Big data may be a double-edged sword for advisers considering upgrading their marketing department.

"Data is sexy and scary," says Dynasty Financial Partners' new marketing director Gordon Abel. "A lot of people are talking about it and it has a lot of promise. But a lot of times people don't know what to do with it, and too much data can be paralyzing."

"Data is sexy and scary," says Gordon Abel, Dynasty's new marketing director.

Abel is well qualified to discuss the subject. Before joining Dynasty earlier this month, he spent 14 months at Google as head of industry, financial services and oversaw digital marketing as an executive director at JPMorgan Chase. He also headed digital marketing for iShares, continuing in that role after the firm was acquired by BlackRock in 2009.

Marketing may be particularly challenging for the types of advisers attracted to the Dynasty platform: break away high performing wirehouse employees who are striking out on their own as independent RIA wealth managers.
"At the wirehouses they had guiderails and didn't have to worry about marketing," Abel says. "Now they do."


By helping wealth managers "make more informed marketing decisions," data has become critical in helping them make the leap to independence and grow their business, he notes.

To avoid being overwhelmed by information, Abel cautions that advisers need to "strip out" irrelevant data and decide which three to five metrics have the most impact on their business. Good examples include measuring website traffic, volume of content downloads, time spent with video and surveys to monitor increase in brand awareness.

Data can also effectively be used to analyze search patterns, determine where web site visitors come from, the best time of day to post Twitter feeds and to monitor website content traffic to see what interests clients and prospects, Abel says.

A good CRM system, he adds, can help advisers measure a return on their marketing investment by tracking prospects as they move through the firm's system to see if they become new clients.

Marketers should "test, learn and refine" says Dynasty's Abel.


Advisers should also test social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and digital options such as YouTube as marketing options, Abel says, with the proviso that they "test, learn and refine" each.

Twitter, for example, may be best suited for advisers who want to communicate bite-size pieces of information quickly, while LinkedIn's business-to-business orientation makes it a better destination for longer thought leadership pieces geared to business development.

Facebook, on the other hand, may be a good place for advisers to make a "lifestyle connection" with clients and prospects, Abel says. And a YouTube video on how to learn to play golf or buying a car, he adds, may be the appropriate spot to "align platform with purpose."


Web sites should also be carefully scrutinized.

Too often, web sites are judged emotionally, Abel believes, focusing on the site's look and feel and copy, overlooking the importance of search engine optimization.

"It couldn't be critical to have the site fully search optimized across desktop and mobile," according to Abel. "You want the site's SEO to produce the best ranking possible so the site shows up in the first three to five search results."


Despite his digital bona fides, Abel is also surprisingly upbeat about marketing warhorses such as events and advertising.

"For one-to-one and one-to-few, there is no better opportunity than an event to convey your message," Abel says.
But advisers too often fail to effectively plan events and follow-up, he cautions. "If you're not activating people properly and following up after an event, it may not be worth the investment."

Advertising, including traditional print, radio and TV remains "a great way to build awareness," Abel says. But advisers should remember to leverage data so ads can be part of a more "targeted and refined" media plan, he adds.


Wealth mangers targeting sophisticated high-net-worth and ultrahigh-net-worth clients should take advantage of thought leadership as a marketing tool, Abel believes.

Whether thought leadership is expressed in articulating investment strategies or commentaries on news and public affairs, it should reflect the firm's tone, vision and personality.

"Thought leadership should reflect the firm's point of view," Abel says. "Marketing creates the lens and filter through which advisers can run the rest of their business."

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