Opposing Forces That Cause A Disjointed Brand

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The Business Case for Transforming your Advisor marketing. Identify Section BannerTwo opposing carton people with opposing marketing voices

Digital technology has enabled total personalization and individualization which contradicts the very idea of brand uniformity. The average digital experience is no longer enough and the driving force behind the desire to push the limits of brand uniformity is customer experience, i.e the idea of delivering an experience that is tailored to a specific client, segment or market.

I’ve had the privilege of helping many large financial institutions bring order and governance to their digital brand where they’ve offered financial advisors or insurance agents a certain degree of customization flexibility as it pertains to their personal brand more so from a digital standpoint than a print standpoint. In more specific terms, I’m referring to the advisor or agent website and an institution’s implementation of a website program in the context of allowing customization. The result of many of these customized programs has led the organization to a state where their digital brand assets are misused (or misunderstood) over a period of time and requires the organization to “reign in” these programs in an effort to strengthen their brand image and in turn provide their sales force with a much stronger and cohesive digital brand.

Now, I know you might be reading this with the thought, “Well Andrew, that’s exactly why we didn’t move in the direction of allowing our advisors (or agents) to customize and instead kept everyone in a single website template, to avoid this exact problem that we’re seeing from our competitors!” Well, to that I say “Kudos. You had the foresight to predict these outcomes.” However, in the end, you still did not solve the overall digital experience problem and while you may be better off operationally, you may still have a digital transformation curve that your competitors have already gotten used even in light of all these issues.

So, there’s learning to be had on both sides of the coin but hopefully some of my observations can help you determine whether you have such a problem or simply identify and familiarize yourself with the problems so you can avoid them if you’re thinking about going down this path.

Technology and the demand for individualization

Many of the website programs I’ve been working to transform started as far back as the early 2000s when web technology was, in my opinion, still in its infancy – think web 2.0. The idea of a technology that could assist a financial brand to roll out a website program for their advisors or agents to self-manage their digital brand quite simply, did not exist outside the walls of those financial brands. Many of the firms I work with have either taken an existing technology (for example, one brand I’ve worked with took a website builder tool and attempted to duplicate it 1000 times for 1000 different websites) and heavily customized it to the point where it became very difficult to maintain or have taken it upon themselves to build an in-house solution (which, by the way, was a very common trend in the early 2000s) only later to realize that it became both labour and cost intensive to maintain the program while also meeting the needs of a rapidly evolving marketing technology space.

Both of these scenarios drove the organizations to extend the programs with in application and manually regulated customization capabilities as the software itself could not handle the level of individualization that the user community demanded. The interesting result of this and ultimately the result of the lack of technology, is the enterprise frowning upon individualization while the market demands a better and more personalized client experience with their financial advisor or insurance agent. The tough task that each enterprise financial brand faces, is achieving both of these goals without “breaking” their brand (and by association, their backs).

The good news? It’s possible and I’ve seen it done before and not by chance but it does start with letting go of the past.

Digital brand governance

Early in my career, every time I heard the word “governance”, I heard the word “rules and regulations” and it was only later on that I truly realized the effects of proper governance and why it mattered as organizational capabilities and functions grew and were required to scale properly. Your digital brand works and operates the same way. Traditionally, brands would create print standards AKA “style guide” which would contain elements like logos, colour palettes, fonts, lines, spacing, effectively anything you could draw on a piece of paper. The paradigm shift I see a lot of financial brands having to go through. It’s trying to think through the digital style guide which scales and grows much differently than print.

Print is finite. It can only produce so many permutations of style and can be defined very easily especially once it is physically printed. But something digital can be created using hundreds if not thousands of components so its permutations can be near infinite if you do not define the boundaries. Many brands we start working with will assume they can apply the print style guide in a digital sense but digital design elements like Buttons and Form elements (like input fields) are not defined. Without these digital boundaries, improper expectations are set across the organization and you start moving down the path of those infinite permutations that lead to brand disjointedness. You may also experience a side effect of your websites looking almost exactly like your brochures.


Three Opportunities Enterprise Marketers Are Missing Out On

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The Business Case for Transforming your Advisor marketing. Identify Section Banner

Balancing business quality versus quantity balance conceptual graphic for business and marketing concept 3D illustration.

The problem with most organizations is that they spend too much of their marketing budget on head office programs. This means that micro-segments and customers in local markets don’t engage with content. I believe that a more effective strategy requires marketing teams to rebalance digital marketing investments appropriately between head office and the field. There a number of symptoms organizations can readily identify to determine if they need to rebalance.

Email Engagement Model

If more than 90% of your email engagement comes from head office with no personal connection to the receiver you need to rethink your approach. People are much more likely to open an email from someone they know, rather than a corporate brand. Using name personalization in email results in a 26% increase in open rates. While 100% email personalization/personification is a “nice to have”, it can require special technology or too many resources to apply properly at an enterprise level. This may be why you are not taking advantage of this opportunity. The biggest problem with the head office driven model is engagement – how to conduct thousands of individual dialogues to properly connect with customers is not practical for a head office marketing team. So you may be inadvertently be driving traffic to inefficient service such as the customer walking into the local branch. We have discussed in a previous article, why this is not effective, and that lack of trust is a reason why AUM is not growing.

There are some cautions in implementing more personalized engagement programs to be aware of. Privacy is an increasing concern for people. 86% of people aim to control and hide their digital footprint. Personalisation can negatively impact marketers as well. 85% of those surveyed say that their audience segments are too large to create effective personalization. Additionally, nearly 33% of marketers say they have limited to no capacity to personalize marketing messages.

Digital Marketing Distribution Gap

If the vast majority of your writing comes from head office you are likely not reaching all of your customers and your content will not be diverse enough to engage with them. Your organization is likely distributed across regions and focused on different economic and socio-economic clusters. This focus also produces unique perspectives that are brand consistent and represents years of real-world experience. These viewpoints and the way they can frame and introduce content in the field to customers through content marketing is extremely valuable. Enterprise-level marketers are experts in marketing; however, they do not have the same local or specialty market knowledge that a field representative like a financial advisor will have. This knowledge gap means that content created exclusively at the head office may fit a generalized buyer journey but not a more specific one. And we know that more specific content resonates with unique segments in more human and powerful ways.  

Centralizing Contact Us.

A very common mistake in attracting new customers is not providing choice for who, how and when they engage with your firm. So most financial services firms in an effort to provide a consistent engagement experience for customers provide a central clearing function for contact us. This does not necessarily match the buyer journey where customers are researching products services and people before they make decisions. While there is a need for centralized contact this on its own may add friction to the buying process. Considering how to effectively balance choice with standards is an important element of customer engagement and may make the difference between a more locally focused firm and yours.


At the end of the day, to engage with customers more personally and match their unique buyer journey organizations need to consider how rebalancing their content marketing programs may create new growth opportunities. The constraints and challenges presented with exclusively head office driven programs are going to interfere with building a strong micro-segment and localized digital marketing programs. Now that this problem has been acknowledged, let’s discuss how to solve it.

Follow us in the coming weeks as we will cover The Business Case for Transforming Your Advisor Marketing, and Part 2: The Solution to this article.


Opportunities to Grow Financial Advisor Leads

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The Business Case for Transforming your Advisor marketing. Identify Section Banner

attract, engage, convert

To continue on our previous article on “Why Financial Advisor AUM isn’t Growing”, let’s take a closer look at growing leads specifically and the opportunities that financial advisors have in this area.

1. Advisors Aren’t Clear on Their “Why”

Think of the people whose opinion you trust the most. Not family or friends but thought leaders in an area of interest. When we think of those people, what drew you to them? It is often their drive, their purpose, their reason for doing what they do. According to Simon Sinek’s famous TED talk, “Start with Why”, it is one of life’s greatest joys to wake up in the morning with a clear sense of why you do what you do. The reason anyone does what they do is the story worth sharing. It can be how and why prospects and customers choose to connect and do business with you.

People want stories. As an advisor, think of what motivates you every day to do what you do? Why are you doing what you do? People already know that advisors “sell” financial products and some prepare financial plans but few understand what an advisor CAN DO for them and why it matters. Instead of focusing on “what you sell” or “who you are”, consider thinking of how you can convey “Why advisors do what they do?” and “Why it matters to prospects and customers?”

An advisor “Why” should give people insight into how an advisors’ services are better, different, and relevant to them. Once an advisor is clear on their “Why”  creating a brand and an online image is much easier.

2. Advisors Are Not Providing Value

Many advisors have a website but the question is are they updating it frequently and when it is updated, are they providing value. Many assume the content that is being produced is the kind of content that clients and prospects want to read. Advisors and enterprises who know their clients and prospects should know what type of content, strategies, market data, and pain points that would resonate with them the most. There are 9 characteristics of successful content that are instrumental in providing content that is valuable to prospects and customers.

Some reasons why advisors are not providing value

  • They are not clear on who their target audience is
  • The content does not match what is important to the reader
  • When a website is updated, does the advisor share the new piece of content with prospects and clients?

The more value an advisor can add, the more engaged their audience will be. Lead generation isn’t just about engagement and getting prospects interested, but it’s also about earning credibility that develops into trust.

3. Advisors Are Not Familiar With The Technology

There is an abundance of tools available for advisors to improve the way they get new leads. From websites, email marketing, and social media; evaluating these tools can be costly and overwhelming without knowing exactly what the ROI will be. Some advisors have chosen to create their own website using a third-party platform but this can present its own challenges to ensure the content posted is compliant.

These technology platforms are difficult to use and require hours or days of training to be able to use them effectively, not to mention the ongoing learning required to get the most out of the tool.  Some advisors choose to create their own website or leverage the marketing program that their enterprise has provided to them. With the former, advisors run the risk of publishing content that is not compliant. With the latter, there are very few options for personalization and customization. Regardless of which route an advisor chooses there are drawbacks without understanding the technology and how it can help your business with as few obstacles as possible.

4.Compliance Roadblocks

As much as we would like financial advisors to write content and distribute it to their prospects and customers, it’s not that easy. With a regulated industry, content written for web and for email must be approved by a compliance team. In many enterprises, the compliance approval process is cumbersome, timely, and makes it very difficult for advisors to post content.

In many cases, the process consists of an advisor writing a piece of content in a Word document and emailing it to the compliance team of their organization. The compliance officer then reviews the piece of content, tracking changes, or typing comments in an email. Both are very time-consuming. The advisor would then make changes to their piece of content based on the compliance officers’ comments. This process takes weeks of back and forth until the compliance team has approved the piece of content.

Advisors often find this process too time-consuming to create their own content. If there was an automated way advisors could get content approved by compliance team, perhaps they would be open to writing and creating content for their own audience.

5. Provide Exceptional Advisor Service

There’s no question that providing exceptional service is what will keep clients coming back. Many advisors who are getting new leads are able to get these from referrals. When advisors fail to provide amazing service to their clients, they are missing out on huge opportunities to grow their book of business and to get referrals. So what is exceptional advisor service?

  • Genuinely care about your clients/prospects
  • Define your target market and specialize in that area
  • Have scheduled times to check in and discuss financial goals
  • Providing value that is different and unique to other advisors
  • They listen to your needs, goals, and concerns

By taking a closer look at defining “Why”, providing value, technology, compliance, and service, financial advisors can make strides in the right direction towards generating new leads to their business.

Why Financial Advisor AUM Isn’t Growing

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The Business Case for Transforming your Advisor marketing. Identify Section BannerFinancial Advisor Analyzing growing chart floating above a tablet screen. showing successful increase in business profit

To financial planners, a gauge of the relevancy of information is “What is your AUM?” Advisors are facing challenges in continuously growing their AUM. The strategies that were once successful are not working the way they used to.

The landscape of what customers want and expect has changed, and the traditional strategies of growing AUM model can be a detriment to the advisor’s growth. 71% banking Millenials would rather go to the dentist than listen to a bank. Ouch. Technology isn’t the only reason why banks are struggling to grow their managed asset portfolio. There are four reasons we are examining as to why advisors might be struggling these days; a lack of new leads, providing bad service, a failure between generations, and self-advisors.

1. No leads

The marketing messaging required to bring in new clients is always evolving. While certain messages may have been successful in the past; it may no longer be the case today. Many advisors have business card websites that don’t get updated frequently and when they do don’t provide enough value that would result in someone wanting to contact them. These websites generate very few to no leads. Gone are the days of offering a free toaster for new customers. Incentives do not bring in as many people as they once did. In fact, incentives of a gift can have a negative effect. It may present an image that the brand is trying to entrap people in a negative service behind a shiny item. Additionally, people may think there are too many hoops to jump through to get the gift.
For modern consumers, there are five core values they share and should be appealed to:

  1. Optimism: They seek products and services that give an optimistic outlook on the future.
  2. Control: They want to make the decisions about their future, not have someone TELL them.
  3. Open-mindedness: They may hold strong opinions but could be changed.
  4. Social butterfly: There is value in social interactions to make life decisions
  5. Crave Information: They will gather information to make decisions.

Messaging is not the only factor that creates a lack of new leads. The reasons are all intertwined and that is why a single initiative will not resolve the struggle.

2. Bad Service

Competition for businesses, including banks and wealth management firms, has evolved. Competitors are no longer other banks of similar size, in the same geographical location. Customers are comparing the experience they receive across different industries. The experience people from their financial advisor is compared to all companies, such as Apple, Amazon, Starbucks, and others. Take for example a customer who receives birthday cards, has quarterly check-in meetings, receives emails with articles on topics that actually interest them will have a positive experience with their advisor.  Organizations who provide services are still finding ways to set themselves apart.

3. Generational Gap

The inability to acquire new clients and to bring in new assets into the organization would be a major loss. As baby boomers get older, there’s an opportunity for advisors to create and build relationships with their children. For example, Millennials are set to be the largest generation with the largest amount of wealth in several years. By 2022, they will constitute 44% of the workforce. Additionally, over the next 30 to 40 years, Millennials will inherit trillion. However, the targeting efforts do not match this importance. The messaging has not been informative because over half don’t think their bank offers anything different to its competitors.

Efforts to bring in new clients should have started when Millennials were much younger. While advisors were working with the parents, there was little to no effort put in to make the kids financially literate and help set them up for the future. Millennials sat on the sidelines and watched how banks worked with their parents.

The Crash of 2008 was when the complete distrust of banks became concrete. People saw their friends and family go into debt and even lose their homes because of banks trying to make a profit through shady business practices. The result of this distrust is that they are seeking out financial alternatives. These alternatives include pre-paid credit cards, payday loans, money transfer agents, even cryptocurrency. Finally, when people are using traditional banking services, more and more are doing it self-managed or with a robo-advisor.

Robot finger point to laptop button with bokeh background.

4. Self-Advisor

With the lack of financial literacy and a distrust for the traditional model of financial advisors, people take to the internet to educate themselves. There are tons of resources and expert opinions that are readily available to learn everything from debt management, investments, mortgages, wills, and any other financial services. This self-advisorship meets the modern consumer’s core values: Crave Information – they are seeking out and getting the answers they need; Social Butterfly – they turn to friends and even social media for insight on financial decisions; Open-mindedness – they are learning multiple viewpoints and will stand by the one they trust; Control – they have complete control in their decisions and actions because their best interest is the only goal; and finally, Optimism – since of all these previous factors are met, they have a more optimistic outlook on the future.

In addition to self-advisors, customers are leveraging Robo-Advisors. With the heavy influence of technology in all industries, people are comfortable with technology and are confident in their own decision making as guided by Robo-Advisors which have lower fees and work with the customer to make their lives simpler.

The Bottom Line

This means that advisors have a real opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition and by doing that, they will increase assets under management. By identifying and acknowledging that these problems exist, and more importantly are affecting growth, enterprises can closely consider options on how they can support advisors to grow their AUM.