Should You Work with a Marketing or PR Agency, or Neither?
Written by: Rachel Aelion-Moss
Have you ever wondered, “Do I really need a Marketing or PR agency? Can’t I just do everything myself?” If so, this posts—and the next four that follow—are for you.
Last week, I was on a call with an advisor who asked me those exact questions about working with a PR agency. He told me, he could just write his own press releases and send them out across the wire himself.
“I can do the same thing you do,” he said.
I told him: No, you can’t.
He took some convincing. Until that phone call, the only things he had ever seen coming out of a PR agency were poorly written press releases sent over for his approval. We gave him a glimpse of what really happens behind the scenes. We had to show all our work: the messaging, the strategizing, nurturing relationships with reporters, outreach, follow-up, and then more follow-up. Eventually, I did convince him, but the conversation was exhausting.
Surely there’s a better way.
Then the perfect analogy occurred to me: I felt the way advisors do when they have to explain the value of human expertise to DIY investors. You know the type of people I’m describing. They believe advice is a commodity. Anything you can do, they can do better—or else, their robot can.
It’s very hard to convince these investors that human advisors add real value. That’s because they can do just fine without one—for a while. Everything goes along swimmingly, as they pat themselves on the back for being so hip and modern. Until suddenly, something big hits the fan. The market drops. Life circumstances change. They stumble and make a bad mistake, because they misunderstood some complex issue. They miss out on huge savings from a sophisticated tax strategy, because they’ve never heard of it. At long last, they finally realize the value of working with a human advisor—but it’s too late.
This analogy goes to the heart of the problem. It’s one thing to thoroughly vet your vendors. In fact, I encourage advisors to ask probing questions and spell out every detail in their contracts. But it’s an entirely different matter to openly doubt that a human expert adds any value at all. Because if you do, you’re undercutting your own value proposition as a live human advisor. What if your clients thought the same way about you?
All that said, not every advisor should work with a marketing or PR agency—just as not every investor should work with an advisor. How do you know if you can build a productive vendor relationship—or if going it alone better suits your style? In the next few posts, I’m going to discuss three questions you should address before hiring a marketing or PR agency:
- Are you really open to listening to advice? Everybody likes to think they’re open-minded. But we’ve found 5 warning signs that an advisor may not be ready to let go.
- Are you prepared to talk to a vendor? If you want to get what you need from your vendor, you’ll have to do some homework first. I’ve put together a checklist.
- Do you understand what an agency really does? Marketing is not as simple as you think. The better you understand it, the more you’ll recognize its value—and be able to make informed decisions about outsourcing.
Success depends on finding the right solution for your needs.
Solving Your Biggest Client Issue May Be at Your Fingertips
Written by: Shileen Weber
When the American Funds’ Capital Group asked 400 advisors last year to name the biggest issues they face in their businesses, it wasn’t the DOL, market uncertainty or the economy that sat in the center of the idea cloud of answers.
It was client issues.
At a time when regulatory concerns and market turbulence would seem to be at all-time highs, the advisors who answered the survey were most concerned about servicing their clients as well as ways to find new ones and grow their businesses.
It’s one of the ironies of the business, that the things most people find so hard to manage – creating financial plans, managing assets and staying ahead of events – are what advisors find to be the easiest parts of the business. Marketing - the business of selling themselves – can be the area advisors find the hardest elements to master.
In this age of instant communication, it can be even more intimidating to market your practice, especially to younger clients for whom many traditional methods like newsletters, postcards and phone calls don’t work anymore. For them, email is the preferred way to get information, and, if it’s important, they are more likely to respond to texts, not phone calls.
But, it doesn’t have to be that hard. The digital age gives you access to ideas and content of all kinds you can use to touch your clients in a way that positions you as a valuable resource. The key is to keep it simple, stick to some basics and create consistent outreach that clients and potential clients are interested in and will appreciate you sharing with them.
Here is a common-sense approach you can take that will not require you to hire an expensive agency or take valuable time away from managing your clients’ assets and running your business.
Content is King
Create a content calendar for the year: Think about reasons to touch a client 13 times during the year – that can be once a month and on their birthday. (The common rule of sales is that it takes at least 7-13 touches to make a connection.) The number is limited and keeps you from inundating the clients who likely already feel inundated with content. You can take the seasonal approach – tax planning in the fall, January for account review content, college financing in the spring – and supplement it with topical events during the year. Creating a calendar will help you stick to a plan. Here’s one resource for a content calendar.
Review what content is already available to you: Basically, this means finding the resources you already have and determining what pieces will be most valuable to your clients. Start first by checking out content your broker-dealer already generates that you can personalize. Many firms have economists who write regularly about the market. That’s content you can pass along to keep clients up-to-date they would not have access to anywhere else. In addition to your broker-dealer, mutual funds, your clearing firm, and money managers are all excellent sources of informative and even analytical content.
Personalize the content you use: Add your name, the client’s name or some way to avoid making it feel like canned content that you are using just to check the outreach box. See what capabilities your email program may have to help you.
The birthday strategy: One advisor used clients’ birthdays in a new way. Instead of the card or lunch date, the advisor asked the client’s spouse for a list of friends he could invite to a birthday lunch and made it a memorable event that was also a soft approach to getting referrals.
Become a curator of good content: What your review will show you is that you don’t have to generate the content yourself. You can point clients to pieces you find insightful. You are likely already doing this every day just to keep yourself informed. The next step is to compile it and send out the very best pieces to your clients, again, with a note with your own thoughts about why you found it valuable.
Find out what is working and do more of it: Use your client interactions, in-person and online, to find out what types of content clients liked and any they didn’t. You can use tracking on your emails to see how many were opened as a measurement tool, but the personal interactions tend to provide more insight than raw data.
Be disciplined about your execution: Get help from an office assistant or schedule the time each month to do the content development and outreach. As any good strategy, if you make it a habit, it won’t seem so hard.
Most importantly, be yourself and be personal: You may want to regularly get personal by talking about your family and hobbies. The ultimate is if you can provide content that is personal to your clients, not just about their investments – they get that from their statements, apps and online portals. Think alma maters, hobbies, children and parents.
Of course, as a disclaimer, you have to make sure all content and communications are complying with regulations and the rules of your own broker-dealer.
The process of creating a plan will get you thinking about your clients in a new way. That exercise alone can re-energize your business and get you seeing marketing opportunities in places you may never have seen them before.
Shileen Weber is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at GWG Holdings. She was previously Director of Online Strategy and Client Experience at RBC Wealth Management, where they placed first in two JD Power and Associates U.S. Full Service Investor Satisfaction Study (2011 and 2013).
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