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How Do Independent Financial Advisors Compete With The Brand Names?

All too often independent, boutique financial advisors are competing with the big brand names for new clients. This David versus Goliath scenario raises an intriguing question: How can smaller financial advisor firms compete in an environment that is dominated by the established giants? The answer lies in multiple financial advisor marketing strategies that can level the playing field for the boutique firms.


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One undeniable advantage that brand names carry is their visibility. The ability to reach a wider audience through extensive advertising campaigns gives these firms a distinct marketing advantage. This visibility often translates into a perception of credibility, reliability and trustworthiness among potential clients.

Paladin Tip: A big advertising budget has nothing to do with the quality of a firm’s services. In fact it may be just the opposite when firms are better at marketing than they are helping clients achieve financial goals.  

However, the burning question is: Does this marketing advantage always equate to better service or outcomes for clients? The exploration of this facet describes the nuances of marketing and the quality of individual advisor solutions.

Another aspect where brand names seem to have the upper hand is the perceived safety they offer. A significant percentage of individual investors prefer to select professionals who work for recognizable names. It makes them feel safer. This can be a tough hurdle to overcome if the independent advisor is not prepared to deal with it.

The implicit guarantee of stability and reliability that these brands offer can be formidable hurdles for independents to overcome. Yet, there's more to safety than meets the eye, especially when considering best-in-class service providers, personalized attention, and tailored solutions that independent advisors may be in a better position to provide.

The "one name factor" can also play a role in this competitive landscape. A big brand firm can provide a collection of financial services under one name. Whereas, the independent firm provides services under a number of different names: RIA, custodian, money manager, etc. The latter can be confusing to clients unless it is dealt with properly.

Research capabilities are often cited as another advantage of big brand names. With access to comprehensive data, analytics, and expert insights, these entities can offer informed advice based on a wide array of subject matter topics. 

However, the digital age has somewhat democratized access to information, providing savvy independent advisors with tools to bridge the gap. The exploration of how independents can leverage technology and networks to enhance their research capabilities is key to understanding the evolving dynamics of the financial advisory industry.

Paladin Tip: In the quest to level the playing field, independent financial advisors have a suite of strategies at their disposal. From harnessing the power of personal branding and specialized services to leveraging technology and forming strategic alliances, the possibilities are vast. 

This introduction sets the stage for a deeper dive into the ingenuity of independent financial advisors, highlighting the pathways through which they can and do successfully compete with the big, brand name firms.


The Brand Name Custodian

RIAs and IARs cannot take physical possession of their clients’ assets. The only exception is their fees. They need a custodian to do that for them. Some custodians are brand names that can compete with the big firms for services and safety. Other custodians may be a safe alternative, but do not have the brand name recognition of one of the bigger firms.

Paladin Tip: You should dedicate a page on your website to your custodian if your firm uses Schwab, Fidelity, LPL, or Pershing.


The Independence Factor

Independence can be a unique feature of the smaller firms that are RIAs or IARs. Your is not owned by a bank, insurance company, or another type of financial services company. You are owned by the principals at your firm.

There is a good chance the big firms pressure their representatives to market inhouse products that have higher profit margins. This business practice may have an adverse impact on the results of the big firm’s clients.

Paladin Tip: Smaller firms should emphasize the importance of independence. Your firm can provide best-in-class services that are not impacted by the pressure to sell proprietary services that produce bigger profit margins for the corporate owner.   


More Substantial AUM Clients

The trustees at larger, institutional clients are going to prefer bigger firms investing their assets. This includes pension, endowment, foundation, public, and Taft-Hartley funds. The trustees believe they are safer when they select brand names to manage their assets. This can include the larger independents who are currently managing billions of dollars for institutional clients.

Many of these institutional managers will also manage the assets of UHNW clients if they can meet their $25 million to $100 million minimums.

Paladin Tip: Many smaller financial advisor firms limit their clientele to individual investors, families, and small businesses.


Level The Playing Field With Digital Marketing

Want to level the playing field? Digital marketing may be your best bet.

The first step is making sure you have a modern website that is competitive with the other websites that you may be competing with. The website should have nine key core functions:

  • About Us describe the origins of your firm.
  • Our Team provides background information for your professionals. You may also profile affiliated professionals to enhance your competitiveness.  
  • Our Custodian describes an important choice that makes this firm a safer choice for the investor’s assets.
  • Our Core Beliefs describes the philosophy of the firm in regard to transparency, service policies, compensation, and other information.
  • Our Fees page may not display a fee schedule, but it can describe how you are compensated - for example with an asset-based fee.
  • Who We Serve describes the types of clients you prefer to work with. This is an opportunity to describe your firm’s ideal type(s) of clients.
  • What We Do describes your services in enough detail that visitors conclude you provide the services they are looking for.
  • Case studies can also add value to a website. They provide information that visitors can relate to. This information may also be provided in the form of testimonials (check with compliance).
  • Resources contain educational content in the form of blog articles, Guides, eBooks, videos, and other types of content that establish you as a financial expert.
  • Contact Us makes it easy for investors to initiate contact. You also want to make this a safe experience for them.

Paladin Tip: Excessive amounts of content are a bad idea. View your Google Analytics data to determine the average time investors spend on your current website. You may be surprised by this data.

It is also important to be visible when investors Google search your name on the Internet. They should be able to see substantial amounts of content that establish you as a trustworthy expert in your field. Financial advisors use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) to build this visibility, credibility, and trust. You must play by all of Google’s rules to produce a positive result.


About Paladin

Paladin is a team of digital marketing professionals with more than 100 years of collective financial industry experience marketing our clients' services to individuals, institutions, and financial advisors. Paladin is a boutique agency that was founded in 2003 to provide game-changing digital marketing services to a limited number of firms and professionals in the financial service industry. Our services range from designing and developing custom websites to providing SEO, SEM, and Fractional CMO services. Want more information about our digital marketing services? Email your request to Paladin’s CMO: Jack@PaladinDigitalMarketing.com.

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