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Your Thoughtless Marketing Does More Harm Than Good

June 4, 2015

With the growth of social media and digital engagement requiring advisors to rethink everything from branding to client-service basics in an effort to reach target niches, wealth managers are in dire need of effective marketing.

And there are many aspects of marketing these days, from old-school brochures to sophisticated websites flanked by content-marketing efforts on Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. And many brokerages and RIAs undermine these efforts by sending banal and trite messages into the marketplace. Instead of attempting to engage clients and prospects on their terms, they natter on about the firm’s (long) history, (rigorous) discipline and (outstanding) service.

They do this because it’s easy. Many executives are comfortable with generic messages. They can create them quickly without compliance concerns — and then not have to make updates. In addition, wealth firms rarely invest in marketing talent. While such organizations typically include client-relationship managers, investment specialists and administrative staff, there’s rarely anyone on the payroll who’s focused on developing the firm’s main business and investment themes. Except, that is, at wirehouses, regional brokerages and some of the biggest RIAs.

These are important considerations, because this reliance on the tried-and-supposedly-true, and the implied lack of focus, can turn clients away instead of drawing them in.

Jargon and clichés have a similarly alienating effect. The New York Times says the average U.S. city dweller is exposed to over 5,000 messages a day. To withstand such a barrage, we develop thick filters to keep limp, tedious messages from getting through. That’s why wealth managers should stop with the appeals to “our professional experience” and invitations to “partner with us for the long term” and try coming up with messages that are more compelling, memorable and descriptive of the actual experience of working with their firms.

Advisors can start by making communication a priority. This calls for appointing someone to take the lead or spreading out communications duties among the existing staff. Then the firm’s leadership has to figure out how to make the practice stand out from rivals. Start by asking why an investor selects a given wealth manager in the first place. The answers can highlight subtle points of distinction that can underpin an effective marketing campaign that reflects the firm’s core philosophies.

This isn’t as hard to do as it seems. Wealth firm DT Investment Partners, based in a Philadelphia suburb, uses its marketing to define its specialization in asset allocation and portfolio construction. Peabody, Mass.-based Freedman Financial highlights its client advisory council to show it takes time to understand its customers.

Firms can keep their marketing sharp by periodically reviewing how other wealth managers, including robo-advisors, sell their services, and by brainstorming marketing ideas on a continuous basis. Advisors will find that paring down and revising a message is more effective than creating the perfect message on the first try.

In the end, wealth managers can use differentiated messages to retain and draw longstanding clients, while also creating a more real and genuine impression of the firm’s culture and values.