If you’re an independent financial advisor, it can often feel like it’s an uphill battle to be noticed out in the digital world. Because as we all know, there’s a war raging out there for investor money:
• The big brand names continue to spend heavily on advertising
• Robo-advisors and other fintech companies are looking for ways to attract investment dollars, so they are gaining traction, too
• The big discount brand names are also moving into the advisor space, now offering hybrid combinations of human advisors plus robo-services.
And as usual, money can build trust. Advertising works. On top of that, you can even buy your way onto some name-brand platforms.
Does that mean it’s impossible to build trust and compete as an independent financial advisor without a huge marketing budget? Fortunately, not at all. You just have to be strategic about it.
Three Easy Strategies
Here are three ways that are all actually very low-tech, inexpensive, and effective.
1. Tell people things you’d tell a family member about the financial industry. Most people have no idea how the industry is structured, and are unaware of the potential pitfalls lurking out there if they just hire a financial advisor who sponsors a dinner. Sales contests, monster commissions on insurance and annuities, 12b1 fees, loads, proprietary mutual funds, you name it…. there’s plenty of material. If you do tell them openly and honestly about how advisors really get paid, and what to watch out for, they will definitely appreciate it.
Does it feel strange? Yes, it can. But this is information people need to know. After all, choosing the wrong advisor could cost someone their comfort (or worse) in retirement. This happens more than the industry would like to admit; just read about all the arbitration cases out there. How would you explain it to your brother, sister, or mother if they said they were thinking of putting their money with a certain name-brand firm? Explain it that way. That’s a huge trust builder, as people realize you can potentially help them dodge a bullet.
While to those of us in the industry, it can seem that everyone already knows why it’s vital to hire a fiduciary…if you’re not in finance, that’s not common knowledge. At all. Keep that in mind.
2. Advise them about what they don’t need. There is power in telling people where they should NOT spend money. Think about it: Let’s say your TV just stopped working, so you stop by the electronics store. You’re trying to decide between a $1,000 model and a $700 model, and a salesman starts explaining the two different TVs and their features. What if he told you that the $1,000 television just has bells and whistles that most people don’t use, and you’d be just as happy with the $700 television? Suddenly, you’d trust this person’s opinion; he’s volunteering information that could have put more money in his pocket but instead he’s helping you make a wiser decision. That’s trust-building.
3. Give something of value away for free. This one is quite common on the internet, but there’s a reason. If you give something away of value, like a free eBook, that helps you appear quite trustworthy. Why? Well, you gave something of value before asking anything in return. These “lead magnets” such as eBooks are great for that purpose. Just make it short and sweet, but include something that helps the person. Financial planning-related eBooks are great for this.
The real beauty of all these strategies? Only truly independent advisors can use them. It allows you to use the reasons you probably went independent anyway (to get away from these other business models) to market yourself.
Many of the advisors I deal with say they are uncomfortable with marketing. By being authentic you don’t have to be afraid of marketing. Marketing becomes education and just sharing what people need to know to protect themselves. That is truly a win /win: You’ll get to be yourself and not feel like you are selling and prospects who appreciate and understand the business model of the independent advisor will be the ones you attract.
What Doesn’t Work?
Staying quiet. To stand out without the big advertising budget, you need to have a voice. The best way to use it is to advocate for the consumer, to help them avoid the negative parts of the financial industry that they may not understand.
Fortunately, as an independent advisor, I bet you are passionate about what you do and why you do it. Your key is to let that shine through. Whether you use that in an eBook, a blog, a video, or somewhere else online, and whether you do it yourself or hire a financial content firm to help you, let your personality and your advice come out. Share it freely, and that may be the best marketing you’ll ever get.