FA Center: ‘You’ve got snail mail’: These financial advisers connect with investors the old-fashioned way

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Margie Wiley, a financial adviser in Suffolk, Va., promotes her business like it’s 1989. She runs print ads in her local newspaper and contributes articles on money-related subjects such as taxes and teaching financial literacy to kids. Wiley’s photo appears alongside each of her columns.

“I live in a small community, and people see me and get to know me through these articles,” Wiley said.

Adopting another old-fashioned strategy, Wiley pays for monthly radio advertisements and also records on-air reports summarizing that day’s market news. The segments run less than a minute but generate a following, especially because the station reruns them as part of the following morning’s news.

Investing in print and radio ads works for Wiley in part because she pairs her paid marketing with additional content. Readers benefit from her newspaper articles and listeners appreciate her radio reports, which in turn increases the value of her advertising.

“Marketing is one of those things that people pay a lot of money for, but don’t always understand,” Wiley said. “My strategy wouldn’t work in a large city, but it works where I live.”

Many advisers mistakenly assume such old-school marketing no longer works. From cold calling to printing newsletters and sending them via snail mail, the prevailing attitude is we’re in a high-tech world, so ditch the low-tech activities, build a brand, and get with the program. Spruce up the website, run digital ads, devise a social media strategy, and you’re set.

Yet as Nestor Vargas, a certified financial planner in Golden, Colo., explains: “It’s hard to engage people on digital media because it’s so competitive.”

That’s why Vargas plans to write what he calls “high-value” articles on personal finance topics and hire a graphic designer to create a mailer to send to high-net-worth neighborhoods in his area. He’s focusing on content relevant to his niche of advising working families.

Vargas is banking on the eye-catching novelty of printed matter in a mailbox that you can hold in your hands. On average, about 10% of recipients will open marketing material (like a newsletter) from a company if they’re already a customer or have contacted that organization. Otherwise, the response rate for direct mail is less than 5%.

“If you have a 10% or 15% open rate in the regular mail, that’s huge,” Vargas said. Even handwriting the recipient’s address — and your return address — on the envelope and using a postage stamp can help.

Another out-of-fashion approach, as more of us look down at our smartphones, is to meet people face-to-face. Tim Doehrmann, a certified financial planner in Morton, Ill., schedules weekly lunches to forge professional relationships with key contacts in his community. For example, he has dined with an accountant, estate planning attorney, and real estate agent.

In most cases, he finds local professionals by enlisting third parties — often friends or colleagues — to set up what he calls a “warm intro.” That way, he can reach out to these strangers via a mutual acquaintance. Says Doehrmann: “Taking people to lunch is a great way to expand your network.”

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