Tips for Building an (Email) List of Financial Advisor Leads

11.26.19 | Natalia Autenrieth, CPA | 0 Market post img

Summary: Financial advisor leads are the lifeblood of a growing practice. The sales cycle for financial advice can be frustratingly long, especially for prospects who don’t have an immediate “pain” that must be fixed right away. So, lead capture and patient follow-up are critical. The good news is that advisors have access to a wide range of tools that can help them automate the right aspects of lead gathering. In this article, we go over the methods of growing a list of financial advisor leads (buy vs. build from scratch). We look at some of the list-building strategies, as well as technology tools that can help. Finally, we weigh in on which tool you should choose for your practice.

А healthy lead pipeline is the foundation of a healthy business in any industry. For financial advisors, leads are especially important. Most people are not ready to move over their accounts (or even schedule a phone call) the first time they encounter an advisor. Money is an intensely personal topic, and prospects need time to get familiar with who you are as a person and a professional — before they can feel comfortable enough to take the step of meeting with you. 

An email list is a powerful tool that can help advisors move prospects to greater confidence and clarity.

Sure, your social media presence matters. But platform algorithms are subject to change, which means that your carefully crafted strategy can potentially go out the window overnight. For example, 2018 brought about a Facebook algorithm change that favored posts from friends and family — and all but buried posts from businesses. Other platforms have implemented similar changes. So, if your business relies on someone else’s platform, you need a Plan B. 

Email is a great candidate. 99% of people check their email daily, which means that your message has a solid chance of being noticed. 

Email list: Buy or build?

Our previous article on the subject of email marketing addressed the pros and cons of buying an email list vs. building one by asking your prospects to opt in, one name at a time. 

Short summary: Yes, theoretically you can buy a list of leads and market to them until they opt-out. 

The problem with that approach is that “good” leads don’t usually end up on a list that anyone can buy online for a new hundred bucks. 

An even bigger problem is that recipients from a purchased or rented list did not opt into receiving your messages. Your email will likely land in the spam folder, right next to the urgent message from the King of Nigeria about that $5 million that he needs transferred to a US bank. Even if the recipient opens your email, there’s a high chance that he will be annoyed by your unsolicited message, report it as spam, and unsubscribe. Which adds up to a low ROI for you. 

Building your own list is a slower, but a more sure path to a solid database of leads to nurture and do business with. How can advisors do that?

5 ways to build a financial advisor lead list

The good news is that you have many tools at your disposal to build a list. Most advisors only use one or two of these, so scan the list to look for gems that you may have overlooked.  

Option 1: Email capture form and a lead magnet

One of the simplest ways to add more email addresses to your list is to ask your website visitors to sign up for your email list. 

If you want to use this strategy, you must remember that your website visitor doesn’t suffer from email shortage. An average office worker gets 120 emails per day, and we’ve all experienced the dreaded email avalanche after stepping away from the inbox for more than 24 hours. So, you need to give your prospect a compelling reason to give up his or her email address. 

You might offer a “lead magnet”: something of value to your audience that they cannot get in free access elsewhere on the web. It could be an ebook, a checklist, a white paper, a quiz, or an infographic. The key is to make sure that your lead magnet is compelling, relevant, and valuable for your audience. 

For example, if you specialize in working with business owners, your lead magnet could center on one of their known pain points (like minimizing taxes, managing cash flow, exit strategy planning, or making sure that their insurance/asset protection needs are fully met). Any one of those topics could be made even more niche-specific and presented in a variety of delivery formats, perhaps a checklist for insurance needs or a short white paper on optimizing taxes. 

The downside of creating a compelling lead magnet is that it’s likely to only speak to a small segment of your website visitors. If you are already focusing on a niche, that is typically not a problem, and you can still “rotate” through several lead magnets over the course of a year to keep the offering fresh (and test different pain points). 

If you are not working with a niche, your lead magnet is likely to be more generic, which means that your audience may well find the same information packaged elsewhere, often for free and without giving up their email address. 

Option 2: Blog and a sign-up form

If you have a blog on your website, you have the option of prompting your readers to sign up so that they don’t miss an update. This strategy does require you to commit to a regular blog publishing schedule, because delivering on your promise of new blog posts is a key part of building trust with your prospects. 

However, that frequency does not need to be exceptionally high. If you can comfortably commit to one blog post per month, that’s fine. Feeling like you have more bandwidth to publish twice per month? Great! The key is to choose a publishing frequency that you will be able to sustain for a long time. If you are new to content marketing, here is a link to a great high-level FAQ primer.

Option 3: Monthly newsletter

Despite the rumors, the monthly newsletter model is far from dead. An electronic newsletter is inexpensive to put together, especially if you take the time to develop a template. Create a central theme and structure, make a plan for what will fill the newsletter, and give it a try!

What should you share inside a newsletter? There’s lots of options. Some of the usual suspects might include a market update and financial planning tips, although those categories alone can turn a newsletter pretty dry. Think about the needs of your audience and the seasons to keep things relevant and fresh. 

You might also include a “personal” section in the newsletter, highlighting family milestones and happenings for yourself and the team (perhaps some of the team members volunteered for a good cause, your daughter started high school, or your family got a new puppy). 

Option 4: Email signature

Your email signature may seem like an afterthought, but it’s an often-overlooked piece of digital real estate that could be used to grow your email list. 

Do you send a monthly newsletter? Include a note in the signature to encourage the recipient to sign up for your email list if they have received this message as a forward from a friend. Combine that with encouraging your email list subscribers to share or forward the tips they have found most useful, and you will see your list grow without any additional effort on your part. 

Option 5: Business cards and other branded materials

This is another often-overlooked strategy. 

Include a mention of your blog or newsletter on your business card, or in other materials you might use (like a brochure or a leave-behind). That way, prospects can opt into your email list if they encounter you offline. Just make sure that the sign-up form on your website is optimized and properly placed (more on that in a minute). 

8 tools to capture email data

Before we jump into the best practices for growing your email list, let’s look at some of the digital tools and plug-ins that advisors can use to capture new leads. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather a starting point for those of you who don’t currently use an email capture form, or are unhappy with what they have. We have organized these digital tools by price, with free options at the top and more expensive ones further down. 

Opt In Forms is a good choice for those who want a simple, non-pop-up version of the data collection form. There are 5 layouts with a handful of customization options (font, color, etc.), and the plug-in integrates with 6 major email services including AWeber, iContact, MailChimp, Get Response, MadMimi, and Interspire Email Marketer. Cost: $0.

Thrive Leads has a broad variety of opt-in form formats, from in-line forms and 2-step opt-ins to screen-filling overlays, content upgrades, scroll mats, and floating ribbons. It also lets you run A/B tests to determine which opt-in form gets your best results. No coding skills are required, as the setup is quick and easy. Thrive Leads integrates with over a dozen popular newsletter services (including ConstantContact, MailChimp, Active Campaign, Infusionsoft, and more). Cost: A single-site license will run you $67. 

Opt In Monster allows you to add a form within or below your content, or inside your sidebar. You can also create unblockable pop-ups and slide-in optin boxes. The plugin is compatible with many leading email marketing services including GetResponse, MailChimp, and Aweber. This plugin is fully responsive, which means a good user experience when your website is viewed on a smartphone or a tablet. This plug-in can also monitor your visitor’s “exit intent” and prompt them to take action before they click away (available at the “Pro” subscription level). Other neat features include inactivity sensor (“Plus” subscription level), and geolocation targeting (highest subscription level “Growth”). Cost: $9/month for a “Basic” package, $19/month for a “Plus” package, $29/month for a “Pro” package, $49/month for an all-inclusive feature “Growth” package. All costs are pro-rated monthly costs of an annual subscription. 

Pop Up Domination promises that if you don’t see a 100% raise in your email subscribers, you’ll get a 100% refund. Pop Up Domination supports A/B testing, is autoresponsive on mobile, and work with any website and email provider. Unlike Lead Pages (below) and Opt In Monster, this tool is priced based on pop up views — not features.  Cost: $9/month for 10,000 views, $19/month for 30,000 views. There is a 14-day risk free trial period available. All costs are pro-rated monthly costs of an annual subscription. 

SumoMe is a list-building app from SumoApp that uses a pop-up form on your website to collect contact information from visitors. It can be connected to your email newsletter service if you use  MailChimp, Aweber, Campaign Monitor, or Constant Contact, or be saved for future use. The app offers simple customizations, like form color or how long to wait before the visitor gets the prompt. The “welcome mat” version allows you to use a full-page that invites new visitors to sign up with their email address.  This tool includes a “heat map” analytic that you can use to track how deep into the page your typical user scrolls. Cost: $0 for a “Basic” plan with up to 500 subscribers, $29/month for a “Professional” plan (unlimited subscribers, targeting, pre-built templates), $79/month for a “Small business” plan (adds live chat), $199/month for an “eCommerce” plan (adds pro email integrations, removed SumoMe branding). All costs are pro-rated monthly costs of an annual subscription. 

OptiMonk is a messaging toolkit that uses action-based pop-up bars. It does this based on the behavior and past history of your prospects. For example, you can display pop-ups using such triggers as engagement level, recognition of returning or new visitors, or Geolocation.  This helps you send targeted messages and capture the visitor’s attention. Sidebars and sticky bars are also available. OptiMonk works with any website and integrates with Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Gets Response, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, and more. Similar to Pop Up Domination, OptiMonk packages are priced based primarily on views (beyond the “Free” package that excludes A/B testing). Cost: $0 for a “Free” package, $29/month for an “Essentials” package that includes A/B testing. Additional packages are available. All costs are pro-rated monthly costs of an annual subscription. 

Lead Pages is more than a form plug-in. If you are looking to build landing pages, this tool will give you 160+ templates along with custom form fields, countdown timers, A/B split testing, automated lead magnet delivery, and more. Lead Pages integrate with MailChimp, Google Analytics, Infusionsoft, WordPress, and 1000+ apps through Zapier. Cost: $25/month for a “Standard” subscription with a single site and a limited set of features, $48/month for “Pro” subscription with 3 sites and an expanded set of features, $199/month for an all-inclusive unlimited package with advanced integrations. A 14-day free trial is available at all subscription levels. All costs are pro-rated monthly costs of an annual subscription. 

UnBounce is another tool that’s primarily a landing page builder. With over 100 customizable templates, you can develop the page you want with no coding skills. You can choose from several types of data collection forms (pop-ups, sticky bars, 2-step forms, simple lead gen forms, etc.) and can “gate” content behind a data form to help with list-building. Unbounce works with almost any marketing automation or CRM tool, with many in-app integrations and thousands more through Zapier and webhooks. Every landing page and form can be tested and optimized for mobile. Cost: $79/month for the “Essential” plan (no Salesforce or Marketo integrations at this subscription level). A free 14-day trial is available.  All costs are pro-rated monthly costs of an annual subscription. 

Which list building tool should an advisor pick?

The answer depends on your needs. 

Virtually every list building tool offers several form options, some customizations, and some integrations with an email solution. Most are mobile-friendly and have a simple UI to shorten the learning curve.

Some of the differentiators include A/B testing, integration with your CRM, and customization options. Some interfaces are more beautiful than others, but that may be a matter of personal preference. The depth and quality of analytics can vary across the solutions, as well. 

  • If you are looking for a simple and relatively inexpensive solution, Thrive Leads has solid functionality at only $67 for lifetime access. 
  • If you want more advanced features, triggers, and integrations, SumoMe and OptiMonk at $29/month may be a good starting point for you. 
  • If you intend to build landing pages with lead capture forms (for example, to gather prospect contact information in exchange for a white paper, and eBook, or a checklist), then Lead Pages or UnBounce may be worth exploring. (At Brewer Consulting, we have used Unbounce for several years). 

Tools for monitoring progress and making improvements

So, you have selected your list-building strategy and picked the tools you will use. 

How do you know if your strategy is working, and how do you tweak it for even better performance?

The easiest place to start is inside your list-building tool. Most come with a set of analytics that will show you your progress and success in gathering prospect contact information. For example, SumoMe has the “heat map” analytic to help you understand visitor behavior. If you discover that 80% of your prospects don’t scroll the page beyond the headline and quit the page, perhaps you need a different headline. 

Google Analytics is another tool that can help you monitor user interactions with your landing page. It’s free, and installing the code for tracking is quick and easy. 

Finally, there are tools like Hotjar that specialize in helping you understand your users and make the right changes to your subscription forms or website. You can get visual heat maps of most-often-visited sections of the website, as well as recordings of real user behavior (i.e. clicks, taps, and mouse movements). For low-traffic sites up to 10,000 page views per day, Hotjar charges $29/month. You can get a 2-week risk free trial. 

Common mistakes and troubleshooting tips

Every website and offering is different, so it’s tough to say why any one financial advisor leads strategy isn’t working. However, having worked with 300+ advisors, we have seen some “themes” that are worth checking if you are not pleased with the growth of your prospect list. 

Here is a short checklist to get you started. 

  • Is your lead magnet relevant for your audience? Play around with different topics and formats to test your hypothesis. 
  • Did you list compelling reasons why someone should give up their personal contact information? Remember, the benefits must be relevant and meaningful to your audience.
  • Are you asking for too much information up-front? Keep in mind that the visitor may not know anything about you. Keep the form as simple as possible (perhaps just the email address, possibly adding a name field). 
  • Can your sign-up prompt be improved? Spoiler alert: The answer to this question is virtually always “Yes!” Play with different wording on the call to action button (“sign up now”, “subscribe”, “reserve your copy”, etc.) Consider changing the color of the form to better appeal to your audience (for example, red may stand out well and look beautiful on the page, but it can also convey a sense of high alert or danger). 
  • Can the user experience with the landing page and sign-up form be improved? If you are addressing an older audience, a small font size may be experienced as inconvenient and annoying. Also, test how the page and prompt look on a mobile device. 
  • Does your form appear to be secure? With all the data breaches and spam these days, people are reluctant to give out their personal contact information. A data security statement under the form may help alleviate some of this concern. 

Tips for Building an (Email) List of Financial Advisor Leads

So, there you have it. Choose a list-building strategy, implement it by using your tools of choice, and set up a performance monitoring system to improve your results based on real data. The beauty of adding a financial advisor lead capture strategy to your marketing plan is that it can be relatively simple and low-effort in the long run. Yes, the initial setup will take some time (especially if you have to create those lead magnets). But once you have your ducks in a row, it’s all about continuous improvement!

What list-building strategy do you use? Which one do you want to try in 2020? Sound off in the comments!

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Natalia Autenrieth, CPA

Natalia Autenrieth, CPA has audited Fortune 500 clients as part of a Big 4 team, built an accounting department as a controller of a large hospital, and served as a consultant to municipalities. Today, Natalia combines her technical chops with a passion for story, psychology, and writing in her role as the Director of Content Strategy at Brewer Consulting. Natalia loves food — and will drive 150 miles to eat at a random restaurant she has dug up on Yelp. You can connect with Natalia on her LinkedIn page and on Facebook.