"Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
— Galatians 6:7
You get out what you put in. It's as simple as that. In life, in relationships in business and yes, in farming, you reap what you sow. Any farmer will tell you that it's a year-round job. No one just throws out a few seeds and then sits back expecting a giant harvest to magically appear.
While financial advisors know that their clients and prospects are on social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, many still don't know how to leverage it in their firm's marketing campaigns. That is a serious gap since investors, especially younger ones, are relying more and more on information and connections on social media to make decisions on managing their money.
According to recent surveys up to 40% of consumers say they use social media as a key information source for investing. But the number jumps to 60% among younger demographics. Yet less than half of advisors use social media to interact with investors on a regular basis.
Three advisors who are trailblazers in their use of social media marketing were brought together on a panel at the Riskalyze Fearless Investing Conference last week in Boston to share some of the best practices they have developed and found to be successful.
The panel was moderated by Suzanne Siracuse, but it was Robert Sofia, CEO of digital agency Snappy Kraken who said that financial advisors should think of marketing as farming. The analogy was that you should be focusing on the long term tending of an audience, rather than considering it to be like gambling with immediate gratification (or loss).
Marketing to everyone is marketing to no one.
It is just as important to know which customers aren't right for you as it is to know the ones who are. Evelyn Zohlen, president of Inspired Financial in Huntington Beach, CA pointed out, "if you can't say [what you do] clearly yourself then prospects won't be able to find you."
Zohlen decided to narrow the focus of her practice and only work with women in transition and it was the best move they every made, she noted. Now their referral partners know exactly who to send to them and they can spend their marketing budget to reach prospects with the highest probability of conversion.
Take some time to decide who your ideal customers are and focus relentlessly on them.
Clients are looking for someone who has experience in their particular issues, not someone who is broadly generic. You will end up having an easier time attracting new clients when they clearly understand what you do best.
If you're like me, when you first started your business, there was a tendency to mistakenly think every prospect is a potential customer. Over time though, I realized that a square peg in a round hole doesn't work. Identifying your ideal customers allows you to focus on serving the ones you have fully, which leads to appreciative customers and better word of mouth marketing.
Stand up and state, this is what I do, this is who I do it for, and this is why I do it. Then anyone who hears it and fits that profile will say, "Oh, that's me they're talking about." And they'll be drawn to you like moths to a flame. — Robert Sofia, CEO, Snappy Kraken
One monolithic marketing campaign usually won't work for everyone. If you have multiple defined demographics within your client base, it can be helpful to create separate marketing campaigns to cater to each. Consider which platforms are best for each and be mindful to remain consistent across them all.
Online social media tools can enable even the smallest firms to manage multiple social media campaigns, explained Sofia. Some of his clients have 20-30 different campaigns running simultaneously that each target a different demographic. If each one brings in one or two leads a month, that ads up quickly!
It helps to think of your social media content like an investment portfolio, Sofia suggested. The best portfolios are well-diversified in different types of content and across communication channels.
Social Stat: Facebook is the best place to reach GenX users, who spend 7 hours weekly on social media. With almost 2 billion monthly users, 83% of online women and 75% of online men use Facebook. The average user spends 58 minutes per day on Facebook, so they might be more likely to view longer form content than on other networks.
Farmers rotate their crops plants to keep the soil rich, reduce erosion, and increase crop yield. Similarly, posting different types of articles on social media will maintain higher interest from your audience. Alex Chalekian, Founder & CEO of Lake_Avenue Financial, recommends including a healthy dose of personal commentary alongside the professional content. "People are more interested in seeing photos of our client events than our market commentary," he exclaimed.
Siracuse proposed mixing 30% personal and 70% work-related posts to humanize your online image. That could include information not only about office or client events but about your own family. It's important to know how much is too much when sharing bits about your personal life on social media, Chalekian warned.
Think about including articles about issues that are central to your client's lives, Zohlen advised. Your client may have hired you to handle his tax and charitable giving strategies, but he probably isn't interested in the latest article from Trust & Estates. He's more likely to be interested in an article about how to best support adult children who are just leaving home.
A good tip is to differentiate between your business pages and personal pages, stated Chalekian, and know the right channel for different types of content.
Social Stat: Twitter boasts 330 million active users monthly. However, users only spend an average of 2.7 minutes on the app daily and 53% never post any updates.
Engagement is King
Which in this case refers to where you show up in a Google search. Internet stalking has become the nation's new favorite pastime, so make sure you know what someone sees when they're looking you up. It's important to check that all information accurate, and keep an eye on reviews, but it's also helpful to see where you're most visible so you can capitalize on your presence there.
Before social media, the first time you had a chance to engage with a prospect was when they came into the office for their first meeting. Now it's possible to introduce yourself to hundreds or even thousands of prospective clients and allow them to get to know you before they even step foot in your office.
Chalekian emphasized the power of social media to support prospective clients, saying that if someone follows him online, "You feel like you've seen my family, you've seen the barriers, you've seen the thought leadership… And that's part of the ROI. That comes across when you see clients or perspective clients walk in and they already feel comfortable with you. Their guard is down. They feel like they know a lot about you and you don't have to really sell them on the process or on what you're doing."
As Simon Sinek famously said in his TED talk on leadership, "Start with Why," you must give your target market a clear reason to engage with you. You must explain why you are in business and what you believe in. The main thing that differentiates you from your competitors, is YOU.
Expend some effort to define who it is you're serving and how you can change their world, Zohlen offered. Share your why story, why do you do what you do, and why are you passionate about it. This is the best way to attract clients who believe what you believe.
"You go out and you plant the seeds, you cultivate the ground and then go back," described Sofia. "It's worth it because you're committed and eventually you get a harvest… but that might be way down the road."
If you just "try" social media as a short term project, you're bound to be disappointed, Sofia warned. Gaining a following takes time, and turning that following into clients takes even more time. However, if you put the work in, your business can become much more visible to a wider audience than you would have achieved in any other way, he insisted.
If you publish a blog, it is helpful to take some time at the start of each year to map out your editorial calendar, Zohlen proposed. By planning ahead, you will ensure that you have a good mix of content types, that can be aligned with events or marketing campaigns. You will also be able to budget your time better to ensure that the writing gets done, she stated.
Social Stats: LinkedIn is the #1 platform for B2B marketing. It is used by 45% of people who make over $75,000. The top soft skill listed on LinkedIn profiles is 'creativity', the top hard skill is 'cloud computing', and the most over-used word is 'motivated'.
It's OK to Ask for Help
This is applicable just about anywhere, including your marketing strategy. If you don't know where to start with social media, hire a consultant. Zohlen shared her experience working with a digital marketing firm and explained how they helped her create her initial strategy as well as a plan to execute it over time. Having that helping hand to guide her on that first step gave her a better understanding of the process and what she needed todo to improve her marketing strategy.