Savvy, growth-oriented advisors are taking advantage of an exciting new reality. Clients simply don’t need to be serviced locally anymore. According to the fourth annual Financial Advisor Marketing Benchmark Survey by Broadridge, over one-third of advisors are already marketing outside of their immediate regions, and this percentage is increasing. 

Building a business based on a targeted client niche, spread across an expanded geographic area, can be an effective blueprint for growth. To succeed with this new model, however, advisors will have to make better use of digital marketing, content and personalization.

Advisory prospects and clients expect increasingly personalized service and relevant messaging. If an advisor expands their marketing reach but fails to make their marketing personalized and relevant, the outcome will be wasted time and money.  

A host of innovative products powered by content, data analytics and artificial intelligence are helping advisors answer that call with content marketing that breaks through the clutter with greater personal relevance. However, delivering personalized marketing that drives client acquisition and share of wallet growth requires Advisors to sharply define and understand the interests of their client niche, be it business owners, young entrepreneurs or pre-retirees. That usually means saying no—or at least devoting significantly fewer resources—to other prospects. In the past, that increased focus would have limited an advisor’s universe of potential clients, which were generally found within the advisor’s local market. Today, digital communications and a growing comfort level with virtual service allows advisors to pursue the perfect clients wherever they reside.

Let’s consider the classic marketing funnel analogy: Given that geographic proximity is no longer a barrier, advisors can now have a more tightly defined niche market audience and still have a virtually unlimited number of qualified leads entering the top of the funnel as anonymous prospects and leaving the bottom of the funnel as new clients.

1. Target audience definition: A digital marketing strategy for wealth advisors starts with a clearly defined audience. There was a time not that long ago when most advisors and firms defined their target only by a net investable asset threshold; an advisor might serve high-net-worth or ultra-high-net-worth investors. Today, analytic systems and digital marketing platforms let advisors pinpoint and reach a much more refined group of clients and prospects. Using these tools, setting an investable asset threshold of say, $1 million to $5 million is just a start. From there, an advisor might layer on a filter to find small business owners. Then, the advisor might specify older investors, many of whom will be starting to think about liquidating their businesses, retirement preparations and legacy planning.

2. Anonymous prospecting channel optimization: Once an advisor has established his or her target audience, the next step is usually to create a plan to generate prospects through in-bound, “one to many” digital communications. For most advisors, this will include primarily “paid media” in the form of digital display ads, pay-per-click search ads and advertisements on social media. Platforms like Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn have huge amounts of data on their users. Their business models are based on using sophisticated artificial intelligence platforms to deliver precisely the right eyeballs to their advertising and search clients. Because these systems are so good at what they do, advisors can pinpoint and deliver their message to the exact target group, quickly and cheaply. And because these platforms are used by consumers around the world, there are no geographic constraints. But targeting the right prospects must be coupled with the right content and messaging to engage them.

3. Qualified prospect nurturing: Once a prospect clicks on an ad or search engine result, targeted needs, based content can typically get the prospect to identify themselves in exchange for valuable insights. Once they identify themselves, personalization can be dramatically increased. Many wealth management firms make the mistake of thinking about digital marketing purely as a sales lead generator for their advisors. But in most cases, it will take more than a single phone call from an advisor to win the business of someone who clicked on what looked like an interesting link. Broadridge’s research shows that converting an online lead generally takes about 3.5 months, from the time the viewer “opts in” to the time he or she is onboarded as a client. That means advisors have to play the long game, building a relationship with the prospect through one-to-one communications.

A digital one-to-one communication strategy for nurturing prospects mirrors the digital personalized service strategies the advisor will employ for clients. The foundation of both processes is building a richer profile of information about the prospect or client’s interests, needs, preferences and financial and life situation. Advisors can collect this information from technology platforms that measure and record people’s digital activity. The consumer profiles these systems assemble can then be put to use by AI-powered platforms that recommends what content the advisor should be sending to the prospect or client, when they should send it, and whether it should be delivered via email, a phone call or some other channel. Some systems go beyond recommendations and actually automate the process of sending relevant content to prospects and clients. That will be a critical capability for advisors as they face the need to deliver personalized content at scale across a portfolio of clients.

Of course, advisors will need content to feed into their system. Vendors offer digital solutions that source the right content for specific groups, such as information on setting up retirement accounts for young workers, content about saving for a house purchase or college tuition for young families, or information on estate planning for older investors. The goal is to create relationships with prospects and deepen ties with clients by educating them about the topics they see as most important. 

These personalized digital marketing and service strategies become more effective as time goes by. As you market to and service a particular group, you get better at understanding and meeting its needs. As prospects and clients experience this high level of customized service, their satisfaction levels grow. The end result is an expanding portfolio of happy clients who share some set of common interests and needs. These satisfied clients are often motivated to reach out to friends and family who also fall into the target group with a referral for your business. Setting that virtuous circle in place starts with a plan—a digital marketing plan.

Kevin Darlington is head of advisor solutions at Broadridge.