How to Hire the Right Marketing Agency for Your Financial Practice
Hiring the right marketing agency is an important decision—you pour your time and energy into your business day after day, so when you spend its resources (money or time or both) to advance its growth, those resources better be well spent. As an advisor, the decision to outsource your marketing can be especially complicated—once you decide to hire an agency, how do you find someone who understands your unique industry and won’t get you into trouble with compliance? How do you know the agency you hire will be worth your time and money?
Like I said, it isn’t easy.
Just like advisor marketing itself, finding the right agency to work with your financial firm comes with a unique set of considerations. In this blog, we’ll provide some helpful guidelines so you can find an agency that will help your business grow, keep you out of compliance trouble, and ultimately make your life easier.
To start, the marketing firm you hire should be three things:
#1: Highly Experienced
One of the most important “rules” of hiring the right agency is to find a firm that has ample experience working with advisors. That’s because many of the traditional (and trendy) marketing strategies most agencies use won’t work for an advisor’s business. Instagram and other social platforms are extremely popular right now and as such, they’re strategies a savvy marketer might suggest—but they likely won’t work for an advisor.
Not only are these platforms typically not allowed, but reaching advisors’ target markets usually requires different strategies altogether. It’s an important, often lifelong decision when people choose their advisor—and not one they take lightly. They’re looking for someone who they can trust with their livelihood and the wellbeing of their families, and they’re generally not looking for that person on Instagram. The bottom line is, there are a ton of creative and timely strategies that a well-meaning agency might suggest—but if the agency hasn’t worked in the financial sector before, many of those strategies won’t be effective (or allowed) for an advisor.
Apart from potentially wasting your time, this can also be frustrating for the agency because they can’t leverage time-tested strategies they know to get results. They won’t have benchmarks with which to measure your progress, and it’ll be difficult to set expectations and create a repeatable process. Because of that, they might want to charge you additional fees for the time it takes to sort out your strategies. You’ll also likely spend more time explaining compliance rules—which of course, defeats much of the purpose of outsourcing.
An experienced agency will offer effective ways to leverage current trends while also working within compliance boundaries. For example, they might suggest a modified lead generator for your website—if you’ve ever tried this before, you know that adding a lead generator might seem like a compliance impossibility, but a firm that’s familiar with the industry will know that you can create one so long as you adhere to specific rules.
A marketing firm well-versed in the financial industry should have a solid understanding of basic compliance regulations, as well as a system for discovering unfamiliar rules before they cause an issue for you. Some rules vary from broker to broker, which means an agency might be educated about compliance rules for a particular broker, but not as well-versed in another. But that’s okay—a reputable agency will take time to learn what’s allowed for your specific situation, even if they haven’t worked with your parent company before (or if you’re an independent agent). And because experienced agencies are well-versed in the compliance arena as a whole, they’ll know what they can and can’t do without first getting approval from your compliance department.
That said, there are some regulations that apply to all advisors, and the right agency should be aware of these too. For example, the former inability to include testimonials on an advisor’s website was a ruling determined by the SEC, so it applied to advisors at any company. The right firm will not only be willing to gain an understanding of your broker’s regulations, but possess knowledge of these broader rules regulated by FINRA and the SEC.
Most advisors grow their business through referrals, rather than directly targeting strangers—that said, measuring your ROI for relationship marketing requires a little more digging. But that doesn’t mean agencies that focus on this type of marketing can’t provide proof that their strategies are effective. Agencies that have experience working with advisors should be able to define how and why their methods help advisors grow.
Additionally, they should be able to help you determine what methods could be most helpful for your situation. Experienced agencies will have a conversation with you about your practice and your goals and be able to outline a tentative strategy from there. They should also be able to provide case studies or examples of their work so you can get a better feel for their capabilities.
Finding the Right Agency
Now you know what you’re looking for, how do you identify if a particular agency is the right fit? One way is to ask a fellow advisor—if you know a peer who’s had success outsourcing their marketing, ask them who they work with. Your broker also might have a list of approved vendors they recommend. If you start your search outside the financial industry (by asking other business owners or friends), you can use the questions below to determine if a specific agency will be a good fit for you.
If you’re considering different agencies, here are a few questions to ask them:
- Have you worked with financial advisors before? As we mentioned above, there are multiple reasons you’ll want a firm that knows the financial sector inside and out. Ask the agency how long they’ve been serving advisors and other financial professionals—if it’s less than at least 3-5 years, you might want to consider other options.
- How do you handle compliance? While every broker is different and, in most situations, the advisor will be the one interacting directly with compliance, a reputable agency should still be able to give you an idea of how they navigate compliance rules. You should also ask if they charge additional fees for compliance revisions.
- Can you provide case studies and/or proof of ROI? The agency should be able to explain if and how their strategies have delivered measurable results (even if they can’t reveal specific client information).
- What are my options for services? Some agencies bundle or package services together, so you end up paying for three or four things when you only need one or two. To avoid paying for services you don’t need, try to find an agency that offers one-time projects and retainer services for your ongoing initiatives.
- What do I need? While you probably have some idea of what you need or want from your marketing, a great agency should be able to help you decide what’s necessary and what isn’t, what will work and what won’t, and what your marketing priorities should be.
Ultimately, the right company should be able to guide you through the marketing and branding process similar to how you guide your clients through their financial plans. You should be able to trust them to keep you out of compliance trouble and they should make your life easier, not harder. There might be questions for you to answer along the way, but if they know what they’re doing, the right firm should be able to familiarize themselves with your business, offer specific recommendations, then take the ball and run with it. After all, one of the goals of outsourcing your marketing is to keep it off your plate so you can focus on what you do best.