At Revenue Architects, we are big advocates of inbound marketing with leading solutions like HubSpot, Act-On, Marketo, and Mailchimp for email marketing but we also work with a number of industry sectors where a stronger outbound approach is still needed. For example at professional services businesses like consulting, law firms, financial advisors, the promise of “inbound” is a bit over-hyped and a more balanced approach is critical.

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We recently conducted a review of a campaign that was underperforming expectations. Our team was contributing elements of the campaign and we were very disappointed in the results. What was going wrong? What were the red flags?

English: Red Flag

The campaign was focused on marketing a leading technology solution to a target market based on geographic named accounts.  The client was following core principles of inbound marketing and digital marketing offering unique premium content for download and involving a number of components:

  • Active blog content
  • Active Twitter engagement
  • PPC Campaign
  • Microsite with landing pages aligned to key words
  • Relevant copy on each landing page
  • A call to action with premium content
  • Embedded conversion forms using a leading marketing automation platform
  • eMails tailored to each value proposition and landing page
  • A direct mail program to a validated list of targets.

The content was solid and the program was being executed carefully with iterative updates to enhance content and offering language. On the surface, everything looked good. So, why was the client getting limited response?

To evaluate the program, we took a commercial end-to-end revenue perspective and looked at the revenue cycle. We divided the campaign into three elements:  Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), Middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) and Bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU). We looked for red flags.

Here were our findings:


  • Product revenue performance was good for the business with a concentration on a few large accounts, however the business was not coming from the campaign – rather it was coming from existing customers
  • Performance was driven largely by account-based sales efforts
  • The value proposition seemed to provide a clear competitive advantage, however no validation had occurred with target customers (a red flag)
  • The campaign incorporated many leading digital marketing and inbound practices and partner organizations recognized the program as unique and a stand out among peers.

TOFU- Top of Funnel

  • A microsite was of a very high quality with good relevant content & messaging and the team maintained a strong social media presence which was also building increased organic presence
  • We found that there was a very small target market– the campaign was targeting a named set of companies of only a few hundred companies (a red flag– was there a broad enough market? If the target market is this focused, why the emphasis no an inbound strategy?)
  • A sophisticated PPC Campaign was underway – with a substantial budget (another red flag– why so much investment in PPC with such a targeted audience?)
  • Direct mail campaigns also had little or no results or traction
  • No other new business lead sources were identified.

MOFU – Middle of the Funnel

  • The marketing list had been in place and marketed to for over a year with little or no results. The list was limited in size and consistent with the target company list.  The list was validated and augmented, but this remained a major red flag. Was this list ever going to produce results? Was the campaign targeting the right market?
  • There was no need for a nurture program and lead scoring had little relevance given such low lead gen results
  • Marketing automation was implemented well and while better campaign and email coordination and tracking across campaigns were needed, this did not explain a lack of lead generation within this campaign
  • The company was not engaged any consistent telesales (another red flag – especially given the highly targeted nature of the customer audience) Past telesales had mixed results depending on product, firm, timing and message.

BOFU – Bottom of Funnel

  • The direct sales teams were successfully closing deals and the existing account base for the organization was the primary source of product revenue
  • However, cross-selling the existing account base is difficult with entrenched vendor and sales relationships.

What did the red flags tell us?

The campaign needed to refresh its target universe/ marketing list and expand its exposure while also taking a deeper dive review of the value proposition by conducting a focused survey. Given the target market, budgets needed to shift from the top-of-funnel  inbound and PPC lead gen toward more 1:1 tele-prospecting and sales engagement.

By taking a commercial focused approach and mapping the end-to-end revenue cycle from marketing to sales, it became more apparent where to focus attention and make improvements.

That’s the goal of NAPFA (National Association of Personal Financial Advisors) with the recent launch of the for its more than 1,500 Fee-Only member advisors across the country. A parallel goal is to build the NAPFA brand and promote the benefits of working with NAPFA-registered investment advisors (RIAs) for comprehensive financial planning and fee-only compensation.

This comes as Fee-Only Registered Investment Advisors (RIA) have surged and changed the way Americans invest.  This in a climate where investors are more risk adverse, want to be involved in the investment process and, for all generations, increasingly use the web to “self-sell” before engaging.  Having a strong web presence  — including a dynamic web marketing hub, social media significance, thought leadership content and digital marketing programs — is not an option, but an imperative for advisors to be relevant and competitive today.

With, Individual NAPFA members receive a free, search optimized profile and those who wish to pony up $250, receive a more sophisticated profile with more content, enhanced optimization and linking features. The value proposition seems solid: members can piggyback on the broader branding effort around “Fee Only” with NAPFA and generate leads and SEO value at a reasonable cost per year.

There are a number of things for members to consider in maximizing the value and effectiveness of their profiles. (See FeeOnlyNetwork mockup)

    • Differentiate the message beyond “Fee-Only”
      Use the bulleted specialties adjacent to photo and paragraph beneath it, to provide more depth and breadth surrounding resources and investment options offered, akin to what you might get from a broker dealer.
    • Choose messaging carefully
      Avoid “generic” messages like “specializes in financial planning and investment management”; be more sophisticated.
    • Align Profiles & Links
      Make sure your profiles line up across all your channels – LinkedIn, Website, Facebook, Twitter, FeeOnlyNetwork, etc. – including key words, messaging and positioning.
    • Include Links 
 Make sure all your publicly available links are reflected on the profile and picked up by FeeOnlyNetwork.
  • Complete all of the Profile Features
    This includes links to all of your social media profiles, recent articles, media mentions, welcome video and the like.  If you have more than one location, be sure to include it as well.  Also complete the company profile tab.  There will be an ability to cross-link with other NAPFA members in your company.
  • Show Bench Strength:
    The network is very “planner” and individual based rather than the firm… some investors may want to see that they can engage a firm with a broader set of expertise and specializations within the firm.  This can be done with the company profile tab, but perhaps you can influence the site’s positioning if you want to highlight both you and your company more strongly.
  • Generate Leads:
    Currently, the “Contact Me” button generates an email, however there are plans to enable a form.  Be on the look out and perhaps influence its development.  For example if it were a “Learn More” link instead of “Contact Me”, that could lead to a landing page on your website where they can further “opt-in” to learning without feeling the need to email you right away. Many “buyers” want to self-sell and learn about you (and others) without converting immediately to an email or meeting.

NAPFA says it has made a significant investment and allocated considerable resources to the, a partnership with Advisorology, LLC, the parent company of the and  The partnership promises to continue to enhance the  Members would do well to actively participate in its evolution.


Thérèse Byrne is a Client Partner & Digital Strategist with Revenue Architects specializing in helping clients take advantage of modern marketing approaches to projects from the vantage of creative, innovative and agile solutions to growth. She works with a number offinancial advisor clients developing strategies and implementing compliant marketing solutions enabled by technology and inbound marketing.

In a recent post in Bank Investment Consultant, Margarida Correia points out that financial advisors face threats from direct providers like Charles Schwab and Fidelity – the very firms that are in many cases are providing the underlying services for the RIA.

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Yet the article also points out a positive:

“It’s not all gloom and doom for advisors, though. Despite the inroads direct account providers have made, financial advisors still offer more robust services and can differentiate themselves by offering more personalized advice, including detailed financial planning, according to Cerulli.

“Advisors can differentiate themselves by creating a personal brand,” said Wolf. They can create a “client niche,” something that would set them apart from what the “bigger, broader firms are offering,” Wolf said.”

More Evidence of Ineffective Marketing

In an earlier survey by ByAllAccounts, Inc., the majority of financial advisors report low effectiveness of their marketing efforts, despite placing a high value on marketing.

It is clear that advisors are by and large not focusing their efforts on the most efficient marketing strategies. A large number of survey respondents still depend strongly on word of mouth and referrals for new business, and very few have dedicated marketing staff. Further, while most do advisors incorporate their websites into their marketing strategy, they also reported finding their website marketing strategy to be neutral or ineffective.

Some Strategies to Consider

Advisors should improve their websites first. In our presentations with Advisor Groups, we always point out how “all roads lead back to the website” . Make sure your website is designed solidly, well branded, and brings more dynamic content. There are also a number of related tools and strategies that advisors can take advantage of to improve marketing effectiveness, even if working with a limited budget.

  • Google Analytics, a free data analysis tool, monitors website traffic and enables users to visualize and analyze the effectiveness of their website marketing strategy. This will highlight areas where improvement is necessary and will allow advisors to take the next steps in improving their marketing strategy.
  • Soon, the Revenizer will launch giving a range of pre-built, easy to use scorecards. Sign up now and you will get in the loop for a free free service! We recommend this tool because too many people are not taking the time to look at the analytics and this tool makes it easy. (Revenue Architects is an investor in Revenizer)
  • Advisors have also largely neglected to take advantage of search engine optimization and marketing automation software, both of which are strategies that can have a significant impact on client acquisition. Optimizing the firm’s website in order to be found by search engines will attract more traffic to the website and in turn new business to the firm.
  • Off page strategies – like PR and Social Media presence adds more inbound links to your site.
  • Newsletters and email campaigns are well known as a great way to stay in touch – and the technologies for this (like Mailchimp and Constant Contact among others) are improving dramatically.
  • For advisors with more serious ambition to lead in marketing effectiveness, we recommend and help manage more robust marketing automation software solutions to drive greater impact and deliver more control.

Take a more systematic approach to marketing. Here are five steps:

  1. Define your target markets / niches carefully. Build personas around each segment
  2. Build your target universe of existing and potential clients (combining opt-in and acquisition strategies)
  3. Deploy a Revenue System – processes and technologies for email, social media, website, content, lead nurturing and development, CRM
  4. Run creative, tailored content-driven campaigns for each target segment
  5. Nurture clients with technology to help self-filter the wrong clients and encourage the  right clients to your firm.

Revenue Architects helps financial advisors develop these strategies as well as select and operate the marketing technology systems that will work best for their firm based on ambition for AUM, target market and available resources. Reach us at

This post is being shared this week in our updated Newsletter which we plan to publish about once a month. The newsletter is designed to be easy to scan at a glance so readers can click only articles of interest. Articles are pulled from “Things We Think”, the Revenue Architects Blog. The blog is named after the 2001 Viant weblog.


Image via Wikipedia

Viant was an innovative company designed from the ground up to build digital businesses. We also created Revenue Architects from the ground up – to address our client’s revenue agenda. We thought the name worked.

The Business Issue

The pursuit of top-line revenue growth is more challenging than ever. The web, social media and mobile technologies have transformed buyer process. Businesses must integrate marketing and sales and better engage the web to capture, deepen and expand relationships. Yet, executing successfully requires a wide range of talent – from creative design and branding to content creation and technology. At the same time, some of the best experts are working independently from the traditional agency. We flexibly and adaptively bring these expert teams to our clients – helping them capture customer value with new marketing and sales.

2012 Momentum

Thanks to great clients, a great team and an extended expert network, Revenue Architects enjoyed a solid 2011 and is off to a great start in 2012. We continually refine our business model to ensure we are positioned to adaptively deliver marketing support for our client’s growth agenda. We are celebrating new members of the team, expansion of our client base, an updated website and new offices in downtown Boston. Here are some highlights:

Welcome to “Things We Think” and our newsletter. We hope you are able to enjoy some of the perspectives and thank you to all that helped Revenue Architects have a successful 2011 and start for 2012.

Below are some interesting facts and opinions about Facebook curated from the current Economist article.

“Last year the company had sales of $3.7 billion, a little below recent estimates, and made a net profit of $1 billion.”

“The network boasts 845m users, which, were Facebook a country, would make it the world’s third most populous, behind China and India.”

“Every day 250m photos are uploaded to the site. One out of every seven minutes spent online is on Facebook, according to comScore, a research firm.”

“Facebook accessible to ever more people. (The Boston Consulting Group reckons that around 3 billion people will be online by 2016, up from 1.6 billion in 2010.) The second is the rise of the mobile phone. Already more than 425m people are tapping into Facebook on these devices and in future most of the social network’s growth will come from the mobile web. Together, these trends could propel the number of users beyond 1 billion.”

“People are now spending far more time on Facebook than on rival web services such as Google (see chart 2) and why it has benefited from strong network effects. ”

Another interesting perspective- will a new hot social network take over? Tumblr? Twitter?

“One is that people stop using Facebook, either because they lose interest or because they are put off by its behaviour. As News Corporation discovered to its cost after it splashed out $580m on Myspace in 2005, network effects can also go quickly into reverse. Once large numbers of people started leaving the service, which became more cluttered than a teenager’s bedroom, it proved hard to stem the tide. Last year, News Corp sold the business for just $35m.”


Emails are one of the most often used communication methods used by businesses to reach clients and potential leads, and if used correctly email marketing can be among the most effective methods as well to grow your business. In a climate where communication is becoming increasingly digital, crafting effective email marketing messaging is vital for any financial advisor. Successful emails that clearly communicate their message enhance customer experience and generate business, while unsuccessful emails lead to may lead to confusion or lack of action. The following are a few simple steps that can be taken to maximize the effectiveness and clarity of your email marketing message while also optimizing the user experience of the email’s entire audience: the foundation of any successful email marketing campaign.

Like all good writing, email is most successful when the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the message is taken into consideration. For the purposes of user experience, the what, where, and how are the three most important of these categories.

“WHAT are you saying to me?”

  • First impressions matter- make the most of your subject line: Is it recognizable, trustworthy, and relevant? What is the relationship between the receiver and the sender (whether an individual or company)?
  • Use client friendly language
  • Make a clear point, and provide enough context for understanding. Avoid ambiguity and a lack of call to action
  • Make the email interesting and not too dense- use imagery, data, and personalization if possible
  • Create a hierarchy in content, message, and visual elements- prioritize the important information and eliminate extraneous details. Differentiate colors, fonts, and placements.

“HOW do you want me to take action?”

  • Take advantage of opportunities to engage your audience- linked imagery, video, buttons, charts, colored backgrounds, forward and share links
  • Make the call to action obvious- Use active language. This comes back to the clarity of the message and the hierarchy of the content, message, and visual elements.
  • Leave no question as to what the reader (your client) is being asked to do.

“WHERE am I reading your email?”

  • Bigger is better- Be aware of recommended minimum font sizes (body 14 px, header 22 px). Body copy of less than 13 px will often be re-sized.
  • Create touch targets- Include tappable touch targets and make them easy to activate with a 44 px x 44 px minimum. Try both text and image buttons.
  • Streamline- Simplify content and stay within a single column template. Confine content to a skinny 320 px X 540 px frame. Make sure to prioritize the “What” and “How” aspects of the email, with short, direct content and a clear call to action.
  • Ditch the automatically-created mobile version- it only represents an extra click for the reader. Instead, design with a “mobile first” mentality.

Customer relationships are so important and client experience should be the basis of the design of any email. Making sure the what, how, and where of the email from the audience’s perspective is analyzed and accounted for will help ensure that you compose a successful marketing message.

As part of a recent presentation on social media and digital marketing, I developed a Mnemonic AEIOU to help the audience remember some of the key elements of an integrated revenue architecture and associated marketing best practices. After all, most English speakers remember our vowels (A.E.I.O.U. and sometimes Y)!

This short slideshow introduces the model and offers a few AEIOU tips and practices for each element:

  • Attract
  • Engage
  • Influence
  • Optimize
  • Understand

Social media is not just for reconnecting with former classmates and sharing photos from this year’s family reunion; websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and now Google+ can be valuable professional tools when you develop your social media presence with certain relationship building goals in mind. Taking advantage of the possible connections that social media provides and working to develop relationships with potential clients, peers, and competitors can benefit your business in ways that were not possible prior to the age of social media.

Rather than using social media for direct marketing, which is more likely to turn people away, it is most effective to indirectly promote your firm by developing your own individual online presence. Regularly publishing, posting and tweeting on related issues shows that you are active and engaged within the business community, which will in turn reflects positively on your firm.  The two dimensions for measuring social media impact are reach and influence. With regular, if not frequent, substantive updates and a large network of followers will help drive the velocity of your practice and give you the benefit of positive name recognition.

One of the most effective ways that you can take advantage of social media’s networking opportunities is to collaborate with both peers and competitors in order to learn from their business practices. Join an industry group on LinkedIn and start a discussion to share tips on anything from best investment practices to which software to use. Collaborating with peers online also allows you to gain a better understanding of what they deal with, which will help you to be better prepared to work with them offline.

You can also use social media to your advantage by developing closer personal relationships with clients. Friend clients on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. You will develop a better understanding of your client as a person, which will allow you to plan better for them and therefore increase their overall satisfaction. In browsing their profile you might discover a mutual interest that could influence investment plans, and responding to their posts will show that you are engaged and attentive. Conversely, your clients will get to know you better by following your updates, allowing for a more personal and natural relationship. Advisory firms that want to draw in younger clients and investors will need to tap into social media. Of course, you must weigh your own public persona and determine how visible and transparent you want to be. Each channel has unique characteristics which may make it more suitable for personal use rather than business use. Compliance considerations are always there – but increasingly managable with a combination of tools and policies.

There are certain limitations to keep in mind when diving into the social media world. Posts are typically best kept brief – mandatory on Twitter – and nuance is easily lost, so tread carefully. There are also certain rules that regulate advisers’ public communications in order to protect investors. The SEC has not yet established any rules or guidelines specific to social media, which has allowed advisers working at small firms more room to move when working with social media. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), however, has issued rules for the use of social media, requiring broker-dealers to be more formal and deliberate in their social media communications.

Provided that these rules and limitations are managed, social media networks can be a highly effective tool to benefit your business through relationship building. Be active and engaged in the online community and your growing online network will benefit your business offline, too.

We usually recommend that our clients avoid launching their blog under a separate domain name / URL from their primary brand website. The reasons are both related to branding (brand affinity) and search engine optimization (SEO). While this general recommendation remains, with Google’s recent announcement about link treatments, brands can now add some subtle branding structures and URL treatments for their blogs while still maintaining SEO value to their core domain.

Matt Boynton and Laurent Magloire from the Revenue Architects team point out that Google recently announced that sub-domains and domains are going to be treated equally. So and will both maintain the same SEO value. Prior to this announcement, would have been treated as a separate domains and would not have received the SEO value of incoming links to

We will still suggest that to maintain SEO value and brand affinity, you should not create a separate domain for the brand blog (i.e. do not create something called, but now you can make some additional choices for how to brand your blog and structure your blog domain name. Here is the article.