Financial planners are a conservative lot, so I was a pleasantly surprised to see the results of a study that showed the profession is at last starting to embrace content marketing.
The research, carried out by a postgraduate student from Birmingham Business School, was based on a survey of 110 companies in the UK, North America and Australasia. It was commissioned and part-funded by Ember Television, but we kept our distance from the research process. There has been very little independent research on marketing for advisory firms, and we were as keen as anyone to know the state of play.
Asked which form of marketing they considered the most effective, more than half of those surveyed went for content. Events and seminars were rated the next most effective, ahead of printed materials and press releases.
I must say I was surprised to see social media at the bottom of the list. Financial planners have never been prolific users of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and now it seems that many of those who have used social media are scaling back.
For firms looking to grow - to attract and retain more clients - that is surely a mistake. Social media is precisely where their clients and prospective clients are. Not being there alongside them makes very little sense.
The key point, though, is that content and social media need each other. You can have the best content, but if not enough people in your target demographic see your insightful videos, your beautiful infographics or your word-perfect blog, you’ve wasted precious time and resources.
Social media is how you direct your content to the people who you want to see and engage with it. It’s also how you share other people’s content - and that too is crucial to building a loyal audience.
Yes, it’s time-consuming, and (not least for compliance reasons) it certainly isn’t something you can leave to just anyone to manage on their own. As with blogging, my advice is that if you and your senior colleagues don’t have time for social media, you should outsource it to someone with specialist knowledge and expertise.
So just as any well-balanced portfolio includes equities and bonds, an effective marketing strategy needs both content and social media.