In a highly competitive market for financial planning and advisory services, advisers are looking to new ways to find customers — techniques that go beyond sifting through address books, cold calling, buying lists of contacts, or door-to-door introductions.
One answer: artificial intelligence.
Jared Toren, CEO of Austin-based Proper Wealth Management, said he used to cold-call people to connect with future customers. Though it worked, it ate up a lot of time. Instead, for the past five months, he’s pursued the automation route. To Toren, LinkedIn is the social network of choice that generates the most business. He used to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find customers, but he’s since found an AI-powered software tool that looks for customers way more quickly than a human can, matching him with prospective customers and automatically sending them introductory messages and even psyching with his calendar and sending meeting invites.
“What’s funny is I’ll be sleeping, and my phone is buzzing with new connections that are being made — they may not all result in new clients immediately, but my [LinkedIn] network is being improved, and when I post, my audience is bigger,” he said.
Toren uses an artificial intelligence-powered software tool called SocialMatters.ai. JD Chang, founder and CEO of SocialMatters.AI, said algorithms crawl through LinkedIn profile data of advisers and extended networks to identify potential matches. Contacts are ranked based on their likelihood of a response. Customers work with the company to craft the messages that go to prospects.
Even as lead generation goes digital, as industry analyst Michael Kitces observes, it’s a business that’s still largely a sales job. Automated tools that mine social media connections carry out a match-making effort to find contacts that will most likely become future customers.
“No longer do advisers need to get prospects to come to a steak dinner seminar, but instead they can put themselves in their prospects’ feeds,” said Joe Anthony, president of Gregory FCA, a firm that offers marketing services to financial advisers.
SocialMatters.AI also offers opportunities to personalize outreach.
“We have five to six types of emails that get sent depending on who the person is — they’re compliance approved and the system algorithm can know what message to send to who,” said Paul Pagnato, another financial adviser that uses the software.
Though the matches aren’t always spot-on, Toren said a feedback mechanism allows advisers to refine their search criteria and get more specific. “Don’t expect it to be perfect on day one — you need to tell [the company] if you’re a fit or not a fit and then tighten up the filters.”
While the tool amounts to a massive time saver, it does come at a cost. Depending on the package, access to SocialMatters.ai costs between $1,975 and $3,975 a month. Other companies also offer electronic, data-based lead generation services to meet the demand from the adviser community, including Relationship Science.
“Relationship Science maps the extended network of an adviser’s contacts and current book of business. Advisers then use this network to secure key referrals from existing clients and other influencers they know,” wrote head of product Emma Griffin, in an email to Tearsheet.
For Pagnato, the use of automated data mining tools to seek future clients is only the beginning of how technology will change business processes in the financial advisory industry — a transformation advisers should embrace rather than fear.
“I expect in the next two years, there will be artificial intelligence technology that will be able to profile a client as well if not better than a human,” he said. “It should free up advisers to have deeper and more meaningful conversations with clients on what really matters to them.”
Photo credit: Flickr / Ged Carroll (image has been cropped)