August 16, 2013

Ron Carson’s Latest Gambit: Digital Coaching Platform

Digital Fortress will provide advisors a virtual coaching and marketing platform, including compliance-approved content

The dashboard for Ron Carson's Digital Fortress. The dashboard for Ron Carson's Digital Fortress.

Ron Carson’s Peak Advisor Alliance, which provides practice management consulting to 1,100 advisor members, announced this week the rollout of a virtual coaching and marketing platform called Digital Fortress, which Carson says will provide “growth made easy” for advisors, for $495 a month.

The platform provides access to Peak’s practice management expertise, tied with content provided by Faulkner Publishing, which is led by Craig Faulkner, who was the founder and longtime president of Emerald Publications. Also included is website creation and hosting, electronic newsletter creation, marketing effort analytics and a mobile app for advisors. 

Ron CarsonIn an interview Thursday, Carson said that his plan is to have Digital Fortress accomplish for advisors “what Pixar did for Disney,” by providing a “single-point access portal that automates an advisor’s marketing, website and social media operations," with “compliance-approved content” and Peak’s practice management resources, including online access to Peak’s in-house and external coaches. His intent is to help advisors “to grow easily and compete at a level” that they couldn’t reach without the platform.

The platform itself is a flexible one, Carson said, that can respond to the needs of individual advisors and their clients, and can be customized to reflect the advisor’s own personality and firm branding. Carson called Digital Fortress “the first one-stop shop for client communication, practice management ideas and marketing automation all at your fingertips through a singular central hub.” 

In the same interview, Faulkner said that the central feature of Digital Fortress is the “robust advisor admin” function, a “command center” dashboard that analyzes each advisor user’s activity on the platform’s consumer marketing campaigns.

The virtual coaching, he said, is “self-paced coaching” that uses a “wealth of video content” from Peak “that the advisor can go through at their own pace,” while receiving “direct online support from coaches.”

At Emerald, Faulkner says he “trained thousands of individuals on the how-to’s of marketing,” but that Digital Fortress “refines the process” to allow an advisor to focus on “how do I increase my client base, and how do I manage those clients,” which perennially are an advisor’s two major concerns. 

When asked about the cost of the program, Carson said it would be $495 a month, which he called a “reallocation of funds” by advisor users. “They’re already spending $15,000 to $25,000 a year” building, maintaining and hosting their websites, not to mention the cost of the content on those websites, he says. “It should be cash-flow positive out of the gate,” he said, while providing “a more robust digital brand.”

When asked whether virtual coaching will work absent the accountability that a one-on-one coach supplies, Carson admitted that there was "a segment of advisors who want to be held accountable to a human being, but they still have that option.”

He said the “command center,” or dashboard, “holds them accountable; if you need to accomplish something by a certain date, it will ping you.” Moreover, “young advisors are very comfortable with digital,” and in using the platform, advisors “literally with a slider can customize the program for what their biggest need is, and set timelines to accomplish” those goals.

Paul West, managing director of Peak Alliance, said that in considering the virtues of virtual coaching, “we took the best concepts we’ve used for all these years” at Peak, including integrating videos and role playing in addressing practice management and marketing initiatives. 

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See a recent ThinkAdvisor article on the first advisor to join Ron Carson's Carson Institutional Advisory (CIA) succession planning program.

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