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Integrated Digital Strategy

Financial Advisor SMART BOOK™

We recently published an enhanced edition of the  2018 Financial Advisor SMART BOOK™. This resource is a comprehensive guide to help independent financial advisors build an ‘independent difference,’ that is, a strategy-led, systematic growth program with 9 proven strategies. The goal is to help advisors:

  • Increase Volume: Generate More Visits & Inquiries
  • Increase Client Value: Get Better Qualified Inquiries
  • Increase Velocity: Increase Conversion Rates
  • Increase AUM and Revenue: Optimize Engagement for AUM growth and Revenue Impact.


Move away from a static cliché website to establish a more dynamic, mobile responsive website. Your website is your marketing hub that you can use every day for marketing, selling and on-boarding clients.

  1. Position your website branding consistent with your brand strategy and desired target market.
  2. Modernize your website with a professional design and an engaging look and feel.
  3. Get found by optimizing your website for major search engines using the right ‘long tail’ keywords that your target personas are using – with an emphasis on local search.
  4. Build credibility with content that is appropriate for your clients, adding value and showcasing your service offering.
  5. Make your website easy to use and accessible, and ensure the site works effectively on mobile devices.
  6. Optimize your website for conversions by placing appropriate calls to action and fostering an equitable exchange of value between your firm and the prospective client visitor.
  7. Add appropriate functionality including secure file share, reporting and financial tools and services that deliver value for your ideal client profile and that helps streamline the on-boarding process.
  8. Share valuable updates and stories to drive customer interest and activity, and amplify your content with “earned media” – e.g., social media content sharing.
  9. Establish brand outposts on, for example, Fee-Only Network, NAPFA, LinkedIn.
  10. Consider highly targeted PPC advertising and re-marketing.
  11. Syndicate articles, answer investor questions across touch-points to build credibility and get found (e.g., Investopedia, Yahoo Finance, local media outlets etc.).

Some Tips to Get You Started:

  • Consider fewer, longer pages with ample white space that scroll to increasing depth.
  • Avoid cliché images.
  • Establish your brand on multiple ‘outposts’ by sharing content on channels that your target clients use and amplify this with your ‘right-sized’ social media presence.

You can explore the first four growth strategies:

1Align Your Team on Vision and Smart Goals 

2Build Persona Messaging for Ideal Clients Profiles 

3Define a Go-To-Market Model That Works for Your Firm 

4–Craft a Distinctive Brand Identity, Positioning and Messaging

…or explore all 9 strategies for growth by downloading the 2018 Financial Advisor SMART BOOK™  below.



Selecting Marketing Automation and CRM Solutions

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Consider Revenue Architecture When Selecting Your Tech Stack

Face it, buyers don’t care whether they are interacting with your marketing or your sales organization, they follow their buying process – often in an unstructured and unpredictable way. They self-sell on the web,  research with influencers and engage 1:1 with sales people.   An effective buyer experience across a dynamic buyer lifecycle requires that your revenue architecture is designed with a coordinated closed-loop process supported by integrated technology stack.


We read a lot about Martech and SalesTech stacks. This is understandable because marketing and sales teams have traditionally pursued  distinct missions with different needs. Yet if your marketing, sales and service “front office”  needs to be more integrated to support dynamic buyer pathways, then you might need to re-think your technology stack.  An integrated revenue process supported by integrated revenue technology helps deliver a single view of the customer and becomes  more responsive and relevant as your buyers jig and jag along their dynamic buying processes.

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Marketer as Producer: Using Storytelling to Engage Customers Effectively

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Cut through the noise.

“If you can’t tell, you can’t sell,” says Storytelling authority Robert McKee.

What’s your definition of a story?  McKee defines it this way: “Sequence of causally connected, dynamic events that changes a person’s life.” Change focuses the mind.

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Do I Really Need Marketing Automation?

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Marketing Automation is of particular value when pursuing a higher volume lead generation or demand generation model.

In a recent Quora post, we answered a question about the value of marketing automation. If you generate – or seek to generate – a high volume of leads (100+s) from the web from self-directed buyers, then yes, you will value having a Marketing Automation platform.

Consider Marketing Automation as part of a broader “technology stack” – there is the “Martech Stack” and the “SalesTech Stack” – we look at these together as the “RevTech Stack”

Their are a number of leading players in marketing automation – Marketo, HubSpot, Eloqua, Pardot, SharpSpring, Act-On, Infusionsoft, Mautic and others.

Prices range from a few 100 per month to many $1,000s – a lot is based on volumes (size of lists etc), but there are also a wide range of feature sets.

It is difficult to recommend any one system. We use SharpSpring, Pardot, HubSpot and Marketo. All of these are solid systems. Consider the integration and platform ecosystem (e.g. Pardot is part of the Salesforce Cloud).

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Financial Advisor SMART BOOK™

We recently published the 2018 Edition of the Financial Advisor SMART BOOK™. This resource is a comprehensive guide to help independent financial advisors build an ‘independent difference,’ that is, a strategy-led, systematic growth program with 9 proven strategies. The goal is to help advisors:

  • Increase Volume: Generate More Visits & Inquiries
  • Increase Client Value: Get Better Qualified Inquiries
  • Increase Velocity: Increase Conversion Rates
  • Increase AUM and Revenue: Optimize Engagement for AUM growth and Revenue Impact.

Read more

Three Tools to Make Your Discounts Count

Board Room
Board Room


We were meeting in our wood-paneled boardroom. I was part of a broker team hosting business planning sessions between a major Northeastern supermarket and a few dozen of our CPG manufacturer clients.

During one session, a large beverage manufacturer suddenly announced that they were going to drastically cut the depth and breadth of their discounts. To put it mildly, this announcement went over like a bomb. There may have been some screaming and cursing.

It seems this manufacturer had a bad year, and so management wanted to cut back on discounting in order to boost margins.

Unfortunately, they had missed some important points.

They were focusing entirely on their internal financials. They did not consider the supermarket’s goals, one of which was growing their share of the manufacturers’ discount spending, also known as trade spending. There might have been an opportunity to work together on mutual goals. And most seriously, they did not consider the consumers’ perspective.

For most of my clients, discounting is used to improve volume, and plans rarely change from year to year. It is a brute-force tool.

Compared to those clients, this beverage supplier had the right idea. But though it’s tempting to use price cuts to improve volume, it can leave money behind if the market is willing to pay higher prices. This supplier simply wanted to reduce their discounting — a worthy enough goal, perhaps, but without the right tools to present their case. And with the right support, they might have been prevented an important customer from screaming at them.

When I work with clients in similar situations, I use a range of specialized tools to help them understand their consumers’ willingness to pay for their products. Here are the three tools I use most often:

1. Price waterfall: assesses the current situation and whether there is any leakage. What margins are earned at various points in the value chain, and how much of a role does discounting play?

Price Waterfall Chart Example

When I conducted this analysis for one manufacturer, it was shockingly clear their internal margins were almost non-existent after accounting for all of their trade expenses.  Trade spending was crowding out nearly all opportunity to earn a profit.

In other versions of this chart, additional expenses like allowances for spoils, cash payment terms, and others can be included to provide a more comprehensive view.  

The price waterfall chart served as a useful internal communication tool to visually demonstrate where margin might be leaking.

2. Van Westendorp: assesses consumers’ willingness-to-pay. What is the range of acceptable prices? What are the minimum and maximum acceptable prices?

One of my clients typically discounted from $2.99 to $2.19 or $2.29. Many of their retailers demanded a minimum 20 to 25 percent discount, which is why those price points were selected. But we found that consumers were just as willing to pay $2.49 on sale, and one field experiment actually showed higher volumes at $2.49 than $2.29. The retailer made an exception to allow a lower discount on promotion, and everyone earned more dollar margin and we demonstrated that volume could actually grow.

Van Westendorp Research Output Example

In other words, I helped my client develop a comprehensive selling story that made for an appealing scenario that resulted in a reasonable request to their trading partners.

3. Conjoint: evaluates various product attributes: How much do consumers value different product attributes, and how does that translate into the price they are willing to pay?

By using this complex research technique, we can learn how consumers assign value to various attributes. This chart is a small snapshot of the output available from conjoint research. Ultimately, this research can result in a model that allows you to mix-and-match product attributes to create complete product concepts, balanced by different price levels, that allows you to see the impact on consumer preference and willingness-to-pay.

Conjoint Research Output Example

One of my clients used this technique to redesign their entire product line, resulting in a new lineup of product sizes, product contents, and — of course — evidence-based price levels that could be defended in a meeting with their retail buyers.

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At the end of the day, discounting is just one tool in your pricing toolbox. There are plenty of others you can add to the collection.

It’s easy, even tempting, to rely on discounting, as it can have an immediate impact on volume. But there’s the danger of leaving money on the table and training your consumers to buy at lower prices. No one ever wins when prices spiral to the bottom. Instead, you need to equip yourself with accurate, compelling, consumer-driven information to ensure you earn the price you deserve. 

New Research: How Consumer Attitudes Have Changed Toward the Amazon-ified Whole Foods

Amazon Devices at Whole Foods

Amazon Devices at Whole FoodsSource:

On June 15, 2017, my phone showed a news alert that Amazon had agreed to buy Whole Foods. I was not anticipating this and it inspired my imagination, as it did for millions of others who took to social media to talk about it.

No one knew what Amazon would do with its largest entrance yet into bricks and mortar retailing. The deal closed in August and Whole Foods received a flurry of attention that focused on an announcement that the chain would cut prices on some top sellers like avocados, almond butter, and rotisserie chicken.

My industry colleagues and I frequently talk about the reinvention of Whole Foods. It left me wondering what the average consumer thinks about the new Whole Foods.  

So, Revenue Architects conducted a survey in February 2018 to assess changing consumer perceptions toward Whole Foods.

Most notably, most consumers surveyed (54 percent) don’t ever shop at Whole Foods. Many consumers avoid Whole Foods because of a perception that its prices are very high or because they are seeking a broader, more conventional selection of goods. In addition, Whole Foods has only about 470 stores, far from covering the entire United States. By comparison, Walmart has over 4,700 stores and Kroger’s retail brands have nearly 2,800 stores.   

Whole Foods: Shoppers vs. Non Shoppers

When we focus just on those who do shop at Whole Foods, most of them (52 percent) won’t be changing their shopping behavior because of the Amazon purchase.

Likelihood to Shop at Whole Foods

A notable portion of the survey respondents say they are less likely or much less likely to shop at Whole Foods now, and it will be important to track whether and in what way the spending of those shoppers is migrating. Some have hypothesized that dedicated organic shoppers might be wary that Amazon will stray from Whole Foods’ product standards, a departure that seems possible after a report that Amazon’s management is interested in adding popular, high-volume, conventional products like Coca-Cola to its shelves.

An almost equal portion of shoppers, though, say they are more likely or much more likely to shop at Whole Foods now, possibly inspired by the innovation and lower prices that Amazon might bring to the chain.

What is abundantly clear, though, is that Amazon has invested considerable sums into dominating online retail, and that they are actively seeking ways to bring innovation to traditional bricks and mortar retail.  

Importantly for manufacturers who sell to and aspire to sell to Whole Foods and Amazon: Have you created a plan to address these coming changes?  

Chatbots – Can A Robot Be Your Best MarTech Friend?

Chatbot image

Chatbot image


Chatbots aren’t just for Facebook, Amazon and Apple. Smart brands are adding artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology to their marketing mix for a very good reason. When done well, a chatbot delivers tangible value for the brand, and moreover, an excellent buyer engagement experience for customer. An actual win-win!

Chatbot benefits for brands:

It’s time to face it….capture forms are dead. They still provide a useful utility to brands looking to attract and retain customers but forms have their limitations. Namely, customers have developed an aversion to providing an email address to acquire information. Faced with the trade-off of growing brand awareness or supporting the sales funnel, more and more brands are deciding to ungate their content in order to reach prospective customers at the top of the funnel.

Why Chatbots for brands:

  1. Accelerate Leads – Elevates important prospect communication out of the inbox and into real-time conversation allowing Marketing to respond a lead respond within minutes.
  2. Qualify Leads – Chatbot identifies status “do you own one of our products already?“, customer history “what’s your email address? I can look up your account,” and interests, “are you interested in hearing more about our fixed income solutions?“. Giving customers the power to ‘choose their own adventure’ is empowering and makes for a better user experience.
  3. Customer Insights – machine learning is applied to analyze what types of questions customers ask, and how they ask them leading to insights on how to drive new, future business.

Chatbot benefits for customers:

Customers want to be served and, at times, are willing to provide contact information if there is a perceived fair exchange of value (the prospective customer provides and email address and in exchange receive something of value, typically information). However, customers have come to loathe the multitude of emails that clog their inbox. (Just look at how consumer email service providers like Gmail have implemented features to help users filter and unsubscribe from brand emails). Chatbots aim to serve customers in a familiar manner (text messaging) without necessarily providing an email address to gain entry. What was once a gate now becomes a friendly chat where the user is in control of the conversation.

Why Chatbots for customers:

  1. Equitable Exchange – good option for site visitors that are averse to forms; not every inquiry should necessitate surrendering an email address
  2. Better User Experience – solves UI/CX experiences with other channels namely phone interactive voice response and difficult to navigate web sites
  3. Fast – Customers get answers in real-time

Six chatbot considerations:

As you plan your chatbot buyer engagement strategy, be sure you’ve thought through these channel specific issues:

  1. Goal planning – What is the best opportunity to engage your buyers and serve your customers via chatbot? What is the best use case to pilot a chatbot solution? What are appropriate KPIs?
  2. Narrative planning – What is the best tone of voice for your audience? Do you have skilled story tellers to craft the narrations?
  3. Account Based Marketing (ABM) – How can you connect your chatbot with your ABM strategy?  Can you create targeted messages for top accounts and route chat request to the correct ABM team?
  4. Routing – What are best practices you should follow? Are your chats routed to the person best available to support the buyer or customer? In some cases that means sending chats to your best salesperson and not defaulting to junior staff.
  5. Integration – What are your front-end channels?  Are you just using your website? Are you activating social channels or SMS? Can you connect your chatbot with CRM to give your chatbot account information and make customer conversations more relevant?
  6. Regulatory impacts – Does your chatbot plan cover GDPR? Do you have record keeping requirements you need to adhere to?

Chatbots are an effective strategy for modern buyer engagement and should be part of your marketing and sales strategy. As with any technology-enabled strategy, begin with an architecture and plan before deploying your solution.


Title image “The FREE HUGS robot” (CC BY 2.0) by  Ben Husmann