Brand and Product Agnostic Thought Leadership Wins When Trying to Reach Financial Advisors

To truly make headway with the financial advisor audience, providers must align their outreach to the needs of the advisor channel. Helping advisors with the challenges they are facing not only creates engagement with the audience, it works to build advisor trust and loyalty. The key to success lies in creating content that’s useful, that resonates with them, and that can help them differentiate their own brand and business.

Advisors main jobs are to transact and interact with their current client base, grow and maintain them, and to reach new clients through word of mouth and compelling messaging. When advisors can obtain thought leadership from providers that they can then use and reposition to help them with these objectives, it makes their job that much easier.

Advisors are actively seeking thought leadership to help them grow their business. It creates an opportunity for them- to create touch-points and communication with clients beyond just servicing their account.

But bridging the gap between selling and helping can be a difficult one for many providers. Some providers do not recognize the intrinsic value. Others still aren’t willing to go the extra mile to create brand and product agnostic content, concerned that it does not benefit them. This article addresses why you should be creating this content, what type of content your sales channel is seeking, and what mediums you can use to reach them.

Communication channels

Recently we talked about how communications to advisors are at an all-time low, providing an opportunity for you to reach out to them with information of value. Before we get into what kind of content to provide and how, let’s talk what is the best medium to communicate with advisors? If you guessed email you are partially correct. The answer varies by the type of advisor. While advisors prefer email over all other forms of communication, emails also comprise the majority of financial provider outreach from asset managers and product manufacturers, making standing out in a crowded inbox a huge challenge. National producers value face-to-face interaction. Bank producers want the ability to reach an internal wholesaler on standby. Retirement Investment Advisors (RIAs) have a tendency toward visiting and engaging with provider websites. The RIA audience also favors webinars.

Topics that work

Thought leadership offers firms the potential to break through the clutter and position themselves as a trusted leader in the industry. Topics that appeal most to advisors can differ; by channel and advisor tenure. For example, bank producers have an appetite for a range of thought leadership topics around money and investing and RIAs show narrower interest, wanting retirement specific content, not surprisingly. Some of the topics of interest continue to be articles related to increasing client satisfaction. But trending topics in the category that can be used to create communications to clients are also very important.

Trending topics include (save this for future use!):

  • the competition for savings: college savings over retirement savings
  • rolling over old accounts
  • IRAs and their integration with defined contribution plans
  • health savings accounts
  • planning for healthcare costs
  • when to add voluntary benefits
  • when CI and AI insurance are needed
  • when long term care is needed
  • generating in retirement income
  • annuities and how they can create lifelong income
  • how personal property insurance may not have you completely covered
  • umbrella insurance
  • making sure your auto and home policies accurately cover you in the event of a loss
  • taking care and getting coverage in the case of natural disasters

According to a study produced by Marketing Strategies, Inc., First Trust, BlackRock, American Funds, iShares and Guggenheim Investments are the most successful in getting advisors to read their thought leadership material. Materials produced by these firms also had the greatest potential of going viral within the industry. Advisors weremost likely to share materials from these providers with colleagues or clients.

“We know from our recent qualitative work that advisors want more thought leadership and market commentary rather than product-specific updates,” said Sonia Sharigian, product director at Market Strategies. “In our latest quantitative survey, we are seeing an even stronger emphasis on thought leadership, with advisors asking providers to offer more robust and expansive thought leadership libraries online, particularly among producers with larger books of business.”

Providers need to figure out a compelling way to differentiate themselves by capitalizing on their strengths. It’s also important to strike the right balance in terms of producing materials that are shared with clients and colleagues, which is something all marketers aspire to, and is less likely to happen with company or product announcements.

What type of content should you produce?

So with independent advisors preferring email communication, national producers valuing face-to-face interaction, bank producers wanting the ability to chat live at any time, and RIAs wanting to engage with provider websites, where does that leave you?

The answer is you need to create communications for all of these channels, email, website, in–person meetings, live events and webinars.

It sure sounds like a lot but think of it this way- start with a trending topic or area of interest and then build out the content for each appropriate medium. For example in the case of the trending topic around financial wellness programs, one approach would be to start by creating a client facing article talking about the convergence of health and wealth. This can be sent to advisors as a word document so they can easily pick up portions to use in emails, as ‘sound bites’ with clients, or on social media. This very same content can be turned into two different highly visual formats – a designed email blast to advisors, with a link to a white paper/case study, that they too can use with the clients. Creating something that is very visual, using charts and infographics, is a way to use the same content in a different way. Upon meeting with advisors, wholesalers can bring a copy of the whitepaper or infographic to share in person. Lastly this content can be created into a compelling visual presentation which can then be shared in person at events, or online, as live or on-demand webinars.

Let’s briefly discuss the opportunity of value-added events. In order to be effective, it’s important the event is not a sales event. There should be no talk of product and barely any talk of the company itself. The speakers best received are those that are accomplished in the industry. Tap into an independent subject matter expert for example. One such example is when a major player in the retirement industry tapped into an expert on the financial status of American workers to present their own proprietary findings. Though the information was gathered by the provider, it was delivered by an independent party, and therefore better received. As for the location, the best location is when events are held on neutral territory, not at a provider’s headquarters or an area with that firms interest.

Attendees want to hear about real solutions to the issues they are facing. If by chance this involved the opportunity to bring up product solutions, then and only then should a provider introduce it. A better way to go about this may be to introduce the ways in which your product is addressing client concerns, in terms of the overall approach or product design. For example, your companies defined contribution plans may be offering an integrated health savings account to address people’s ever-increasing concern about health care costs. Talking about how your products are directly offering solutions to common client concerns is one way around directly bringing up your company offerings.

The same should be said for in person visits, advisors are likely expecting you to talk about company and product updates and to receive a sales pitch, but if you can reframe that visit to include useful information about the challenges he or she may be facing, and the overall industry challenge, you are much more likely to be seen as a valued partner.

Be relevant. Be specific. Know your audience’s business and requirements. Frame how your company and your products solve the problem advisors are facing. Invite them too to reach out to you should they be seeking content to communicate with their clients, or if they have an issue they cannot address. Be the answer/solutionist. Doing so creates long lasting value.