2017 Marketing Planning: The Year of a Change Management

In an industry that hangs their hat on flagship funds, star portfolio managers, and performance, it’s evident that investment management favors product marketing, sitting in the back of the class on marketing innovation.

Yet, the unprecedented amount of changes occurring in our industry is creating a perfect storm of resource divergence in order to stay compliant and support our audience through the shifting landscape. As we adjust for the DOL ruling, get acquainted with robo-advisors, and connect with millennials, we may have to reconsider the concentration of product marketing and take a top-down view; undertake the role as a change agent and partner with financial advisors through this evolution. It’s time to have some fun, break through the monotony of promoting product and be strategic in planning; be lean in solving for all.

Planning beyond a compliant, DOL transformation
 
We have all recruited a cross-functioning team (hopefully) to digest the DOL requirements and we’ve started evaluating the necessary concessions needed by April. With 2017 planning upon us, not only should we be prioritizing resources to meet these requirements, but we also need strategies to meet the needs of our audience. Supporting advisors through the changes in their practice will be imperative to the strength of industry, but also an opportunity for brands to flex as change agents. More than ever, advisors will be seeking partnership with their providers in adapting their practice at a foundational level.

Robo-advisors as a way to build or retain business through DOL
 
I think we can all agree; financial advisors will not be replaced by robos and algorithms. That said, DOL has a ripple effect of implications and compensation is the 800-pound gorilla that will be wrestled. As marketers, when we start to develop strategies to support advisors through the DOL transition, building programs on how to use this technology within their practice is clearly an opportunity, particular in building and retaining business. While this concept of advisors using robos is not novel, but we need to break-down the silos between the execution of DOL and the marketing of this emerging technology. Consider converging resources to leverage robo-advisors as a solution for DOL, instead of attacking individually.

Educating Millennials, post-DOL
 
It’s no secret, the industry is trying to attract this generation, but there is barrier for fee-based/fee-only advisors who characteristically serve higher net worth individuals. Young individuals may not feel the typical yearly fee is appropriate, given they’ve only accumulated a small amount of assets. But as more advisors transition to a fee-based practice, they will need to open their scope of clients, appealing to millennials in order to maintain their business. A seasoned FA, who previously didn’t build or retain clients with smaller assets will likely be adopting technology to support this generation of investors. Marketers need to be ready with resources to educate this “digital native” audience, not simply on the benefits of working with an advisor but by leaning into the value of a hybrid model –stealing a quote from my wife, “this is not your mother’s Mary Kay.”

At a micro level, DOL, robo-advisors, and millennials appear to be starkly different priorities in our 2017 planning, but using a top-down lens, this is embracing change. There’s an opportunity to reverse-engineer a single, targeted program that unifies resources to charm millennials by using robo-advisors and traditional advisory services as FA’s comply with DOL regulations.

We may be building on business goals year-over-year, but given extraordinary changes, we have to push the status quo of our marketing with a greater focus on our audience and their audience. In my humble opinion, innovation in 2017 is clearing the whiteboard, finding results in being damn good at solving specific needs for the approaching changes in advisors’ practice and demonstrating value to a generation whose life mentor is Google and social media. To differentiate, plan to anticipate shifting needs. It will be the year of change management.

Originally published at www.seangmccormick.com on August 26, 2016.