend of mine or someone else in my community, they’re doing, you know, similar business and this is how they do it. Why isn’t that the way to go?
Meg Carpenter: (11:54)
So I love the advisory community for so many reasons. One of them is how closely knit we are, right? Like we, you and I both, we’ve got relationships in the industry. We’re close. We talk to each other. We ask for feedback. And so it’s really common to have an advisor say, well, my buddy does this. And so I’m going to try it out. And then I also think that as an industry, we’ve done a really amazing job of creating such awesome opportunities for content and education events. Financial Planning does such a great job of all of those things. And it’s amazing. And it’s also a lot. And so to help advisors sort of cut through all of that, we really do have to just remind them, like what’s gonna work for you will work for you and not necessarily for anybody else. And so don’t just try to do what your peers are doing.
Meg Carpenter: (12:43)
The latest trend, the latest thing that you heard someone say, like really ask yourself, the question, is that going to work for my business? So an example of that would be, you know, YouTube is the number two search engine behind Google. And so there are a lot of advisors who are dominating YouTube. They’ve got YouTube pages and they’re publishing video content really consistently. And it’s driving leads. It works, but the truth is, Brian, everything works as long as it’s what works for you. So what I would say is don’t just go ahead and start a YouTube channel because you heard someone talk about it in the industry or because your buddy is, you know, killing it on YouTube. Ask yourself the question, is my ideal client going to YouTube for information? If you ask me that, I would say, no, I try to keep my family off of YouTube because I think that the content that my six year old watches is junk.
Meg Carpenter: (13:39)
So like I view YouTube as like, eh, but I also know that it works for a lot of, you know, obviously for advisors, but for me, if I was your target demographic, you’re not going to find me on YouTube. So that’s what I mean, like, don’t try to just do what your peers are doing for the sake of just trying to be like everybody else, because that’s the quickest way to fail from your marketing efforts. It’s really about being clear, authentic, and vulnerable, like bringing some humanity and vulnerability, but that has to be real. And so just staying clear on you, your ideal client and staying focused there, not getting distracted by all of the things that you could do or what’s working for somebody else.
Brian Wallheimer: (14:19)
Sure, sure. We talked a little bit earlier about referrals and how that’s changing. It used to be, I suppose, that you, you got the name of your financial advisor from a friend who’d used that financial advisor for X number of years. And I’m sure some of that still happens. I still ask friends about things like that, but by and large, we’re seeing as younger generations are getting involved in investing that they’re getting their information elsewhere. And we also know that the SEC has allowed the opportunity for advisors to use things such as testimonials and reviews online as well. So talk a little bit about that. I mean, you need to build a reputation online. You need to be seen. How important is that? How do you do that? How do you get started there?
Meg Carpenter: (15:10)
Yeah. So to your point about referrals and how referrals have changed, we did talk about this a little bit at the top, which is like changing consumer preferences. So even when somebody does get a referral, they’re still going to go online and validate you. And the advisor that has the digital presence that speaks to that consumer is the one that’s going to win. The data supports that. The thing about referrals, and like I said at the top, I would never say like, oh, don’t, don’t worry about referrals because they’re such a powerful tool and they will continue to be, to your point, Brian, this is a relationship-based business, but referrals are not scalable. So a referral is a well-timed introduction from a raving fan and you cannot replicate or fabricate those moments in time. Like, you cannot fabricate a moment in time where one of your clients who is a raving fan is going to happen to be in front of somebody who has a dire need and is going to ask the question.
Meg Carpenter: (16:08)
There are ways to sort of promote and augment those opportunities, but you just can’t fabricate them. And so when we’re talking about some of these other opportunities in today’s day and age to really market more proactively and intentionally, it’s really about thinking about scaling your efforts so that it doesn’t have to be so dependent on one-on-one interactions. And so there are a lot of really cool technologies out there today since the SEC new advertising rule was published. And we all know it’s coming into effect this fall, fall of 2022. There are some really amazing technology partners out there that are helping advisors to collect testimonials in a compliant manner. There are a lot of rules. I think Brian, you and I, in our prep session said we could have like a totally different full session about this. But at a high level, there are, there’s an ability to collect testimonials in a compliant manner and to publish those in a compliant manner.
Meg Carpenter: (17:11)
And what that’s really doing is that sort of bringing our industry up to current standards with all of the other household name brands like Amazon, like, you know, Uber like Instacart, Postmates, where my version, I’m a millennial, so my version of a referral today is social proof online. So I will go to Yelp, and I will search for something. And if something, someone gives five stars, then of course I read and I sift through and I make my own determination, but I view that as a referral. And then I call that person and I say, I was referred to you by Yelp. You know, know Yelp is a technology. It didn’t actually give me a referral, but that’s how I view referrals. And so advisors just need to be open to the possibility that really there are so many opportunities to augment and accelerate your growth by becoming current with today’s digital landscape and consumer preferences in a way that will help you accelerate your growth. But also, I really do believe that moving forward with what we’re seeing with the national players, how much they’re investing in marketing, um, some of the national brands that are creeping up, I do think it’s really important for advisory firms to know that they have to market in that way. They have to be digitally relevant. They have to be showing up in a way that makes human connections with people in order to have sustainable growth into the future.
Brian Wallheimer: (18:38)
Sure, sure. You know what I always find interesting when I’m looking for these reviews is I never want to read the five stars and I never want read the one stars. I want the four star reviews. I want know who liked it, but thought there was a little bit of something that could be, that could be better. Right?. . Meg Carpenter: ( 18:54) Right, right. And one thing I forgot to mention, Brian, that’s really interesting about reviews is that, and this might be getting a little bit too technical, but all of the search engines today, their algorithms place very high preference on user reviews. So when we talk about how do I get my, my website at the top of the search tool, really user reviews going forward are going to be the primary driver of where you rank on a search engine because the algorithms place so much preference on actual user reviews. So I understand that there’s advisors out there that might be hearing this. And they’re, to our point earlier, they’re in marketing inertia, they’ve never done anything. And they’re thinking like, Meg, you’ve gotta be kidding me. Like I can’t now also be thinking about testimonials and that’s okay. But for those advisors that are ready to sort of like keep pushing, they’ve got experience marketing, they think they’re doing some great things. They want to take it to the next level. Testimonials are going to be crucial for that. We are sort of saying like social proof is the new PR tool, you know? And so that’s something to keep in mind. Brian Wallheimer: ( 20:01) Sure, sure. So, like you said before, we could go into a lot of depth on a lot of these topics, but this is, this is sort of the intro to this. I just wonder what the take-home message here is for, you know, if you’re, if you’re talking to an RIA now, and they’re watching this, what’s your action list? What’s the to-do list when you close this screen, if you’re an RIA, to start starting to implement a marketing plan? Meg Carpenter: ( 20:27) So I think the first thing, the first step I would say is make a commitment, right? Because to our earlier discussion around inertia, I think that advisors just get caught in this like, oh, I don’t really know what to do. So then I don’t do anything. And so if you’re an advisor and you’re feeling like you want to accelerate growth next year and beyond, make a commitment, and depending on how you approach your day, like if you write it down in a planner, if you have an accountability buddy, if you have sort of like a yearly goal board, like write it down, say it out loud to somebody, but make a commitment. I am going to focus on marketing as a crucial part of my business strategy. Going forward, that commitment is sort of like what you need to pass go on the Monopoly board. If you’re not really committed, then there’s not a lot that, you know, I could do to help your marketing effort succeed. Meg Carpenter: ( 21:21) So you have to have that commitment. The second thing that I would say as an action item is you need to think about how to create content that is meaningful and authentic to you. So the stuff that we talked about in the middle there around how to make your marketing strategy relevant to you, once you’ve gone through that framework, the why, the who, the, where do those people show up, then you need to start thinking about becoming a content creator. That can feel very daunting to advisors, but there are so many scalable ways, working with partners, contractors, outside resources that can help you to generate content, but creating content is necessary for any marketing effort, whether it’s what you do on the web, what you’re doing for social. If you’re doing events, if you’re working on your brand, like any of the things you have to be creating content. Meg Carpenter: ( 22:12) So think about what do I, what am I passionate about? What do I like to talk about? Where do I really feel like I’m a technical expert? And again, like write that down and say to yourself, okay, I’m committed. And I know that I can start creating content on these topics, and then start creating the content. And then my third action item is seek help. There are so many experts, coaches, education programs, all of the custodians, broker-dealers, asset managers, even a lot of the tech platforms. And of course, businesses like FiComm have free educational resources available for advisors to learn, to ask for coaching, to be a part of a peer accountability group. So soliciting help is the third action item, because like we said, marketing doesn’t come naturally to most advisors, so don’t try to do it alone. So make that commitment, start creating content and then seek coaching education, free resources, and go from there. And I’ll just, I’ll sort of wrap it up by saying and underscoring what we’ve talked about, but just remember that your marketing strategy should be unique to you. That is what’s going to help you to accelerate the most growth in your market. It’s about you, why you do what you do and who you do it for. So don’t try to be like everybody else, just get really clear on what’s going to work for you. Focus there, start small and then grow. Brian Wallheimer: ( 23:44) That’s great advice. Thank you so much, Meg. It was wonderful having you here and touching on all these points. Appreciate it. I hope you enjoyed the opportunity as well. Meg Carpenter: ( 23:54) Absolutely. Thank you so much, Brian, to you and the entire Financial Planning team. I really do appreciate it. Brian Wallheimer: ( 23:59) Awesome. Thank you so much.
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