In this installment of Perspectives in Financial Services, Laura DeGraff of Alden Investment Group offers four strategies for making digital marketing work for financial services companies.

Although the financial services industry as a whole has been slow to embrace digital innovation, growing numbers of divisors are leveraging expertly designed websites and social media engagement to convert leads at impressive rates. According to a 2018 Putnam survey, over 92 percent of advisors who regularly use social media to promote their business reported gaining new clients through social media channels.

In a previous interview, Kimberly Lor of Lead Bank shared with us how investing in digital storytelling can help community banks expand their client base. This week, we discuss impactful digital marketing strategies with Laura DeGraff, the Chief Marketing Officer of Alden Investment Group, an independent financial services firm with a full-service broker/dealer and registered investment advisor entities.

DeGraff was responsible for jump-starting Alden’s web and social media presence when she joined the team several years ago. Here, she shares with us four strategies that transformed how Alden Investment Group engages with potential clients.

1. Use Your Digital Presence as A Sales Tool

Financial advisors thrive in a face-to-face environment, but many don’t realize the importance of a compelling, professional digital presence. When DeGraff joined Alden several years ago, she increased Alden’s social media presence, redesigned the website, and updated the company’s branding. However, DeGraff was surprised to find that her biggest challenge would be cultural — she needed to incentivize advisors to engage with the brand online.

“Even advisors that are 10 years younger than I am are hesitant to embrace social media as a marketing tool,” she says. “Social media marketing is new territory, and we’ve had to work to help them become comfortable with sharing on LinkedIn and putting themselves out there.”

To shift their mindset, DeGraff encourages Alden’s advisors to view the company’s digital presence as their key sales tool. “If you meet with someone and then leave their house or office, the first thing they will do when you’re gone is to google you. If you have a good website, if you’re mentioned on other sites, if they can find you in news articles, and they see that you have a strong digital presence, that lends a lot of credibility,” she says.

2. Create “Snackable Content” to Build Relationships with Leads and Clients

While cultivating a digital presence is an indispensable step, DeGraff knows that piquing initial interest isn’t enough to convert leads into clients. “Just getting people to follow you online is a big step,” she says. “But once you have that, you need to give them a reason to engage with you.”

For DeGraff, “snackable content” is that exact reason. Snackable content, she explains, refers to “little snippets of information people can digest easily and then share with friends and coworkers.” This might take the form of social graphics or well-designed data visualizations; for Alden, it usually takes the form of informative digital publications.

“We try to send out different digital publications and newsletters, giving people updates on the stocks they follow and other relevant things like that,” she said. “We’ve also started sending out press releases when new members join the team or when other exciting news occurs.”

3. Establish Trust with Brand Consistency

When DeGraff joined Alden Investment Group, it was technically divided into two entities: Alden Securities and Alden Capital Management. “They were essentially two entirely different brands,” DeGraff explained. “We needed to come up with a new name that summed up everything we offered.”

Under DeGraff’s guidance, Alden switched to Alden Investment Group, merging its two disparate identities, and adopting consistent design and messaging elements that clients and potential clients could easily recognize.

“Everything we do, we try to be consistent with it,” DeGraff explained. “The naming convention, the colors that we use, the simplicity, and the flexibility that we give our advisors — that runs throughout the brand at Alden.”

4. Draw inspiration from unexpected sources.

When building Alden’s new identity, DeGraff wanted to highlight their decades of experience while accentuating their fresh and forward-thinking approach. To combine tradition with innovation, she draws from established leaders in the financial services industry and inventive companies outside the industry.

“We try to draw inspiration from a lot of different sources, not just financial companies,” she explains. “We look at established financial institutions like Charles Schwab, but we’ll also add creative touches that don’t exist anywhere else in the financial world. We want to look distinctive — not like just another stuffy financial services company.”

DeGraff is especially proud of the illustrated images of Alden’s team members that feature on their “People” page. “The cartoon imagery isn’t financially related, but we liked that it looked young and modern,” she said.

By building a consistent and distinctive brand, financial services companies like Alden are using excellent design and content marketing to redefine client outreach and engagement. In an increasingly competitive market, merely having a website is not enough. To attract new clients and retain existing ones, financial services institutions need to prioritize digital strategy across the organization — from IT teams, to marketers, to individual advisors.

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