Using tech startup strategies to build your financial advisory business
We’ve all see the tech industry exposed over the past two decades. Many start as a simple idea and seemingly overnight turn into huge businesses that become part of our everyday routine and vernacular. In many ways, the technology industry redefined marketing—the status quo of brand building by buying expensive ad space died with the dot-com era, and the next wave of tech startups had to use more innovative and inexpensive ways to build their brands. I recently read a book titled Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday, which, although a few years old (by tech standards), had many concepts and ideas that could apply to the financial advisor clients we serve.
First, the term “growth hacker marketing” was initially coined by the tech industry as a way to describe growing a company by any means possible and as inexpensively as possible. It refers to the convergence of marketing with technology and the objective of growing “users” (or in our world, prospects) by any and all means available. One example used was the success of Hotmail as the first free email service provider. After relentless hours of brainstorming on how to get the word out about the free service, and without the budget to do big advertising campaigns, they settled on banner advertising at the bottom of each and every email sent out from their platform. When a user would use a Hotmail email account to send an email to a friend or colleague, at the bottom of that email would be the offer to “open your own free email account using Hotmail.” The demand spread, and within just a few months Hotmail was the first free email provider to reach more than 10 million accounts, and shortly thereafter sold for more than $400 million—and not a dollar was spent in “advertising.”
That’s just one example and one of the original success stories of the new marketing reality. To stand out in a saturated market, you have to change your mindset—think beyond direct mail invites to your workshop; go where your prospects are, and your competitors are not.
With that mindset and outside of the box thinking, there are a few key takeaways that you should consider for your business:
Growth Hacker Marketing Tips for Your Financial Advisory Firm
1. Iterate. The technology industry continuously evolves to meet their user demand. Here is where many financial advisors fall short—what worked 10 or even 5 years ago is not as relevant today. It’s a new economy; you have new clientele and new demands for their financial savings. Protection of assets may have been what your previous “senior market” clientele was interested in, but your boomers may be more interested in protection of their expensive lifestyle in retirement. If your company still looks and sounds the same from when you first started, one could argue you’re not evolving with the times. When Airbnb (which is now more valuable than most hotel chains and has no tangible assets) first started in 2007, it was a bed and breakfast concept for business travelers who could not find a hotel in San Francisco’s crowded market. Recognizing user usage and feedback, they quickly abandoned the breakfast component of it and iterated into a company that focused solely on lodging anywhere imaginable.
Takeaway: Are your services staying consistent with your client’s usage and needs?
2. Refine. Like Airbnb, much of the success of the tech industry is based on adapting to user interests, habits and feedback. Instagram began as a social network with an “optional” photo component. They quickly realized that users were flocking to the photos and filters and retooled to become Instagram as we know it today. (And it sold for a billion dollars 18 months after doing so.) Get feedback about your company from your top clients, employees and community. Conduct your own focus group with 10-12 of your ideal clients to find out their perception of your business. (A “how-to conduct focus groups” by Forbes can be found here.) You don’t want all people, but just the right people, to become clients. Getting feedback from that core group is going to be critical to reaching your business goals.
Takeaway: Refine your message and how you position your services until you find the right combination for your business and ideal clients.
3. Reengage. With the right service and message mix, reengage with your community. Not just through direct mail, but through more nontraditional methods as well. Think big!
- Partner with a local healthcare network for a health and wealth drive
- Work with a local RV dealer and be their go-to resource for people interested in an RV but not sure if they can afford it
- Become a sought-after speaker for local organizations and corporations
- Hire a local celebrity spokesperson to lend some recognition your way
- Sponsor a charity and promote your affiliation through your company (take some inspiration from smile.amazon.com)… Think big. And then do big things.
As always, you will need to work within the guidelines of your compliance, but don’t be afraid to challenge them with your new ideas!
Takeaway: Every market and advisor will be different but think of something crazy—something really “out there,” and then strategize on how you could possibly make it happen.
In the new marketing reality, you don’t want to “buy and hope” your advertising dollars work. That strategy isn’t good enough for your client’s money; it shouldn’t be your business marketing philosophy either. The goal of marketing is to spread the word to the right people by any means possible. It doesn’t take a lot of money to create a lot of opportunity. It takes big ideas and the tenacity to see them through.