Merrill Lynch Closes The Curtains On Cold Calling, Signaling A New Era In Financial Advisor Prospecting
The curtain has been pulled back, and the era of cold calling in financial advisor prospecting is slowly coming to an end. With Merrill Lynch’s decision to ban trainee brokers from making cold calls, the industry is moving into a new age where prospects want meaningful interactions with financial advisors.
According to The Wall Street Journal’s report that broke the news of Merrill Lynch’s change of policy, barely 2% of prospects cold-called answer the phone. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes it even harder to meet leads face-to-face to close a deal. Thus, Merrill calls for financial advisor prospecting to change tactics. The report noted that prospects have more confidence in their decision-making power, making it important to invest in softer, high-converting lead generation methods.
The Problem With Cold-Calling For Lead Generation
It’s much harder to convince anyone to buy a product or service with a cold call. Prospects want to research for themselves so they can ask the questions that matter most. Cold calling feels like a forced, often unwelcome interaction that can cheapen your brand and tank your credibility. It is also an inefficient use of time, money and valuable resources that could be allocated to more reliable methods of lead generation.
Merrill Lynch’s ban on cold calling should be a moment of reflection for the industry, as well as a catalyst for financial advisors to adapt the modern prospecting methods and reliable lead pipelines needed to create lasting success. These include:
Search Engine Optimization & Online Reputation Management
SEO and ORM are long-term, increasingly essential approaches that can lead to powerful pipelines for business growth.
What Is SEO?
SEO is the process of optimizing your website and other online platforms so that they rank higher in organic search results. SEO is a long-term strategy, and there are many tactics you can use to improve your site’s visibility; including on-page optimization, link building, content development and keyword strategies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend of consumers discovering and researching service businesses online. An SEO strategy makes it more likely prospects will locate your website or services when they need them.
What Is ORM?
ORM is all about taking control of what people see when they specifically search for you or your firm online. It means demonstrating credibility through positive news articles, reviews and engaging content. It also means monitoring your online presence to ensure you don’t have negative news stories, disclosure events or unflattering reviews ranking high in results.
An effective ORM strategy will help you close a new client when they get to the phase when they are researching and vetting you – and they will Google you before trusting you with their financial future.
Comprehensive Media Strategy
A comprehensive media strategy is key to generating more leads. It’s about making sure you have a balanced mix of owned and earned media, along with having marketing mechanisms in place to funnel that content to your desired audience that translates into tangible business.
How do you generate content and credibility? You’ll have to create more owned media content. Owned media includes things like blog posts, social media posts, books and podcasts. Additionally, a public relations strategy can help you generate earned media placements such as broadcast appearances, features in digital and print news articles, and award announcements.
Take it from Twitter influencer and Ritholtz Wealth Management co-founder and CEO, “Downtown” Josh Brown. Brown told MarketWatch that his company’s ability to form bonds with their current clients and broaden their scape of potential clients through owned and earned media sets them apart from other companies. “I figured out that the investment business is actually a communications business,” said Brown.
Learn How To Distribute Content
Once you spend time creating owned media and generating earned media, you need to have a strategy in place to distribute that content to you target audience and leverage your PR success. Email marketing is an excellent way to stay in touch with your audience and at the same time update prospects on the latest company news. With as little as 500 subscribers, you can run an effective email marketing campaign. It’s also more cost-effective than other marketing strategies.
In addition, LinkedIn and social media activity can significantly boost your credibility and lead generation efforts. LinkedIn is a very effective marketing platform and is the number one channel B2B companies use to distribute information. It accounts for 50% of all social traffic generated to B2B websites.
The more you’re engaging on social media and through email marketing with helpful information and sharing your expertise through owned and earned media, the more you’ll build your credibility and expand your client base. You’ll also put a face on all your online interactions making it easier for clients to trust you.
Key Takeaways For Advisors
The WSJ report has a lot of truth financial advisor companies should think about. As you will realize, the digital era has drastically changed how prospects want their information packaged. In fact, they are more empowered. They want more information-packed and engaging prospecting based on genuine connections that don’t feel intrusive or forced. Focusing on your SEO, ORM and comprehensive media strategies can help your brand finally put cold calling to rest and adapt to modern methods of lead generation that achieve maximum, long-term success.
Brian Hart is the Founder & President at Flackable, an award-winning public relations agency representing financial and professional services brands nationwide. To learn more about Flackable, please visit flackable.com. Follow Brian on Twitter at @BrianHartPR.