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How Marketing Automation Can Accelerate Client Growth

New online marketing platforms allow advisors to identify website visitors, deliver information specific to their interests, and convert prospects to clients.

Bill Winterberg, 11/10/2011

The cornerstone of nearly every financial advisory firm's marketing plan is a comprehensive website. Advisors can spend anywhere from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars to establish an Internet presence with their website, with the purpose of providing online resources for clients and prospects alike.

Despite investments made to establish and maintain a website, many advisors fail to measure how effective their website really is in attracting traffic and ultimately converting visitors to clients. A new category of software platforms has emerged, collectively known as marketing automation, to help anyone with a website (advisors included) improve the process of identifying, qualifying, and delivering targeted marketing to website visitors.

One marketing automation platform designed with financial advisors in mind is Capture Track Convert from the Frisco, Texas-based company of the same name. Capture Track Convert partners Zachary Hedges and D. Bruce Johnston recently walked me through a demonstration of their platform.

For several years, I've been guiding advisors to use website monitoring tools such as Google Analytics, a free web-based utility that generates reports on a variety of website traffic metrics. (I highlighted the tool in a post last year: Measure Your Website's Impact.) While it records information on search keywords used to find a website and most frequently visited pages, Google Analytics data is anonymous, so there's no way to associate that information with real people.

Marketing automation platforms like Capture Track Convert address that drawback by associating anonymous data collected with identifying information volunteered by website visitors, typically through an opt-in newsletter sign up or whitepaper request form. Like Google Analytics, marketing automation platforms record anonymous website statistics, such as a user's IP address, web browser used, and specific pages viewed. Once a website visitor offers up her name and e-mail address, her information can then be associated with her browsing history on the advisor's website.

To illustrate Capture Track Convert's capabilities, let's consider an example using a prospect named Susan. Susan is the director of public relations for a Fortune 500 company in the advisor's area. She's dissatisfied with her current broker's lack of knowledge regarding tax planning surrounding deferred compensation and incentive stock options, so she searches for potential advisors on the Internet. Via Google search for stock option planning, she arrives on one local advisor's website where Capture Track Convert is active. She finds several updates related to stock option planning posted on the website, and after reading them, Susan signs up to download the advisor's free report on stock option planning opportunities by providing her name and e-mail address.

With Susan's identifiable information recorded, Capture Track Convert begins to flex its muscles. Capture Track Convert indicates Susan's potential to become a client by assigning a value to her profile called a Lead Score. The Lead Score is based on a variety of activities, including the number of times Susan visited the website, what pages she read, whitepapers she downloaded, and so forth. The Lead Score can be further customized using an extensive number of parameters, allowing advisors to assign high scores for activities of particular interest, like downloading the firm's Form ADV Part II.

For each prospect in the system, Capture Track Convert also includes an action menu to view the prospect's contact details, perform a Google search using the prospect's name, or search for the prospect's profile on LinkedIn. By quickly discovering Susan's profile on LinkedIn, the advisor can now identify the company where she works, her title, and determine whether the firm may already have clients who work at Susan's company.

Advisors know that not every website visitor is ready to sign up to be a client right away, and not all visitors may fit the firm's client profile. Most visitors tend to have a specific financial need and shop around the Internet for financial advisors with commensurate services. What Capture Track Convert allows advisors to do is stay at the top of mind for those qualified visitors interested in an advisory relationship, but not yet ready to commit to an engagement.

Advisors who distribute an e-mail newsletter to prospects (and perhaps clients, too) generally create one generic message and send it to everyone in their list, a technique Hedges calls "batch and blast." With Capture Track Convert, advisors can improve the efficacy of their messages by composing ones addressing specific topics and delivering them only to prospects that meet certain requirements.

For example, a message on stock option strategies can be delivered to everyone who downloaded the advisor's free report on stock options, including Susan. The expectation is that the advisor's message contains information more useful to Susan compared with generic blast e-mails, improving the chances that she will consider engaging the advisor for her stock option needs.

In addition to single e-mail messages, Capture Track Convert supports the creation of e-mail campaigns where a series of emails can be delivered to prospects according to certain conditions and variables. Such campaigns can include a variety of custom messages that are delivered based on subscribers' actions, such as opening an e-mail or clicking on links contained in prior messages.

For example, after Susan downloads her stock option report, Capture Track Convert can automatically deliver a series of follow up messages to Susan, spread across a specified timeframe, related to stock option planning. Should Susan find the messages more bothersome than useful, she's free to unsubscribe from all future communications at any time.

Powerful for Some
The ability to segment and target visitors based on browsing history calls for some foresight on how content, pages, and downloads must be organized on an advisor's website. The more types of distinct content available, the better Capture Track Convert can identify and segment visitors according to their website activity. Advisors with generic websites that lack an e-mail newsletter sign-up form or whitepaper downloads will first need to invest in a richer website before they can take advantage of many of Capture Track Convert's features.

There are two types of pricing plans available for Capture Track Convert. For advisors who want to track an unlimited number of contacts, pricing is determined by the total number of e-mails collectively sent to contacts, starting at $200 per month for up to 5,000 e-mails. Unlimited e-mail plans start at $300 per month for up to 1,000 contacts. Pricing initially may seem high to advisors, but if one is able to convert one or two clients per quarter via the firm's website, the platform should easily pay for itself. Also, competing marketing automation solutions like Pardot and Eloqua start at $1,000 to $2,000 per month respectively.

Marketing automation likely isn't appropriate for every advisor. It requires a well designed website containing compelling, informative content that entices visitors to return frequently and offer their personal information in exchange for incentives. However, platforms such as Capture Track Convert allow advisors to rise above the competition by delivering targeted, relevant communications to subscribers and increasing the odds of converting those visitors to satisfied clients.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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