Using Your Powers for Good: Digital Marketing That Actually Works

October 7th, 2019

•Admitting what you don’t know about digital marketing can get you to solutions quicker.

•Millennials aren’t really the issue — you need to consider what’s shaped it all, including millennials, in recent years.

•Appearing amateurish isn’t as troubling to viewers as seeming inauthentic.

When you’re an independent financial advisor there are no rules for business development — beyond, of course, what compliance dictates. Do you want to focus on a niche? That’s your call. Do you want to abandon old gambits like plus-one seminars and ads in newspapers nobody reads? Get rid of them.

Whatever you decide to do, however, you should take the time and trouble to do it well and thoughtfully.

It’s good to start with an admission of ignorance. You know everything there is to know about providing advice, making financial plans and assessing best-fit investments, which makes you highly qualified as an FA. But you may know jack about running a business. Or you may have experience with certain aspects of operating a business, but giant holes in your understanding of others. If so, own up, at least to yourself.

For many indie FAs, digital marketing inhabits just such a knowledge gap. And though some may question the need for it at all, others may assume it’s as easy as setting up a Facebook page and firing off an email newsletter at roughly regular intervals.

In truth, digital marketing is closer to a must-have for all FAs, thanks to, well, everything that’s been going on in our society for the past 25 years. You know: the internet, smartphones, the demise of cable, the rise of on-demand, and a wall of skepticism — born of everything from Monica’s Blue Dress and the search for WMDs to Bernie Madoff, #MeToo and the Mueller Investigation — that stands between even the most truthful marketing and the super-jaded consumers it hopes to sway.

Cutting through

Many conflate these changes with the generation that grew up with them. In truth, it’s not just millennials you have to win over; it’s everyone who hasn’t been chained in a root cellar since 1995. In this sense, millennials are just a symbol of new-tech uptake and new attitudes linked to it. More concretely, however, as the oldest millennials creep up on age forty, they’re your next-generation clients. Without them, your business has a murky future and diminished value. So, you can’t afford to ignore the fact that millennials will account for one in three US adults before 2020 is out, and three-quarters of this country’s workforce by 2025.

But how do you square all this “newfangledness” and not-quite-coincidental cynicism with your digital marketing?

Assuming you’re not a duplicitous psychopath, you could start with a resolution to be, at all times, your big silly self. That’s right: be who and what you are in everything you do, and rest assured that this is one of those rare occasions in life where what’s easier and more fun actually works better. By being authentic, selfless and transparent, your digital marketing will have a strength more polished approaches can’t touch.

Start by viewing your RIA’s digital marketing primarily as a way to be helpful. Write about the difficulties a spouse may encounter persuading her partner they need financial advice. Help a parent who hasn’t been tucking money aside understand how they can help pay for their kids’ college. Show how a single 55 year old with too little in his 401(k) can plan for a happy retirement anyway. Coach the sudden millionaire who wants to have meaningful family conversations about the rewards and responsibilities of wealth stewardship.

Lights, camera

But what if your authentic self prefers not to write? Well then, put your authentic self in front of a video camera and start suggesting solutions to people’s real-world financial problems. Videos are, after all, the most consumed content in the digital universe.

Will a video you make at home or in your office be stilted, unpolished and unprofessional? Probably, yes. But those characteristics aren’t drawbacks. Since the advent of YouTube in 2005, kids have been spending hours a day watching videos by other kids. These consumers aren’t looking for polish; they’re looking for insight and authenticity. Take that lesson to heart, and you’ll free yourself to make videos that help others and reflect well on your business — without having to tear your hair out over production standards you’ll never reach.

Mind you, there are some wonderful video-making cheats available. These include DIY video makers, graphics generators, industry-specific article libraries, and automated marketing-campaign software that lets you to do the work of several cost-effective and speedy little minions.

So where should you be casting all your pearls wisdom? Facebook, sure — and YouTube, definitely. But you might also want to consider Facebook-owned Instagram, as that platform has also entered the pantheon of not-just-for-kids social media. It’s even possible many of the Instagram clients you seek — evidenced by hashtags like “#financialadvisor” (316,000 posts), “#investment” (8.2 million posts) and “#financialfreedom” (4.9 million posts) — are primed for your messaging, especially if you provide financial online services.