Traditionally, RIAs (Registered Investment Advisors) and FAs (financial advisors) have worked in a face-to-face business. They get together. They look clients in the eye. They shake hands. They even build a personal level of trust with prospects before turning them into Clients.
Their marketing efforts traditionally have reflected this approach. FAs and RIAs have relied on networking, cold-calling, in-person seminars, workshops, and referrals from other advisors to get new leads.
What do those marketing activities all have in common? None exist today.
If there is anything investment and financial advisors know, it’s numbers. But when it comes to the traditional channels, we’ve never seen numbers like these.
The digital environment had changed the way people wanted to meet their RIAs and FAs already. But with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down much of the economy and forcing people to work from home, expect everything to go into overdrive. Traditional marketing methods that RIAs and FAs have relied on no longer work the way they used to. It’s time to evolve or get left behind.
How Everything is Changing: The Stats
You only have to look in your local community to see how things have changed. But once you see some of the statistics, one thing becomes clear: RIAs and FAs are going to have to quickly change the way they approach lead generation.
- Fewer people work in the office. According to Global Workplace Analytics, only 5 million (or 3.6% of the U.S. workforce) worked from home in 2018. In 2020, 57% of workers responded to a Buffer survey saying they work remotely full-time. And GWA notes that “desks are vacant 50-60%” of the time. If you’re cold-calling now, you’re only reaching a tiny fraction of the potential clients you once were.
- Loss of personal wealth. What happens when investors have less leeway? 37% of respondents in the U.S. have lost income in 2020, and a recent report said that 11% reported losing all of their income. That coincides with an estimated $7.3 trillion in stock market value wiped out in a hurry when the COVID-19 fears became real in the markets. Investors are looking for a safe harbor for their money, and that doesn’t always mean finding a new way of investing.
- Conferences canceled. Looking to meet someone in person? Your yearly conference is likely not going to be held. More than 83 million attendees have been affected by COVID-related cancellations, while Zoom meetings increased by 50% from March to April alone.
Cold-Calling: Be Careful When More People are Working From Home
Cold-calling is a time-honored tradition for some businesses, and they can’t think of attracting leads any other way. It’s also going out the window.
The problem? Fewer workers are there to answer their office phones. Many of them have migrated to a work-from-home setup, which means that any time you call them now, it means you’re likely reaching a personal line. That changes the entire context of how you handle lead generation in a more digital world.
According to Statista, in late March, 62% of all workers reported that they had been asked to work from home.
One important thing to keep in mind when it comes to cold-calling: the trends were headed this way in the first place. In the last five years, remote work has increased by 44%. 82% of companies were already using some sort of remote and in-person balance before COVID ever hit.
Don’t expect this trend to change any time soon. A Staples Workers Survey found that two-thirds of employees would start thinking about another job if they lost the flexibility to work from home. The trends before COVID-19 were already pointing us toward a future of less cold-calling and more emphasis on digital solutions. COVID-19 threw that process into fast-forward.
Direct Mail: A Mode of Investor Recruiting, or a Dead Art?
A pandemic doesn’t mean we don’t mail each other anymore. But when it comes to direct mail as a form of generating leads, results can be mixed.
Yes, effective direct mail marketing is better than no marketing at all. But pay attention to the statistics. Total mail volume—that’s every piece of mail across the entire nation—has decreased over a quarter since 2006, according to the USPS. As with cold-calling, many forms of direct mail offers are now met with skepticism. Anything that appears to be a sales pitch or a lead generation tool gets tossed in the recycling along with the other “junk mail.”
One problem—or, depending on your perspective, one solution—is that email marketing has essentially replaced direct mail. And it’s done that job extraordinarily well. Return on investment with email marketing can be as high as $42 for every marketing dollar spent. We now view our email inbox as our true “mailbox,” and given the sophistication of email over direct mail, customers expect more. That includes:
- More personalization. Email software makes it possible to talk to someone by their first name, as though you’re having a one-on-one conversation. All it takes is one signup form on your website to learn that. Today’s digital tools give you the ability to reach out to people as though you’ve spoken to them already—even when you haven’t.
- Convenience. Many people instantly dismiss junk mail. But when they see an intriguing email headline in their inbox because they’ve signed up to one of your online events—more on that later—it gives you a brief window of opportunity. Your potential lead has the convenience of deleting it quickly. But you have that small window in which you have their attention, even if it’s only for a second.
In-Person Networking and Conferences
More than 83 million people were affected as conferences were canceled this year. Many RIAs and FAs rely on in-person networking to find new leads. But conferences have been canceled this year, affecting almost the entire working force in the United States. It’s going to hit RIAs and FAs particularly hard unless they can learn to adapt their strategies.
How do you reach people when no one is going out to be reached? How do you network when all of the networking events are canceled?
Once again, you have digital options:
- Build content for the web environment. Ask yourself what your potential leads in 2020 are wondering. What sorts of questions are they asking? Then create the content that will intrigue them enough to want to attend any networking event that you might host online.
- Create your own webinars. Webinars are already a way of life for many RIAs and FAs. If you haven’t already made your company a source of useful, densely-packed information, now’s the time to get started with webinars.
- Attend digital networking events. Leverage social networking sites like LinkedIn and browse what people are doing in your category. Are there digital networking events that will allow you to find more people who are looking for RIAs or FAs like you?
Recommendations for Updating Your Lead Generation Strategies
Given these changes, are FAs and RIAs out of luck? Not remotely. All that’s required is that you understand the shift in the nature of lead generation. Learn how to market to today’s customers on their terms, and you’ll create as personal an experience as you ever have.
Here are some essentials to get you started:
- Create networking resources that don’t require in-person events. Seminars, workshops, and networking events don’t have to be in-person anymore. You can still conduct seminars and host them online. You can create workshops for download. You can even share these resources as incentives to get people to sign up for your email list.
- Use digital resources to personalize your outreach. One common complaint we hear from RIAs and FAs is that digital outreach is often impersonal. It doesn’t have to be. Marketing Automation makes it possible to talk to people on their terms with personal follow-ups based on previous engagement and content that is optimized based on what they and their peers want to see.
- Data collection. Whenever you jump into something new, you need data. Use A/B testing to monitor your campaigns and see which message most resonates with your potential leads. Track lead scoring to ensure you’re getting a high quality of leads—not just more people coming through your funnel. And make sure that you migrate your leads into CRM databases that allow you to leverage the data you collect into a larger sample of potential leads. These efforts will help you measure the impact of your new campaigns and give you greater context for what works.
COVID-19 might feel like the end of the world, but it’s not. It’s a transition to a new way of doing things. And the world for RIAs and FAs may be forever changed. Stay ahead of it and build a brand that relies on new modes of lead generation Client engagement. The changes are happening anyway—it’s up to you to decide whether you’ll stay on top of them.