Marketing is out. Personalized communication is in.
Jonathan Dayton is a Senior Engineer at Vestorly, where he has won industry recognition for contributions to forward-thinking financial industry technology. He presented a version of this article at Pershing’s INSITE 2016 conference.
Changes in client communication are driven by necessity. For thousands of years, communication between buyers and sellers occurred almost exclusively face-to-face. The paradigms of communication did not begin to shift until someone came up with a simple thought: if sellers could be introduced to buyers without face-to-face meetings, then sellers could introduce themselves to a much broader audience.
The times have evolved so that, now, most interpersonal communication occurs through the medium of a screen.
But, because communication paradigms continue to evolve quickly, it’s important to look at the history and ask ourselves how we got here, and how we can use the latest knowledge and trends to form new relationships between buyers and sellers. Particularly, for us at Vestorly, it means using this knowledge to build technology that creates introductions and supports relationships between advisors and investors.
How It All Began
What we now call advertising cropped up in Massachusetts newspapers in the 1720s. In the early days, ads ran the gamut: real estate for sale, recovery of lost items, and even piracy (one of the earliest ads was placed by Captain Peter Lawrence for a privateering expedition off the coast of Maine).
The idea of the ad was such a game-changer that it lasted through the industrial revolution almost unchallenged. However, with the beginnings of globalization and customer choice, sellers realized that they would have to differentiate their products based on quality and not just pretty pictures. In the early 1900s, car manufacturers begin to differentiate their similar, mass-produced product – touting their benefits versus the competitions’. This came to be known as product marketing.
Product marketing is backward-looking: it requires completed products in the marketplace before a comparison can happen. In the 1950s, consumer product companies realized they could get ahead of the competition if they identified a need before making a product, and thus we got the market research industry. Similarly, in the 1980s and 1990s, companies that communicated the most effectively created relationships with customers. They invested more in customer service and branding to enhance their relationship marketing.
This accelerated into the next millennium, as brands increased their spend every year on digital platforms like email, social media and mobile.
Each revolution in communication has occurred in a shorter timespan than the previous one. So it’s easier than ever to get caught in the past. Advisors who simply purchase ads are using a strategy from the 1700s. Those who only build a website and send email are still in the 1900s. Communication between buyers and sellers should be dynamic, with the seller understanding the buyer’s wants and needs, and the buyer feeling a connection.
At Vestorly, we’ve taken this one step further, advancing communication with technology to bring us back to the personal interactions from long before the days of advertising. For all the changes and revolutions that have happened over the past 300 years, investors still want a relationship when choosing a financial advisor.
The New Digital Communication for Financial Professionals
So let’s stop thinking of this as marketing and advertising and selling. Advertising is everywhere, and consumers have learned to tune it out. Nobody wants to be sold to, and no one chooses a financial advisor based on an internet search ad. Investors choose advisors who can effectively use technology and demonstrate knowledge as a thought leader.
This notion of a client relationship based on communication of ideas is a very powerful thing. Client relationships in financial services will continue to matter in the future. Robo-advisors are far less popular than they were predicted to be because robo-client-relationships and robo-thought leaders don’t exist.
The question then is: how can advisors initiate a relationship with investors based on personal trust by using today’s digital communication tools?
Digital Relationships Are Personal with Vestorly
First, you need something to say (the content). Then, you need a channel on which to convey it (the communication). Vestorly’s automated tools make both of these steps easier.
Writing and designing personalized emails to every relationship is time-consuming, which is why advisors don’t do it. Instead they send generic emails to all contacts. Vestorly’s tools scour the Internet for content and bring back the best of it to share with each relationship. Some of it features financial articles and advice, but investors want guidance in other areas of their lives too. An advisor could use Vestorly to share articles with client beneficiaries about managing investments, but also topics like careers, moving and planning for children.
Digital touch points initiate a meaningful client relationship when they’re based on useful advice and interesting articles personalized to what the recipient needs.
Take a personal example: I use Vestorly to communicate with the members of my alumni association. We have over 1,200 members, so I don’t know most of them personally, but they approach me to say “I know you, I get your emails. You’re one of the leaders.” They recognize me as a leader even before we’ve met, because I’m providing them with relevant news stories and posts.
Vestorly’s platform handles the content and the communication for you, so you can maintain these digital touchpoints and initiate a relationship without wasting your time. We built our platform to help advisors get out of the marketing game so they can focus on what they do best.
Sharing ideas and content on a platform consumers want takes advantage of another major trend in today’s communication: sharing. Consumers naturally share quality and relevant content with friends and associates. Paint yourself as an expert to your clients, maintain a presence with them and they’ll pass you and your content along to other prospective clients.
Making More of Social Media
Your social media experience and ROI benefit heavily from this notion. Social media is more than just sharing photos; it’s a serious business platform:
Investors are on social media to learn and to share. Vestorly recognizes this trend and we make sharing easy. If someone reads your content on LinkedIn or shares it on Facebook, we capture all of the information and trace the chains of communication. You don’t need a formal face-to-face introduction when you can be introduced on the channels people prefer via interesting stories you’ve shared.
As it turns out, the changing paradigms of buyer-seller communication have brought us back to where we were thousands of years ago. Investors want to buy from an advisor they know and trust to be an expert, and won’t be convinced by a branded advertisement or generic email. The challenge is pairing this dynamic with today’s digital tools and preferred channels of communication.
The future is about using technology to find and create relevant content, communicating with clients and prospects, and developing client relationships based on advisors as trusted experts. Get in touch to ask how Vestorly can do this for your business.