Blow by compliance while the competition dithers

January 30, 2023

Marketing and branding are the lifeblood of a company. They are how you reach prospects to help them see your value. Without them, you don’t have sales; and without sales, you’re in the bread line.

But marketing and branding are difficult for many financial advisors because of market saturation, embarrassingly pushy salespeople, and – perhaps most of all – difficulty navigating compliance. Compliance certainly protects clients from unscrupulous investors. However:

  • Regulations can be outdated. In 2020, the SEC updated some marketing regulations for the first time in 40 years.
  • Approval can take so long that time-sensitive messaging doesn’t reach prospects in time.
  • Approved content is often bland. You can only say “buy low, sell high” so many times.

So how do influential leaders like Brad McMillan run a popular blog and appear on media outlets like CNBC without running afoul of compliance? The lightbulb went off for us when Concentric Private Wealth hosted McMillan for a seminar: he doesn’t make his own predictions. Instead, he analyzes and provides conclusions about today’s events in ways which are informed by publicly available historical data.

For example, in the Concentric presentation, his conclusions about a potential recession came after he provided historical data which indicates the economy is strong. McMillan’s secret sauce appears to be getting compliance on board -– by having no secret at all.

Here’s how to use his strategy to stand out from the competition in the press, on social media, and anywhere else.

Focus on what you can say, not what you can’t

Many financial advisors don’t think compliance is worth the aggravation. It’s easier and feels more rewarding to meet more people, shake more hands, and get more direct leads.

But McMillan’s strategy doesn’t view compliance as a barrier to success. It flips the script by uncovering what you can say.

After his Concentric presentation, McMillan told Dustin that he always goes through compliance whether speaking as a company executive (as he did for Concentric and often does in the press) or as a financial advisor. But he also makes requests that are quickly and easily approved – it’s how he was able to blog almost daily for years. He also said that most messages will be approved by compliance…if you can wait.

What about customers?

Once you’ve flipped the script, it’s time to find the right message for clients and prospects. You don’t have time, money, or opportunity to waste, so every message must hit the right people the right way at the right time. And once you’ve found what works, it’s time to make a long-term investment so the message takes hold.

For example, wealthy, sophisticated prospects may not need to hear about buying low; but they may care about the nuances of bear and bull markets. Other prospects may need to be reminded to buy when stocks are low, or that time in the market is more important than timing the market. And a business audience may care more about risk-aversion because of obligations to grow staff portfolios.

McMillan’s message to Concentric’s audience targeted people who follow markets and understand economics. They also see the value of a financial advisor for growing personal wealth. By delivering a sophisticated presentation replete with historical and current data, he bolstered Concentric’s brand trust with attendees.

Three steps to success

An effective compliance navigation strategy has three parts:

  1. What will compliance approve that you can use repetitively, such as generic advice and insights for regular social media content, email marketing, and the press?
  2. What will compliance approve quickly so that your message is relevant in real-time responses to market and economic shifts?
  3. What will compliance likely approve more slowly that you can use down the line? For example, with the Federal Reserve projected to increase rates in early 2023, can you get three message variations approved so that you’re ready when the Fed makes its move?

Being empowered is freeing. You tell clients every day to focus on what they can invest rather than focus on what prevents them from investing more. The Brad McMillan strategy turns fear of compliance into confidence that what you’re saying is just fine.

Turn compliance into a brand-building ally

You can only shake so many hands and attend so many “networking” events. The right brand-building strategy takes time to go through compliance, and even more time to properly penetrate your target audiences. But done right, it’s like having three people shaking hands at five events.

Compliance can be an obstacle or an ally. If the competition wants to be a pushy salesperson, let ‘em – and while they’re alienating prospects, you’ll use the Brad McMillan strategy to see compliance as an opportunity to create messages that reach, influence, and persuade more people than ever to pay you to build their wealth.

This piece was originally published at Investment News by Dustin Siggins and Peter Daniels, CFP®, BFA™.

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