Do you plan to spend more on marketing this year? Apparently, your peers do. According to the latest TD Ameritrade Institutional RIA Sentiment Survey, RIAs expect to increase their 2017 marketing budgets by 27%.
I wonder where all that money is going. In the survey, nearly 6 in 10 advisors say they’ll spend more on social media, and 37% plan to change up their marketing and networking to appeal to younger clients. Those trends make sense if organic growth really is slowing down, as some advisors are reporting.
Some of that cash may be going to fight the robo “threat.” As you may have read, Michael Kitces declared that independent B2C robo advisors are dying. Whether that’s true or not, the fact is that robos did disrupt the industry. They commoditized investment management, raised client expectations and catalyzed a new wave of innovation in response. Maybe a higher marketing spend is part of that trend.
But frankly, I’m worried. All those extra dollars could go to waste if advisors make one critical mistake: trying to find a silver bullet. There is no such thing.
Marketing software is a perfect cautionary tale. You can easily spend an entire marketing budget on one tool that promises to solve all of your marketing problems. Now, obviously, you do need a good platform to manage your campaigns, track results, and analyze your book of business. But you don’t need a Rolls-Royce Phantom when a BMW 3 Series will get you there just as fast. Today you can buy marketing platforms that let you do astonishing things with Big Data—assuming you have a 200-person marketing department with the expertise to use them. Most advisors don’t. Don’t spend your last spare nickel on a top-of-the-line solution, only to find find there’s nothing left to implement the actual revenue-generating programs your shiny new tool is supposed to manage.
What framework do you use to allocate your marketing budget? Before you spend one more dollar, create a marketing chart of accounts that divides your budget into different buckets. One bucket can include the expected marketing items, like your website, core collateral, stationery, and your email marketing system. If you already have all the essentials down, your next incremental dollar probably shouldn’t go here. In another bucket, put costs that will give you leverage to create intentional campaigns, like copy writing and graphic design. When you’re ready to take it to the next level, create a bucket for a marketing or public relations partner, and programs like Vestorly, outlining how much they cost and how much you can spend to maximize their impact. And so on.
Dividing up your budget this way gives you a clearer idea of what to do next. For example, if organic growth is truly slowing down, you probably don’t want to spend all of your money on COI marketing. Focus on automatic marketing instead. Turn your website into an attraction tool that channels prospects into your pipeline. Put up market commentary or other high-value content, then gate it so you can capture leads in a usable list that you can engage through nurturing campaigns. Once all that is in place, then you can add programs to generate more traffic, such as pay-per-click advertising or additional earned media efforts.
Or maybe you feel your organic efforts are lagging because your clients aren’t as excited about their experience as they could be. In that case, you may want to invest in an upgraded client portal, mobile access or online scheduling assistance. What to do next depends on where you are right now.
Whatever you do, please don’t spend everything on one silver bullet. If you do, you will be disappointed with your marketing ROI.