This article isn’t really about marketing.
We’ll get around to talking marketing strategy eventually, but before we get there, I’m going to start out in technology.
Primarily, I’m going to focus on the kinds of client experience that advisor technology (AKA Fintech) companies should be providing for advisors and end investors.
The client experience created by a fintech company’s software filters through to its users (financial advisors) before it then trickles out to the advisor’s users—the individual investors.
When a fintech company creates end-client-facing software, like a client portal, it builds the digital client experience for a financial advisor to offer to clients.
For years, the message from fintech companies to advisors has been about how their technology can help keep the advisor “front and center” or “top of mind” in their clients’ financial lives.
And that’s a good idea. An advisor should probably be the first person a client thinks about when they want to get financial advice, after all.
But technology experiences that require “front and center” attention are usually what come paired with that idea of the advisor always being “top of mind.” Creating a plan, logging into a portal to view accounts—more often than not it’s all an experience that necessitates focused attention and maybe even a desktop computer.
The problem is that while focused attention is still sometimes necessary, that’s also not really how we experience technology on an ongoing basis.
Technology now is about simultaneous experiences. And in close relation, marketing today is about creating simultaneous content experiences that can be consumed quickly and easily.
But as I mentioned earlier, before we get into the marketing we need to delve into the technology.
So first, let’s dig into how we experience technology through non-focused means.
Being able to reach people where they are means reaching them while they are doing something else.
People are too busy (or simply too preoccupied) for a marketing message that asks for their full attention. Tech companies have recognized that trend, and they’ve been building experiences to accommodate it.
At its heart, it’s all about mobile.
The Nintendo Switch is a video game system built for anytime, anywhere gameplay. Since its release in March of 2017 it’s sold nearly 23 million consoles, and that number is only going up.
Here’s why the Switch is a big deal: When the Atari 2600 started the home-based video games trend, you were stuck with a wired controllers and if you wanted to play a game you stayed a few feet in front of your television.
The Nintendo Game Boy made mobile gaming a reality, but mobile games never reached the same potential and level of computational power as home-based consoles.
The Nintendo Switch brought mobile gaming and console power together into a single package.
The Switch doesn’t have to require a player to be in any specific location for them to play a game. It can be docked for the full gaming experience on a 60-inch screen at home, or you can undock the system and take it on the go as a handheld for a fifteen-minute gaming session on public transportation.
It’s a simultaneous experience. You can play a game, while doing something else. Your focus might be on the game, but you’re also able to accomplish something else at the same time (like going to work, instead of sitting on your couch).
Nintendo’s Switch is the mobile gaming revolution on steroids. It also provides a template for how to provide a digital financial experience for the twenty-first century investor.
We need to provide experiences that can be short and impactful in a brief amount of time. Can you say that about the technology experience that you provide to your clients?
Great technology is something you can pull up on your phone and not break out of the moment you’re currently experiencing.
Brief example: I would, at times, watch football this autumn through Hulu while pushing my kids on our backyard swings. See? Technology is making me a better dad.*
(*Statement not tested. Accuracy not guaranteed.)
Functional technology that lets you view information quickly or complete tasks in seconds, not minutes, is what advisor fintech has to do to stay relevant.
If I’m curious about an account balance or maybe even my total net worth, I don’t go to a website from my financial advisor and I don’t check my retirement account balances at a custodian website.
I log into Mint, which aggregates all of my accounts and all the other assets, like my home and my cars. And right there, a second after I’m thinking about it, Mint displays what I want to see in a big green card that takes up almost the entire screen on my phone.
It’s quick and it’s something I can pull up and review while watching a show on Netflix and barely break my concentration on the show.
A decade ago, and likely even more recently than that, a financial advisor would have had to tell their client to go on their computer and log into their client portal to accomplish a similar kind of account check up. That scenario would have required me to pause the movie, walk to another room in the house, and take a few minutes instead of a few seconds.
This is what I mean when I say technology needs to be about simultaneous experiences.
You’ve got to remember, the digital experiences that clients get from Hulu, Netflix, Mint, Nintendo—these are the experiences they expect. This is what they’re comparing you against.
Gwen Jorgens, director of client digital experience at RBC Wealth Management, said it as well as I’ve seen when she said “Clients aren’t comparing us to their last best financial services experience. They are comparing us against their last best digital experience.”
There are so many applications for how fintech companies can create more transformative ways for advisors to interact with and provide better digital experiences to clients.
One of the most obvious is new client onboarding. If I need to open a new account with an advisor, I want a link that I can access while I’m on my couch so I can get that application done during Monday Night Football—not taking up a Monday night filling out paper forms.
I want aggregation that pulls in all my accounts so I don’t have to manually key in all these things. If I have to stop and go look for information, I’m far more likely to put it off entirely, or take much longer to get it done than it should.
The financial services industry is slowly but surely moving toward technology use that makes it fast and simple to complete tasks that used to be headaches.
MoneyGuidePro is doing some interesting things with their new Blocks feature, which lets clients add to or adjust individual parts of their financial plan, instead of overhauling the entire thing at once.
We’re also beginning to see better paperless onboarding processes (See the latest news about Orion Advisor Services and TD Ameritrade’s digital account opening integration) but there is still a lot of progress to be made.
The good news is that if the mortgage lending business can do it, then I feel pretty confident financial services can figure it out as well.
That same attitude and approach for creating technology experiences that clients want is the same approach that we need to take with marketing.
In the same way that we use technology in bite-sized chunks, marketing content should be designed to be consumed quickly as well.
There’s a good reason why a bite-sized approach to content marketing is a good idea: You’ve got about two seconds to hook your reader.
Bite-sized doesn’t mean that all your blog posts need to be 200 words or that your website homepage should be a couple photos and one massive headline. Instead, it’s an approach to creating content in such a way that it can be read and understood quickly.
If the reader wants to dive in and keep reading, that option should be available, but the initial message is the one that has to capture attention quickly.
Here are a few marketing principles to live by when creating content that your website visitors can consume alongside all the other things happening their lives.
Use big, readable, glanceable headlines
Avoid catchy, go for informative
Write short snippets of copy that communicate benefits over features
Speak directly to the client instead of speaking about yourself
Above all, think mobile. It’s estimated that 75% of all web traffic will be from a mobile device in 2019. Reading large chunks of copy on your phone isn’t ideal—even with the ever-increasing screen real estate available on phones creeping up into tablet territory.
It’s better for individuals if they can take five minutes while watching their favorite show to add something to their financial plan, rather than taking fifty minutes to meet with their advisor to do it.
It’s better for them to scroll through your site in 30 seconds and see that you’re addressing their problems and questions than to spend thirty minutes figuring out how all the accolades and decades of experience you have position you best to build their retirement portfolio.
At the foundation of it all is an understanding that whether you’re creating technology or content, the needs of the end-user (in our case, individual investors) have to be put first.
Looking for someone to help you refresh your marketing, create new content, or speak at your next event? Get in touch with me here.
Featured Image: Geeky Shots on Unsplash
I’ve worked in the financial services industry for many years, and articles may at times contain references to either past or current clients.