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Should Financial Advisors Buy Leads; are Lead Generation Services Worth It?

Ask any financial advisor and they’ll say the biggest challenge for their practice is getting a reliable stream of high quality, qualified prospects in the door. Should financial advisors buy leads? This article provides an analysis of the major financial advisor  lead generation companies as well as the pros and cons of outsourcing lead generation for financial advisors, RIA firms, CFPs, and wealth managers.

By the way, thanks for joining me.

For those of you who are new to my blog/podcast, my name is Sara. I am a CFA® charterholder and I used to be a financial advisor. I have a podcast in which I talk about financial advisor lead generation topics is best described as “fun and irreverent.” So please subscribe!

Sara Grillo, CFA is a highly fun and slightly crazy marketing consultant based in NYC.
I am an irreverent and fun marketing consultant for financial advisors.

Are Financial Advisor Lead Generation Services Legit?

We’ve all heard the incredulous statement, “Nobody looks for a financial advisor on the Internet.” The biggest question that most financial advisors have about lead generation services is about their legitimacy. The logical assumption is that if finding qualified high net worth individuals with money to manage is so hard for a highly credentialed financial expert, how could it be possible for some third party firm?

Let’s start with the question of what a financial advisor lead generation service is, shall we? A financial advisor lead generation service is a company that seeks to capture leads for financial advisors through the Internet. Many lead of them target individuals seeking financial advice through what is called pay-per-click advertisements.

How do these financial advisor lead generation services work? When somebody types in, for example, “financial advisor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin” or “how to get 401k advice in Tucson, Arizona”, ads come up which refer the person to a lead generation website where they can search for a financial advisor.

Once the lead is gathered, usually it is qualified and verified before being passed on to the financial advisor subscribing to the lead generation service. But do verify that before you sign up for the service.

Do people really seek financial advice through the Internet?  The times they are a’changin.

Can a financial advisor get leads through the Internet? Yes! With the digital boom, this is a huge opportunity for financial advisors serving the Internet-friendly Generations X and Y. They trust the Internet so much that they’ll go so far as to work with a Roboadvisor, for goodness sake.

If are a financial advisor looking to get leads online but does not want to buy them, you’ll need to put a repeatable process in place that you can execute inhouse. The video below talks about financial advisor prospecting on social media and gives some ideas of the approach to take.

Do Financial Advisor Lead Generation Services Work?

Are financial advisor lead generation services worth it?

There are three important things for financial advisors who are using a lead generation service to consider:

  • Competition
  • Degree of vettedness
  • Distance

#1 Financial advisor lead generation services increase competition among the financial advisors

One important thing to keep in mind about a lead generation service is the highly competitive entry point. Think about the online buyer’s mindset. By the time somebody has launched a financial advisor search, and especially if they’re doing this through the Internet search engines, they are “in the market.” The competition level has increased dramatically and it’s likely they’re already talking to a few other advisors, both online and through their own personal network. Everyone has that one uncle who thinks he knows how to trade stocks!

Then, the lead generation service itself sends the prospect multiple financial advisor profiles, not just one. You’ve got competitors coming at you from all angles. The analogy I would make is it’s like applying for a job on Monster.com. Once the job opening is posted, word is out and you’re competing with every qualified candidate on the street.

Now, that’s not to presume that you can’t successfully close the lead. It means that you’re not the only player in the game at that point. You’ll probably have to work harder to earn the sale than if you had come up with the lead organically.

#2 Not a financial advisor lead generation services sell truly high quality leads

My experience working with these companies has been that some leads are true financial advisor leads, while others are not legit. Some companies don’t bother to actually vet the leads and then you end up with a lead that’s not qualified, verified, or worth following up on. Check for the refund policy before you sign up for the service.

#3 There can be considerable distance from the prospect

The other aspect to consider is population density. If you live in a rural area, you might end up having to travel far to meet these leads if the conversation progresses.

Are Lead Generation Services for Financial Advisors Worth the Cost?

Most of these services render a subscription fee and some have an additional charge per lead. While many financial advisors cringe at the cost of a lead, consider this point.

If you had to create your own lead capture functionality on your own website, it would cost way more than a few couple hundred dollars a month. Consider the cost of an SEO consultant probably starts at about $500 per month at minimum, and that’s not even taking into account the amount of time your marketing person would have to spend producing content to place onto your website, as well as the thousands for your Google Adwords budget. And SEO isn’t immediate, either. It takes a few months before you typically see results. We’re talking about thousands upon thousands of dollars here. If a lead gen service is willing to do the work for you, you’re probably not overpaying.

However, on the other hand, there are several ways that financial advisors can get leads other than buying them. These include:

  • SEO keyword optimized blogs and YouTube videos
  • Social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Creating podcasts about retirement, college planning, and other wealth management related topics
  • Writing email newsletters
  • Attending in person networking events
  • Getting new leads through referrals/word of mouth

I’ve gone into more detail about ways for financial advisors to find new clients in this video below.

If you are caught up in what I call the small RIA firm poverty trap, for example, then the marketing budget may not be huge. But look at it this way.  The cost advantage of creating an inhouse lead generation system, instead of outsourcing it, is that once you establish a repeatable process that works, the return on investment can be quite favorable. In other words, the cost of a financial advisor lead can become lower once you establish your own way to find new leads.

Remember that for a small financial advisor firm, the internet is the great equalizer. You have to create what I called a financial advisor “big brand” but once you do that the return on investment can potentially be huge. There are affordable ways for financial advisors to market themselves using the internet without consuming a huge chunk of your salary. I offer a program that teaches financial advisors how to use LinkedIn messaging for example.

Analysis of Financial Advisor Lead Generation Companies

Let me start off by saying that I am not officially endorsing any of these companies; this rudimentary analysis is meant to inform and educate only. If you are interested, you should do your own research and contact the company directly. In the analysis below, I identify what I perceive to be what makes each financial advisor lead generation company different from one to the next. This is based upon my experience which is anecdotal and can not be presumed to apply universally to every person to participates with these companies.

What are the major lead generation companies for financial advisors? If you are a financial advisor who wants to buy leads, you may want to look at:

  • SmartAsset
  • Paladin
  • WiserAdvisor
  • GuideVine
  • Right Financial Advisor

I’ve analyzed each of these financial advisor lead companies below.

SmartAsset

SmartAsset attracts high net worth investors to their site by writing informative articles and offering other online resources to them. They then compel the investors to exchange their email address for these resources.

In my experience, I have found mixed results. I have seen that many financial advisors who buy leads from SmartAsset haven’t been exactly satisfied, however I have also heard from a few advisors that did have some amount of success in getting a few new clients. In my view this probably has to do with the way the leads are collected. If you are curious to learn more about this company then please contact me directly.

Paladin

Paladin provides not only lead generation services but also turnkey digital marketing services for companies without the marketing resources to set up a website, create a branding campaign, etc. They even offer compliance support. Paladin has been in business since 2003. I like that the company offers several different levels of lead gen service (Platinum, Gold, Silver) depending on what the advisor needs.

WiserAdvisor

Note that since the publishing of this blog, WiserAdvisor and Paladin are now one company.

WiserAdvisor has been in the business almost 20 years, and from what I can see this is the longest track record in the game. WiserAdvisor is strictly in the business of lead generation.

What strikes me about Wiser Advisor is that there seems to be much more third party commentary on this company than all their competitors. Perhaps this is a result of the company’s long track record. You can read what investors and even other financial advisors are saying in the 50+ reviews on TrustPilot and several other Internet sites.

GuideVine

Started a little over five years ago, GuideVine is the new baby on the block of financial advisor lead generation providers. While it maybe doesn’t have the longest track record, it does come with a few more bells and whistles than the other options. For example, advisors can make a video to introduce themselves to prospects and include it as part of their profile. GuideVine even has a team that will assist you with creating this video. The video feature is pretty significant, considering that seeing is believing and being able to experience the financial advisor on video is helpful to building trust.

Right Financial Advisor

Right Financial Advisor has a unique video chat feature that enables investors to connect with an advisor before meeting. It’s a great way to ease the pressure and make the investor feel more comfortable with the advisor.  From the LinkedIn company page it appears the company been in existence since 2013.

Financial advisor outsourced lead generation vs. financial advisor organic lead generation

Should financial advisors outsource their lead generation, or should they find leads themselves? The point I’ve made earlier in this blog can be summarized as this:

While outsourced financial advisor leads services may work sometimes, they can be very hit or miss.

So where does this leave us? Instead of buying financial advisor leads, you may want to consider organic, inhouse marketing done by the financial advisor him or herself.

The cold market gives most financial advisors the shivers. The way to warm it up? Branding. While brand is something that most financial advisors put last, taking the time to create a truly unique message will allow you to tap into underserved markets and drive leads to the sales funnel. Most financial advisors, however, lack the time and resources to dedicate in order to achieve effective branding.

Sara’s Upshot

If you found this blog helpful, please subscribe to my podcast below which goes into the subject of financial advisor LinkedIn messages and sequences in fuller detail.

Or, you could download my e-book.

I wrote an e-book called, “47 Financial Advisor LinkedIn Messages and Sequences that will NOT make you look Stupid. “ If you are a financial advisor trying to meet new clients over LinkedIn or other social media sites and you need some scripts, you can download it here.

I wrote this e-book for financial advisors who want to be perceived as high quality people on social media. The e-book contains 47 messages you can use on LinkedIn or Facebook messenger to reach prospects, COIs, and other useful connections that would benefit your practice.

I also have a membership program, helping people to be able to develop business with these more sophisticated clients. This program talks about content creating (blogs, podcasts, newsletters, etc) as well as financial advisor strategies for using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for getting new leads. I also talk about how to relate your marketing and lead generation to certain financial advisor practice management topics. For example, the profitability worksheet I discussed in this blog is a tool that I provide to everyone on my membership.

Thanks for reading and please stay with me for the next one.

-Sara

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Three Things To Add To Your Brand to Increase Conversions Online

Sara Grillo - Increase Branding Online Conversions

Generating qualified leads from the Internet is a huge challenge for most financial advisors. The good news is that with a big brand this task becomes infinitely easier. This article will discuss the three critical areas of your brand that you can customize for higher online conversions from your social media.

Take the Time to Customize Your Messaging

With the million posts on social media going out every single minute across the world, if you are posting generic content then it’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to get ignored. In fact it’s almost a given. The biggest culprits are news articles. The people you want to reach have probably already read these articles; and if they haven’t, they’ve probably already appeared in your competitors’ news feeds.

True, it’s way easier to plop down the latest hot article about retirement planning from the Wall Street Journal, but it’s not original. People love authenticity. If you post what everyone else does, you’re going to be viewed the same as everyone else. This is counter to your brand.

To give you an example of highly customized content, here’s a great LinkedIn status update posting by Jarrod Glandt, VP of Sales at Cardone Enterprises:

FEAR is an indication of GROWTH. In order to get to the next level, you must GO where the GROWTH is. If you don’t have any fears- get you some! #10X (Glandt, 2017)

Not surprisingly, Jarrod has over 9k followers. This posting garnered 134 likes and 6 comments – that’s super high engagement. Here’s what made this post successful:

  1. He talks directly to the audience’s goal (getting to the next level)
  2. He presents the problem (fear) and then the solution (growth)
  3. He uses a nice, customized hashtag that garners attention and curiosity
  4. He keeps the post short and to the point
  5. He doesn’t send you a link that you have to click, reducing distraction. This is a way of keeping your attention on him rather than a third party website.
  6. He keeps the status update personal and conversational rather than corporate

Way to go, Jarrod. You are a branding superstar. My only recommendation would have been to include some sort of image or photo to engage the audience visually. After reading this post, nonetheless, I’m motivated to learn more about Jarrod, what he does, what Cardone Enterprises does, and to follow him for future news. This goes way further than just posting some tired old sales article from Forbes. With just two sentences he’s drawn me in.

>>The more customized messaging you produce, the more online conversions you’ll get.

Include a Video

Branding is highly dependent upon emotion. The more emotion you get stir up with your brand, the stronger the brand. I’ve said it before in other blog postings on this topic. Social media video is the easiest and fastest way to get attention on the Internet. This is because seeing is believing and there is no better way to create a bond of trust between your brand and the audience than to appear face to face. If you can’t be there in person then reach them virtually this way. This is especially critical for industries where public distrust is high, such as financial services.

For some highly compliance oriented industries such as finance, setting out to make a video engenders fear of headache. Take it from someone who’s helped numerous financial advisors navigate through the toughest of compliance departments: it’s not as hard as you are probably making it. Here’s what I mean. You have to understand the mindset of the compliance department. There’s actually a very short list of fundamental things that they don’t want you to publish. Testimonials, guarantees of any sort, and most of all, simply just avoid talking about the market and making any forecast of any sort. It’s not as hard to get your marketing materials approved if you find a copywriter who understands this.

Where do you find a FINRA compliant copywriter? A helpful tip is to seek out a writer who has worked in the industry before and has held the Series 7 license. Many sales and marketing professionals, believe it or not, have had some work experience in this area. Consider that institutions such as AXA Advisors have probably recruited into almost every graduating class of every major college in the United States. If you do the math, there are probably tons of people who end up writing blogs as their careers that have been advisors in that two year program they got sucked into right after college!

Keep in mind you don’t have to create a Picasso every time. Just by creating video you’re way ahead of text posting. I’ve had tremendous success with social media video marketing, and most of my videos are semi or not produced, and last under 2 minutes. Here are some video marketing examples.

>>The more video content you produce, the more online conversions you’ll get.

Engage Brand Ambassadors

While it sounds like some hoity-toity campaign that only companies like GE with million dollar ad budgets are capable of, there are many different levels of brand ambassadors. Most of you already have one; there’s always that one person who likes every single update you put out there on social media. Agree? You know who you’re thinking of, right? It’s probably somebody you know.

My recommendation is to reach out to the person and have a discussion. If they love you that much, they’d probably be willing to produce a testimonial, participate in a podcast or webinar with their followers, or even actively promote your product to those in their network. You never know. There are many ways to work with a brand ambassador, some better for certain types of businesses than others.

This is a form of influencer marketing. Keep in mind that with millennials being half the workforce nowadays, you’re speaking to an audience base that loves user-generated content. Here’s where most people miss the boat on social media. The realer, the better. If you’re the one posting, they’ll always doubt what you say is real. If somebody else shares, likes, or agrees with what you say, your credibility rises dramatically.

>>The more you can get other people talking about you, the more online conversions you will get.

Sara’s Upshot

Authenticity is what matters most in any financial advisor who wants to get new clients. Learn the no BS way to use social media to get new clients by joining my membership here.

Sources

Glandt, Jarrod. (2017, June 1). FEAR is an indication of GROWTH. In order to get to the next level, you must GO where the GROWTH is. If you don’t have any fears- get you some! [LinkedIn status update]. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/in/jarrodglandt/recent-activity/