RIA digital marketing is not enough: To grow, get back to your roots

There’s no doubt that the internet has become one of the most potentially cost-effective channels for marketing. Between email newsletters, social posting, business blogging, and downloadable content gated behind contact forms, there are a plethora of cheap (or free) options for an independent RIA to leverage while achieving great reach.  

However, the stats have gradually shifted on the success rates of RIA advertising and RIA digital marketing over the last decade. Some of the most common strategies — like the aforementioned options — are actually among the least efficient for client acquisition, according to this Kitces report

Among other findings in the report, Kitces found that:

  • “Low-dollar-cost-but-time-intensive marketing strategies for financial advisors are also remarkably ineffective, once considering the advisor’s time in the actual cost to acquire the client.”
  • “Social media [...] had one of the worst Client Acquisition Costs at a whopping $11,937.”
  • “Instead, the most cost-effective strategies for an advisor’s time, beyond generating referrals from existing clients, were all related to educating prospects, including […] conducting webinars or a podcast [...] or staging education events.”

The implication is clear. Traditional digital channels are now falling short, and your best bet is to engage prospects directly with educational strategies that appeal to modern audiences.

Remember why you started your RIA? Get back to your roots.

Many independent advisors started an RIA to break free from corporate bureaucracy and get back to doing what they love doing most — helping clients. Being your own boss gives you the freedom to spend your most valuable resource (time) in ways that actually make a difference in the world.

It turns out that the best way to market your business is by doing just that. Advisors make natural teachers. It’s possible to leverage that innate talent and training to grow your client base in an authentic way. Leading a financial education course (in-person or virtual) helps you to establish a trustworthy brand identity as a knowledgeable expert in the community and showcase your value to prospective clients.

An educational approach builds real momentum

The data backs up Kitces’ assertions on educating prospects as a way of building marketing momentum. This can be especially true of online education courses, which are convenient and cost-effective to run as well as to attend for your target audience. Here’s a quick sampling of some of the findings that showcase the potential value:

The 2021 Outlook Study done by Schwab also shed light on the massive tech shift over the past several years, and how it’s contributed to a perfect environment for online, tech-enabled communication and business growth:

  • 50% of independent advisory firms acquired more clients in 2020 than in previous years. 
  • 62% reported regular video meetings with their clients as well as 32% more tech-supported and automated workflows. 
  • 6 out of 10 firms view the technology industry as the primary driver of innovation in the RIA industry today

At FMT, we’ve seen this transition play out in real-time with incredible results. Mark, a financial advisor and principal of his own practice in a growing suburb, is just one example of the possible gains. In his own words, Mark felt, “I had to do something. I didn’t know if the online courses would work.” Mark gave it a go. After teaching a two-class course with 10 attendees, 7 of them booked follow-up appointments. 5 of those prospects eventually closed and became clients.

Focus on everything you love about your RIA while winning at marketing

The best part of an educational approach to RIA digital marketing is that you get to do what you love while achieving the results you want. It’s possible to grow your business and interact more with clients — these are not mutually exclusive!

As a value-driven element of your marketing mix, this approach is a natural fit for the RIA model. You’re engaging a room of self-selected prospects, all at once, who have sought out the course and paid to attend. This is a guarantee of their interest in financial advice, unlike a typical dinner seminar. 

More efficiency means better results and more time doing what you love. That’s why you’re here. It’s even easier to get started with an established and proven platform that uses FINRA-reviewed course materials. Check out our educational marketing programs at FMT to learn more about what you can accomplish.

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