A fresh, and cheap(er) approach to digital marketing
Content marketing for advisors has changed quite a bit since the mid-1990s when I first became involved in personal financial planning.
Back then, many advisors contracted with a firm to private label a canned printed newsletter, which the provider would address and mail to the advisor’s list for an additional fee. The alternative was to have the newsletters bulk shipped to the advisor’s office, where they would be addressed and mailed.
Later, e-newsletters and digital content in the form of professionally written articles became available to advisors. These could be formatted and emailed as stand-alone pieces or incorporated in to e-newsletters, websites and blogs.
Today, there is no shortage of content out there, though much of it is of questionable quality. Even assuming that an advisor has access to good quality content or the advisor is willing to create it themselves, distribution can be a problem.
How do advisors get relevant content into the hands of clients and prospects? How do they track whether clients and prospects are reading the content? How do advisors encourage them to share the content with their circle of contacts?
I have looked at many content providers and distribution systems over the years, and with the exceptions of perhaps Advisor Briefcase and Vestorly, I have found most to be sorely lacking.
That being the case, I was pleasantly surprised after my initial encounter with Financial Media Exchange. Not only is FMeX a highly polished new entrant into the field, but the exchange offers its product at a disruptively low price that should put fear into the hearts of competitors.
WHAT IS FMeX?
There are a lot of products on the market that offer advisors digital-marketing platforms, and each one is a little bit different.
Although FMeX is fairly easy to master, the site provides a Getting Started page when users first log in for the first seven days, to get them acquainted with the features of the platform.
Here are some of the features FMeX provides:
- A content distribution platform. Some services offer content, but they don’t offer a robust method of distributing the content to client and prospects. The FMeX distribution platform is quite robust. Users can tag people on the list with keywords and then create targeted distributions based upon those tags. This is particularly intriguing for broker-dealers and other potential enterprise clients because even those who have created much of their own content may find that FMeX provides a superior distribution platform compared with their current one, and it can be white-labeled for institutional installations.
- Branding. When advisors sign up for the service, they fill out a profile section. The information provided is used to populate the branding on all the content that an advisor shares with clients and prospects. This can include contact information, firm name, a photo and more.
- A robust articles library. The site offers more than 5,000 articles licensed from established financial publishers. All articles are available in three formats: HTML, MS Word and PDF. These articles are updated regularly to ensure that the information is current.
- Editorial content. FMeX maintains its own editorial board. The board issues weekly insights on breaking news, as well as in-depth articles
- Distribution of premium third-party content. For an additional fee, users can subscribe to content from third parties. For example, FMeX users can subscribe to some Morningstar content for a reasonable fee. Buying it through FMeX allows users to leverage the content through the FMeX distribution platform.
- Newsletters. FMeX includes a total of 15 e-newsletters that advisors can distribute to one or all of the people on their distribution lists.
- Videos. There are more than 50 FINRA-approved videos that advisors can distribute to clients and prospects.
- Social-media and sharing capabilities. From right within the platform, advisors can publish any of the available content to a social-media channel, an individual on their mailing list or a group of people on the list.
- Analytics. This features offers the ability to track whether a client or prospect opened a piece of information an advisor sent, how long they looked at it and more. These analytics provide useful intelligence that allows advisors to better target future communication to their audience.
- Mobile. FMeX uses responsive design constructing its website, so it looks good on virtually any mobile device.
Although FMeX is fairly easy to master, the site provides an introductory, getting started page when you first log in for the first seven days, to get you acquainted with the features of the platform.
FMeX is a comprehensive, well-rounded system with very good content for a very disruptive price of $395 per year.
By contrast, MarketingPro, which is a less robust system, charges $825 annually with a $295 initiation fee.
A similar suite from FMG Suite, which includes a website, costs $170 per month, plus a set-up free, which ranges from $300 per month to substantially more. Back out the $50 per month that FMG Suite charges for a website, and advisors get a value of $1,440 annually.
Not only is FMeX less expensive, a number of observers at the recently concluded T3 conference said that it is better and more comprehensive than anything they have seen in the marketplace.
Although that's a matter of opinion, it is difficult to argue with the fact that FMeX is a compelling value. Furthermore, the product is still new, and the firm intends to add additional features.
If there is one area that could be improved, it is the integration with popular customer relationship management software packages. There are no application programming interfaces that allow for the sharing of contacts between CRM systems and FMeX, though apparently, ones for Redtail and Salesforce are in the works, so for now, advisors must upload their lists via CSV files.
Because FMeX is a new platform, only time will tell whether it can handle volume and manage its growth, but the initial outlook is positive. Advisors who need a strong digital marketing platform should give FMeX serious consideration.
Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist, is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today conference series and technology guides for advisors. For more information, visit JoelBruckenstein.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FinTechie.