COVID-19 has upended advisors’ professional lives with many disruptions, including the abrupt halt to in-person meetings with clients. The power of persuasion across a conference table or through a warm handshake has been replaced with long-distance video calls and e-signatures.
But financial advisers who spot in this upheaval the opportunities to use digital marketing to pull in more prospects and leverage technology to fill the void are winning new clients from farther distances and strengthening longtime relationships during the pandemic.
“We’ve compressed the next three years of technology adoption into three months,” noted Joel Bruckenstein, co-founder of the Technology Tools for Today (or “T3”) conferences during a recent webcast titled, “How Wealthtech is Impacting the Advisor of the Future.” He endorsed the idea that most financial advisors aren’t early adopters of technology.
Yet embracing technology during the pandemic has increased closable prospects. It also has allowed firms to provide customized advice to more clients — or to offer more services to existing clients who are happy to pay for the additional help. The new standard of virtual meetings also takes a firm’s geographic location off the table, adding both opportunity and competition for advisors across the U.S.
Digital Marketing Brings Most Prospects
The real opportunity for business growth today lies in digital marketing, said Andrew Altfest, CFP, MFA, president of Altfest Personal Wealth Management, in the webcast. This is true particularly in a COVID world, which has obliterated face-to-face meetings and sped up technology adoption in the financial planning industry.
Agreeing with Bruckenstein’s comments, Altfest added, “Technology’s everything right now! Sales 2.0 for us combines an amazing digital experience, human advisors, content marketing and relationships with strategic influencers. As a result, at Altfest we have generated the most prospects we’ve ever had this year – with our two largest new clients many hundreds or thousands of miles away, even though we’ve hardly had an in-person meeting since March.”
Altfest acknowledged the financial planning industry has fallen behind by relying too heavily on traditional circles of influence for referrals, missing chances to capitalize on 21st-century advances in digital marketing to expand client bases.
For example, deploying digital marketing techniques, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven platforms and working to better leverage information about client preferences stored in customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce makes all the difference, Altfest indicated. Technology helps his firm put its name in front of new kinds of prospective clients through educational webinars, targeted email campaigns, social media postings and more.
Enabling Premium Service At Scale
Using technology also allows firms to go beyond bread-and-butter retirement planning to upgrade their service to tackle clients’ more advanced financial issues, such as tax, estate or insurance strategy. These kinds of services can’t be delivered at scale without technology. “The more we upgrade from the cash-flow plan to the more complicated issues going on in a client’s life, the better the chance of conversion,” Altfest explained.
“Without technology enabling us to attract, nurture and then deliver a premium, advice-led experience, we would never had been able to have this success,” Altfest said.