For companies looking to target financial advisors, a consistent and useful message is what resonates.
About two years ago, Brinker Capital, a $10 billion money management firm, and its AOR, Middleberg Communications, sought a way to add value to the services the company provides to its financial advisor clients.
The two entities also noticed a shift in the financial services industry whereby advisors were selling many financial products, a system that had replaced direct sales between the company and the consumer.
For those reasons, they created the Brinker Barometer, a quarterly index of data (collected via a 25-question survey) about how Brinker's advisors will be investing, what they think of the markets, and where they are looking to invest in the future. This year's Q1 Barometer asked about the US' economic outlook, and 64% said they were highly or somewhat confident; 16% said they were indifferent; and 21% said they weren't very confident or not confident at all.
"Advisors are interested in anything that's creative," says John Coyne, president of Brinker Capital. "What you have to do is tell [them] something they don't know. That's where the Barometer really delivered."
Results from the Brinker Barometer are now sent to both prospective and existing financial advisor clients, a total of about 4,000. The team also distributes PowerPoint presentations so the information can be shared with clients.
Moreover, the media has taken an interest, which raises the profile of both Brinker and the Barometer. The Barometer has been covered by trade outlets like Financial Planning and Investment News, financial outlets like Bloomberg and Fox News, and mainstream outlets such as The Miami Herald and the AP.
"Because we cast a wide net when we send out [the results], more advisors are saying this is an interesting, useful business tool," says Scott Sunshine, principal and MD of the financial and corporate practices group at Middleberg.
The right approach
Financial advisors - both retail and institutional - are data-driven people. They're also inundated with facts and figures each day. For communications efforts targeting this group, the way to rise above the din of voices is sharing nuggets of information that help advisors get an edge over their competitors.
Not only has the Brinker Barometer served as a means to engage further with the financial advisors in its database, the company is also gaining traction with financial advisors at large. Anecdotally, the company says there has been a viral effect between financial advisors and their peers, one that is furthered by press coverage. Later this year, Brinker and Middleberg will do an analysis of new advisors to determine how many came into the Brinker fold due to the Barometer.
"Anything that raises your profile in the minds of advisors, even in the minds of their clients, [will] always be a positive," Coyne says. "This is a wonderful population to gain references by word of mouth."
Brinker also shares the results with Web sites like TheStreet.com and MarketWatch, and even blogs like Wizbang and Gateway Pundit. The company sees it as a way of laying the groundwork for the future, when the means for disseminating information to financial advisors will expand to include more digital media.
"At this stage, those advisors that serve the ultra-high- and high-net-worth investor are not utilizing blogs, except to gather information about particular subjects from bloggers who are specific for financial," Coyne says. "As assets travel from this generation to the ones behind it, blogs are a much more familiar part of daily activity. It's a great long-term production for us. I see it as a work in progress to develop the next generation of advisors."
Of course, tried-and-true outlets like The Wall Street Journal still hold the most sway for building credibility and targeting financial advisors and their stakeholders. But broadcast outlets, such as CNBC, are just as influential with this audience because of their ubiquity.
"Walking into any [financial advisor's office] in the US, you'll see a flat screen TV behind the receptionist with CNBC on it. Office to office, you'll see each broker [with it] on their desktop," says David Polen, founder of Polen Capital Management. "At this point, it's as powerful, if not more [so], than the WSJ was 15 or 20 years ago."
Polen Capital, a nearly $500 million money management firm specializing in large-cap growth organizations, has worked with its AOR, Dukas PR, on media outreach that has garnered Polen four appearances on CNBC in recent months, among other media hits.
In light of the current economic situation, repeated appearances with a consistent message aim to demonstrate self-assurance, a quality that financial advisors find appealing, says Richard Dukas, president of Dukas PR.
"During volatile markets, it's important for our clients... to speak to the press and show confidence in their investment thesis," he adds.
Talking about the investment approach anecdotally can also appeal to financial advisors. Polen says he invests in companies like Microsoft and uses his media appearances to demonstrate the research and analysis used to make long-term investments.
"I [must] convince financial advisors we have that core competence," he says, "that we're an intelligent investor, and you can come to us if that's what you're looking for."
Information financial advisors want to hear
The unknown winner
Advisors are always looking for that under-the-radar company that demonstrates value
Numbers are easy to e-mail and can be used for different marketing purposes
What other advisors think Advisors want to gauge their perspective against what their peers are doing
Management firms that have invested in a company can speak with authority about that business and their experience as an investor
Advisors want to know stock information, as well as details pertaining to the company's business structure