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New SEC Marketing Rule and Your Financial Advisor Digital Marketing Strategy

For financial advisors who have been around for the last decade or so, it’s likely difficult not to feel like they have been missing out on many of the advancements of digital marketing and how to acquire clients. Due to a decades-old SEC rule, some of the arguably most effective ways of promoting a financial advisor firm through digital marketing were simply not available due to the regulations established by the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and more recently, the advertising amendment that was regulated in 1961. 

With all of the digital advances in the ways marketing is conducted, it’s remarkable to think that it took 6 decades for the next amendment. In the past 60 years, the biggest change is of course the impact of the internet and social media. Other industries, retail, in particular, have been able to capitalize on the changes in how businesses and customers/clients find each other. At the time of the original rule’s implementation, financial advisor marketing consisted primarily of billboards, television, radio, and print. 

And perhaps the most influential marketing tool was word-of-mouth. People have always looked to their friends, family, associates, and other professionals (CPAs, attorneys) for recommendations for service providers that impact their financial well-being. Now, instead of just people close to them, consumers are turning to websites, name searches, and online business reviews to research who they interview and eventually select for all types of advice, services, and products. This form of social proof can be critical to a financial advisor's digital marketing results


What’s Changed?

While you may not want to read the 430-page ruling by the SEC, the biggest impact for financial advisors is the ability to use online endorsements and third-party ratings in their digital marketing efforts as long as they comply with anti-fraud provisions and other conditions. This rule provides an opportunity for financial advisors to utilize digital marketing strategies, in particular online testimonials. The concern comes from how to do it correctly with no compliance issues. 


Use this Modern Regulation to Improve Your Digital Marketing Results

You’ve already laid the groundwork with the only previously approved methods of digital marketing and communication by improving brand awareness, providing educational resources, and positioning your firm as a trusted source of financial expertise. This new ruling allows you to build on your digital presence by adding testimonials and reviews to those efforts. 

Following are some digital marketing strategies that are easy to implement right now.


Google Reviews/Google My Business

For financial advisors who have already established a GMB (Google My Business) profile, the reviews section may have been a weak spot due to the restrictive regulations of the past. Now it is another source of digital marketing outreach. In addition to showing potential clients the experiences of other clients, ratings can also boost your SEO efforts and further strengthen your GMB profile, which Google really likes to see and often rewards you with better SEO rankings for local searches. 


Video Testimonials 

Video is rapidly becoming a necessity when it comes to delivering the content that consumers want to see on the Internet. For many people it is easier to watch and listen than it is to read large amounts of text. And, first impressions are more distinctive and powerful, not to mention the improved retention rates of many viewers.

Now, you can include client testimonials in your video content. 

A popular form of client testimonial videos includes an interview-style in a conversational format with the financial advisor and a client or possibly a client success story, etc. Having a mix of different video formats can help appeal to a larger audience with diverse interests. These videos should be shared everywhere you have an online presence.


Email Campaigns

Whether including a testimonial as a part of a promotional email or as the main message, emails to drip lists can be a great way to include testimonials in your ongoing financial advisor digital marketing efforts. Another way to utilize email could be to solicit testimonials from existing clients using targeted messaging. This adds some spice to your drip email campaigns. 


Your Website is Your Front Door

The main online presence for any financial advisor is a website. This makes it a critical place to take advantage of the SEC rule and add  testimonials and links to ratings. Consider creating a landing page of testimonials, which is a great addition for SEO. Additionally, you can place each testimonial on the page related to the specific service they are discussing in the testimonial. This is especially true for case study or success story testimonials. 


Social Media Insights

Many interpretations of the 430-page rule seem to point to social media playing a larger part in the reasoning for the rule’s continued existence. This “one to many” type of communication has a large reach and using testimonials can provide the social proof so many consumers look for. There is no question, this type of “proof” can produce positive results. There are numerous ways testimonials can be used in social media, including the posts themselves. 

Proof makes the sale of financial advice and services less conceptual.

Posting a photo of a client and their testimonial – with their permission of course – can increase engagement exponentially. Further, now that this rule allows for financial advisors to comment on social media posts, this opens the door for actual conversations, rather than the one-way street it was for financial advisors previously. Be cautious with comments and replies and know what you can say (and what you can’t) before responding.


Go Through Existing Content and Add Testimonials

Think about all of the content you have published in the past. Now that you can include testimonials, think about ways you can add them to your older content. Updating this content also shows Google you are keeping older content current, which can improve SEO. While this may be a big undertaking, the benefits are sizable if it is done correctly. 


Stay Vigilant and Compliant

This rule change should not increase your overall compliance burden. After all, everything that was viewable by investors was already subject to review by compliance officers. 

However, it is becoming more critical to stay on top of any and all marketing communications, in particular those that are impacted by new regulations. That’s because, with the expansion of the SEC rule, it could become easier to violate rules without necessarily knowing it. 

Also, because this is new to everyone, including those interpreting and enforcing SEC regulations, it will likely become clearer over time how the rule will impact the marketing efforts of financial advisors. But, in the early stages, advisors should be extra cautious and obtain advance approvals before doing any significant work.

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