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Marketing with a Tech Twist

If you need help with client communication, it's out there.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 09/10/2009

The most successful advisors share a number of traits. One of them, which was clearly demonstrated during the market turmoil in late 2008 and early 2009, was their ability to communicate effectively with clients. As technology marches forward, advisors are presented with an ever-increasing collection of communication tools, and some are trying to broaden their communications approach. For example, over the past year, I noticed that a significant number of advisors claimed to have conducted conference calls and/or webinars involving groups of clients for the first time. Adding variety to the communications program is an excellent idea because some people respond better to one medium than another. In some cases the same person may be more or less receptive to a message delivered through one medium or another, so variety is good.

While it is a good idea to make use of new communication tools, it would be a mistake to drop older, tried-and-true methods of communication such as the written word. As we shall discuss shortly, letters, documents, newsletters, and other writings can be distributed using both traditional and electronic means. Whatever distribution channel(s) you choose, one of the greatest challenges facing advisors with regard to written communications is the development of appropriate content.

Producing good content takes time and skill. Some advisors have the time and expertise to develop their own content, but many do not. For the latter group, there have long been a number of resources they can turn to. These include firms like AdvisorProducts, Forefield, and StoneRiver Emerald, to name just a few. I recently became aware of another interesting content offering for advisors: Marketing Library.net by Peter Montoya, Inc., and it occurred to me that now might be a particularly opportune time to discuss this product.

An examination of MarketingLibrary.net is timely now for a number of reasons. With margins being squeezed at many firms, advisors have to increase their productivity. This means they have to spend their time doing what they do best. So, unless the advisor was a professional writer in a previous life, creating letters, articles, and market commentary writing is probably not the highest, best use of their time. The need for well written communications, however, has never been greater.

The recent market turmoil has unsettled many clients. As a result, they need reassurance from their advisors. A number of recent surveys indicate that client's dissatisfaction with their advisors is the highest it has been in recent memory. Among the most often cited complaints among dissatisfied clients: lack of communication from their advisor. Furthermore, studies have shown that frequent communications are a key client retention tool. The MarketingLibrary Web site cites a study by Prince and Associates indicating that "highly satisfied" affluent investors received, on average, 14 contacts from their primary advisor within the last six months. Other studies have come to similar conclusions.

As a result of the recession, financial advisors must place a renewed emphasis on prospecting too. During the boom years, organic growth sustained many firms. Now, with asset values down, firms must attract new business to grow revenues. One way to initiate a marketing campaign is a product such as MarketingLibrary.

The standard MarketingLibrary offering consists of three main components. The library, the "newsletters" and a compliance component. Let's discuss each in turn. The standard library currently consists of over 1,500 written pieces, and more are being added all the time. When you first log on, you are taken to the dashboard or "browse" view. Here, the content is grouped in various ways to help you rapidly find what you need. For example, there is a section of new and relevant content, a "stay the course" section that educates nervous clients and urges patience, a grouping by topic (retirement planning, estate planning, insurance, etc.), a most popular keywords section (so you can see what types of articles other subscribers are viewing the most) and a grouping of articles written at the request of other subscribers. The listings within each section are hotlinks that drill down to the list of actual content related to a given term. So, for example, if you click on the name of an article in the new content section, you will be taken to the individual article. If you click on "retirement planning" under the list of topics, you'll be taken to a listing of all articles in that category. When you locate an article within the list that you want to view or use, you click on the link and the article is displayed.

Important information relating to a document can be viewed along with the document itself. This includes the message status (whether it is compliance approved or not), the type of document (letter, article, etc.), the author, the intended use, and, in most cases, a short description of the content. The intended use listing can be particularly helpful to novice advisors because many of the documents can be used for more than one purpose. For example, an article about Roth conversions in a down market might be used to educate existing clients, but it can also be used for prospecting, reaching out to other professionals, or perhaps pitching a story idea to the local newspaper.

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