Professional financial advisors could learn a lot from personal finance bloggers. In fact, you may not even realize that there is a large community of personal finance bloggers out there providing education and guidance on issues such as debt reduction, saving, and budgeting to consumers. These personal finance bloggers are individually and collectively quite a force. Nearly 500 of them get together at an annual financial blogger conference called FinCon, which is the ultimate conference for financial bloggers. At this year’s conference, there were actually about a dozen professional financial advisors (meaning they are registered advisors or CFPs) in attendance. I anticipate this number will grow in the future!
So many of the personal finance bloggers have powerful personal brands, a strong and multi-faceted online presence, and modern business monetization strategies in place. Most financial advisors don’t. Personal finance bloggers tend to build online brands that showcase their personalities. Two traditional advisors who have taken a page out of the personal finance blogger playbook with notable success are Jeff Rose (Good Financial Cents Blog) and Brittney Castro (Financially Wise Women Blog).
Then you have the “Robo-advisors“. This is the new breed of online RIA cropping up, and includes companies like Jemstep and Wealthfront. They provide investment management services that offer transparency, low fees, with methodologies based on respected investment research. As “online” Registered Investment Advisors, they can register in every state and serve clients all over the country. Some of these robo-advisors take custody of assets and others do not. Although these advisors are successfully leveraging technology, most of them don’t provide any human touch or community element to their services. (what I mean by this is, no personality)
Professional financial advisors need to take lessons from both successful personal finance bloggers AND robo-advisors to survive and thrive in the digital age. Below are 7 ways to do so.
7 Ways to Thrive in the Digital Age
1)Build an Online Personal Brand
Build an online personal brand around your personality and your perspective. Develop a branded theme that embodies who you are, what you believe in, and who you help. This strategy has served personal finance bloggers very well. They attract a targeted audience through a combination of building a personal brand and publishing unique educational content on their blogs. Many of these advisors have developed signature online themes that are both memorable and highly effective for attracting a specific target audience.
How do you scale a personal brand online? Through technology. Digital tools can help you effectively share your message with thousands, even millions, and build a meaningful community around your thought leadership. Technology can also help you scale client service and communications. Ultimately, this is a relationship business, and people want to do business with people that they know, like, and trust!
2)Create Personalized and Targeted Content
You don’t need to own a printing press, production studio, or music studio anymore to produce a great piece of educational content that can influence your target audience. Today, there are awesome and affordable tools (and help available) for creating articles, ebooks, videos, infographics, presentations, and even audio podcasts. If you’re not creating and sharing unique content designed to help your target audience solve a problem, get smarter, or achieve more, it’s difficult to stay top of mind where people are spending their time…online and on mobile devices.
Unique content creation (not canned content) is essential today for standing out online, building trust, and establishing yourself as an influencer.
Blogging is the technology that allows you to push that content you create out to search engines, social networks, and email inboxes on a consistent basis. In turn, this can generate blog traffic and leads for your business.
Blogging is exactly how the personal finance guru’s I’ve mentioned above in this article have successfully built and monetized their brands online. It is their number one marketing activity. Blogging consistently enables you to deliberately educate your target audience, become likable and approachable, and build trust. Blogging can also help you build a relevant prospect database to further cultivate the relationship, and even earn valuable media attention.
If you’re not blogging, you are missing a huge opportunity to stand out in your market. In an industry where you can’t showcase public testimonials or recommendations, creating and publishing content is the only way to effective get your story out there.
4)Be Accessible (and Valuable) Online
Being accessible online means that you can be engaged and contacted in ways that are simple and non-threatening. It means you are present anywhere and everywhere online. If you can be accessible AND valuable with your online engagement, that is the key.
Online accessibility removes the burden from a prospective client of having to jump through hoops to connect with you and have a conversation. It allows them to connect with you on their terms. Maybe they’d just like to ask you a question first, rather than come into your office and share their entire financial situation with you. Accessibility accelerates relationship development.
Making yourself visible and valuable on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter will let your target audience know that you are approachable and ready to serve.
5)Embrace Video Communication Tools
Skype, Go to Meeting, and Google Hangouts are tools that make it easy to meet anyone face-to-face online. You can leverage these tools to have one-on-one conversations or to deliver your insights through a live (or recorded) webinar. Make sure your clients and prospective clients know that you have the capability to meet them in this way. Communicating with these video-based tools can save time, scale your communications, and be just as effective as fact-to-face meetings.
Personal finance bloggers, robo-advisors, and new media financial advisors are making extensive use of these tools already.
6)Outsource Investment Management
Financial advising is a relationship business. It’s increasingly difficult to grow your business as the money manager AND the relationship manager. Investment management can also take away time that could be spent serving your existing clients. Develop the investment strategy, and consider outsourcing the implementation.
The way you manage money does not differentiate you online, even though many professional financial advisors still believe that it does. Clients expect that you have a solid money management strategy.
If there is anything the robo-advisors are proving, it’s that investment management is increasingly becoming a commodity. It can be done more efficiently and effectively than ever before with the help of technology. What the robo-advisors are missing is the personal branding and to an extent, personal relationship aspect of the business. Being able to provide the “human touch” is probably the most important asset you have as an advisor.
It’s not about getting the highest returns for your clients, it’s about communicating with them frequently and building better relationships. To thrive in the digital age, let go of thinking you must be the investment manager and wear all the hats.
7)Collaborate with Your Peers
Even though the vast community of personal finance bloggers cover similar content topics online, they embrace collaboration. They understand that everyone achieves more through collaboration, and they don’t view one another as competitors. They guest post on each other’s sites, promote each other on social media channels, and share ideas with each other about what’s working online. Everyone wins.
Traditional financial advisors are so very competitive. They don’t want to share what they are doing online much less promote their peers. This is a mistake. Professional financial advisors would be well-served to partner with their peers. Consider finding financial blogging partners in the industry who live in different areas or target a different audience if you are concerned.
What are you doing to stay relevant in the digital age? What’s holding you back from adopting and integrating some of the ideas mentioned above?