Josh Brown, CEO and co-founder, Ritholtz Wealth Management (Photo: Bloomberg)

New RIAs should focus their marketing efforts on their local areas instead of looking to go national and, when it comes to social networks and the Internet, they should focus their efforts on LinkedIn and search engine optimization, according to Ritholtz Wealth Management CEO Josh Brown.

“Start locally” and “forget about building a national brand,” he said Thursday during the BNY Mellon | Pershing webcast “Faster Growth as a RIA: How Freedom, Flexibility, and Creativity are Used to Fuel Advisor Growth.”

It is, after all, hard to compete against established players who had a huge head start, he said. Besides, if you are an RIA in Omaha, you don’t need somebody in Hawaii reading your content because “they’re not going to become your client,” he told viewers.

If you are in Omaha and have a great blog and podcast providing relevant financial information and combine it with information specific to your market, such as bands you saw at a local bar or golf courses you like playing at, you are much better off, he suggested. Most people search for local things to do, so your name will come up when they search online if you do that, he noted.

Therefore, become a “star in your pond” first and then broaden if you want to after you find huge success locally, he suggested.

Usually, he explained: “The only time a financial advisor gets a new client is when there’s a catalyst in their life that makes them say ‘I need a financial advisor.’ You can’t make somebody want to be your client.” Those main catalysts tend to include the birth of a child, the need to save for college or retire and the sale of a business, he pointed out.

No content you create will make people become your client if they feel they don’t need an advisor yet, he told viewers. “You have to be the person that’s in the back of their head so that when some life event of theirs happens,” they want to call your firm, he pointed out, adding: “That’s how it happens for us nine times out of 10.”

The Need to Be On Page 1 of a Search

Dynasty Financial Partners, meanwhile, was an early mover on search optimization, Shirl Penney, CEO and president of that firm, said during the webcast. “I think anyone listening now would agree that if you’re not on the first page or first two pages, but probably first page, of Google Search, you’re really not relevant,” he warned advisors. If you are based in San Francisco, the name of your firm should come up near the top of a Google search for independent financial advisor San Francisco, for example, he noted.

LinkedIn has worked for Dynasty and does not cost a lot of money, Penney said. Brown agreed with him on the significance of SEO and LinkedIn. “SEO is super important,” Brown said, adding: “I know it seems like it’s so attractive to be somebody with a million Twitter followers…. [but] Twitter is not a big channel for us to find new clients.”

On the other hand, “I think LinkedIn should be the primary platform that advisors spend time” on if they had to pick one social network because “everyone on LinkedIn is career-oriented” — “people are not on LinkedIn to stir up trouble,” Brown said, noting his company has made key hires after meeting on LinkedIn discussing topics of interest.

On the other hand, only 22% of U.S. adults are on Twitter and 50% of those on that social network only check it once a month, he said.

“It’s just not where people spend their time. What do I get from it besides death threats?” he said, drawing laughs from Penney and the moderators.

The Positives and Negatives of Remote Work

Remote working during the pandemic has worked out fine for Ritholtz so far, Brown also said during the webcast. Noting that it started as a cloud-based remote firm in 2013, he said it was “second nature” to shift to entirely remote work due to COVID-19 and there “wasn’t really a huge adjustment” needed. All of its staff have been working remotely during the pandemic and he wasn’t sure when they would be returning to the firm’s office in New York City, he said.

“I know that the work is getting done” by his firm’s staff even though they’re not in the office, he said, noting: “So far so good.”

However, he added with a laugh: “I don’t know about another year of this.” He noted that, at times, he was getting under his wife’s skin by being home all the time.

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