In the financial planning business, it’s not enough to be extremely knowledgeable. You also have to have a way to reach total strangers and create a system that turns them into leads and then into clients. In today’s world, having a robust digital footprint and automating much of the marketing effort is a must. That means you need someone to handle your marketing operations. You need a digital marketing agency. Digital marketing for financial advisors is too important. But with thousands of competing agencies out there, how do you choose the best firm to work with?
Here are 10 things to consider:
1. Are they generalists? Or do they specialize in your industry?
Some agencies take on all kinds of customers. They may be working on building a new restaurant website on Monday and then creating a tire shop logo on Tuesday. This may be fine for restaurants and tire shops. But it’s usually not a good fit for a professional services organization focusing on reaching a sophisticated, educated clientele like a financial planning firm.
Marketing financial services requires a more specialized body of knowledge, and writing has to be in a certain voice that speaks to the affluent, high-net-worth individuals and business owners.
Very few generalist digital marketing agencies can reliably pull that off.
2. Are they experts on reaching your desired audience?
Content is still king. Research from Hubspot shows that companies with blogs generate 67 percent more leads than companies that don’t have blogs – and the more frequent the updates, the better the results.
But for financial industry professionals, not all blog entries are created equal. It doesn’t do you much good if the writer working on your blog entry spends most of their week writing about transmissions and beauty supplies. They just won’t have the fund of information to do a convincing job ghostwriting for you.
Readers can tell very quickly – and the damage to your brand can be significant.
You don’t want to be writing too much of your own blog content either – you’re better off calling and meeting with clients and prospects than staring at a blank Word file. Leave the financial writing to the pros. But make sure whoever you’re using is a pro at financial writing.
3. Do they focus on Inbound Marketing?
In the financial services industry, the name of the game is lead generation. The best agencies working in this industry devote a great deal of time and effort to the process of generating inbound web traffic and converting that into actionable leads.
They do this via Search Engine Optimization; blog, infographic and other content marketing; premium offers; white papers; email harvesting; social media presence; selective advertising; follow-on marketing; and a variety of other measures.
One thing the best agencies don’t do, on the other hand, is build a pretty website and just hope it works.
4. Do they have a system for follow-up marketing?
Building an attractive website and providing SEO to get new leads coming in is one thing; developing a system to follow up on those leads with an effective drip marketing campaign is another. But in the financial services industry, having a system that follows up on unsold leads with a series of touches is critical.
This system keeps your name and brand in front of the customer, while building your credibility and reinforcing your message.
You’re also serving the client. An investor may be looking for quick information on a particular topic, for example. When investors come to your website and your content helps them solve a problem, you’re building valuable goodwill.
But only if your content is up to snuff.
5. Do they practice what they preach?
They may talk the talk, but do they walk the walk? Are they marketing themselves effectively? It’s easy to get sidetracked by the pressures of client service. But if it’s been six months since they’ve updated their own blog or digital content, they probably aren’t the agency you’re looking for.
6. Do they write with the Web reader in mind?
Look at their content for other clients and on their own site. Is the copy dense and difficult to read? Are there long, unbroken paragraphs, confronting readers with a solid wall of text?
Studies have found that 79 percent of Web readers prefer to scan pages for key data, rather than read web copy word-for-word.
Look for agencies that produce writing that Web readers will actually read:
- Short paragraphs
- Space between paragraphs
- Bullet lists
- Subject headings for navigation
7. Can they scale?
Hopefully your practice will evolve and expand over time. Think about where you want your business to be five to 10 years down the road. Will they still be the digital marketing agency for you? Do they have any existing clients or history of performing at that level for that market?
8. Are they data-driven?
Marketing is getting more and more evidenced-based. Today’s technology makes it easy to leverage vast amounts of data in order to make intelligent marketing decisions. Beware of a digital marketing agency that relies too much on one or two gifted artists or writers on staff. They may be gone in two months and are tough to replace.
Instead, look for a digital marketing agency that has a robust approach to data analytics. The best digital marketing agencies today are tracking inbound hits all the way through the digital engagement process. They can tell you what keywords or emails brought in how many eyeballs, how long they stayed on the web and where most visitors may be losing interest – so you can tweak your marketing approach accordingly.
Less rigorous approaches based more on intuition rather than data are not replicable or sustainable. You may get an occasional lucky break, but they will have no way of reliably sustaining and expanding the results.
9. Can you quantify success?
When you begin engaging with a digital marketing agency, you should be able to speak with them about your current success with lead generation. This establishes a baseline for comparison. A good digital marketing agency will have systems that can compare key metrics with your baseline, so you can measure success, hold your marketing partner accountable for failing to deliver results and enjoy success and prosperity together with those who deliver results.
10. Have they delivered verifiable results for other clients?
If the firm has been at it for a while, they should be able to put you in touch with other satisfied clients within your industry.
Find an agency that hits all of these points. Again, digital marketing for financial advisors is too important these days to do it haphazardly.