RIA Alert: The “F” word that will crush your business is here

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Earlier this spring ahead of the NCAA March Madness tournament, college basketball fans waited to learn the fate of their favorite team. Would they make the tournament? Where would they be seeded? Where would they play their first game? A poll of these fans sought to figure out how they got the news of whether their favorite team made it into the big dance. Eight different channels were identified as being the primary source of information for at least 10 percent of the fans polled. Among them were Twitter, emails from their alma mater or alumni groups, blogs, TV networks, word-of-mouth (texts, phone calls from friends, office chatter), mobile app alerts, newspapers and sports news websites.

From my years working with financial advisers and RIA firms, I know many in the business are huge college basketball fans. But the nugget of information I bring you today and its implications for the RIA community isn’t about college basketball. It is representative of a bigger challenge RIA firms face as information sharing evolves and is shaped by innovative technologies and new patterns of human behavior.

Gone are the days where evening newscasts or local papers broke news stories. Direct mail feels like a quaint relic of the past and emails have proliferated to the point that they are as equally likely to be deleted as they are to be read. Yet, evening news is still relevant. People do like reading mail – from their mailbox or from their inbox – and others still peruse the newspaper over a morning cup of coffee.

Fragemented media chart

Now, some in the business think the biggest “F” word to impact their business is the fiduciary rule announced by the Department of Labor last month. But I contend another “F” word will make engaging current clients and attracting new ones more difficult than ever: fragmentation.

There is no longer a “silver bullet” means of communication for advisers that guarantees to reach their target audience in one fell swoop. Fragmentation is here and seems to occupy the space between relevance and obsolescence for a wide variety of news and information sources.

Fortunately, the marketing communication paradigm has evolved to help meet this new challenge. Given the natural time and resource constraints facing RIA firm leaders, the idea of having to proactively communicate and engage in multiple arenas can feel daunting. But worry not – integrated public relations campaigns have replaced “either/or” decision-making, a process where advisers were forced to make tradeoffs by focusing on only one or two marketing channels.

Here’s how an integrated PR program can make a difference in this era of information fragmentation:

  • Commit to custom content. Buying canned content is relatively cheap. Curating content shows you are paying attention. But custom content trumps the canned and curated on three fronts: it establishes your firm’s voice and specific perspective, it can power your SEO and publicity efforts, along with the connection of the author to your content, and it makes the material more shareable in a world revolving around social media.
  • Leverage your content across distribution channels. Is your content good enough for your company blog? If so, it’s probably worth repackaging on LinkedIn Pulse. Did you happen to receive positive feedback from a recent presentation topic? Chances are those same soundbites will resonate with the press. The time and effort you put into generating custom content is too valuable not to mobilize in multiple fashions.
  • Find ways to measure feedback or response. It is stunning how many RIA firms fail to monitor their web traffic. Most advisers on social media tend to vastly under or overestimate the size of their social networks simply because they aren’t paying attention. What blog post was viewed the most? What LinkedIn comment yielded the most shares, likes or comments? These are just a few examples, but knowing what resonates with your audience and how to locate them can dramatically boost the return on your time investment.
  • Expand your audience with media coverage. Our friends in the media are regularly seeking experienced professionals to provide perspective on topics of interest. Chiming in when opportunity knocks can mean putting your firm’s name in front of new audiences. It also offers you the opportunity to leverage the media outlet’s distribution to reach new people and prospective clients.

Adapting your communications and marketing efforts to meet the increasingly fragmented audience is no longer a choice, but an imperative. Failure to adapt could crush your future marketing efforts and leave you in the dust behind your peers.