October 17, 2011

Does regional marketing have a place in the mix?

by Katie Bird

If you’ve ever been curious about the benefits of launching a marketing effort based on geography, then the presentation by Dan Lash of the Financial Network and Rachael DeCosta-Martin of John Hancock funds would have been right up your alley. At SunStar’s recent Entrepreneur’s Roundtable, Dan and Rachael provided tips to help get funds in front of advisors through the Financial Planning Association and regional wholesaling.

Financial Planning Association Sponsorships
With nearly 100 FPA chapters nationwide, plenty of sponsorship opportunities are available. Dan noted that his chapter’s members are primarily IBDs and RIAs, but not many wirehouse advisors. The Chapter is sponsored by approximately 20 sponsors at an annual fee of $2000-$4000. Most sponsorship commitments last from two to three years.

Both Dan and Rachel agreed your sponsorship dollars and personal networking at Chapter events and meetings can pay off when you are trying to get appointments at member firms. In addition, there may be opportunities at meetings to give your “commercial” for your products.

To take the best advantage of your sponsorship, Rachael and Dan agree it’s critical to be engaged: participate in speaker presentations, join committees, and be sure to mingle with advisors, not other sponsors, at events.

Regional Wholesaling
Rachael had a lot to share as an experienced wholesaler.  She recommended bi-annual visits to sell your fund, noting advisors don’t need or have the time to hear your spiel every month, but appreciate it when you have timely information. She recommended reaching out to analysts if the target firms have them, because unfortunately, most advisors will turn you down every time. You can find these analysts by visiting advisor websites, sec.gov, RIA websites or by calling the firm’s receptionist.

To make sales meetings productive, Rachael recommended her favorite – the iPad. “iPads are invaluable to wholesalers,” she said. She has hers loaded with Market Metrics, which analyzes which companies are using what mutual fund families and asset classes, as well as Active Share, developed by Yale professors, which predicts future fund performance.

Another useful tactic is for your wholesaler to work with competitor wholesalers in the field, which Rachael does often. As a result, she’s been able to co-sponsor events and garner introductions to key advisors.  

Growth Opportunities
Perhaps an overlooked road to growing your firm is outright acquisition. Dan’s grown his own RIA firm by actively seeking other RIAs who are ready to move on or leave the business. This strategy could be applied in the mutual fund world as well.

The speakers also mentioned that advisors in many RIA asset allocation models are typically replaced every 3-5 years as part of their due diligence process, so creating a relationship over time can pay off.  They definitely believe getting onto platforms is the way to go, and hiring wholesalers is a good idea.

Rachael suggested working with a PR firm to create a strategy around marketing your firm, as well as utilizing some paid advertisements.

The message our conference participants got was loud and clear: Regional sponsorships and a geographic approach to wholesaling supported by a strategic marketing plan will provide relatively inexpensive, efficient opportunities to put your fund’s name in front of advisors.

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