BOSTON -- Are advisors reaching clients when they are most in need of their services?

"What this is about is getting found, engaging with the marketplace in real time," says author and consultant David Meerman Scott, who spoke at the Financial Planning Association's annual conference.

When clients need something, they do a search online or ask questions of their friends and family, sometimes in person, but more often than not online via email or Facebook or Twitter. Yet many advisors and firms lean on older techniques, such as direct mailings.

"If the stock market drops 500 points tomorrow, it's something you know about instantly and it's something your clients know instantly," he says.

We live in a digital, real time age, Scott says. Holding up his smart phone, Scott says: "This device is the most important sales and marketing tool ever invented and it's in your pocket."

To explain how communication and social interaction has changed, Scott pointed to the selfies, saying it's become so ubiquitous because it's live and in real time. Whether sipping wine in a Parisian café or rocking it out at a Bruce Springsteen concert, a selfie puts the photographer and the viewer together in the same virtual moment instantly.

Scott then turned his back to the audience, and took a selfie of himself with the audience in the background and then tweeted it.

That tweet had 65 retweets and 36 favorites within an hour – and it encouraged advisors to take selfies of themselves and tweet them at David Meerman Scott during the rest of the conference.


"Some people say to me, 'We work in a regulated industry.' Yes, you have regulations. Yes, you have rules. But that doesn't mean you can't communicate," Scott says.

Scott observed that even the CIA has a Twitter account and showed screenshots to the FPA audience, asking, in effect, if they can do it, why not you?

And to make your communication more effective, Scott urges advisors to avoid jargon and bad stock photos. The problem with stock images is that they often look stock images; they aren't engaging, and those people don't look like you or your clients, Scott says.

"All the big firms are using this stuff. If you use real photos and human language, you will stand out," he says.

Scott says that his personal digital efforts comprise about 5-7 hours of his time per week. He'll even use down time to check his Twitter account, which, he observes, costs nothing.

Scott also recommends that advisors, particularly those who try to convince their superiors to change their marketing approach, avoid the term social media.

"Why? Because it has a negative connotation. The bosses will think, 'Oh, that's the thing that gets companies in trouble' or 'That's the thing my teenage daughter does,'" he says. "But if you say, 'Hey, do you think that we can engage with our clients and prospects in real time?' Well they'll say 'Sure, we can do that.'"

In a sense, this should be natural to financial advisors, Scott says.

"You understand real time financial information. It's just taking that understanding and applying it," he says.

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