Financial Advisor Marketing & Technology

Marketing & Technology For Independent Financial Advisors

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Archive for May, 2010

Why Do Many Advisors Fear Niches?

Advisors are poor marketers in general, and one of the silliest things they do is fear targeting a niche. What are you thinking?

If I went into the website business in 1996 by making websites for any schnook, I would not have been able to compete with Intuit, Google, WordPress, and other giant technology companies aiming for a mass clientele. By specializing in advisors, I’m able to add content and technology tools that my niche group needs and values. I can provide solutions that the giants cannot afford to create because serving my niche is too much work for them.

To me, the case for specializing is so easy to see, and I just can’t understand why advisors have so much trouble with it. Yet over the years, advisors’ fear of niches has come up again and again.

Once, and I promise this is true, I was working with an advisor on the phone, reviewing marketing copy I had written that would move him into a niche. He yelled at me. “I don’t want to be different! I just want to sound like everyone else!”

Another time, I was on a conference call with a very high-powered firm whose chief investment officer told me in front of the firm’s executive leadership that he didn’t want to describe his process in detail to me. “You know a lot about the investment business and that’s why we hired you!” he barked. ”We do what everyone else does. Just write about that.”

Just this past Friday, at a webinar entitled, Successful Marketing For Advisors, John Anderson, of SEI this past Friday did an excellent job of telling advisors how to market their practices.

Sure enough, during the Q&A period, an advisor chatted in a question raising her fear that marketing to a small niche like divorcees might scare away other potential prospects. Such fear is totally misplaced.

Having marketing copy on your website that emphasizes your niche will gain you clients in the long run, assuming you are good at working with that niche. Here are some reasons why.

Commoditization Of Investment Advice. The Web is relentlessly commoditizing investment advice. Online brokers are better at serving the mass affluent. Segmenting the investor market to differentiate your services can be a source of competitive advantage. Specialized advice will command a premium price and make your clients more loyal.

The Web Favors Niche Marketers. If the keywords used in marketing copy on your website are terms like “financial planning” or fee-only financial advisors,” you stand little chance of gaining high rankings in search engines. However, if your marketing copy contains keywords like “financial advisors serving Indian hotel owners” or “estate planning for shopping center developers,” you have a far better chance of gaining favorable natural search results. If you want to learn more about this topic, see this recent webinar on Search Engine Optimization conducted by Advisor Products.

Professional Satisfaction. Serving a niche enables you to help people in more meaningful ways. If you are an expert in understanding the wealth management needs of layers, doctors, owners of bakeries, car dealers or other small business, or some other market segment, you will find yourself going far deeper into their financial lives and advising them on business issues as well as personal finance. Your advice becomes more meaningful because it is so targeted. The professional satisfaction you’ll gain can make your job more satisfying.

If you need some help thinking about a niche, start by considering whether the answer is obvious.

Three weeks ago, I was speaking with an advisor I’ve known for many years. When I asked him to tell me about his firm, he never mentioned that he had a niche. In an elevator speech that sounded a lot like many other wealth management firms, he told me he uses DFA Funds and provides financial planning.

He is from India, and I felt I was treading on delicate ground, but I asked him if he targeted Indian immigrants. That’s when he told me that 60% of his clients are doctors of Indian descent.

This advisor is not marketing to Indian doctors currently and did not realize that he can probably get a lot more Indian doctors as clients by sharing the specialized knowledge he has gained by working with this niche.

Many Indian doctors are first-generation Americans or emigrated here from India. They have common experiences and financial issues. For instance, they almost all had little money during their residency and are tempted to spend crazily when they start making money. Many of them have parents and siblings still living in India that they need to assist financially. Many accumulate great wealth and fear raising spoiled kids. The expertise of this advisor in dealing with financial issues of Indian doctors is valuable.

To me, creating marketing materials for this niche is a no brainer. Yet this advisor and others like, I suspect, don’t realize they already have a niche and can capitalize on it with just a bit of strategic marketing and planning.

To figure out your possible niches, download the market segmentation worksheet we have made available on A4A. In segmenting your clients, you may find some obvious commonalities among them. Are a few of your clients:

  • working for the same local company?
  • working in the same industry?
  • of the same ethnic group?
  • in the same profession?
  • in the same socio-economic group?

In a story that will be published in the upcoming issue of Financial Advisor, I interviewed several firms that only serve doctors or that specialize in doctors. I realize that pointing to a few firms won’t convince you. But it is such a clear example of how niche marketing works. When it’s released on the Web around June 1, please take a look at that story.

Though I hope I am helping you, maybe I am missing something. Maybe there’s a good reason why advisors avoid niches. If so, please let me know by posting a comment.

And if you have had success in working on a niche market, please also post a comment and share your ideas.

Our Commitment To Do What’s Best For You

Some advisory firms feel they must work face-to-face with a local designer to build their website instead of working over the phone with an Advisor Products project manager. They feel that their branding is too important to be managed by Advisor Products.

I don't agree. Our designers do a great job. But who am I to argue?

So we price our services so you can use a local graphic designer and still use Advisor Products for hosting. Hosting is where we add the most value.

When we host your site, you get our content management system, BackOffice. That’s built specifically for advisory firms and has oodles of features just for advisors. Compliance review workflow, website archiving, pre-formatted pages created specifically for advisors that you can easily add to your site, a secure client vault system, and integration with 16 apps used in advisor practices that convert data in your internal systems into client communications. Plus, we provide 10 or 15 wealth management articles monthly to aupdate your site and now we’ve started offering videos on personal finance topics.

Candidly, many advisors don’t value publishing wealth management content on their website. But your clients are getting bombarded with financial information from so many sources. Why forfeit the opportunity to be their trusted source of financial ideas?

Providing clients with authoritative educational information on a broad range of personal finance topics—even if you don’t agree with every word in every article we write—promotes meaningful conversation with clients. Moreover, with technology enabling you to select every article and video that appears on your website or e-newsletter, you control the content that your firm distributes. You can even customize the content for each individual cleint's personal interests!

Because we host sites for 1,300 advisory firms, Advisor Products can offer all these features at an afforable price. Local designers just cannot compete with us in providing these specialized services and we now get a lot of referrals from designers and agencies hired by advisory firms.

This is why Advisor Products doesn’t force you to work with our graphic designers. We’re happy to work with your design firm if you believe that will get you the best website.

You get a huge discount on a custom website by having your own artist design the graphical interface of your website.

We send your graphic designer everything needed to work with us—specifications of the size of graphics, what types of files to send and all other details they need to understand how to work with us. A project manager from Advisor Products coordinates deadlines for your team, the artist, and our technicians to construct your site on budget and on time.

Please don’t take any of this to mean that the design services offered by Advisor Products are anything less than great. The value we provide in design is fantastic. In fact, your local designer will probably charge you a lot more than what we charge for graphic design.

However, giving advisors the freedom to hire their own artist demonstrates Advisor Products’ commitment to serve your best interest and help you succeed.

Mysteries Of Search Engine Optimization Revealed

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a mysterious thing. There’s technical mumbo to know and it seems really powerful.

So I was really proud earlier this week when our Operations Director, Jim Voss, in a 45-minute presentation, made SEO pretty simple for advisors to understand and execute.

The point of the webinar was to show you how you can use the Advisor Products content management system, BackOffice, to help optimize your website for search engines. But the webinar contains so much information about SEO basics that the self-promotional part of the session is only incidental.

What makes me so happy is that this webinar demonstrates that Advisor Products is really trying to do the right thing. We’re not trying to hide behind technical complexity and charge you for SEO. We’re creating realistic expectations about SEO, educating you about it, and giving you the tools to do it yourself. (Of course, you can hire us to help you if you need it.)

Attendees on average rated this webinar with four out of five stars. Among the many favorable comments we received from attendees was this:

“Need to see it twice a year, every year. Best damn webinar you've ever done. We advisors forget this stuff. We don't work on our sites but once a year or so. Keep doing this one, we need it more than we can tell you.”

Check out the webinar.

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