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Digital Marketing and Financial Advisors - an Opportunity

We were shocked to learn how the big firms ignore basic digital marketing techniques

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Financial Advisors and Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing and Financial Advisors – an Opportunity

Most major wealth management companies and the financial advisors that work for them have a distinct disadvantage as it relates to digital marketing.

The big guns in the industry are afraid of running afoul of regulators so they don’t even do the basic / generic stuff correct.  This gun-shy approach to digital marketing forces them to spend more on branding and more on PPC advertising.

Seota has done a quick case study to show how the small financial advisors and wealth management firms can take advantage of the gap in the market. When you compete in a lucrative industry and the market leaders are afraid to do SEO and basic digital marketing, the opportunity to grab market share is ripe and easy picking.

This article will look at two major firms with slightly different approaches to digital marketing and then we will look at opportunities a small player in the space can take advantage of.

Merrill Lynch Doing Digital Wrong

Let’s start with Merrill Lynch. Merrill is a division of Bank of America and they have stringent social media and web policies, like most major firms. They have a local office in Frisco, TX and I know a few of their advisors personally.

A quick search for Financial Advisors produces results that contain advertising, Ten Search Listings and a Small Map showing three local advisors. (referred to as the Google Three Pack).

Merrill Lynch does not show on the page of search results and it does not show on the Google Three Pack. They have a beautiful office at the most famous place in Frisco – The Star. The office building is attached to the Dallas Cowboy practice facilities. The asset is going to waste when the office does not show up in maps. This is Cowboy country and I have no doubt that some prospects would set up a meeting with advisors at Merrill in Frisco just to visit the building.

It Gets Worse on The Map View

Navigation the three pack of Google map results you can click a link to see more results. The results of clicking to see more results on the map is below.

Financial Advisors Frisco TX Google Map Snapshot

This map view shows 10 financial advisors in Frisco, TX. Notice that Merrill Lynch is not shown, even thought their office should be front and center.

Merrill does have a couple of Google My Business Pages for advisor and even Google Business Websites – see one here – The GMB listings don’t appear to be helping an almost no effort is being made to improve the local visibility. There are dozens of things that could be done to improve visibility without running afoul of the regulations.  As you can see, Edward Jones financial advisors are showing prominently, multiple times.

I Searched for Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors in Frisco, TX and tried to find a specific broker in the results. I was looking for Paul Weathers a local financial advisor with the Frisco office at the Star.

in the Merrill search results on Google Mr. Weathers was near the bottom of page one, but it was his MapQuest listing, not his listing on the Merrill Lynch site. This was shocking to me. Only one local Merrill Lynch advisor teams showed up on the first page of the Google results. What was even more shocking, Frisco Wells Fargo Financial advisors appeared in the results before most of the 47 Advisors Merrill has at The Star in Frisco.

So, if you run a small financial firm, this is an opportunity for you. If Merrill and the other big firms won’t work their local markets for market share, it opens the playing field for smaller firms to move in. You will notice one local listing here for Cantrill Financial Group – Not a lot of effort went into his GMB listing and he is outranking the biggest firms in the country by just doing the basics.

Edward Jones Digital Approach Appears Different

The second group we will look at is Edward Jones. They are doing much better with Google My Business and they have an effort under foot to get their agents properly setup on GMB. The GMB sites link to the right listing on the Edward Jones website and the information is solid.

Edward Jones may get more traffic from their organic GMB listings then they do from Pay Per Click and online advertising combined. This is financially smart as well as digitally smart. Edward Jones financial advisors are showing up in the organic search results in my local area. None of the other major wealth management firms are in the organic top 10.

The benefits to smart digital marketing for Edward Jones, as we see them, flow all the way down to recruiting new advisors. They can show the organic listings and data from Google as evidence that they are contributing to their advisors success. If you are a millennial who grew up on the internet, this is a good selling point. It will also help the new advisors get a jump-start new customers acquisition for the firm. Smart digital marketing has trickle down benefits for the organization.

Similar to the search I did for Paul Weathers above, I searched Edward Jones Financial Advisors in Frisco and skimmed the results for a wealth manager that I met at event in Frisco. Two things jumped out at me. 1. Edward Jones did a great job, their advisors dominated the first page and 2. I found the person I was looking for immediately. (and 8 other advisors all branded with Edward Jones).

The Takeaway

The Merrill Lynch digital marketing team, if they have one,  needs a serious education in SEO 101 or their business objectives need to be re-examined. Two, Edward Jones has their stuff together, from a digital perspective. The Edward Jones cost per acquisition most be much less than Merrill’s. Going forward

Wealth Management and Financial Advisors still depend on relationships more than the internet for new clients but as times change a lot of those relationships will start online, and Edward Jones seems to have the early upper hand, at least in our local market. (we got similar results in Alpharetta, GA, Clearwater FL and Hinsdale, IL)

Smaller Firms Missing a Big Opportunity

As you can see by looking at the map, a few small firms are showing up but Edward Jones is dominating. The smaller more agile firms could be dominating this map and the local search market where they do business with basic digital marketing. The aggressive digital marketers could be taking market share from all the big firms spending as little as 1-2k per month.

If the big firms wake up and apply their massive digital equity to their local offices the little firms will have zero chance of competing online – but as far as we can tell, this is never going to happen.

Search results as they showed 06/12/2019

Financial Advisor in the SERP results