September 3, 2013

How Morgan Stanley Advisor Used LinkedIn to Land a $70M Account

Social networking no substitute for other types of marketing, Mitchell Rock says

LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (Photo: AP) LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (Photo: AP)

Financial advisor Mitchell Rock cast a wide net on LinkedIn and landed himself a whopper: Within three weeks of connecting with a North Carolina prospect, the New York City-based advisor had won the retired retailer’s $70 million account.

Rock, 51, who heads the four-advisor Rock Group at Morgan Stanley, began using LinkedIn in summer 2011 as part of the firm’s pioneering social media pilot program. He still spends 30 minutes every night trolling for quality prospects. That is indeed time well spent: Over the last two years, he has netted a slew of LinkedIn-generated clients.

Owners of privately held middle-market companies are Rock’s market niche. He helps monetize their wealth, typically realized through the sale of their companies.

A Morgan Stanley senior vice president, Rock, previously with UBS and Oppenheimer & Co., had been on LinkedIn about seven months, when one night he spotted the profile of a man with whom he’d had business dealings 12 years before. The two had lost touch. Rock promptly shot him an e-mail, updating him on his current focus and directing him to his website, featuring The Rock Group brochure.

“Oh, my God! I have a friend in North Carolina who’s looking to work with a New York investment team just like yours,” Rock recalls the man telling him. The friend had sold his company about six months earlier and wanted a New York money manager to invest the $70 million in proceeds.

Mitchell RockAn introduction was made, and thee weeks later, “we had a very large account,” Rock (left) says.

Though he has obviously found great success with LinkedIn as a prospecting tool, the wealth advisor stresses: social media is no replacement for other types of marketing.

“It’s not a magic bullet. If anyone thinks they’re just going to go on LinkedIn and double their business, they’re wrong,” he says. “It has to be used in conjunction with traditional marketing efforts in a multifaceted campaign with a consistent message. While individually effective, none of the marketing channels are great. But in combination, they’re very, very powerful.”

The beauty of LinkedIn, Rock notes, is that “you can get your message out to a broad base of people you can’t reach otherwise. It establishes your presence to the world.”

Rock incorporates LinkedIn time as part of his daily business plan. Opting for one level up from free service, he pays $300 a year for access to fuller, in-depth profiles.

“The LinkedIn revenue model,” he remarks, “is ‘the more you want to see, it will cost you.’”

At the start, Rock reached out to “people that knew people that we knew. Everyone we’ve ever met is part of our LinkedIn network,” he says. The group now has more than 1,200 direct LinkedIn connections.

Immediately after posting his profile in the pilot program, he joined a number of small-business discussion groups on LinkedIn to identify potential clients. He continues to participate in them.

After creating a prospect list, he clicks on each profile to see if he and the individual share a connection. If so, and it’s a strong one, he typically e-mails them to request an introduction. Other times, he makes direct contact, mentioning whom they have in common. In either instance, Rock’s initial goal is to set up a meeting.

On his own LinkedIn profile, Rock posts compliance-approved reports and market commentary. Occasionally, he uses Twitter to simultaneously get that same message out.

Morgan Stanley now has 4,300 advisors using LinkedIn and/or Twitter, according to a spokesperson.

Describing the best-case social marketing scenario, Rock says: “Picture an inverted pyramid. At the top is social media, as far from the epicenter as you can get – strangers looking at you. But once in the ‘funnel,’ they’ll look a little deeper. They’ll find your Web site and brochure, and then maybe Google you to see articles you’ve written. If they’re happy with all that, they’re at the bottom of the funnel and will call, saying: ‘Hey, I read about you. Can you help me?’

“That’s why,” Rock continues, “you need to use traditional marketing along with LinkedIn: You never know what will resonate with a potential client.”

The advisor, who prefers to employ social media for business only, observes that older generations seem, increasingly, to be communicating and marketing via social networks.

“It’s not just the 20-somethings,” he says. “A lot of very successful business owners are establishing a social media presence.”

To be sure, he was elated when he nabbed the $70 million account. But, that was then.

“It was fantastic. The successes are great. But you’re always looking for the next one,” Rock says. “I’m focused on what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

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Check out LinkedIn Payoff: Morgan Stanley FA Lands $70 Million Account on ThinkAdvisor.

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