From the September 2010 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

IA Soapbox: B/D Marketing Departments Are Wrong

I believe the job of a B/D marketing department is two things: First, help the reps attract new prospects. Second, help the reps grow their business with their existing book. That's it.

B/D marketing departments, if not at one of the larger firms, may well be small and understaffed to accommodate the vast number of reps with which the B/D has affiliated, so resources are limited and I wonder if they might not be better employed in some newer areas, utliazing social networks, eMarketing and other localized marketing programs.

Many B/D marketing departments are not staffed with CFP's or other professionals whose profession is, in fact, financial planning. The reps themselves are the ones best versed in this area. I feel that this area, and others like it that involve what we used to call in the insurance world 'advanced case design', are best left to the experts and other financial planning professionals. I am not saying that these areas are not of paramount importance, because they are, I am just saying that within the focus of a B/D marketing department, there are other areas where they can be more effective. Certainly one area where this gap can be bridged is by leveraging experts from the consulting world often provided by your strategic investment product company partners and insurance carriers. It's my opinion that reps know financial planning better than do B/D marketing departments. Help with financial planning concepts is available, I just think it is more easily leveraged from third-parties in conjunction with the B/D.

Next, I think a program on 'How to talk to your clients in this environment' sounds good, but I wonder about who knows how to talk to clients better - B/D marketing departments or the reps themselves? I have long maintained that the rep in the field knows their client better than any B/D ever could, and the reasons why are pretty obvious.

So, then, if many traditional programs may be well intended and provide some positive results, what opportunities are being missed by not concentrating on them in favor of other initiatives? First, since three-quarters of reps (at least) are using social media, it falls to the marketing department, not compliance, to teach them how to use it properly in order to market themselves and to mass communicate. All social media is not created equal. A social media and new media marketing program would be of help since reps don't know how to use it and might wind up just using it all and throwing stuff up against the cyber-space wall to see what sticks - and that is where they get into trouble. No, this calls for a program developed by marketing in conjunction with compliance and with direct first-hand guidance and help from Finra.

One then has to engage a social media expert from outside of financial services to start piecing together not just procedures but a program to help affiliated reps and advisors to stay ahead of the curve. Navigating cyber-space is now job No. 1 for marketing departments and they should not be afraid, nor should they cede control of it to compliance. .

Also, B/D's should be communicating with their reps and with potential recruits via social networks - but in the right way. There are ways to use Twitter, Facebook and especially Linkedin to cost-effectively market and communicate.

Next, a B/D marketing department must help make the affiliated rep/advisor the dominant rep in their local area. That means help with the PR and with working with the media. From all the available advice out there the BD marketing departments can then whittle it down and define a concrete program to help the rep/advisor attract new clients, establish their personal brand and have the high profile needed to establish them as number one in their community.

You see, this is what it is all about, That is how you create value. There are exciting new areas of opportunity out there to be explored. It is indeed an exciting time to be in marketing. I firmly believe that the broker/dealer that embraces these new worlds and learn to use them to their advantage will dominate going forward.

James Manouse

Founder, todaysadvisor.com

The IA Soapbox is reserved for Investment Advisor readers to sound off about an issue of importance to them. Please e-mail your comments to Jamie Green at jgreen@investmentadvisor.com.

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