In just a few short years the robo-advisors have managed to win over around $500 Billion in assets under management (AUM) and an average 68% annual AUM growth rate while the financial advisor and wealth management industries are shaking their heads at a paltry 5.7% AUM growth rate year over year.
So what happened?
What do the robo-advisors know that the rest of the financial industries haven’t yet figured out?
What is the secret that the robo-advisors figured out that has allowed them to grow so rapidly?
It’s actually three things:
- They invested in modern design and branding that appeals to millennials without dissuading the boomers.
- They advertise where their prospects hang out.
- They figured out how to accelerate the trust-building process to compress sales cycles.
And the third point there is the one that makes all the difference.
Why are you still cold calling to fill your sales pipeline when today’s consumers are more and more skeptical of the financial industry as a whole?
To help you find a few modern financial marketing strategies that you can steal from the robo-advisors, I will run through each point here before then giving you a simple strategy to implement which will help you to accelerate your sales cycle from 6-9 months to less than 2.
The first tactic:
They invested in modern design and branding that appeals to millennials without dissuading the boomers.
One of the most important aspects of modern business is that design and usability matter. Long gone are the days where a website is nothing more than an online business card.
Today’s consumers expect websites that are functional on both desktop and mobile and will provide them with all the information that they need without ever having to talk to a person. Then, and only then, will they make the decision to talk to you.
To make this all the more complicated: design also matters!
You cannot get away with a website that looks like it was designed in the late 90’s and expect anyone to take you seriously. From millennials to the boomers, everyone uses design, branding, and aesthetics to make decisions. We use various cognitive biases to judge someone before we ever meet them based on the image that they project and our own preconceived notions.
Having good design does NOT mean that it is super complicated or technically complex, though. Many times simplicity is the best course of action.
You can use this to back up your brand by using small design features or color elements here and there that make an impact when they are used.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples that illustrate this:
1) WealthFront Ad Campaign Landing Page
Notice how this landing page has a very clean design? It is not cluttered, uses a modern layout and graphics, and takes the green from the logo and uses it in a few select areas elsewhere on the page to reinforce their branding?
This landing page was a dedicated page that listeners from the Tim Ferris Show podcast would be taken to when they followed the special link provided. The headline welcomes them to the page, offers a special deal, and then proceeds to walk the reader through who they are and what they do while providing lots of options to learn more.
Lastly, they then use a logo at the bottom of the page to call on a brand that millennial readers in the tech-forward crowd will recognize, thereby lending them extra credibility without ever needing to say anything else.
This is an excellent example of a modern web page that gives the reader lots of information while building trust and affinity with the brand.
Now let’s look at another example:
2) Betterment Homepage
Betterment is the other behemoth in the robo-advisor space that has done an amazing job at growing rapidly. Taking a look at their home page, it’s not hard to see why either.
Right off the bat, we can see that the design is very modern (but professional) and they have used several techniques that will help to build trust rapidly while also lowering their cost per lead generated.
The first element that we see is the feature bar below the ‘hero’ image which lists some key features of the service.
They highlight each of the most important factors that would cause someone to hesitate before they even have the chance to think of the objections: No hidden fees, satisfaction guarantee, and access to a real person if you want it.
Right off the bat, they’ve minimized the possible roadblocks to someone becoming a client. Take particular note of the ‘no hidden fees’ item- transparency in financial services is becoming one of the most important factors for today’s discerning clientele in a post-2008 world.
Next, move down the page and see how they feature three of their staff right there on the homepage. This also adds to the transparency that consumers are looking for.
Adding a face to your website shows that you are human, someone that the consumer can relate to and-hopefully-trust. If you don’t currently have a photo of your team on your website, just adding this one small item could actually help you see better conversions from prospects.
Finally, the do it yourself calculator near the bottom is one of the most important parts for winning over millennials and modern consumers. Like it or not, the trend is for people who want less and less personal interaction and more do it yourself online tools.
By providing this tool, in addition to other options for contacting you, they are ensuring that there is an option for everyone. Older generations who would prefer to use a phone have that option, but they are also ensuring that they don’t lose the leads from the younger generations who would rather not talk to someone. Having these options are really not optional anymore.
The third example is a bit more lighthearted. It is a subway advertisement for a new insurance company named Oscar.
3) Oscar Subway Ad
The reason I am including this example is to show how a company is taking a fairly serious subject (Your Health Insurance) and poking fun at it while remaining on-brand.
Much like the first example, notice how they take just a couple of colors and use them throughout the ad. They have a big bold headline that clarifies the somewhat silly image that most likely caught your attention.
A viewer can quickly see that it is about health insurance and that this company is using technology to deliver services in a convenient manner. They know that their ideal customer is a millennial who uses their smartphone for everything, so they designed everything about this ad to appeal to that demographic.
This could just as easily have been designed for retirees who have a hard time leaving their homes, or busy professionals, but they knew that this was the target client base that would deliver them the most value over the long term. They also understood that this demographic is likely to resonate with humor better than other messaging.
While Oscar is not a robo-advisor, they are in a similar industry with similar regulations and are seeing similar success. The lessons available to learn from them are just as important.
Right about now you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, ‘that’s great and all, but I’m no web designer and I don’t have a team of people to build this.’
Don’t worry about it!
The days when you’d need a whole team of people to manage something like this are long gone. You can use online tools to do this yourself or hire someone to do this fairly affordably.
Either way, knowing what you want and understanding the principles of a powerful design could mean the difference between a bad website that loses you business and one that stands out in its refined elegance and usability.
The second tactic is:
They advertise where their prospects hang out.
This means using social advertising channels like Facebook. If you think your clients aren’t on Facebook then you are lying to yourself. I don’t care if you exclusively work with soon to be retirees who still use flip phones- they are, more likely than not, on Facebook even if they only look at photos from their kids and grandkids.
Here are some quick statistics for you with hard numbers: according to BI Intelligence 69% of all US individuals who earn more than $75k annually use Facebook on a daily basis, 79% of 30-49 year olds with internet use Facebook, and 56% of all online households 65+ are active users!
Throw in research from Scorpio Partners which says that 75% of all High Net Worth Individuals in the US require online access to their wealth manager at least once a month, and you should be starting to get the picture.
Now of course there are a few hoops to jump through to make a successful marketing campaign, not the least of which are the FINRA and SEC guidelines for online advertisement.
Every company is different so I won’t go into too many specifics on that, but rest assured that this can be done – and done well – while remaining in 100% compliance with your specific guidelines. (For auditable documentation of social media try using Zapier to record all social activity to a Google Spreadsheet).
The key that the robo-advisor companies figured out was that they sat down and learned about their customers so thoroughly that they knew their clientele inside and out. They knew what kinds of brands they like and don’t like, they know their most likely industries, and they know what their clientele do for fun on the evenings and weekends.
All of this led them to knowing that social media and a comprehensive digital marketing strategy was where they needed to go all-in. Door knocking, asking for referrals, cold calling, and direct mail are the last generation’s advertising techniques-not this one’s.
They have since branched out to other types of advertising as they open up their ad targeting somewhat and expand out from that core clientele, but the killer tactic that delivered them that astounding growth was Facebook and online marketing.
Finally, the third tactic:
They figured out how to accelerate the trust-building process to compress sales cycles.
But don’t worry- it sounds a lot more complicated than it really is and it is something that can absolutely be implemented quickly to deliver you a new stream of qualified clients in no time.
The gist of it is this: People won’t give you their money if they don’t trust you. And why would they?
Unless they came from a referral (And even sometimes then) you’re just a random person in a sea of advisors and managers who want their money.
When it comes to medium to high net worth millennials, that problem is compounded even further. In that situation, you’re not just working against the mistrust of an individual, you are working against the mistrust of an entire generation in the wake of the financial crisis.
Millennials didn’t trust authority and conventional sources of wisdom before the meltdown.
Imagine how they feel now.
Wealthpoint argues that Millennials: “…have been nickel-and-dimed through a wide variety of services, and they value simple, transparent, low-cost services. Their faith in technology is understandable. Algorithms don’t act in their own self-interest. Algorithms weren’t responsible for dreaming up sub-prime loans and nearly bringing down the financial system.”
The Pew Study “Millennials in Adulthood“ confirms the Wealthfront thesis finding that “… just 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Silents and 40% of Boomers.”
If you can’t trust people in general – which was the question – what hope is there for the lowly financial advisor?
Don’t despair though, the hope lies in understanding what millennials value: craft, authenticity, transparency, and strong values. Fortunately, these are traits that all people value. So by using these in our marketing messaging we will be able to win over the trust of multiple groups of people at once.
There are several psychological techniques that can be used in conjunction with real-world strategies that will help to build the trust and affinity of your potential clients.
The most relevant for us are called the Mere-Exposure Effect, the Authority Heuristic, and the Pratfall Effect. Each of these cognitive biases can elevate the level of trust that we have in an individual based on external and internal rules.
In short, the Mere-Exposure effect says that we are more likely to have a positive affinity to a brand that we have repeatedly seen, the authority heuristic says that we trust people that we perceive to be an authority on their subject, and the pratfall effect is the interesting phenomenon where a person’s likability actually increases if they make mistakes as long as the individual is still perceived as being competent in their function otherwise.
So, a good example of the pratfall effect could be making a mistake in introducing yourself or not having the most eloquent writing, since those things are not relevant to your ability to function as an asset manager.
To harness each of these we are going to want to craft a digital information campaign that provides value to your audience. Write blog posts, make videos, whatever format you are most comfortable with. And then distribute these on Facebook to an audience of potential clients.
Don’t worry about this content being perfect, remember the pratfall effect above? The key is to establish yourself as an authority and provide information to your readers. This also helps in getting through compliance since we are not going to be talking about any specific individuals or products: simply providing information.
To learn more about how to use these tactics, we wrote an entire guide to using them to boost your marketing and cut sales cycles in half.
Fidelity’s use of instructional videos on YouTube is notable for using this tactic. If an individual visits Fidelity’s YouTube page, they will see an abundance of videos that offer mini-lessons in finance. These videos describe, for example, what an ETF is, or what the basics of roll-over IRAs are.
You can then use Facebook’s powerful advertising features to promote this content to a potential audience that matches your ideal client profile. There are various methods that can be used to do this, but the gist is this: You want to get out in front of potential clients and establish yourself as an authority.
Once you have built up this audience you can start to utilize other techniques such as webinars and pdf guides to start motivating those audiences to take action and actually contacting you for meetings.
If this sounds too simple, well in a way it is- there are a few smaller details in this strategy that fill in the blanks, but that is the 30,000-foot overview of how it works.
And it does work!
There are many, many financial professionals who have used this technique to generate leads month over month with high predictability and great success.
If you are one of the financial professionals who is struggling to generate leads on a consistent basis, or you are tired of 60-80 hours weeks, missing time at home with family and friends, then don’t you think that trying out a new strategy might just be worth it if it can save you time and your sanity?
Give it a try.
Build your authority, design your business around the clientele that you want to attract, and then advertise where they are located and you might just start to see some of the amazing results that the robo-advisors have been seeing for years.
Once you have your marketing systems in place, make sure that you have a system in place to handle all your new leads. Donna Digital Receptionists help dangerously effective financial professionals grow their business without giving up their lives by handling their in-bound phone calls.