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David Newson: Strategic digital marketing for financial advisors

Strategic digital marketing has emerged as a critical tool for financial advisors looking to expand their reach and connect with clients in meaningful ways.

With the advent of digital platforms and technologies, the landscape of financial advisory services has evolved, demanding a shift in how advisors market themselves and their expertise.

In a recent Action! article, we explored the realm of digital marketing for financial advisors – exploring key insights to enhance visibility, engage audiences effectively and ultimately drive business growth.

One of the people highlighted in that article was XNW Digital's founder David Newson. He strongly believes that digital marketing is the primary pillar of the firm's growth strategy.

I had the opportunity to further discuss digital marketing with Newson. Click the video below for some tactics to help you master the nuances of digital marketing.


Suleman Din: David, thank you so much for joining us today, again, we really appreciate your expert insights for all the readers of Action! magazine. A great topic that a lot of folks are really interested in right now – digital marketing. You had a very specific focus, you talked about client behaviors. I just wanted to get an understanding from you in my first question. For anybody who reads this article and is thinking about their marketing approach, what is the importance of understanding client motivation and behavior in the outreach and then the way that you present your firm in any kind of marketing effort? 

David Newson: Really interesting. I consider myself a behaviorist. I am completely and utterly obsessed with how consumers or potential clients make decisions. How they move through the world and what those implications are for them as they move through life, especially when it comes to hiring a wealth management firm. Those relationships tend to be deep and last a long period of time. What's interesting to me is really understanding how those humans move through the world – from what types of things they consume from a reading perspective. How do they wake up in the morning and move through the world? What kind of coffee maker? Is it pour over? Is it an automatic machine? How do they actually move through the world? Then those are actually sending us signals as marketers. 

At the end of the day as a marketer, what is my number one goal? My number one goal is to magnetize the right audiences to our brand where it makes the most sense for them. This isn't about digital marketing and pushing things in people's faces and attempting to force behavior. It's about creating magnets out in a marketplace. And we do that through a variety of tools today, but predominantly through content and proper building of a funnel, if you will. But really at the core of it, it's about really understanding human behavior and either uncovering a need that someone does not yet have filled or magnetizing them to something that they know that they need and creating this desire for them to take the next best action, whatever that is, wherever they are in the funnel. 

Din: When you talk about magnetizing and digital outreach are there specific tools that advisors can use to help them understand how well of a job they're doing, how to manage and measure the content that they're putting out there and the engagement that they're getting?

Newson: Absolutely! Many, many, many tools. It's not free, but it certainly does not necessarily show up as a line item on marketers' budgets, it can, but let's talk about just the creation of content. In my opinion, in a perfect world content is being created by the experts that we have inside of our firms. So, hopefully, we have our internal experts creating content that's relevant. The reason why you want to go to the client-facing teams is because they are sitting at the very front lines. They are in client meetings every single day. They know what is on the hearts and minds of our entire client base. 

In a firm like Cerity Partners, that number is north of 22,000 clients. If you can imagine at scale how many client meetings are happening. That's a wonderful input into a marketers’ universe to understand the intersectionality of where our advisors are meeting our clients and their needs. Then we take that content and run it through a process.  Every advisor is completely different – some are really great at creating outlines and marketing needs to kind of step in and flesh that out, or some folks are really great at creating 2500-word pieces. Most people have a hard time getting through that whole thing, but what's beautiful about that is if you have a 2500-word piece then you can atomize it in your digital ecosystem. So you can take 2,500 words and there's a certain type of consumer out there that wants to consume long, long, long-form content. They want to get into the weeds. They want to get into the details and really understand the nuance of that particular issue. There are others that want sound bites and that's where ads work really, really well. There's also lots of folks in between where it's like, hey, just take a part of the issue, make it relevant to me in this moment. 

You can create these, you know, what we just call the atomization of content. But starting with content as this piece with which you can put out into a marketplace or put out into the world, it doesn't necessarily have to be a marketplace, but you put it out into the world. There are going to be potential clients out there who are performing searches on Google every day, all day for very specific things. Where ads work really well is if someone is in the market for wealth management services at that moment, which I mean, you think about it, like if we're talking about truly high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth consumers, that's a small number of people that are actually looking to make a change in any particular hour of a day, right? That's why we have long sales cycles that can go three, six, 12, 18 months. I've seen it 24 months, I've seen it 36 months, depending on the complexity and the friction that is potentially involved with making a change. 

So I think what we do is we start with content, we start with tools that are available to any marketer – how much traffic is coming to your website, what type of content is actually being consumed, you can measure those details. The moment we switch into the paid world where we're talking about whether it's a professional network like LinkedIn, or we're talking about Google search and its display network, or even custom placements like a high-quality publication that you know your target audience is consuming and you do some very special programs in those types of publications. The beauty of it when you do it digitally is it's measurable. Since we entered kind of this digital world with the advent of lots of digital tools, let's call it Web 2.0 – certainly wasn't really there for Web 1.0 – and now we're starting to talk about Web 3.0, that's gonna bring with it a whole other host of possibilities for both consumers and marketers. I think you can measure those things better than we have ever been able to do before. 

Din: I think you've covered much of what would constitute my second question, however, for anyone who sort of reads this article and you know reads those particular case studies for Cerity and the other kind of firms and feels inspired. You've got a structured system obviously in place, but for say a smaller IRA that wants to embark on this project of their own, what kind of advice would you kind of give them sort of as a starting point or just to get the ball rolling if you will? 

Newson: This is interesting. It's a great question and it's also very interesting with what has happened in the world in the last 12 months. This is where we didn't talk about it necessarily in the article, but In this issue of the magazine, it is discussed and that's the advent of generative AI – and the advent of generative AI even in marketing land when it comes to financial services. I just got back from attending TED AI in San Francisco where I was actually able to listen to the people at the forefront of thinking and creating like ChatGPT – it was just absolutely mind-blowing what I've experienced the last couple of days. 

Let's say I was a solopreneur, right, or an ensemble shop in our market, or as an RIA or as a smaller advisor team or group, I would engage with ChatGPT and like the paid versions, right? It doesn't have to be ChatGPT even, Anthropic has Claude. Their messaging around Claude is that they are attempting to be more ethical AI. So it's on somewhat better guardrails in its responses. It's going to disclose when – ChatGPT is never gonna tell you it's hallucinating – and Claude is supposed to help you know when it's hitting the boundaries of its rails and it's gonna like signal that back to you. But I would engage these generative AI tools and actually talk to them like you – just pretend it's a marketing expert – tell ChatGPT I want you to sit in the shoes of a marketing expert and I want you to give me both the reasons why I should take an action and how you thought about it. How did you come to this decision? So you can actually allow the generative AI to reveal to you how it arrived at some of its answers, right? 

I like to tell ChatGPT please treat me as though you are a marketing consultant at McKinsey. I want you to give me best-in-class advice. And when you are giving me a recommendation, I want you to disclose why that recommendation is coming. I'm having conversations with ChatGPT all day, every day. And same thing with Claude, I've got Claude open and I've got  ChatGPT open. And so for smaller shops, I would absolutely be having a conversation with ChatGPT about what can you do. Let's build a marketing plan together, what might that look like? Here are the details of my firm. ChatGPT knows what a registered investment advisor is. Okay. It knows what that is. It even knows that if you were to ask ChatGPT who Cerity Partners is, it has some idea about who Cerity Partners is and it's pretty accurate. I was having a conversation with my CEO and he agreed. He's like, that's a pretty accurate representation of who Cerity Partners is. Okay, wonderful. All right, I'm glad ChatGPT has that right. 

But if I were a smaller shop, I would definitely be engaging ChatGPT with every moment of that build of a strategic marketing plan. And you can actually put parameters around it. Like, Oh, what can I do if I only have $100,000 to spend this year on marketing? How should I be? Or let's say like, let's even confine it even more. I only have $100,000 to spend this year on digital marketing in total. What are my highest and best investments from an ROI standpoint in the digital space when it comes to financial services marketing and this is my target audience? But you need to give it lots of input, right? 

But I will also say telling it who your target audience is, telling it how much money you have to spend, telling it what industry you're in, that's not proprietary data. So don't get hung up on, “Oh, I'm giving away the secret sauce.” No, those conversations are being had. It's not like it's going to take it from one conversation and dump it into another. That's not happening. Now, what you want to avoid is, you know, you shouldn't be uploading your client list to a generative AI that's irresponsible and lacks responsible use like things. But there are some very general things that you can do with ChatGPT that I think would give small businesses or smaller teams the ability to compete with firms like mine. 

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