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Communicating With Advisors In A Virtual World

 How are you reaching advisors? 
 

 

Blensley Point-Du-Jour is a Vice President in Marketing with Discovery Data. He oversees a team of marketing specialists who execute and provide best practices, support, campaigns, reporting and analytics. He'll be sharing some ideas and statistics on how the coronavirus has impacted advisor response. 

Awesome. Thank you for that wonderful introduction. Thank you for the SunStar team for including myself and Discovery Data in this dialogue. I want to start out just by kind of giving an overview of what Discovery Data does. We work very closely with SunStar on a couple of different projects. But what we are at our core is a data company that uses that data to do strategic outreach, give a lot of our clients in the financial and insurance space a lot of insight into how they can target, and also leverage those data sets to make sure that they're going after those individuals.

We've been a leader in this space for close to 15 years now and we've been marketing in this space for close to 12. We have a lot of insights into some best practices and obviously everything's been turned up on its head during this current year that we're in. With that said, data drives everything that we do and data should drive all types of marketing. And what we do is we have a robust data set and we like to keep it clean, and we want to go after people on our clients' behalf in a mindful way. It's very important that you think about who you're going after, because converting 10 people at 100 individuals that you're targeting is better than converting five people out of 100,000.

You want to make sure that you're doing precise targeting so that people know that that message is relevant to them, and that you're decreasing opt-outs and improving your deliverability. I won't bore this group with how all of those things affect how your email campaigns or any marketing campaigns that you have going out will decrease if you're not being targeted and you're not trying to be precise with who you're going after, but it's a very important thing to think about. When you're actually looking at your data, you want to keep that top of mind.

With that said, your data – how is it housed? You have your email marketing platform, you might have your social media platform or even a display ad platform. All of those things, you want to make sure that they're talking to each other so you want to make sure that your website, your CRM and all these other platforms that you might have prospecting data or client data housed in are talking to each other. And what that allows you to do is really keep it mindful with the way that you're targeting these individuals based off of their engagement. Here are just a couple of fun facts that we do internally when we do this marketing and how much data we have on our side so that we can make sure not only are we being mindful on our clients' behalf, but we're being mindful for our clients on our recipients' behalf.

Some of the other things that we like to cover with precise targeting is making sure that you have enough data on all these individuals. Have it at the firm level, the team level and then also at the individual level. 'Cause depending upon what your marketing outreach entails, you might want to go after the whole firm or it might be relevant only to particular individuals at that firm. It's important that you stay mindful of that as you're targeting all these individuals with your marketing outreach regardless of that channel.

Speaking of channels, us here at Discovery Data, we always like to approach things with an omnitimal approach. Obviously email is one of the best channels to go after, especially during this time. We're all home, we're reading more emails, but we're also getting a lot more emails. That just goes back to the precise targeting. But with all of that said, you want to meet people where they are. Email is one place where everyone is living right now, which could also reach some people with targeted ads, telemarketing which is making that phone call or hiring a call center to do those outbound calls. And then from a content creations standpoint, now more than ever you want to have rich content. People are sitting home, they're reading stuff online, they have more working hours throughout the day. Webcast, podcast, webinars, your PR, what news outlets are you using – all those things, you want to be even more mindful of it because people are taking more time to read through all of that content as you're reaching out to them.

Now some people always ask me, what's the use of omnichannel, why do I want to do omnichannel. A lot of times when you look at your dataset and you're doing email. Let's say you've done email for three years, five years. You're going to drive opt-outs no matter where you go or if you use an agency or if you do it internally. Opt-outs are going to happen. How do you keep filling the top of the funnel to drive audiences to your website or drive people to that webinar, drive webinar registrations. You can mix those channels. If you look at the diagram that I have on my screen now, there's a portion of people that we can email, but there's also people that we may want to call, or there's also people that we can only serve up display ads to.

But the great thing about mixing all of your channels together with email is once you make that phone call or once you show them a display ad and they land on your site and they start engaging with the form, or they attend one of your webinars, you can consider those people opted in. Maybe send them another communication via email or text and ensure that they explicitly meant to opt in. But that gives you another entry point to make sure that you're engaging with all of these individuals in a mindful and respectable way.

I already kind of touched on it, but I'm going to dive a little bit deeper into it – email. I know for all the marketing people on the phone and even all the marketing people on the panel, I've had three great people go before me that touched on a lot of things that kind of intertwined. They made my job a little bit easier. They warmed you guys up for me. But email is always the channel that I like to make the foundation once we actually get through the data. And with your email marketing, it's a cost-effective channel that you can go out to these individuals with, but it also allows you to get a lot of content in front of them. You're sending them that email message, you're going to make sure that it's clear, it's relevant to your audience, and you're being timely with it. And with the email messaging you can start to drip on these individuals and you can also drive them to your website or drive them to do a webinar registration. All of these things will allow you to give them a deep message, but without annoying them.

Email is a great channel in comparison to text messaging, because text messaging is such a heavy touch, it disrupts people's day versus email being something even if you email them and they might be a prospect or they may have not opted into receiving your communications, they'll at least look at that and say hey, maybe I'm interested, I'll come back to it, but you're not overly annoying them. One of the main things with email that I've noticed, especially during these trying times that we're in is the reception of content – how much time people are actually spending on your email content before they abandon it or take action. With that said, you want to keep your content very minimal, especially during this year because like I previously said, they're receiving a lot more communications, they're getting a lot more marketing sent to them – not just in the email channel, but across all other channels. You want to make sure that you grasp them right away. With that said, you want to make sure that you have a good subject line, you get straight to the point with your content within your email and you have a clear call to action so that they can take action should they see it fit.

Obviously with every marketing channel, you want to have some best practices. The ones I want to focus on are for email right now. Us here at Discovery Data, we send tons of emails out in addition to all of our other channels and how does that actually perform for us. These are the actual numbers that I want to share with you from 2019. Over the course of that year we've sent out over 170 million emails. With that we had a delivery rate of 91 percent, open rate of 7 percent and a click-through of 3 percent. This is what we did with service and close to 200 clients. And how are we able to maintain all these rates? We do a lot of A/B testing, we always include personalization, which is something that you should definitely do. You want to monitor deliverability.

Individual emails that you may have sent out that may drive a higher bounce rate, meaning it didn't reach people's inboxes, or a low click-through rate, what do those people look like? You want to analyze that data. And once you actually analyze that you want to pivot and just keep on testing. Marketing is always a guessing game with best practices, so you want to make sure that you're always trying new things because everything changes a little bit on a per firm basis. All the emails that you want to send out, you want to make sure that you include your branding and make sure that's clear front and center, regardless of if it stretched your logo or your slogan or a short mission statement at the top of the email. You want to make sure that you're driving that brand awareness with every communication that you send out to anyone that you're engaging with.

And then the last part that I'll touch on, and I kind of touched on this with deliverability reporting, you always want to make sure that you're paying attention to reporting, you're looking at those trends, whether positive or negative, and making changes as you go along. Like I said, once you actually start your email marketing or if you've already been doing email marketing, you really want to dive into those details to make sure that you understand how people are engaging with your content individually.

The next channel that I want to touch on very briefly is targeted ads. One of the great things about targeted ads is that it works complementary to emails and some of your other marketing channels. Same thing as email, it's a light touch, so it's people ending up on these individual websites regardless if you're doing it very targeted or if you're just going through the Googles, the Facebooks and the Bings. You want to make sure that those targeted ads really follow the brand awareness of your website and your email so you have that full holistic view. A lot of times when you start your marketing you're going to get some engagement with that first email or get some engagement with that first targeted ad. But the number one thing is that you want to build brand awareness as you go along. Regardless of what that channel is, you want to make sure that you have consistent branding across all of those channels, and targeted ads is a great way to meet people where they are while they're surfing the web, whether they're on the financial site, if they're checking their social media in the middle of the day, or if they're just simply looking for a new home. You'll be able to meet those people where they are depending on what they're doing.

Another channel that I want to briefly touch on is telemarketing and telerecruiting. That's picking up the phone, having that conversation with individuals. I'm not saying you as an individual should be doing it, but if you have a team of people or if you have a firm that you could go out and hire to support you with this. Us internally, we often pair our channels, meaning we have email in conjunction with call center. And what that allows us to do is from the email standpoint we're able to get a lot of content in front of people in a mindful way, they have the historical information and they're digesting it on their own time. What the call center allows us to do is really figure out why did you engage with our content? Why didn't you engage with our content? Or why did you get halfway through the process? Tell us a little bit more. A lot of times you're not going to get people on the phone, but once you actually do get those individuals on the phone you get a deep understanding into how your marketing message is resonating with your prospects and/or your clients.

I have some metrics in front of you right now. I'm not going to talk through those. Obviously that human call, that human interaction, it could be a little bit annoying. The only thing that you should keep in mind before you start cold-calling people, have they engaged with your content previously. It's a good argument to think about if you've sent out let's say six emails and the individual has actually opened up four of them. I would beg to argue, I tell my clients you should go ahead and call these individuals. Engage with the individual. 'Cause a lot of times what you need to be mindful of, especially when it comes to the digital marketing and things that happen online are what's their firms allowing them to do. Are they on their company computer and they're not allowed to go to particular websites? Or if they receive one of your emails and they click through, can they actually see video on their company's computer? You never necessarily know, so you want to always go back and look at all that information. And if you can bring in a call center to further qualify those individuals, it can never hurt. 

The next thing I want to cover here, and I'm going to talk about webcasts, podcasts and webinars, but it gets a little bit deeper. Right now, I think everyone that presented today, we're in a new norm. Everyone's working from home. Although some people are going to their office, everyone's not in their office and they're not able to go to those in-person meetings or dinners or to conferences and all those things. How do you get some long form content in front of these individuals? How can you actually engage with them? In webcasts, podcasts and webinars are a great way to engage with these individuals. A lot of people are spending a lot more time listening to podcasts 'cause it's an easy way of entry. I listen to podcasts when I go on my morning runs. I watch webinars at the end of my workday. If anyone has anything interesting from a marketing or the financial industry standpoint – so it gives you the ability to digest that content on your own time. Think about affording your recipients, your prospects, your clients that same luxury of digesting your content in long form on their own time. 

Melissa was just talking about PR and how that can work in conjunction with your outreach and how you should be engaging with these individuals. I feel like that's a natural extension of what these are. Obviously PR gets you through a lot more channels, but all of these are content creation mechanisms that allow you to really engage with these individuals on a holistic view on their own time.

I want to stop there. I moved through this kind of quickly. That was kind of amazing, but overall, when you think about your marketing and you think about how you want to reach out to individuals, just be mindful that they're home just like the rest of us. You want to think about those channels that you're going after and you want to make sure that you're being mindful of how people are engaging with your content regardless if they opt out of email. You might be able to meet them somewhere else, whether it's in social media which I think Bruce touched on a little bit earlier, or you might be able to reach out to them via some PR or some site content. Just because they opt out of one channel doesn't mean it's an end-all be-all. You don't know what their circumstances are, so just be a little bit mindful of that and don't stop your marketing. That's the last thing that I'll say.

I mentioned that we service tons of clients month in and month out, and especially when the world started changing in February and March, everyone was kind of asking, should we put a hold on this, should we move forward with this, what do these things look like for us. What we noticed is when marketing continued for the clients that we were able to encourage to continue their marketing stayed top of mind, keep that brand awareness going, they saw more uptake once people started engaging with things around that May timeframe. They really saw an uptake because people are actually engaging with their content and reading through their content and really digesting it. And when they were ready, they converted much quicker than they did in 2019.

 

Q&A 

 

Who should we email and how often?

I always say you want to think about what your offering is. If you're looking to recruit and it's a time-sensitive recruitment timeframe – so if you're trying to fill some staff by the end of Q4 you want to start engaging with these individuals on a weekly basis. I often, from a recruiting standpoint, we roughly send between two and four emails on a monthly basis depending upon who they're trying to recruit, whether it's advisors or trying to get people to move from a wire house to an independent. I would say look at your data, see who those individuals are, but at minimum on a monthly basis you want to be communicating at least twice.

 

How can I tell if our digital marketing is working?

With that, digital marketing is kind of a broad scope. If you're thinking about targeted ads, if you're going through Google, you can tell by conversions. You should be able to go into your Google Analytics dashboard and check those user sessions and see how long those user sessions are happening. And when that happens you should be able to track them onto your site and see how long those user sessions are happening, and if they've converted, meaning filled out that form or asked for more information. And you want to tie those things back. And if what you're spending on your Google Ads is less than what two conversions happened over a particular period of time, that's how you know it's actually working.

 

How do we implement a digital ad campaign? Where do we start?

There's an array of things that you can do to start a digital marketing campaign. If you have internal resources like a marketing team or one or two marketing people, they should be able to get that started for you through – I always like to start it with Google, but you also, and Bruce touched on it very nicely, the LinkedIn. You want to live there. You're talking to professionals. You're trying to convert these professionals. LinkedIn is a great place, Google is a great place, Facebook ads are a great place from what I've seen from what we've been doing, especially this year for a lot of our clients. If you don't feel comfortable and you don't have an internal marketing team, I know these great folks at SunStar have some digital resources that they can recommend to you or support you with, or you can go to an outside agency. But I'm going for SunStar 'cause we've worked with them before and they've done great work.

 

Should we conduct additional outreach to those who show interest through a call to action on my email?

I would say absolutely. I think Melissa touched on it during the previous presentation where you want to retarget people. If they land on your page and they click through on an email, you want to have that automated step in place to make sure. If they've clicked on your email but didn't fill out a form you're retargeting them within a day or two. Maybe even three days. If they've clicked on two emails but they haven't filled out that form I would give them a call, and I think I kind of covered that during that telemarketing portion. But you don't want to let anyone that's shown any level engagement fall out of the bottom of the funnel. A lot of times people are clicking through just to do a little bit of research 'cause they're evaluating. They want to compare you to other firms, they want to compare what your offering is, so you want to make sure that you stay top of mind and that'll also speak to the type of service that you'll give those individuals once they're actually ready to do some business with you.

 

Should we stop marketing due to COVID-19?

Absolutely not. I've already touched on this, but I'll reiterate. Marketing should never stop, especially in a digital space. You want to make sure that you're staying top of mind. You want to make sure that you're there to support your prospects and your clients and you can take them through that. And a lot of things that we've done during this pandemic or during this COVID-19 time has really bore a lot of our clients' fruit. And one great thing that I will say, I'll reference a client that we were servicing. They were hosting conferences where we'd start the marketing for them roughly three, four months' out. They'd try and get advisors to fly out to these conferences and spend three, four days with them on networking and education. Obviously when February hit all of that had to stop. We brought this form to the table, obviously virtually, and we had a conversation with them and we said we'd like to transition your stuff. What we actually did was what SunStar quickly did with this event was we took it digital, we brought it online and they actually saw no hiccup in engagement and onboarding of individuals, and it was all through the web through webinars. And with that said, you want to make sure you have it coordinated just like we have this event today. Very organized, make sure that you're staying timely with those things and make sure you're just capturing that data and reengaging those individuals after you have those digital events.

 

In addition to email, what medium should we use for outreach?

This is a great question and I'd say let your data give you that answer. If you have let's say 100 people in your data warehouse or 100 contacts, let's just use simple terms, and you've been sending out emails to them and you may have driven let's say 20 opt outs, that's 20 percent of your target audience. Who are those 20 individuals? Are they advisors that are between the age of 25 and 30? If that is true, I would say think about digital marketing. Meet them on the web regardless of their lifestyle or anything. That age group is living on the web. If you have advisors that are let's say 60 and up, my parents are 60 and up, they use digital marketing like anybody else, but they're still attached to that mail that they're getting in the mailbox.

I have a lot of clients that we pair email with actual physical direct mail and it bears a lot of fruit. Now with that said, should you want to go down that direct mail route, you want to make sure that you're tracking. With every direct mail piece that we send out, we have digital tracking codes and QR codes on that direct mail piece so we can show our clients ROI on the actual spend. 'Cause although email is the most cost-effective, direct mail is a bit more expensive so you want to make sure that you're tracking the ROI on direct mail much more than you are tracking it with email.

- Targeted Ads

- Direct Mail

- Social Media

 

Can you give any stats on emails with images versus not text-heavy versus brief?  

I can. I'll put that together for you. If you can share your information with anyone on the SunStar team, I'll make sure I coordinate with them and give you some deep information about that. It's tailored towards audience, but right now I can tell you, you want to have images and text in your email, but that ratio of text to image should be 70:30. Last year we were doing 60:40. And then text-heavy versus brief, you never want to go too text-heavy in an email. You want to give them the tagline, you want to draw their attention and have them spend that time on your website. What does that do? That allows you to really put more information in front of them, allows them to dig deeper into who you are as an organization and a firm and to really choose how they're going to reach out to you. Are they going to fill out that form? Are they going to spend more time on your website over the coming weeks and then fill out that form? My recommendation for all of my clients that we service is you want to do short form, get straight to the point via email, but take them deeper once they're on that website. And taking them deeper could be videos, whitepapers, thought leadership content, any of those things that myself and the rest of the panel has kind of touched on during today's conference. All those things can hold true to that. 

 

What are your thoughts on email that look like they came from marketing systems versus those that are formatted like a personal email? Which are more effective?

I'd say both of them have their place in the world of marketing. If you're prospecting, you're going after individuals that have never heard from you or have not raised their hand, those you want to send from your organization. And the most important thing, you want to make sure that they don't feel like they're being spammed or taken for a ride and they're able to get that brand awareness once they receive that. Once you actually have established that brand awareness, someone has filled out a form, and if you have local individuals that will be making that one-to-one connection, once someone's raised their hand you can convert to those personal emails, that one-to-one, and it's branded towards that individual in the area, and that's the way that I would convert between the two. But overall, if you had to choose between the two I always like to go with company branding. The company will be there much longer than any individual there.

 

How can I determine a message based on my audience?

When creating content it's important to think about who you are speaking to. If you want to cover firms with a high  AUM you want to consider they are very busy so go with short form content.