Professional Service or Commodity?
I often hear that plan sponsors are unable to differentiate between retirement plan advisors. Instead, I’m told, they view their services as a commodity.
I don’t believe that’s true. No professional service can be a commodity, because humans will always do things differently. Because of that human component, in fact, there will always be differentiation. And when it comes to choosing a retirement plan advisor, there’s even more pressure to choose carefully with the ever-present threat of litigation.
Is Your Website the Problem?
But…one thing that may be closer to qualifying as a commodity is your website. There’s many retirement plan advisor websites out there that don’t do much to communicate the benefits of the firm. Instead, many of these websites simply describe the firm and what it does, instead of focusing on the benefits the client can expect.
If you have one of those websites, then yes, you may be viewed as “just one of those retirement plan advisors”.
To break out from the pack, your website needs to be carefully crafted so you stand out. To do that, everything needs to be created with the client in mind. The website should immediately help answer questions such as:
• How can your firm help me and my company?
• Are you a low risk choice?
• How many other organizations and retirement plans have you helped?
• Why should I pick your firm over the others?
Most retirement plan advisor websites are not designed to quickly answer those questions. You’d have to really dig. Or in many cases the answers are not even there.
The Problem of the “Average Website”
Why do so many retirement plan advisors have nondescript websites? For one, many are created by financial people, for financial people. So they are technical, not creative. They probably include jargon and read like a resume or CV. While this is fine if you’re selling to another advisor, it’s not great for your potential clients. It simply makes them work harder to figure out how you’re different.
How to Stand Out
We work with retirement plan advisors to help differentiate them from other firms. While each firm has different strengths, there’s some general things you can do to make your firm more appealing to plan sponsors.
1. Communicate the reasons you are a low risk choice
The threat of future litigation is unfortunately a reality now for plan sponsors. So as a retirement plan advisor, if you can demonstrate that you’re a low risk option, that’s going to make you an attractive option. But how can you communicate that?
Facts and figures: how many plans do you manage? How many participants do you serve? If you’ve got impressive numbers, display them prominently. Stick to facts you can back up to satisfy your compliance team, but make sure it’s out there.
If you are new to the retirement plan market, then maybe pull information from the other part of your business, such as number of years of experience or credentials. Or focus on a niche where you can describe your breadth of experience.
Another way to help show that you are low risk is thought leadership. Start a blog with periodic articles on managing risk in 401(k) or 403(b) plans. It’s easy to assume that plan sponsors think that everyone is focused on minimizing liability, but its on their minds so it should be on your website. Write about recent trends in the industry and how you can help them keep out of legal hot water. This helps build your credibility.
2. Make your firm seem easy to work with
If you’re a business owner or manager, you’ve probably worked with good consultants and bad consultants. The good ones save you time and make your life easier. The bad ones waste your time and actually create more problems and stress for you.
If you can describe why you’re easy to work with, that’s very attractive to most plan sponsors. Yet most retirement plan advisor websites focus only on credentials and technical aspects.
This is where you need to look through the eyes of your prospects. If your firm has 15 years of experience managing retirement plans, you sound technically qualified. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to call me back quickly, especially if I have a smaller plan.
This is where your website can help communicate your firm’s service level. Get specific:
- How quickly will you return calls and emails (same business day)?
- How often will you meet, either in person or virtually?
- Will you assign a team or just one individual?
- What type of reporting will they receive, and is it easy to understand?
Use your website to show how you make things easy for your clients. Describe it in detail. They want to know!
3. Offer distinct benefits for participants
“Financial wellness” has become a popular buzzword for a reason. When it comes to retirement plans, is there any better goal than increased financial health for the participants?
Retirement plan advisors who can provide financial wellness programs and other participant benefits are going to have an edge. It is a critical differentiator.
So include information about what you do for participants, and why it’s different. Anything you can do to offer additional services here will likely make you more attractive to today’s plan sponsors.
Great Content Will Multi-Task for You
Once you add this type of content to your website, there’s other places you can use it, too.
1. Your blog. You can repurpose sections of your content as individual blog articles, which can be emailed to your firm’s database of contacts.
2. Social media. As long as you keep an educational tone, you can create social media posts that inform readers about some of the services you offer and why. And, you can share your blog articles on social media so they are easy for plan sponsors to find.
3. RFPs. Use some of this content in your RFPs, too. While plan sponsors want to of course evaluate your firm’s technical skills and the depth of your experience, doing it with personality and an emphasis on service will help you stand out in the RFP process, too.
Really, digital marketing for retirement plan advisors is about humanizing what you do. Your goal is to make it easy to understand for a layperson. That doesn’t mean you’re any less professional or detracting from your expertise. Instead, you also show that your firm can make things easier and better for the plan sponsor and participants. Isn’t that what providing professional service is all about?
Jeanne Klimowski is the founder of Wavelength Financial Content Inc. Wavelength provides custom content, websites and financial wellness programs for financial advisors and retirement plan advisors. Contact us today for a complimentary website review, so you can get some concrete ideas on the best steps to take to get your website working for your firm.