RIA Marketing Crash Course
You’ve got enough on your plate between client meetings, financial planning, and business development. But you also know how important marketing is to the growth and success of your firm. Here’s our RIA marketing crash course to demystify key terms and concepts that you may want to employ at your firm.
Table of Contents:
Infrastructure & Platforms
Analytics & Assessment
Putting It To Work At Your RIA
Introduction: How RIAs Can Market to Clients
RIA marketing is equal parts art and science, and the evolution of marketing programming is unique for every firm. But there are some universals, so we’ve gathered together key concepts, tactics, and strategies that you may want to employ at your RIA to expand awareness of your brand, engage potential clients, and get an edge over the competition.
While GeoWealth is a turnkey asset management platform (TAMP) and we stay focused on providing tech and investment solutions to advisors, we are a champion of RIAs and aim to facilitate learning and sharing among RIAs. To that end, we’ve tapped a broad network of marketing providers for their guidance to create this resource for you. Whether you’re starting from scratch and don’t even have a website for your new firm, or if you’re looking to supplement an existing marketing strategy, this crash course should provide some food for thought for upping your game.
Infrastructure & Platforms
CRM: Customer Relationship Management Platform OR Client Relationship Management Platform
- A platform that acts as a database for keeping track of contact information and engagement activities related to anyone you work with – vendors, current clients, potential clients, past clients etc.
- These platforms typically offer integrations for tracking emails and phone calls, plus they often offer import options for bringing in data you may currently hold in spreadsheets.
- CRMs can range from simple to very complex, depending on how you use it and the amount of information you store in it. At scale for a large organization, maintaining a CRM can quickly become its own full-time job.
- CRMs offer an easy way to share information among and across teams, increasing transparency and maintaining institutional knowledge. This can be an especially essential tool in organizations where employee turnover is high.
- In the event of an SEC audit, your CRM may be a central database for furnishing any client documentation and a of communication/marketing touchpoints.
- When choosing a CRM, it’s important to consider needs and use cases as well as integrations with the rest of your tech stack, especially your MAP (Marketing Automation Platform)
- Some common CRM options include Salesforce, HubSpot, Redtail, Advisor Engine
MAP: Marketing Automation Platform
- Allows your marketing department to automate and easily scale various marketing efforts, like blogging, social media, emails, text messages, and CRM profile changes. MAPs also provide various functionality for your website, such as forms to capture data from visitors who express interest in a one-on-one discussion.
- One common MAP automation example is a creating workflow that triggers when someone fills out a form on your website, so that a PDF copy of a whitepaper is automatically emailed to them in response. This is an efficient way to engage with and market to prospects without any manual work from your RIA.
- It is very important that a MAP integrates closely with your CRM. Alternatively, many major CRM platforms offer a MAP as well – for example HubSpot, Salesforce – meaning you have only one platform and one monthly fee.
- If you work with European customers, GDPR compliance is an important consideration in your MAP activities. Consult with your legal counsel for further guidance if you think GDPR guidelines may apply to your firm if you have clients outside of the U.S. or store/process data outside of the U.S.
- Some common MAP solutions include Salesforce Pardot, HubSpot, Marketo, Braze
- Your clients don’t instantly become a customer once they know who you are – each client goes through a number of steps before and after signing a contract. Much of this time may be within the sales pipeline, but it goes even further than that. This is referred to as the Customer Journey.
- Understanding your typical customer journey (which there may be a few versions of, depending on the type of client) is important to help the journey move along. You’ll want to get familiar with wants and needs for each step so you know when to reach out, the right messaging for content along the way, and when it’s time to start negotiating.
- Customer journeys are typically a rough estimation – most clients will have their own unique journey, so don’t go crazy trying to catch every possible scenario. The general infrastructure is enough to get a marketing plan going.
- A typical customer journey may go like this: unaware, awareness, cold lead, warm lead, qualified lead, marketing qualified lead (MQL), sales qualified leads (SQL), opportunity, customer.
- These stages can also tie to a funnel concept, with a person moving from the top of the funnel as they begin to learn about you and your offering, to the middle of the funnel as they engage with your marketing collateral, to the bottom of the funnel as you get to the final stages of your sales process.
- You can use your MAP to setup and track a scoring system, so that as a person engages more with your website and content, the higher they score, therefore moving them along their customer journey towards becoming a client.
ICP: Ideal Customer Profile
- This is how you would describe the “perfect customer” for your company. This is based on a combination of any relevant attributes – size, location, budget, AUM, number of accounts, experience, history, philosophy, future goals, etc.
- Few to none of your customers will perfectly fit this persona, but it provides you and your sales team with the info you need to identify which prospects are worth ad spend and communication time.
- It’s a worthwhile exercise to take pen to paper and outline your ideal customer profile. How old are they? Where do they live? What are their interests? What’s their net worth? What’s their level of investment experience? What motivates them? What are their pain points? What are their goals?
MQL: Marketing Qualified Lead
- A label for a lead who has not only converted, but whose engagement with marketing content shows a greater chance of becoming a customer. There is no strict definition of when someone becomes an MQL, it depends on how you define your sales pipeline. It could be as simple as someone signing up to receive your emails, or you may set the bar at a minimum number of content downloads, website visits, email clicks, etc. If you implement a lead scoring system, you can select a certain score value that indicates an MQL.
SQL: Sales Qualified Lead
- A label for a lead who has shown fairly significant interest in becoming a customer, even more so than an MQL. The concept is similar to that of an MQL, but a higher bar. Maybe they requested an intro call or filled out a form on your site for a consultation. If you implement a lead scoring system, you can select a score value higher than that of an MQL to indicate an SQL.
- A label for a lead who is now within your sales process, no longer just engaging with your marketing. This is most likely someone who you have spoken to directly via phone or email. This is someone who is vetting your business and is in the serious consideration phase of joining you as a client.
- Once a prospect becomes an “Opportunity” (or whatever equivalent title you / your sales software use), you’ll also be tracking them through the sales cycle – such as from intro, to demo, to pricing proposal, to a win/loss.
- Each stage of the process should be clearly defined, with an objective, measurable requirement so your sales team knows when to move an opportunity from one stage to the next.
- To keep information centralized, it’s best to track this sales pipeline within your CRM and/or MAP platform.
- A brand is not simply a logo and a website and a letterhead. Branding is the essence of your firm: what makes you unique, how you help clients, how you see the world. When you have a clear brand and a clear story to tell, it will inform the rest of your marketing schema.
- Your brand is how you will set yourself apart from other firms that offer your same services. Your brand should demonstrate your personality, the ethos behind your work, and why someone should choose to hire you instead of the next guy.
ABM: Account Based Marketing
- A strategy and philosophy of how you target prospective clients. These efforts are focused on a specific set of high-value prospects (mutually agreed upon by sales and marketing as within your ideal customer profile) in order to create a more customized advertising, pitching, and buying experience speaking specifically to their pain points and needs.
- For individual investment advisors seeking new clients, this process starts with identifying the qualities of a great client, such as age and net worth, as well as other qualities specific to your practice – complexity of household, financial planning needs, investable asset base, investable asset composition, average account size, location, demographics, etc.
- For larger financial entities seeking business to business (B2B) opportunities, this process starts with identifying the qualities of a great client, such as service offering and client base, as well as other qualities specific to your practice.
- Once target accounts are identified, sales and marketing work to identify the individuals in those companies who are the decision makers. This might be staff in the C-suite, or operations or compliance departments, for example.
- ABM helps keep sales and marketing focused on valuable prospects and helps define targeting for things like ad spend.
- Demand generation strategies help create awareness in the market about your brand: who are you, what do you offer, what is your unique value proposition.
- Demand happens at the top of the sales funnel when you’re creating awareness to get your audience’s attention and generating interest in your products and services.
TIP: For a primer on how to prospect and marketing your firm, head over to this blog post covering ways to harness the power of word-of-mouth referrals, how to design basic branded graphics, and how to approach campaigns.
- Lead generation strategies then turn the brand-aware audience into potential customers. They deepen their engagement and understanding of your firm and what you offer.
- Lead generation focuses on collecting information from interested prospects to inform your sales outreach process with the goal of converting them to customers.
- In order to support the tech infrastructure for marketing strategies, there is an operational role that is important to consider. Traditionally, that role has been separated into marketing and sales operations, but a more recent trend is to combine this into Revenue Operations, or RevOps. This role aligns the processes and infrastructure from initial marketing, to sales handoff, to the sales pipeline, to the handoff to onboarding.
- “Organic” social refers to people finding you in unpaid methods on social media. This is the digital equivalent of a testimonial or a referral. Using organic social lets your prospective clients see how your real clients engage with you.
- On any social media site (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Threads, TikTok, etc.), people will come across your business in a variety of ways – searching for your name or related terms, seeing their connections commenting on and sharing your content, etc.
- Boosting your organic social rankings typically involves garnering higher engagement (likes, comments, shares) on your posts. More engagement means it’s more likely to be recommended and shown to people outside of your usual network, expanding your reach
- Your strategy may be slightly different on different social media platforms. For example, you’ll focus more on text posts on Twitter but you’ll focus more on video posts on Instagram.
- It’s also possible that you have different audience skews on different social media platforms. For example your audience on Facebook may skew older, but your audience on TikTok may skew younger.
- It can take time to build up a following and engagement to make a difference, but the cost is relatively low. Success with organic social media strategies involves consistent effort and a continuous time commitment.
TIP: Expressing an authentic brand voice is important, let people see who you are, what you’re passionate about, and how you view the world. Don’t be generic!
- “Paid” social refers to people finding you through methods that involve you paying to be boosted – such as advertising or sponsored content on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Experiment with different messaging and content to see what works best, always keeping track of return on investment (ROI).
- Targeting the right audience in the right place will often involve a lot of trial and error at the beginning, and frequent assessment / adjustment of your efforts. Don’t forget, your content and messaging strategy will be different on different platforms, plus the composition of your audience (and their interests) likely varies platform to platform. Make adjustments accordingly.
- With the right messaging and target audience, paid social advertising can be a very fast and efficient way to expand your reach outside of your typical network.
TIP: You don’t need to spend a lot of money on day one. Start with a small investment, then increase if you see positive results. It takes time to build an audience.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
- There are a wide variety of rules, guidelines, and best practices that help get your website and webpages towards the top of search rankings for various terms.
- SEO strategies most commonly focus on Google’s search rankings, but applies to any search engine (Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc).
- One effective method is publishing blog posts that heavily use particular terminology that you want to rank better for. Include this term in page headers (especially at the start of the title), and make sure the terms are used repeatedly in your content. For example, if you want to rank at the top of Google search results for “financial planning for women who plan to retire soon,” you should write content that uses the relevant terminology and publish it on your blog.
- If you already have a web presence, it’s worth experimenting with Google searches (in an private or “Incognito” window so the results aren’t biased towards you so that you can get an understanding of where you rank, and where your competitors rank. You want to focus on terms that describe you well but aren’t overly competitive.
- It’s important to pick a few key terms you want to rank well for, but keep in mind that some more common terms might have a lot of competition (ex: financial planner), while others are too niche and not often searched for. Strike a balance in the middle.
- One of the most valuable ways to improve SEO is by showing the credibility of your website, which search engines determine primarily by the number of other websites linking to yours. This is often referred to as link building.
- Having links back to your website isn’t absolutely necessary, SEO is determined by a variety of factors. But these links are what will make you most competitive in the rankings. A link building strategy can be additive on top of your broader SEO and content efforts.
- Some strategies to improve link building include offering guest posts on other companies’ websites, providing testimonials, releasing share-worthy news, or just generally providing solid resources that others will want to use to support their own work (like this one!)
TIP: Monitor your website and try to spot trends that tell you what content is working best with your audience. Then, create more content on that topic.
- A drip campaign is a series of emails typically triggered by some sort of action (form fill, whitepaper download) and managed through a MAP.
- Experiment with a cadence and number of emails, but typically 1 or 2 emails a week for a total of 5 or so emails is common.
- Each email should provide a value add and a clear call to action for the recipient, with the goal of bringing them further down the sales pipeline and making the lead more interested in becoming your client.
TIP: Be sure to re-engage people that had been considering your services but didn’t become a client at that time. Maybe they’ll be interested again the coming months or years.
- Social listening is mining social media platforms to gain an understanding of what’s being said and by who across social media about your brand and/or your industry.
- Keyword searches are a basic start, but you can also invest in software to regularly monitor and alert you to social media posts. Some platforms integrate with your CRM to reflect the data on contact profiles.
- Social listening can be used alongside your account-based marketing strategy to identify targets, or to identify messaging that will resonate with prospects.
- Social listening will also help you find the right places to engage in conversation on social media to help boost your following and connections.
Analytics & Assessment
- Simplifies the process of assessing leads by assigning a number to various actions taken by a lead.
- A score can be assigned for any activity that can be measured – clicking a call to action, opening an email, submitting a form, visiting your website, etc.
- More impactful activities get more points. Based on the scale, you can pick at what score someone should receive outreach, become an MQL/SQL, etc.
- Many MAP / CRM systems will provide a built-in way to track scores.
- Scores may be decreased by negative activities as well – for example, unsubscribing to email or not opening any of the last X number of emails they were sent.
ROI: Return on Investment
- Commonly used to evaluate advertising costs, ROI will tell you the profit associated with things like ad campaigns.
- ROI is calculated by subtracting the cost of a marketing campaign from the profit of the new business acquired through that campaign. A higher ROI means more profit and is an indicator of success for the campaign.
TIP: You’ll need to continuously monitor your campaign performance across multiple metrics to ensure you’re not spending on off-target content or audiences. Pull your KPIs every week and month and evaluate trends.
- In the marketing world, a “conversion” is described as a member of your target audience completing the goal action (referred to as a call to action) of a marketing campaign. This may involve clicking on a link, filling out a form, downloading a whitepaper, signing up for a newsletter, etc. It should be an action that is measurable and moves the prospect further down your sales pipeline.
- A conversion rate looks at the number of people who viewed your call to action (whether it’s an image, an email, an ad, a landing page, etc.) compared to the number who followed through on converting. This measurement tells you how successful a campaign is.
CPC: Cost Per Click
- For paid advertising on website, search engines, social media, etc., there are a few ways you can assess your costs as an advertiser. One is Cost per Click – the total cost of your advertising campaign divided by the number of clicks you received. Comparing this metric across campaigns will tell you what is the most cost efficient. Your goal is to decrease the CPC while maintaining high-quality leads. This may involve adjusting your audience or keyword targeting to have less competition.
- Alternatively, you may consider CPM – Cost per Mille, or the cost for 1,000 ad impressions. This doesn’t consider clicks at all, but instead looks at how many times your ad was viewed, which can still be beneficial for improving awareness and brand recognition.
- Numbers vary greatly based on target audience and terms, but an average CPC is around $2.69 on Google Search ads (which show up in search results), and $0.63 on Google Display ads (which show up on various sites across the web)
CPA: Cost Per Acquisition
- One step further than CPC – not just looking at who clicked on an ad, but who followed through to complete a conversion. Typically a form fill.
- CPA is naturally going to be a fair bit higher than CPC, but a conversion is much higher value than a click.
- Numbers vary greatly based on target audience and terms, but expect an average CPA in the financial industry to be around $175.
Putting It To Work At Your RIA
It’s through our unique vantage point as a TAMP that we’re able to highlight this broad array of marketing concepts and tactics. We work alongside RIAs at different stages in their marketing journey, so we’ve seen how firms need to evolve their marketing strategies as their firm and client base mature. That said, we know to stick to our wheelhouse: turnkey asset management and outsourced support for RIAs. Based on our learnings from marketing providers, below are the common first steps they see clients take as they evaluate new marketing ideas:
You and your team should sit down and discuss following these initial steps:
- Start by identifying your goals and what you want to get out of your marketing strategy. You may want to focus on deepening ties with your existing network, and/or expanding your network to new prospects and potential partners. You also may be thinking about your online reputation – what terms and concepts do you want your name and business to be associated with? Is there a particular niche in which you’d like to be viewed as a thought leader? Make sure that your goals are targeted and at least a little ambitious, but still attainable, realistic, and measurable.
- Evaluate your existing situation. Do you already have content on your site to re-package or expand upon? Have you been cultivating a community on social media as a jumping off point for expanding your network? What technology do you already have in place for managing these strategies (MAP, CRM, ABM, social listening)?
- Next, look at the gap between where you are, and where you want to be. What’s the low hanging fruit that can give you a quick win? What areas need the most improvement, and may require a deeper investment? What can you and your team tackle on your own, or should you bring in a third-party to offer guidance or execution support?
- Create the assets needed for amplifying your message. This can take on many different forms – landing pages, whitepapers, blog posts, a social media strategy, webinars, etc. The right approach will involve multiple strategies implemented in coordination, and are dependent on your target audience. Where do your prospective clients and partners spend their time? What are they interested in learning about? How do they like to consume content? This may require some experimenting and talking with people.
- Share it out to your audience. Once you have your strategy planned – whether it’s a one-off content piece or a larger campaign – it’s time to launch. Again, this may require some experimenting: not every campaign is a home run, but you will learn more each time. Be sure to collect data on what works and what doesn’t, and organize the analytics.
- Finally, adjust and repeat. Your strategy will constantly shift in large and small ways as you learn more about your audience and find new opportunities to reach them. What works for some audiences won’t work for others, and what works one month might not work the next. Be sure you’re regularly reviewing analytics and making adjustments along the way.
To guide RIAs who are looking for an edge in their marketing programs, we have a great network of branding and marketing firms ready to support your firm’s communication and digital strategies. Whether you’re looking to start fresh with a new logo and website, or you just need some additional printed collateral to bolster your existing digital footprint, or you’re looking to launch into the world of paid search and digital marketing, we can connect you with a marketing firm that we know and trust.
Now that you’ve got new ideas and strategies for marketing your firm, it may also be time to take a look at your tech stack! GeoWealth is here to support your firm with advisor portals, investment solutions, and back office services. The first step is scheduling a demo with our team to discuss your needs, then we can design a solution together.
If you’d like to learn more about how GeoWealth can help transform your business and enable you scale faster, reach out to our team. We’re happy to consult with you on your particular situation and answer any questions you may have about outsourcing your technology, investment management, or back office.
Ready To Work Smarter?
Get Powered By GeoWealth