The State of Advisor Marketing–Suddenly, It's Personal

Welcome to Ficomm’s first-ever Report on the State of Advisor Marketing, where we share new trends and insights for driving organic growth that we’ve discovered from working directly with our clients and speaking to key executives at firms like yours.  

I’m Candice Carlton, head of consulting and innovation at Ficomm. I  work with RIA’s of all shapes and sizes across the industry and the country. Your peers have been trying out a lot of new strategies for driving growth. This report summarizes our firsthand insights about what works—and what doesn’t.

 

First, let’s face reality. Organic growth is an issue. We all know it. Historically, our industry has grown through client referrals and custodial referrals. But client referrals have started to dwindle, acquisition costs have increased and advisors' ability to close leads has declined.

This year, firms are finally starting to figure out why.  

In this report, I want to cover— 

  1. The (re-)discovery that’s reshaping marketing
  2. Why betting it all on corporate lead gen didn’t pay off
  3. Letting advisors build personal brands seems scary—but it’s actually OK
  4. Ficomm’s recommendations for reigniting growth:  
    1. Talk to high-growth advisors
    2. Audit your firm
    3. Follow metrics that matter
    4. Equip advisors to reach clients with a digital-first approach
    5. Update your website to support advisors' personal brands 

1. The (re-)discovery that's reshaping marketing  

For the past few years, RIA’s and RIA platforms have focused on driving leads and sales at the corporate level. Now, they’re starting to realize pure corporate marketing can take you only so far. You need to augment corporate with something else—maybe even bring back some old growth levers you might have overlooked. Everyone seems to be discovering (or rediscovering) one basic truth:  

People don’t buy from brands. People buy from people.

2. Why betting it all on corporate lead-gen didn't pay off

When a prospect comes to your website, they're checking to see that you're a polished, credentialed, and respectable business that works with people like them. This is the level where you need a strong, clear corporate brand. 

But that’s only a prospect’s first checkpoint. The second is evaluating  individual advisors to see if they can work together. Which advisor aligns with their worldview? Feels trustworthy? Has an office nearby, or feels like someone they would like to work with? Who can they relate to as a married couple, parents with children, or a single woman? 

People buy from people. Not from brands. 

The flip side is that if they can’t find real people to buy from, they won’t buy. Which is exactly where we are now. 

Branding is still important, obviously. Prospects want to know you’re legitimate. But before they buy, they want to know if they’re getting an advisor they can connect with who will understand them and work with people exactly like them.

3. Letting advisors build personal brands seems scary–but it's actually OK  

Across the industry, we are seeing a new trend of firms starting to equip advisors to build their own personal brands within the context of their overall brand. 

I know the idea of personal advisor brands can be scary. At a firm level, you can feel like you are losing control of the narrative. What if the personal brand contradicts the corporate messages? What about compliance? 

The reality is, we are seeing a growing number of firms get it right. You can, too. In fact, the best way to strengthen your corporate brand is to unleash your advisors as brand ambassadors. They can tell your story, but also add their own personal spin, told to a unique audience with unique needs, that doesn’t sound like an echo of every other team and office.  These individual, human narratives are what truly connect prospects and advisors. They’re the missing link in closing the deal.

4. Ficomm's recommendations for reigniting growth

How can you start empowering your advisors to build their own personal brands? Here are our recommendations, based on firsthand observations and experience of firms nationwide: 

Talk to your own high-growth advisors

If you want to grow, talk to the experts. Identify advisors in your firm who are crushing it in their local markets or are high-growth potential. Learn their secrets and find out how you can do better to help them. 

Ask:  

  • What works? What are we doing now that helps the most?  
  • What’s missing? What tools or capabilities could help you drive even more growth? 
  • What’s holding you back? How are we getting in your way? (Keep probing, “And what else?” so they know you really want the whole truth.) 

High-growth potential advisors already know what they need to do better. Just ask them. 

Audit your firm

Next, audit your firm's capabilities in a really honest way. What do you have in place that's restricting your advisors from driving organic growth? What capabilities do you need to add or unlock to help advisors accelerate growth locally? 

Follow metrics that matter

These may sound simple, however the firms that are committed to driving organic growth are doubling down in their discipline and rigor to answering these questions.  

  • Does every advisor in your firm have a marketing and sales plan that's actionable and fully documented? 
  • Does every advisor have a revenue goal?  
  • Do you have accountability structures in place—and are they working? 
  • Do you have scaled marketing support for your advisors, including marketing coaches?

Equip advisors to reach clients with a digital-first approach

What tools is your firm giving advisors to build a digital presence? Have you opened up the ability to create content within parameters that are appropriate to your firm, including: 

  • Video 
  • Social media posts 
  • Podcasts 

These are great channels for building real connections with prospects. Once prospects start to engage with your advisors digitally, they will come looking for more information to evaluate whether they could work together, which has real implications for your website. Advisors need to be tooled on how to do this in a way that’s intentional, authentic and aligned with your corporate brand.

Update your website to support advisors' personal brands

Most websites are heavy on corporate content. If they include any bios, the copy is short and focused on credentials. That’s not what prospects are looking for. 

When potential prospects land on your website, can they identify which advisor may be a good a fit for them? Does the website include: 

  • Each advisor’s story and the personal reason why for doing what they do—not, “I like math,” but, “I watched my single mom struggle to retire, so I specialize in helping working women” 
  • Their ideal client profile—not just AUM, but “independent ophthalmologists,” “aerospace engineers,” or “professional women
  • Ways to reach out to an advisor directly

 At Ficomm, we’ve seen what happens when you equip high-growth advisors with tools like these. They drive new leads, expand wallet share, build new COI relationships and achieve higher organic growth. 

If you feel stuck trying to reignite growth, we have other empirical observations and insights from the field we’d love to share. Just reach out to connect. And if you’d like a sample of the checklist we use in evaluating a firm’s growth infrastructure, drop us an email at candice.carlton@ficommpartners.com 

Look for our next report on the State of Advisor Marketing next quarter.

Candice Carlton

Hi, I'm Candice, the Head of Advisor Growth Marketing at FiComm Partners. Prior to FiComm, I worked for and with some of the fastest growing and most innovative firms in the US including Mercer Advisors, United Capital acquired by Goldman Sachs and XY Planning Network. I love my job and find it extremely fulfilling to coach and consult with advisors across the country on how to rock video and podcasting to create a digital-first marketing strategy to connect and GROW. I'm passionate about yoga, poetry, fashion, and great coffee. At FiComm- we are “New Skool by Nature”, which means the only right answer is the one that feels right to you. There is so much freedom and power in that.

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