Financial Advisors: Using Niche Marketing to Grow your Business

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As more people obtain their CFP certification, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Advisors to prove their value over competitors.

It used to be common for small businesses to market themselves as a “one-stop shop.”   This made sense when it was difficult to access a range of Financial Advisors. However, with the arrival of the Internet and powerful search engines, as well as the vast amounts of content available online, this has all changed. Now, trying to be a “one stop shop” offers much less competitive advantage in the overcrowded online market.

Many Advisors believe that by being a generalist, they are able to reach more people, which will lead to more potential clients. The reality is, it is difficult to sell everything to everyone, and even more difficult when you are trying to do it online. If you cast too wide of a net online, you won’t catch many fish at all. The challenge with a general audience is that your online messaging can become very generic and as a result, less persuasive and engaging.

So, you want to grow your business online, and build a more effective online presence? Why is defining your niche market one of the first things you need to do?

Niche Marketing

First off, what is niche marketing?  According to Business Dictionary, “niche marketing is concentrating marketing efforts on a small but specific and well defined segment of the population. Niches do not ‘exist’ but are ‘created’ by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering services to satisfy them. As a strategy, niche marketing is aimed at being a big fish in a small pond instead of being a small fish in a big pond.

The objective of niche marketing is to become the expert and go-to for that service and audience, and develop a reputation as the preferred Financial Advisor for that market. Niche Advisors become specialists with expertise in solving particular problems for a particular set of people with similar challenges. And because prospects see niche businesses as specialists, they are often more willing to pay a premium price for what they will perceive as being a higher level of expertise than generic Advisors.

In the digital age, is it no longer safe to be a generalist.

You only have a split second, if you’re lucky, to catch a prospects eye when they are rifling through their Google search results. In a world where you are competing with thousands (even millions) of websites, the last thing you want to do is get buried because your content is generic, and similar to all of the other Advisors marketing themselves online. Ask yourself, with so many Advisors and so much content online, why should a prospect do business with you over another Advisor that they have come across in Google searches?

Build your online presence around your niche market.

These days, the only way to grab someone’s attention is by providing them with something that is relevant and provides value. Instead of the risk of spreading yourself too thin by saying everybody is your potential client, niche marketing will help you to focus your online efforts, keywords and content on a specific group of people, and what their specific needs and challenges are. You’ll quickly develop a deep understanding of what’s important to them, the ins-and-outs of their financial affairs, their problems and opportunities. From there, you will know exactly what content to create and share with your digital network; crafting valuable content that is specifically targeted towards their buyer journey and the challenges they are facing.

The best way to ensure that your website content is valuable is to make sure it fits the criteria of informative, interesting and relevant. If your content is informative, it will either answer a question often asked by your niche market, or provide valuable insights related to your niche market. If your content is interesting, it is written in a way that makes your niche market want to read it. If your content is relevant, then it relates to the lives, challenges, work, or interests of your niche market. In order for your niche website to stand out and rank higher than the others, you’re going to need great niche centered content that is informative, interesting and valuable to readers and potential customers

Targeting keywords and content that align with your target audience’s search queries will also help in your Search Engine Optimization efforts; helping you to rank higher in your specialized niche market.

Build an Advisor Brand That Makes you Stand Out

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What comes to mind when you think about Coca-Cola?

You may be thinking “a popular beverage”. But, when it comes to their brand, it’s more than just a beverage company. Coca-Cola sells happiness, togetherness, and positive emotions.

So, when it comes to deciding between buying a Coca-Cola product or a Pepsi product, both are popular beverages and in the same realm. What pushes people to decide is often the emotional connection an individual has to that brand.

A brand is everything to do with you and your company: who you are, what you stand for, what services you offer, your goals, values, personality, and more.  A brand lives and evolves in the minds and hearts of potential clients.  It is a fostered set of emotions and ideas consumers associate with your company.

Cultivating a strong brand is crucial to your businesses’ success, both online and off. There is a lot that goes into building a brand and shaping how others perceive you and your business; from customer testimonials to your value proposition.  Seeing that we are now in a day and age where people will make purchase decisions based off of emotional connections, building a strong brand identity can help build value for your business.

Just as a brand can drive its prospects to pick them over a similar competitor, your personal brand can drive your prospects to pick you over other Financial Advisors.

So, ask yourself:

  1. What does my personal brand say about me?

Your personal bio is the most powerful branding tool you have. In Mitch Joel’s book Ctrl Alt Delete, he talks about “digital first”. This concept emphasizes that the first place we learn about things (and people) is online. This means that, often times, an individual’s first impression of you will be based around how you carry yourself online. Your personal bio is one way to communicate who you are without having to be face to face with prospects and clients.

On a broader scale, what you communicate on your website and social media defines how you (and your brand) will be perceived by an audience. When you promote yourself as a Financial Advisor, you’re promoting what’s on the surface of your brand. But, what makes you unique and sets you apart from other Advisors? Do you promote yourself with the idea that you are a unique brand, such as “Coca-Cola”; a brand that sells happiness, togetherness, and other positive emotions, or just “a popular beverage”? If you’re selling your services by sharing your valuable knowledge with your audience, people will start to build trust with your brand.

  1. What do I WANT my personal brand to say about me?

Are you family-oriented? Do you specialize in a niche area of Financial services like retirement planning? Are you a fan of a specific sports team? Do you use your interests to better connect with clients? If being family-oriented is something that you want to be portrayed to your audience, use images that focus on that throughout your website. Use images and create content that further demonstrate your understanding of your niche market. You can use also social media to humanize your brand further by celebrating your favourite sports team’s success. There are so many ways to create a well-rounded personal brand that is true to who you are and what your advisory firm is all about.

Take a minute and think about what you want people to think (and say) about you and your business. Do you want them to see you as someone that is strictly business or someone that wants to get to know their clients on a more personal level? Even with a digital shift, human interactions are still very important to sales and business processes. A prospect or clients experience with you online (and off) should feel personalized and human. You want prospects and clients to connect and relate to your brand on an emotional level. Giving your audience a solid sense of who you are may make them more willing to trust you as an Advisor, which is particularly important in this industry and when competing with other Advisors.

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What does your brand say about you? Can you identify your values, goals, or uniqueness from what you’ve put online? Remember that a brand is not what you say it is, but rather what your consumers say it is. At the end of the day, do you want to promote yourself as a unique brand, such as Coca-Cola, or just a popular beverage? In other words, do you want your brand to connect with your audience on an emotional level, or be seen as just another Financial Advisor?

Marketing Financial Advisory Services in a Noisy Digital World

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This post was authored by Marie Swift and originally appeared here on GuideVine.

Khalid Usmani, who is the Director of Advisors Success at GuideVine, and Marie Swift, who heads up PR and marketing consulting firm Impact Communications, recently spoke about marketing Financial Advisory services in a noisy digital world.

The audio interview can be accessed here:

http://www.audioacrobat.com/email/E1dDNhLwv

Here is a summary of key points.

When it comes to your digital footprint, a couple of things are very important:

  1. It’s about widening your reach
  2. It’s about deepening your appeal

Drilling down on point number one, widening your reach:

Using the Internet has become increasingly important as a medium for people to make important decisions and forge relationships.

A recent study done by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that 83% of people do research online before they make a purchase or major decision. They know what they are likely going to buy before they even set foot inside a store or call a service provider.

Another study, from Pew Research shows that since 2013 the number of people using online dating sites has gone up 3x. The interesting thing here is that it’s just not people age 18-29. The biggest increase in use came from people between ages 35 and 65.

For Financial Advisors, the big take-away is that people will find you in all kinds of places online. They may find you on your website, LinkedIn profile, Facebook, or different web portals so it is important to make sure that you are visible where your ideal clients are. Make it easy for people to find you.

To learn more about being discoverable online, read The Digital Reality for Financial Advisors.

 

Drilling down on point number two, deepening your appeal:

Deepening your appeal is perhaps the most critical part. You can certainly be on lots of different platforms and be on social media. But just being there doesn’t really make you different. What matters is making sure you have a deep connection on those platforms.

There are three things to think about if you want to stand out:

  • Messaging
  • Thought leadership
  • Call-to-action

Messaging – It is important to have consistent messaging. You’d be surprised the number of Advisors that have a dramatically different message on their website than they have on their LinkedIn profile. Make sure you have a consistent message and a consistent brand across the various digital platforms that you use so that the prospective client is seeing a similar brand across the board.

Thought Leadership – You must also have great content and be able to show how you’re different from the crowd. Too many Advisors rely 100% boilerplate content that they have purchased to distribute via their websites and/or social media. While using some purchased content is fine, relying it 100% means that you are not being truly authentic. The best strategy is to break away from the pack and show value to the potential prospects by highlighting your thought leadership. Share what you think is going on in the market or your ideas on a particular issue that a lot of your current clients face and make that conversation real online.

Call-to-Action – It is important to have a compelling call-to-action. If there isn’t a clear path that is obvious to visitor when they come to your website, they will just bounce off. So have a button and some language that specifically calls out and invite the visitor to connect with you, to download one of your latest market perspectives, to watch one of your videos, or interact with a piece of software on your site. This also translates into how you set up your LinkedIn profile or even GuideVine profile – what’s the purpose? What do I want the prospect to do when they are on each page?

Advisors who focus on widening their reach and deepening their appeal can add millions of dollars in net new assets directly through their online channels. In order to be more discoverable online, you’ll need a marketing hub (typically your website) and a number of satellite pages that connect in to and out from your hub. Imagine a big spider web on the World Wide Web. Your website or blog is the primary place where you want everybody to eventually migrate. Having satellite entities, such as a GuideVine profile page, social media profiles, and articles published on other credible is essential due to cross-linking (boosts your search engine page rankings). When people Google you by name (or by specific terms or even generic terms), your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and GuideVine profiles will show up. So think about building a multi-page footprint online.

Of course Advisors are busy people, so when it comes to building your digital footprint think about:

  • What are your goals?
  • Who’s your target?

Not every Advisor should be on every single platform out there. That is just not a good use of time. You as an Advisor have to identify what are the key platforms that you want to be on and then prioritize from there. GuideVine actually has a process for this – a trained professional helps the Advisor create a step-by-step game plan. It is important to focus on the basics:

  • Getting the profile set up
  • Making sure the cover photos and profile pictures are consistent and professional
  • Ensuring that the descriptions are the same and support the overall brand identity you’re trying to promote

Content – Once you’ve got the basics down, think about your content. Make sure you have great content – that it’s frequent, and that it’s consistent and appropriate for the target audience that you are going after. A lot of Advisors think that “creating content” means they have to write something from scratch – and that seems overwhelming to time-crunched Advisors, especially those for whom writing is not a natural strength. But studies have shown that video and infographics and other forms of visuals get shared more often than just text alone. So adding in the visuals can help you broaden your reach and deepen appeal.

One of things GuideVine has learned in having thousands of videos and tens of thousands of views is what things consumers really like when it comes to liking an Advisors video. Bottom line: having a profile page with some text doesn’t really get the Advisor’s message across. Most Advisors will agree that the wealth management business is a very heavy relationship-based business. Part of the thought process that any prospect goes through before they select their Advisor is, “Is this Advisor an appropriate fit for me from a personality perspective?” So don’t just include a list of services you offer and a narrative about the types of experience you’ve had. Try to show some personality – that’s part of what the consumer is hoping to get a sense of when they view your website, social media and profile pages online. Clients want to feel comfortable sharing details about their personal lives, not just their financial lives – and they don’t want to share those more personal details with just anybody.

Video is a fantastic way to quickly showcase your personality to someone; it saves them having to take all the time to come in person and meet with you and can speed up the get acquainted process. Videos are a quick way for you to showcase how you’d work with someone and make someone feel comfortable before they actually connect with you. GuideVine stats show that advisors that have videos have significantly greater levels of engagement.

Advisors who use their videos across various platforms including their website, LinkedIn, and any other place they have a presence, are seeing 2-3 times in terms of number of plays – and that translates into greater engagement with them.

Engagement – The third level of this is when you get to engagement. You’ve got the basics and the mechanics down; you have the great content there. Now how do you drive engagement? Part of it is building a larger followership. One of the best ways to build a larger followership is to make sure that you are actually talking to people online and creating a community around your content and ideas. Just having a big megaphone out there and saying, “Hey this is my brand and this is what I do,” but not listening to people and reacting to people’s real concerns online makes is a shallow strategy. To make it a much deeper, richer, experience, engage with people online. That is the final element that will drive dividends for your Financial Advisor firm.

 

Financial Advisors: Build a Better Digital You

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As a student looking for work, I was repeatedly asked, “Do you have a LinkedIn account?”, “What do your social media accounts say about you?”, and “What kind of an impression are you making on the digital front?” It has become very common for employers to look for potential candidates through social media and use it to vet applicants. So, ask yourself, “What do my social media accounts say about me and how can that affect my Advisory firm?”

Just as employers use the internet to find the right candidates for their organization, your prospects look to the internet to decide who the right Financial Advisor is for them. So, take a step back and assess the online presence of your business:

Where can I be found online?

  • A personal website
  • Your company’s website
  • Your social media accounts – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
  • You were featured in a news article
  • A guest blog you’ve written

There are many ways to get your name (and your Advisory Firm) out there.

  1. Create a website

We are in the digital age of “Googling”. People will Google anything and everything, including which Financial Advisor would be best suited for them. Having a well designed, user-friendly, and dynamic website can help you gain credibility as a Financial Advisor by continuously establishing a great first impression with website visitors. Adding non-financial information such as community involvement, charitable endeavours and local events on your website can also help build strong relationships between you and your audience. A website can act as an extension of your business. It has the capacity to be a 24/7 online business that is working and available to clients and prospects, even when you aren’t. If you put the work in, your website can be a hub of answers for your clients and prospects.

  1. Create and build your social media accounts

Gone are the days where a first impression occurs when you first meet and shake someone’s hand, especially in the Financial Services industry. Considering that 70% of the buyer journey is completed before reaching out to a company, chances are your prospects have researched you prior to your first phone call or meeting. Having a strong social media presence that effectively articulates your services, brand and you as an Advisor, can be the difference between a gaining another prospect or a client.

  1. Blog!

It is said that the millennial generation, also known as your future clients, have an approximate purchasing power of $200 billion. 88% of millennials used Facebook as their main source of news in 2015. When it comes to news, answering questions, a means for entertainment (the list goes on) – we, the millennial generation, will turn to answers or information we find online and share it with our peers.

81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs (BlogHer). Blogging is one of the best ways to have a conversation with your audience by answering their questions in a non-intrusive manner. Blogging is also a great way to boost your websites search engine optimization (SEO) and ranking. Improving your search engine ranking can also help improve traffic to your website, all while building your digital brand.

So, to get you started on building a better digital you, do a quick audit of your existing online presence:

  • Do I have a website? Is it mobile friendly?
  • Do I have a profile on my company’s website?
  • Do I have an account on at least 1 social media platform?
  • Am I active on my account(s)?
  • Have I blogged?
  • When will I start (or continue) to build a better digital presence?

Introduction to Content Marketing for Financial Advisors

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Marketing has evolved tremendously in the past decade – and more importantly the way we market to people has changed. Today’s consumers make purchasing decisions based on research they do on their own, reading online reviews, and through trust that is built overtime with an organization.

We are now in the age of “Googling”. This means that people are turning to search engines, like Google, to find the answers to their questions. Considering that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine (imFORZA), having the ability to answer a prospects question online could help you seal the deal when the time comes. After all, 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to a sales associate (Pardot).

With content so readily available to consumers, one of the best ways to build trust and credibility is through content marketing. So, what is content marketing and how can you start your content marketing journey?

Well, first off…

What is content marketing?

By dictionary definition, content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. 

Content marketing aims to educate and inform your audience without selling your product or service – a form of uninterrupted marketing. Consistently creating content that is relevant, informative and provides value to your audience will help attract new clients to your business as it positions you as a thought leader and builds a sense of trust between you and a prospect. Content marketing is one of the most important marketing strategies you can implement for your business. It helps you to build trust with your audience, connect and engage with prospects, and strengthens your Search Engine Optimization, all while further establishing yourself as an expert in the Financial Services industry.

Content creation

There are a variety of different formats of content that you can create to attract a wider audience of prospects. By creating content in different formats and promoting through different channels, the chance of others finding, reading and referring back to your content increases.

To make things easy, start with one idea and decide which medium would be the most appropriate way to share it. Would the information be better interpreted as a blog post, an infographic, a video?

Why content marketing?

Content marketing is a means to help solve, educate and inform your audience on problems they may be facing. By providing prospects and clients with readily available information online, you’re able to build a more trusting and valuable relationship with them. This is one of the most inexpensive and effective forms of inbound marketing. According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.

If you think back to a problem you may have encountered, or a question that came up such as, “How do I stain my porch?” or “What are the best restaurants in Toronto?”, Did you search for an answer online? Just as you turned to the Internet to find answers, many people do the same for topics related to the Financial Services industry. Search is the #1 driver of traffic to content sites, beating social media by more than 300% (imFORZA). By including content marketing in your digital marketing strategy, your business has the potential to be a 24/7 online hub for individuals looking for financial advice.

Getting started
To get started on your content marketing journey, here are some things you can do:

  • Find an area that you can be an expert in and use content marketing as a means to answer your target audience’s questions, and solve their challenges.
  • Make a list of blog post ideas – kind of like an extensive FAQ, or relevant topics that would be of interest to your audience
  • Create a content calendar – this will help keep you organized throughout the process
  • Decide on the types of content you want to create
  • Make your current content more socially shareable
  • Learn to optimize your content and boost your SEO to amplify your organic reach
  • Use eNewsletters to push out and repurpose your content

 

For a more in-depth guide to content marketing, try downloading our eBook: The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Content Marketing

The Road to Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Success

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On the path to marketing a business, people can lose sight of their local audience. According to a study done by the National Public Radio, localized content had 6 times more Facebook shares than non-localized content. From increasing your website traffic to improving your clients overall experience with your business – localized marketing can do wonders for your Advisory Firm.

According to Search Engine Land, 67% of smartphone users want ads customized by city and 61% want ads customized to their immediate surroundings. With SEO continuously evolving, it’s hard to keep track of how to best optimize your Advisor website and content – especially with a local focus.

There are many elements that go into a building a strong and effective local SEO strategy. One of the most important features to have for your Advisor website is to be mobile responsive as Google now ranks responsive websites higher than those that aren’t in search engine rankings.

The infographic below, courtesy of 99MediaLab, takes you on a visual journey down the road to local SEO success for your business. As a Financial Advisor, be sure to take note of what you are currently doing with your SEO strategy, and what you need to start doing to successfully market to your local audience.

The Road to Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Success Infographic

Newsletters: The Forgotten Hero of Content Marketing

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Newsletters are one of the most cost-effective mediums for building relationships and maintaining contact with your customers and prospects. Despite being one of the most effective marketing tools available, this digital channel is often overlooked by digital marketers.

As a Financial Advisor, Newsletters are a great way to boost your content reach, grow your contact list, and help in building trust with clients and prospects. As newsletters are now an opt-in form of digital marketing, they are the perfect medium for pushing out content to your target audience without being disruptive.

The Content Marketing Institute found that 78% of respondents included newsletters in their content marketing strategy. With newsletters being the primary use of email marketing (Capterra), taking advantage of this marketing tool can lead your business to further success.

So, why newsletters? As a powerful marketing tool, newsletters can:

  • Increase your web traffic
  • Increase your repeat visitors
  • Allows you to track who’s receiving, opening, and visiting your website
  • Educates your target audience
  • Nurtures your leads
  • Builds trust with your clients and prospects

Just like anything in digital marketing, newsletters are not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are 3 different types of eNewsletters that marketers typically use, each with a different purpose.

Corporate eNewsletters

They are designed to keep customers and prospects up-to-date with organization updates. They summarize company announcements, press releases, new products, etc. This type of newsletter is typically sent on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Lead nurturing eNewsletterssales funnel

The goal of this type of eNewsletter is to engage, inform, and stay top of mind for clients and prospects. The content you share with your audience can lead them through the awareness, consideration, and decision phases by providing them with useful content, familiarizing them with your business and, eventually, driving them to take action and become a client. Content within the eNewsletter can include educational materials such as blogs, sales information, and marketing offers. Depending on where your audience may be along the sales funnel, having a call-to-action may push those at the decision making phase to commit and become your client.

The goal of this type of eNewsletter is to engage and influence prospects with every interaction they have with you. The content you share with your audience can lead them through the awareness, consideration and decision phases by familiarizing them with your business and, eventually, driving them to take action and become a client.

Curated eNewsletters

Curated eNewsletters aim to build awareness of a topic, while also allowing your organization to provide their perspective on it. This type of eNewsletter is a mixture of syndicated (third party) and original content. It displays that you have a grasp of what your audience is looking for by surfacing the best content out there into a one stop shop. This is also a great approach for Advisors with a limited amount of content.

Lead nurturing and curated newsletters tend to have higher open rates, and are generally sent on a weekly basis, at the same day and time (ex. 2:30 pm every Tuesday).

 

An effective eNewsletter is non-intrusive, provides value to the reader, and makes them feel like they are being educated rather than sold. eNewsletters don’t require you to create new content as they’re a great way to repurpose your old content. As a Financial Advisor, you should take advantage of this effective means for building and maintaining relationships with clients and prospects. eNewsletters will not only extend the reach of your content, but can also do wonders for your business.

Takeaways from the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit 2016

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I recently attended the Digital Marketing Summit in Toronto and was a panelist on the Power Panel: Surmount Barriers to Transform your Omni-channel into a Customer Centric, High Performance Digital Ecosystem. The conference was very educational and a great way to meet industry leaders in the Digital world of Financial Services. Having learned some new perspectives on all things digital, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on two presentations that stood out during the conference.

The Keynote Address by Mitch Joel

The keynote address “Reboot Your Digital Marketing Strategy to Transform Your Brand and Win in the New Landscape” by Mitch Joel, President of Mirum, and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT DELETE was the most interesting. His presentation provided me with a different perspective on digital today.

The first was Mitch’s story about Snapchat. Apparently, in Snapchat’s very early days, when it was only about 5 people, Facebook offered to buy it for $3 billion.  Amazingly, Snapchat’s founders turned it down. Snapchat’s size and younger audience demographic was attractive to Facebook, but Mitch explained that Snapchat was quite different from Facebook. Snapchat represented the real world.  In the real world, most conversations are not recorded.

Today, in the ‘virtual world’, what people really want is an in-the-moment experience and to interact in a non-recorded way.  Snapchat, and tools like Slack and Periscope, provide the brevity and genuineness of reacting to something as it happens, just like real life.

Teenagers need unstructured time online without fear of parental criticism, which can easily happen on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Snapchat gives younger audiences the freedom of communicating in a private digital environment. Similarly, ‘Periscope’ lets you broadcast live video to the world. Followers can join, comment and “send you hearts in real time”. In the workplace, Slack, a chatting application, has been encroaching on email as a form of business communication. Email is still quite formal but conversely Slack allows for creativity and brainstorming — similar to a face-to-face meeting. Slack imitates that experience better than prescribed emails that most work-forces use.

Apps like Snapchat, Periscope and Slack prompt us, as marketers, to think about ways our own brands can mimic ‘real world’ experiences to connect not only with millennials but also with all of our customers in the ways they connect with each other.

Another interesting tidbit from Mitch was that Amazon bought the gaming channel, Twitch Interactive, in 2014 for almost $1 billion. Twitch is not actually a gaming website but an Internet video channel for “broadcasting and watching people play videogames”.

At first glance this seems like an awkward acquisition, however, Twitch is the fourth-largest source of U.S. Internet traffic, so perhaps $1 billion was worth it.

Mitch’s take away from this acquisition is that companies should obviously be investing in video, but also that thinking differently about your business can sometimes lead to tremendous success. An ecommerce and cloud computing company is leading the way with Amazon Prime video streaming and networks like Twitch. It is now not just about content or channels, but about networks like Netflix and CraveTV. Mitch Joel states that Amazon’s move into networks teaches us a potentially new way for marketers to think. Many brands are hiring journalists and other media types as a way to create more authentic, creative stories. He says that maybe the opportunity is for brands to think about not just creating and publishing content, but more about how to “become their own media network”. Perhaps the future is less about native advertising and more about brands becoming a network with their own studio.

Think about Purina owning a ‘kitty network’ similar to AFV or Elon Musk owning a “sustainability network’ that is all about saving the environment.

Another very interesting comment Mitch made was that the ‘purchase button’ should be everywhere. He mentioned the Best Buy Facebook Page that has a tab titled, “Shop Now”. Mitch says, why drive people back to your website when they should be able to buy right from within Facebook? The Internet strategy of years ago that drove consumers back to their website is slowly dying. This rang particularly true for me because in 2001, I worked for a ‘dot com’ called ePod. ePod had a unique advertising technology, that was way before its time. We called it a ‘website within a website’. We worked with companies like Disney to create an ad unit that would advertise a Disney product in a video, inside an ad unit with a ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’ functionality built-in.  Yes, ePod was quite a way before its time.

My final takeaways from Mitch’s presentation were that we, as financial services marketers, need to ensure that we represent real-life. Marketing with flexibility, creativity, authenticity, and kindness. He said those were the keys to developing great businesses.

In a digitally centric world, authenticity and creating and developing real relationships are the keys to success.

Facebook’s Erin Elofson

Erin Elofson, Director of Financial Services at Facebook, sold the benefits of Facebook advertising, but she did it in a very educational way. I have spent a fair bit of time trying to find the secrets to effective Facebook advertising – with some great success – but I always thought that we could do better. Of course, video advertising was lauded as the key to success.

Video on Facebook has exploded, but the most enlightening was Erin’s comments on storytelling and driving people down the purchasing funnel. In hindsight, it is common sense, but Erin’s examples and success stories sent a strong message to the DMFS audience.

If you are a believer in content marketing, then you know that ebooks, case studies and blogs that educate the consumer before asking them to buy are significantly more effective than content that immediately asks people to take action1. Erin says that Facebook advertising should do the same. Campaigns that “sequence” different ads work best. The first ad should tell the brand story. For example, “our community focused bank supports people who lost their homes in Fort McMurray with a 1% mortgage”. The next ad in the “sequence” should provide product information. For example, “our friendly bank will easily transfer your mortgage over from another bank with no penalty”. Only after these two ads have run one after the other, should the message include a call-to-action such as stating the current mortgage rate and inviting the audience to click to apply.  Erin also showed a simple formula for taking existing television or YouTube video ads and paring them back to become effective brand stories in Facebook.

From personal experiences, acting too quickly by asking people to take action immediately, without persuading them down the purchasing funnel through story telling, takes discipline. In a world where CEOs and shareholders are clamoring for quick results to meet quarter-end numbers, it is very tempting to ask prospects immediately to ‘buy-now’. I get many sales calls right after I download a piece of content. We often wrongly assume that if the product is as good as we think it is, or if they are the right target audience, they will buy. And if they don’t buy or click now, they never will. Erin brought American Express to the stage to tell their Facebook advertising story. American Express explained that once they adopted this disciplined approach to Facebook advertising, or ‘story telling’, the results were overwhelmingly positive. Research from Adaptly2, published by Facebook, concurs with the same results:

Among those who were exposed to the sequenced ads compared to those who were exposed to the non-sequenced ads, there was an 87% increase in people visiting the landing page and a 56% increase in subscription rates. In addition, they converted at higher rates.

When you think of this approach, it makes total sense. I am on Facebook reading my friends’ updates, looking at their photos, watching funny videos and reading news about a movie star’s dress. Do I really want some stranger telling me to buy their product?  Wouldn’t it be better to see funny videos or moving stories related to the brand to get to know them before I am asked to buy?

“Some advertisers may find it counterintuitive to elongate a campaign as a way to more gradually bring their audience through the purchase funnel, rather than more immediately delivering a call-to-action,” says Adaptly’s CEO, Nikhil Sethi. “But we have proven that this classic brand-building approach it is both effective and efficient, even for direct response advertising.”3

My most memorable brand video on Facebook was the Westjet Christmas Miracle. That doubled my affinity for the airline. My resulting perception is a kind airline that cares about their people and their customers. As a marketer, I am surprised that I would feel that way about a brand solely based on their marketing.

Other themes of the Digital Marketing Financial Summit, were personalization, utilizing data to deliver better customer experiences, omni-channel challenges, using attribution for measuring advertising and more.  Lastly, as a regular conference participant, I was very pleased to see how engaged the attendees were. Attendees had many questions for the presenters. When visiting our booth, they were open to hearing about our products and services rather than just the giveaways we had at the booth.

Conferences like DMFS provide us with the ability to step outside the office to learn, develop relationships, and talk to people in the “real world”.

 

1, 2, 3 Creating More Effective Online Marketing Campaigns.

Advisors: Why whitespace is NOT wasted space

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Whitespace is commonly referred to as negative space, the portion of a page that is left unmarked, blank, or the empty space on a page. Whitespace is the fundamental building block of good design. If used correctly, it can transform a design and provide many advantages to your Financial Advisor website.

As a Financial Advisor, you’ve taken an important step to grow your business by creating your own website. Keep in mind that as you market your business digitally, you are marketing to a digital audience and should keep that audience in mind with designing your website. As a Financial Advisor, one of your goals should be to deliver an exceptional and consistent experience to your clients and prospects on all fronts, including a positive experience for your website visitors.

Using whitespace effectively can create several benefits for your website.

  1. Emphasize your Call-to-Actions (CTAs)

At first glance, the most obvious way to make your CTA stand out would be to make your button larger than anything else on your page. However, surrounding your CTA with whitespace can be just as effective, if not more. Having whitespace surrounding your CTA gives your readers just one thing to focus on. Below is an example of how whitespace can be used effectively to emphasize a CTA (Reserve Your Spot!):

Advisors: Why Whitespace is NOT wasted space

  1. A tidy site is always better

If you were to have an in-person meeting with your clients, would you want them walking into a cluttered, messy office or an office that was clean, neat and inviting? Just as you would want to create a good first impression when someone walks into your office, you want to do the same when someone visits your website.

Aside from a great colour scheme and an easy-to-follow layout and navigation, whitespace is crucial because it adds a certain finesse, and also exudes a sense of elegance and superiority to your website. Below is an example from Mark Boulton’s article showing an Advertisement that is transformed by the use of effective whitespace. As you can see, the result is a much cleaner, and visually appealing Ad.

Example of whitespace used effectively

  1. Acts as a separator

As a Financial Advisor, there is a range of topics to discuss with your clients. Sometimes those topics are completely unrelated, making it harder to decide how to lay them out on your website. Whitespace is a great way to separate unrelated elements in your website while enhancing the overall visual layout. When you use whitespace effectively, it can pave the way to clearer communication and navigation through your website.

Although having whitespace can provide clear benefits for your website, a good balance of design and whitespace is important. Too much whitespace leads to confusion and gives off the impression that your website lacks content. However, not enough whitespace leads to a messy, disorganized and confusing layout for your audience.

Below are some websites that use whitespace effectively:

Built by Buffalo uses whitespace wisely. The whitespace helps to emphasize where they’d like their visitors to go first. As you scroll through their homepage, you can see that whitespace still dominates the page while emphasizing the icons at the same time.

Website using whitespace effectively

 

Mailchimp uses whitespace to effectively highlight their CTA’s. Their design is simple, allowing visitors to easily navigate themselves around the page.

Website using whitespace effectively

 

Google uses a minimalistic approach to their homepage. At first glance, visitors will notice their colourful logo.  Visitors will then proceed to the text box to begin their search. Their design is simple but effective because of the dominant use of whitespace.

Website using whitespace effectively

Take a minute to analyze your Financial Advisor website to help determine if you have enough (or too much) whitespace. Formulate a plan of action to incorporate more whitespace into your website design to effectively create a clean and visually appealing website – your visitors will thank you for it.

Ignoring LinkedIn is Hurting your Advisory Firm

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According to The Wall Street Journal, “At Social Media High, Facebook is the all-star quarterback, Twitter is the school paper’s editor in chief and Snapchat is the mysterious, Harley-riding transfer student. That makes LinkedIn the nerd who skips prom for the mathlympics.

However, within the financial services sector, LinkedIn is the all-star quarterback with 9 in 10 Financial Advisors active on this social network (LinkedIn). LinkedIn is a hub for growing your advisory firm, strengthening and nurturing your relationships, and building awareness for your business.

Signing up for a LinkedIn account and letting it gather dust will hurt your career – you need to be active on this social network. There are many little changes you can make to optimize your LinkedIn account, as well as many opportunities to engage with other LinkedIn users – more specifically your clients and prospects. Some of these engagement opportunities include:

  • Joining and contributing to relevant LinkedIn Groups
  • Posting updates for your LinkedIn network to see
  • Like and comment with updates made by people in your network
  • And so much more

LinkedIn recently conducted a comprehensive survey of Financial Advisors and found that 75% of Advisors who gained clients from LinkedIn stated that they use the site to improve their referral network. They gathered the top reasons Financial Advisors use LinkedIn, which included:

  1. Building brand identity
  2. Enhancing current client relationships
  3. Staying up-to-date on industry insights
  4. Improving their referral network

In a very digitally-centric world, it is important to acknowledge that as a Financial Advisor, you need to not only have a LinkedIn presence, but an active one at that. You must recognize that ignoring this all-star quarterback of a social media network could hinder your Advisory firm’s success. By staying active on LinkedIn, you could be a social media all-star, reach new prospects and grow your Assets Under Management (AUM).