Financial Advisors Need to Get Personal or It’ll Cost Them


Author: Joe Paone 

It’s no secret that the financial services industry has been going through a transformation in recent years. Independent financial advisors, as well as large institutions, are moving away from commissioned accounts to a fee-based approach. Firms like Merrill Lynch that were once full of commissioned-based brokerage accounts now have a company roadmap to transition customers to fee-only accounts. Advisors who were once paid on transactions are now be paid a percentage of all the money that they manage.

This not only has implications for their business models but their marketing models as well. By tying compensation to assets under management (AUM), advisors are now highly incentivized to retain existing customers (unless they want a pay cut). And if they want to increase AUM, they must acquire new customers or cross-sell additional services like estate planning or tax planning.

Impact to Marketers

This shift in focus applies to marketers across all verticals, as buyers have higher expectations and are harder to win over without having personalized conversations. Gone are the days where a print ad strategy was all you needed to acquire new customers and keep your brand top-of-mind. Today’s marketers have to be more savvy than simply sending mass emails to their databases or hiring an agency to run a digital ad across the internet. Buyers and investors expect the same level of personalization they would get from Amazon, YouTube, or other retail companies.

In an industry that is traditionally slow to adopt new technology, it’s imperative that marketers push their firms to change. There’s a reason robo-advisors like Wealthfront or Betterment are growing at breakneck speeds (granted, a very small percentage of assets are currently managed by robo-advisors). They are embracing technology like marketing automation to more efficiently and effectively acquire and retain customers through a personalized approach at scale.

Here are three key ways marketing automation can help you acquire and retain customers, in financial services and beyond:

1. Segmentation

To get the right message to the right investor, you must segment your audience. This is the same strategy YouTube uses when suggesting videos you may be interested in, or Amazon uses to suggest products you might want to consider. While there are ways to implement segmentation outside of marketing automation (excel, CRM, etc.), if you want to deliver different messages to different segmentations in real-time, there are no substitutes.

Create a personalized journey by segmenting your prospects into different buckets so that you can provide each bucket specific content that aligns to your desired outcome. Basic segmentation can be separated into two different buckets: demographic (based on who they are) and behavioral (based on what they have done).

  • Demographic: If you are an asset manager, for example, you can start demographic segmentation by splitting your audience into two categories: institutional investors and retail investors. For institutional investors, you likely know your target market very well. Marketing automation allows you to segment based on industry, company size, role, location, AUM, investment style, and anything else you deem important. On the other side, you have retail investors, which at a basic level can be segmented by age, net worth or investable assets, location, gender, and investment preferences or goals.
  • Behavioral: Behavior segmentation is based on what your audience does, which could be: where a prospect is in the buying cycle, what their score is (which will be covered below), different financial products or strategies they have expressed an interest in, web activity or email engagement, and, of course, non-activity. All of these behaviors reveal their online body language that indicates their level of interest and future intent in becoming a client.

Now that we’ve gone through the basic two components of segmentation, you can define and build specific segmentations for your clients and prospects that leverage both demographic and behavioral information. You will use these segmentations to help tailor your messaging for each group. Target accounts, investment strategy, client behavior, portfolio size, investor persona, and region all lend themselves well to different segmentations.

Once you’ve nailed that down, the next step is to start developing even more advanced and targeted segments taking into account behavioral data, scoring, etc. An easy place to start is through your buyer personas. For example, a prospect may be retired and primarily interested in fixed income. If you want to acquire that prospect, it doesn’t make sense to communicate with them about a long-short strategy or some other tactical play. On the other hand, you may have identified some prospects that are more hands-on or sophisticated. Those potential investors may prefer more detailed communications in the form of a whitepaper and more frequent updates.

The bottom line with segmentation is that if you know what your customers and prospects care about, you can tailor your communications to them. Whether you’re marketing financial products or business software, by delivering personalized communications to specific segments, with you’ll be able to take the personalized touch and feel of a 1 on 1 conversation and extend it into all of your digital marketing communications.

2. Scoring

Lead scoring—a method of ranking leads for their sales-readiness, agreed upon by both sales and marketing—is a concept that you’re probably familiar with. Lead scoring helps you prioritize which prospects sales need to follow up with immediately and which prospects need to be nurtured.

While it sounds easy enough to implement, depending on the size of your business, it can be extremely challenging without the right tools. If you work for a large firm, you may have to engage multiple teams (analytics, digital, etc.) and partners (agencies, third parties, etc.) in order to pull all the information that you need for lead scoring. This is extremely inefficient, time-consuming, and more often than not leaves you with stale data. If you work for a small firm, you may have to conduct your lead scoring by exporting data from various sources and running multiple Excel searches s to match known users to their behaviors. You may also be using a CRM system to help with your lead scoring. In either case, you’re left with incomplete data and can only score “known visitors,” leaving all unidentified or anonymous prospects behind.

With marketing automation, you can set up rules that score prospects and customers based on demographics (investible assets, investment time horizon, etc.) and behavior (online and offline) as well as anything else that your sales team finds important. If your marketing automation platform integrates with your CRM, when a salesperson updates a record (i.e. changes a person’s investible assets), that information will be immediately reflected in the score. Scoring should happen in real-time, so you don’t have to spend countless hours pulling data and matching accounts.

For an illustrative look at the benefits of lead scoring and how to implement it, refer to the chart below. On the right-hand side of this chart, there are two types of scores: latent behaviors (which are really just forms of engagement) and then active behaviors which demonstrate some buying intent.

In latent behaviors, a prospect could download an early stage whitepaper and get +3 points. Then, that prospect, who you assumed to be a good prospect, began to visit the careers page heavily. This action indicates that perhaps this wasn’t a prospect at all, but rather someone who is interested in a job, so then you can decrease the score by -10. In active behaviors, if a prospect visits the fees page, you can assign them +30 points. Or if someone requests to be contacted, give them +50 points and send them straight to sales.

Using this scoring methodology, you can then set a score threshold that indicates when a prospect is “sales-ready.” For example, if a prospect gets to a score of 100 (and you know that based on sales feedback, a score of 100 or greater indicates a warm prospect that is ready for a sales conversation), you can automatically notify sales.

3. Sales Efficiency

Implementing a segmentation and scoring strategy will ultimately help your sales team become more efficient. They will better understand the right people to call (based on their lead score) and better understand what to talk about (based on their segmentation). As an example, let’s say that before you implemented marketing automation, you were sending 30 prospects per day to sales. Of those, only five were warm and ready to have a conversation. But since sales didn’t know which prospects were warm, they had to call all 30 to find the five warm prospects. That is inefficient.

With marketing automation, taking the same example of 30 prospects per day, you can eliminate sending 17 of those prospects to sales because they didn’t reach the scoring threshold. Furthermore, you can eliminate three other prospects who visited your careers page. Ultimately, you end up only sending 10 prospects to sales, which means that your salespeople only need to make 10 calls to find five warm prospects, rather than making 30 to reach the same outcome. Through marketing automation, segmentation, and leading scoring, you’ll increase sales efficiency and your salespeople can spend more time prospecting through their own outbound efforts.

All the companies and industries can benefit from a solid marketing automation platform.

The financial services industry, in particular, is perfectly positioned to realize tremendous value. Investing can be very emotional for people as money doesn’t come easy, so if you send them mass emails or blanket messages that don’t speak to their particular needs or situation, you’re likely to alienate them. But with the right segmentation and scoring in place, you can create timely and hyper-relevant marketing campaigns that will help you acquire and retain clients, grow your existing customer base, and ultimately increase sales efficiency.

What other industries can benefit immensely from marketing automation? Share your thoughts in the comments below!