financial advisor technology

How to Build an RIA Tech Stack That Gets Results

There’s no right or wrong way to build a tech stack.

What matters is whether it helps your business grow or not.  We’ve worked with hundreds of wealth management firms and while there’s a lot of overlap, there’s still a lot of differences, especially around how each application is used, which part of the workflow it supports and how it’s integrated into the firm’s infrastructure.

This is why we love working with RIAs, broker-dealers and asset managers and discovering how they’re using technology and helping them to optimize it.

One great way is by sharing best practices that we learn in our travels around the industry. At the recent Riskalyze Fearless Investing Summit, I moderated a panel called Experts Panel: The 2021 Advisor Toolkit.

One of the experts was Rene Nourse, founder and CEO or Urban Wealth Management, an RIA based in Los Angeles, CA.

Marketing Software

“Social media is the cheapest and easiest way for RIAs to market their business and reach prospective clients.”

— Rene Nourse

A recent survey found that 60% of financial advisor are using some kind of marketing and/or communication software. But are they using it effectively? Which features do they find most useful? Would they recommend their what they have now or are they actively looking for a replacement?

It’s impossible to know just by looking at statistics. But one way to find out is hearing it straight from your peers.

Urban Wealth Management implemented an all-in-one CRM and marketing platform called SharpSpring, Nourse explained.  Her firm uses SharpSpring to automate all aspects of their marketing efforts including sending out email newsletters, running drip campaigns, tracking website activity and distributing digital content.

SharpSpring, which was founded in 2011 and went public in 2020, was recently acquired and taken private by email marketing provider Constant Contact.

They send out our monthly newsletters, we do monthly webinars and that gets sent out and we also have a drip campaign. So anybody who comes into our website and they click off a box, they will be on our email list for about six weeks. They get different content, ideas, not about investing, but about issues in their financial life. And we’ve got a lot of clients as a result of that.

And you’ve built some processes around that software that runs your marketing campaign.

The other thing that SharpSpring does, which is amazing, it does give you a list on a weekly basis. It gives you a report about any of the emails that got sent out or newsletters who opened it up, who looked at it. And it’s a great way for you to be able to manage an update if you need to, but they also have added some other content here. Recently.

It is a CRM. You can also do face-to-face meetings, online phone systems too. We don’t use them all for that, but we’re using, and they also have the ability to schedule things on your calendar too. So it’s all fully informative, just not marketing, but also can be a key component of running your business in your practice.

5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Marketing Automation

  1. Use the Right Automation Tool – Just because Rene’s firm and my firm use SharpSpring doesn’t mean you have to. There are literally thousands of applications that automate marketing tasks. We recommend choosing one with a few key features: creating lead-generating landing pages, seamless email campaigns A/B testing, easy lead management, and email templates.
  2. Set Your Marketing Automation Goals – Start by understanding what you want the end result to be, and set this up as an actionable, measurable goal. Then you can start to develop your automation strategy around this.
  3. Develop a Clear Marketing Strategy – Every stage of your campaign creation needs to be optimized and all stakeholders must agree on it. By building internal agreement, you’ll be able to produce far more effective automation campaigns.
  4. Segment Your Leads Properly – You might have built up a strong email marketing list, but now you need to make sure that this list is divided into the right groups. Sending broad, general messages across your entire email list won’t be nearly as effective as sending specific, relatable content to the right individuals.
  5. Create the Right Content – In marketing automation, nothing actually matters if you aren’t delivering high-quality content. It’s the only way to attract attention and get your leads to take the right actions. But your content needs to align with the leads you’re sending it to and should speak to their pain points, offers insightful solutions, and educates your audience.

I know SharpSpring is a great tool because my consulting firm happens to use it as well!  We chose it because it collapses a number of tools we were using separately like email marketing, CRM, and website tracking. Before we always had problems synching data between applications. Our newsletter list was slightly different than our blog subscriber list which was slightly different than our CRM.  And we never had any idea who was coming to the website.

Now we have it all in line place and can see each contact’s interactions with any of our content or owned and operated web properties (I learned that term from our CMO).

Many of our clients ask us about the decision between best of breed and all in one solutions. Generally, there’s no right or wrong answer, since every firm is in a different situation with their technology infrastructure. But for specific situations, like ours and Urban Wealth Management’s, all-in-one is better, since it eliminates the hassle of synching data between separate apps and provides a more seamless user experience. (See Tweet-to-Table: Why Building a Social Media Presence is Like Farming)

Client Onboarding

“Automating the client onboarding process allows RIAs to expand their client base in a shorter period of time.”

— Rene Nourse

Account opening is far and away the biggest pain point for advisors, according to a recent survey by Fidelity Investments.  60% complain that account opening paperwork is cutting into their client face time and across the industry, only around a third of new accounts are being opened 100% digitally.

This used to be the case at Urban Wealth Management before Nourse implemented software from PreciseFP.  They built their client onboarding process around it, she stated, and setup a link on their website. This provides a dual purpose of lead generation and data gathering to feed downstream systems. (See Docupace Acquires PreciseFP)

Gathering all the data required for the numerous forms and systems used by the average RIA can be incredibly time-consuming, Nourse explained. By adopting PreciseFP, her firm was able to leverage their customizable set of data entry templates called fact finders. These enable an RIA to quickly build repeatable workflows for many of the key processes such as new client onboarding, new account onboarding, client meeting prep, money movement and others.

Urban Wealth Management has a big emphasis on financial planning, which requires a lot of data gathering, Nourse said. It was important to systematize the interactions for clients, advisors and staff to ensure that everyone had the same experience across the firm.

PreciseFP also provides the ability to pre-fill many forms with client data, which greatly speeds up every process and makes clients happy that they never have to reenter the same data twice, Nourse stated.  The software also displays real-time progress status for every workflow so everyone knows if there is a bottleneck or source of a delay.

Nourse was able to build “a get to know you app” using PreciseFP that’ll was plugged into her firm’s website. It allowed clients or prospects to click on a link and get walked through a fact finder if they’re looking for financial planning advice. That form is automatically sent to their para-planner who can see when the prospect came to the site and exactly what type of help they’re looking for, she said.  This eliminates inbound messages falling through the cracks or being routed to the wrong person. Everyone is more satisfied with the new process, she said.

No RIA tech stack would be complete without integrations between key systems. PreciseFP has pre-built integrations to most popular RIA apps including Redtail, Wealthbox and Salesforce as well as eMoney, MoneyGuide and SmartOffice, to name a few. These integrations provide data synching from PreciseFP and eliminate manual data entry.

It has made a huge difference in all of their processes, especially onboarding and actually put them ahead of their custodian, Schwab, who only recently released a fully-digital account opening process of their own. For smaller RIAs working hard to build out their business, PreciseFP takes a lot of that off their plate, Nourse said.

Online Scheduling

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

— Stephen Covey, Author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Since the oft-cited one-hour study was published in the Harvard Business Review back in 2011, the most effective and efficient sales teams have become obsessed with lead response times.

However, a lightning-fast lead response time alone isn’t enough to secure the business, especially for businesses with longer sales cycles like financial advice. It takes six to eight touches to turn leads into customers, so any friction in scheduling follow-up meetings needs to be eliminated.

Online scheduling software is one way to ensure that it’s easy for prospects and clients to find convenient times for meetings from the comfort of their home computer or phone. No endless games of email tag – sending availability back and forth over hours or days. This shortens the sales cycle which frees up time to follow-up on additional leads to increase market share and grow the business.

Urban Wealth Management chose Acuity for their online scheduling software for a number of reasons, Nourse explained. First was that it’s very low cost, which is a higher priority for smaller firms especially with the proliferation of add-on software tools we’re seeing in the market. (Check out the Kitces AdvisorTech Map) Second was that it has integrations with their core applications, SharpSpring (marketing), Salesforce (CRM) and Outlook (calendar).

Acuity also has a unique feature of being able to schedule more than one person at your firm for the same meeting, Nourse noted. For example, if the advisor wants to bring in a para-planner or admin, the system will check both calendars when looking for availability.

No matter how small your RIA might be, you should always consider hiring a developer to help with customizing your software or improving integrations, Nourse noted.  Her firm hired a consultant to help customize their Salesforce implementation (which actually is part of the package they receive from their TAMP) and to improve the integration between Acuity and SharpSpring.

The benefits are many including smoother and more scalable workflows since the software will be customized to the way your firm does business. The downside is that you are more tied to the software (harder to switch) since your sunk costs go up. But that’s just one of the complexities you have to deal with when running a growing business.

Click here and schedule a Discovery Session to find out how Ezra Group can help your fintech firm grow revenue in the wealth management space.

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