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Financial Advisor Marketing in 2021: Playing the Long Game

by Advisor I/O

-From our co-founder, Alex Cavalieri.

Our guest on the Advisor Lab podcast last week was Manish Khatta, Founder of Potomac Fund Management and someone I’ve grown to know and greatly respect over the past year.

During our conversation, he said something that stuck with me: “You have to give your marketing two years… to see if it’s working.” We dove into the details about it, and it got me thinking about this idea of the long game in marketing and how every advisor should be playing it.

I’ve had the privilege of building marketing programs for three brands over the past 10 years:, one 800-pound gorilla (BlackRock), one fighter punching above its weight (CION Investments), and one built starting from zero (Advisor I/O). Multiple product lines, initiatives, audiences and one thing remained true – while there is variability in sector, product expense, and sales model, marketing has always been a long game.

Think About Your Marketing as an Investment

Traditionally, marketing has been seen as a cost center. A spend that was scrutinized and viewed as something that could be cut in an instant for more salespeople or less resources. Over the past decade, we’ve seen a shift in this philosophy. I’ve advocated for it, and I’ve seen the results when the mindset changes.

Marketing is now being viewed more as an investment that should and will produce a return. What’s driving this? One big piece is digital – a lot of marketing is able to be tracked and  you’re able to see the impact your efforts are having over time. The other big piece is the fact that people don’t connect like they used to. Traditional sales tactics, while they still hold true, no longer have the hit rates or conversion rates that industries were so used to seeing.

The mindset that advisors need to adopt when it comes to marketing is that you’re going to invest in something over a period of time and have an ROI expectation on the other end, measuring as much as you can along the way.

Understand There are Short-Term and Long-Term Tactics – Brand vs. Direct

two different lenses – brand and direct. Yes, brand will result in leads and direct will result in brand lift, but it’s your approach to each of these buckets that matters. Brand tactics generally take longer to show ROI and are less measurable. Direct tactics generally fall further down funnel, are very trackable, and can show immediate ROI.

Examples of Brand Tactics –

Examples of Direct Tactics –

Marketing is a Matter of Peaks and Valleys

Many times, advisors we speak with in sales conversations expect that if they turn on marketing or some paid ads, they’ll get hockey stick growth immediately – but the fact of the matter is, marketing is a matter of peaks and valleys. Channels are always changing, social media networks are changing their algorithms, costs on platforms for paid advertising goes up over time, specific places become saturated. As you’re planning and executing your marketing you need to understand that growth is not a straight trajectory. This is why a testing and learning approach to marketing is so important – because you can test in the valleys and take advantage of the peaks.

The Requirement: Consistent Output Paired With the Right Data

 My biggest learning from the past ten year?  Consistency in output is the number one differentiator for brands. You can plan one big splash campaign, but if no one hears about you for months or years afterwards, your growth will hit an immediate ceiling. It generally takes 6-8 touches to generate a viable sales lead – people need to hear from you consistently over time in order to become familiar with your brand and create  brand affinity and recognition.

A consistent output will only generate results if you’re pairing it with the right data. If you don’t understand the impact things you’re doing are having on your business, you will be spinning your wheels. You’ve probably heard, “bad data in, bad data out.” This is why setting up your marketing infrastructure is so important – your CRM, marketing database, social channels, and Google infrastructure is critical to of success.

Scale Your Creative 

Consistently outputting content and distributing it to the right people is hard if you’re trying to create the wheel from scratch every time. Setting up creative templates enables you to scale your marketing output. Some of these templates include:

  • Social media templates
  • Presentation templates
  • Email templates
  • Video template files
  • Podcast template files
  • Article structure templates

Using platforms like Canva can help you templatize your entire creative approach. In our platform, we have a full training on Canva and how you can build and optimize templates to create efficiently.

Don’t Ignore ROI

At the end of the day, you can’t get to a place where you’re spending the right dollars, until you know the impact of the dollars you’re spending. Far too often we’ve seen advisors waste 2-3 years working with a platform or company with no output. Review the ROI on spend consistently – set metrics for every marketing thing you’re doing even if the metric doesn’t tie directly to ROI.

I’ll end with this – when you think about the most well-known brands of all time – Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple, Amazon – they have all built their brands over decades, making incremental jumps, emotional connections with customers, and focusing on brand.

With so many advisors pushing the same marketing, think to yourself – how can you market more like these brands?

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