Updated: February 18, 2021, with a new section for chatbots.
The old adage about business is that you’ve got to spend money to make money
And while there may be some truth to that, it doesn’t always hold, especially when you’re talking about marketing.
Say digital marketing to the average advisor and they’ll probably think of things like social media and blogs, but they’ll also ring up some dollar signs in their eyes as they think of the next step—digital advertising.
Whether it’s ads run on Google, Facebook, Twitter, or more sophisticated retargeting ads that follow website visitors across the Internet, it’s true that ads are a big part of many firms’ digital marketing strategy.
But a sophisticated and well-run digital strategy doesn’t have to be all about spending money. In fact, you can create a digital marketing strategy built largely on an array of free tools.
As a small business owner myself, I’m always on the lookout for tools that can save me time, but also save me money.
In that vein, here are some of the best free marketing tools for financial advisors, many of which I use to create and promote content for Three Crowns.
*Some of these tools do offer paid tiers.
A lot of content strategists only want to talk about social media when they can pivot the conversation to running ads on those platforms. But the platforms themselves are free, and you want to think of them primarily as publishing tools and an entry point for conversations you might never have the chance to access in-person.
A chatbot is an application that lets you instantly connect in real-time with prospective clients visiting your website. You’ve likely seen chatbots before and maybe even used a chatbot with a business through their Facebook page using Messenger. There are a lot of choices you can make here, but MobileMonkey is well-priced (there’s a free version!) and gives you all the features you could want and more.
In addition to letting you engage in an immediate and dynamic conversation with someone, instead of asking them to fill out a static contact form, you can automate your chatbot to provide predetermined responses to commonly asked questions. As a financial advisor, you still need to keep archiving regulations in mind when you use a chatbot like Mobile Monkey so you will need to store these conversations just like you would with any other. If you’re a lower risk personality, using canned responses can be an attractive way to implement a chatbot right away.
(Pro Tip: Need advice about storing chatbot chats? BackStop Compliance provides RIA-specific consulting to guide your workflows here.)
When it comes to email marketing solutions, there are two that stand out for me. One is Mailchimp because of its ease of ease, expansive list of integrations, and ability to store up to 2,000 contacts on the free tier. The other is Hubspot’s free CRM. If you need a basic CRM for notes, tasks, and contact storage, this is a great place to start. You can also send up to 2,000 emails a month, and as one of the leaders of marketing automation software, Hubspot knows how to craft a simple, intuitive interface.
Everyone is doing video now and if you record on on your smartphone, it couldn’t be easier. My two favorite apps to record short clips for sharing on social media are Clipomatic and Apple Clips. Both auto-transcribe and caption your videos for you, but while Clipomatic costs a few bucks, Apple Clips is free for iPhone users.
Anchor makes podcasts as simple to start as downloading the app. If you’ve ever recorded a voice memo, you already know how to use Anchor to start making podcasts. Beyond podcast hosting, Anchor has some cool features like syncing podcasters with paid sponsorships.
There are a lot of apps you can use for scheduling your social media posts, but my favorite is Buffer. Set a schedule and create tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, and LinkedIn posts that load automatically into the next time slot. Buffer’s free plan is fairly limited, but the fast-and-easy UI makes it easy to stay on top of your schedule.
Canva is my go-to place for creating social media images. It’s also a great place to grab design templates for your larger content projects like ebooks or case studies. The workflow couldn’t be easier. Choose your type of project, select a design, and then customize it however you want.
Heatmaps are visual overlays on top of a webpage that show you where visitors scroll, move their mouse, or click the most. If you want to get started with simple tracking that’s quick to set up, Hotjar is the best place to start. Heatmaps are useful in helping you see how visitors are actually navigating through your site so you can make better design decisions, e.g. if the top-right corner of your page is red-hot, that may be a better place for your contact button than the lower-left of the page.
Ever been to a website that has a banner over the top of the screen? Probably. It’s all over the web these days. Usually the banner asks you to sign up for a newsletter or shows you a recent news announcement. And actually, it’s a pretty great tactic to get more subscribers and contacts. If your website traffic is less than 5,000 a month, HelloBar’s free tier is a simple way to get started with adding these types of conversion tactics to your site.
There are more ways to get visitors to come back to your site than to sign them up for your email list. Subscribers gives you the ability to send push notifications whenever you add a post (yep, just like how you get notified from your favorite apps on your phone). It’s a clever way to give people more options for engaging with your content.
Creating content all the time can be tough, but it can be easier when you know what’s working. There are lots of keyword tools you can use (hello, Google Keyword Planner) to find new keywords and see which ones you’re ranking for already, but Ubersuggest is easier to read for newbies. Type in your site URL and get right to understanding your organic SEO ranking over time and what keywords are driving traffic.
Sites like Vimeo and Wistia deserve a shoutout, but YouTube is the place for hosting your videos if you want to make your content super-searchable and findable by search engines. There’s no cost to sign up and having your own channel gives you one more place on the web for people to discover you.
Copy and paste that latest blog post you wrote into Hemingway to see how it ranks for readability and if you’ve written anything in a confusing way. Hemingway identifies how many adverbs you use, instances of passive voice, and sentences that are hard to read. At the end, it tells you how readable your content is based on grade level. If you write but don’t have an editor to look things over, Hemingway is invaluable.
Sometimes the best pieces of your marketing strategy don’t even have to come from tools specific to marketing.
As a financial advisor, you already use a lot of technology. Maybe you use a CRM like Wealthbox, Redtail, or Junxure; an advisor technology platform like Orion Advisor Tech; risk alignment from Riskalyze; financial planning from Asset-Map; or even a robo solution like Betterment for Advisors.
Whatever tech stack you have, you can leverage it in the marketing you do to clients.
No, you’re not going to namedrop all these technology solutions on your homepage, but you can take the capabilities they give you in the back-end to beef up your front-end messaging and create a more unique value statement than “we’re a fiduciary” like everyone else.
Now to be clear, none of these tools are free…but your ability to talk about how your services are enhanced through the capability boost you receive from them comes at no cost beyond the time you put into it.
You don’t need to use all or even most of the tools listed in this article to find success in your digital marketing, but if you’ve been looking for a specific solution to a problem, I hope this list helps you find what you need.
Articles may at times contain references to either past or current clients.
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Featured Image: Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash