4 Critical Marketing Considerations for RIAs

4 Critical Marketing Considerations for RIAs

Summer is a great time to focus on your marketing and to give you some food for thought, here’s a recap of my ‘practical summer marketing tips':

It Starts with a PLAN...

The old adage “Plan your work and work your plan” may be cliché but is often the difference between success and failure to execute your marketing goals.

Start by defining very specific and measurable goals. Try to set short term and long term goals that are reasonable and achievable. Next, develop a strategy that details the tactics, resources, budget, and schedule.

As an example, if you’re thinking about your website:

  • Assign a staff member to become the project lead and get familiar with the features and benefits of the different content management systems (CMS) and hosting services, such as Word Press and Media Temple.
  • Determine what internal and external resources are required for design, photography, copy writing, etc.
  • Plan for 2-3 month to complete the entire project.

What’s Your Budget?

A question that often comes up is -- As a small business, how much should I allocate on a marketing? Although opinions vary, I think this fairly straightforward explanation from a SBA.GOV blog post provides some insight:

[Many businesses allocate a percentage of actual or projected gross revenues – usually between 2-3 percent for run-rate marketing and up to 3-5 percent for start-up marketing. But the allocation actually depends on several factors: the industry you’re in, the size of your business, and its growth stage. For example, during the early brand building years retail businesses spend much more than other businesses on marketing – up to 20 percent of sales.

As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between 1) brand development costs (which includes all the channels you use to promote your brand such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.), and 2) the costs of promoting your business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.)]

Take Inventory of what you HAVE and what you NEED….

Logo, website, brochure, social media. Is everything consistent, up-to-date, and how you envision them?  Does your brand need a facelift or a complete overhaul? 

Start by making a complete list of everything, yes everything!, that is client facing. Determine what the priorities and goals are for each component. You may not need to change everything all at once. In fact, it’s best to make changes in phases. 

The best place to start can sometimes be your logo because it effects many other things. Minor design refinements can produce major changes. The main thing to keep in mind is that you can’t do everything at once. Focus on those areas and activities that matter the most and will have bottom line impact. 

When you make the list, remember to include every touch point to your clients and prospects. Your phone answering message and email signature are part of the brand image. The little things can make a big difference.

Just Do It…Better!

Start with what you’re most comfortable and see the best potential results.  Content marketing, public relations, speaking events are all great marketing opportunities. They’re also repeated activities which presents a great opportunity for continuous process improvement. 3 quick tips to get you going in make sure your efforts get the most return of investment:

  • Start with a clear and well documented plan—that includes a budget, logistics and resource needs, schedule and, most important, what do you want to accomplish from this effort?
  • View all marketing initiatives as “works in progress”—always be looking to make small adjustments along the way that can push the needle forward to success.
  • Conduct after-action assessment—take the time to what worked, what didn’t, and what to needs changing. Analyze all aspects of your effort and set qualitative and quantitative goals for the next time around.

These simple steps can make the difference between failure and success in your marketing efforts.

Bill McGuire
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Bill McGuire is principal of W.M.McGuire, a full service marketing resource serving the Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) community. We help with every aspect of your market ... Click for full bio

The Lies Spread by Bankers About Cryptocurrencies

The Lies Spread by Bankers About Cryptocurrencies

I had a chat with The Financial Times the other day, and provided lots of background as to why I don’t think cryptocurrencies are the choice of criminals. The comment that was reported was the following:

Chris Skinner, a financial technology author, said it was “complete rubbish” to suggest the main use of cryptocurrencies was criminal. “There is some criminal activity associated with some cryptocurrencies but it is quite minimal,” he said. “It’s a myth that the financial community want to promote.”

I feel I need to explain this further, so here goes.

My response was in answer to Vasant Prabhu, Chief Financial Officer of Visa (the card network) who made two claims:

1) Most people have no idea what they’re doing with cryptocurrency investments; and

2) Cryptocurrencies are mainly being used by criminals.

With the first point, I agree. In fact, I loved the John Oliver Show that discussed crypto and started with the line that cryptocurrencies are “everything you don’t understand about money combined with everything you don’t understand about computers”. A perfect combination for idiots to invest in. I agree with both Vasant and John, as many people are buying cryptocurrencies for no other reason than other people are buying them.

The second point I completely disagree with. Mr Prabhu said cryptocurrencies were a “favourite” for criminals.

“It’s very hard to get dirty money through a banking system. Cryptocurrency is phenomenal for all that stuff . . . Every crook and every dirty politician in the world, I bet, is in cryptocurrency.”

This is complete baloney and is a smokescreen being created by financial people to deflect the real purpose of cryptocurrencies, which is to use software and servers to manage value rather than buildings and humans. In other words, cryptocurrencies have the opportunity to reduce or even replace banks, which is why I find it interesting how often I hear a financial person say that bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are just for criminals when it’s blatantly not true. Unfortunately because they are in a position of authority, politicians believe them; and unfortunately, because they are also in a position of authority, the media believes them; and unfortunately, because they are in a position of authority, the public sometimes believes them too.

Most law enforcement authorities however, state that the levels of criminal activity with cryptocurrencies is so tiny today that it doesn’t matter and, specifically, does not warrant deflecting their time and energy to investigate them. Just to illustrate this, the total worldwide investment in all cryptocurrencies is around $300 billion today. Even if criminals were running 10% of that, it’s still just $30 billion. That is an insignificant amount compared to the trillions being laundered through the traditional financial system, mainly through offshore companies buying up properties.

From The TelegraphNovember 2017:

Organised crime generates income equivalent to around 2.7pc of global GDP. Around $1.6 trillion of this is laundered to disguise its criminal origins: financial crime is undoubtedly a worldwide problem.

From What Mortgage, February 2018:

Julian Dixon, CEO of Fortytwo Data, whose research found that more than a third (37%) of all suspicious activity reports (SAR) across the entire legal sector were related to property: “For criminals, the vast amount of cash involved in property purchases provides the perfect cover for laundering the proceeds of drugs, terrorism and firearms offences.

From The TimesFebruary 2018:

Rob Wainwright, director of [Europol], revealed that 3 to 4 per cent of the £100 billion of illicit cash circulating in Europe is laundered through anonymous digital currencies such as bitcoin.

So that’s around £4 billion max right now. That’s less than a particle of a drop in the ocean of crime globally.

Now, the concern may be that cryptocurrencies offers the opportunity to launder funds. This is possibly true and is why I said there is some criminal activity with some cryptocurrencies which is tiny today, but might grow over time. Even then, it is speculative and too early to call. For example, that paragraph from The Times is factually incorrect, as bitcoin is not anonymous. In fact, nearly all digital transactions can be tracked and traced online, and therefore offer the worst use case for money laundering.

This is why the only currency that criminals currently use in any volume for illicit activity is Monero, because it is nearly an equivalent of digital cash. Nevertheless, the total market cap of Monero is $3 billion, and even if half of that is criminal activity, it’s totally insignificant on a global scale.

All in all, it is obvious that most financial people have created this myth of criminals opting for cryptocurrencies for two reasons:

1) it is to protect their turf, as they don’t want to lose their role as intermediators of finance; and

2) it is to deflect the authorities from looking at the true perpetrators of illicit monetary activity, namely the banking system.

Bear these two points in mind when I say that banks were built for the physical distribution of paper, which is why cash and property are the physical assets that are the preference of criminal choice. If you didn’t know it, London is actually the money laundering capital of the world:

  • British registered companies and British-based banks helped move at least $20 billion of the proceeds of criminal activities out of Russia between 2010 and 2014.
  • Transparency International’s research found 766 UK corporate vehicles involved in 52 large scale corruption and money laundering cases approaching valuations of £80 billion.
  • Around half of the 766 companies alleged to have been involved in high-end money laundering were based at just eight UK addresses.
  • The Home Affairs Select Committee hearings found that the London property market is the primary avenue for the laundering of £100 billion of illicit money a year. No wonder first time buyers cannot get on the property ladder.

If anything is the preferred market for money launderers then it is banks, not cryptocurrencies. No wonder financial people are trying to deflect the media elsewhere.

Bottom-line: as all things move to digital distribution of data, the trail to audit such movements get easier because they can be sniffed out and monitored; as a result, most criminal activity will continue to leverage the weak links in the chain, which is the physical distribution of paper through cash and property assets in the traditional financial system.

I’ve written a lot on this in the past and would point to these two blog entries for more:

And there’s also a lengthy but worthwhile read about why bitcoin cannot be regulated, as it is protected by America’s first amendment and the right to free speech.

Chris Skinner
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Chris Skinner is one of the most influential and prolific thought leaders on the future of banking, finance and technology. The Financial Brand awarded him best blog and ... Click for full bio