Contently CMO Stories: How Raymond James Got 95% of Its Financial Advisors to Use Content

The typical content marketing relationship usually works like this: Brands create content and serve it directly to a consumer through a broadcast channel, such as Facebook, Twitter, email, LinkedIn—or even the mail if you happen to have your own print magazine.

But what happens when you’re not serving content through a broadcast channel, but through individual people? Lots of companies rely on agents, advisors, and other types of salespeople to reach their audience, but often they miss the opportunity to use those folks to serve up content and capture peoples’ attention.

With over 6,000 financial advisors, Raymond James is no stranger to working with intermediaries. But over the last few years, the company has been able to get almost all of its salesforce to use content. Now, when advisors work with consumers, they can turn to helpful resources like “How Rising Interest Rates Impact Bond Prices” and “Six Things to Know to Weather a Market Downturn” that come directly from Raymond James.

I spoke to Raymond James CMO Mike White, who has been at the company for more than 15 years, to find out why he considers financial advisors to be clients, how content impacts both B2B and B2C relationships, and why his marketing team has such a progressive relationship with the compliance department.

[Full disclosure: Raymond James is a Contently client.]

What audience is Raymond James looking to reach?

Our content, probably like a lot of marketing and communications initiatives, varies by stakeholder. Clients typically receive our content through our financial advisors. So we have a business-to-business-to-consumer kind of model. A lot of it is about education.

We also have a fairly good focus on relations with the media and the public—for example, featuring our subject matter experts. We have a lot of analysts, economists, and stock strategists. Our goal is to make certain the Raymond James point of view is out there and shared.

Lastly, we also have a capital markets audience as part of our business. It’s a business-to-business-to-business model there with investment bankers who, in a lot of ways, have a very similar relationship with their clients that the advisors do. The level of sophistication and the content is somewhat higher with them.

What’s special about content at Raymond James? How do you make your mark?

The place where we’ve really tried to make our mark is being leaders in supporting financial advisor marketing. We believe that in most cases the financial advisor brand is the one that is more important than the institution behind it. We obviously are investing in the Raymond James brand—that’s very important—but at the end of the day, the client has a relationship with the advisor. Content is so important to that, the advisor can take the content and make it his or her own, and the digital environment with content management allows them to do that in a really thoughtful, sophisticated way.

How do advisors find this content?

Like a lot of firms, we have a content hub, Raymond James Point of View. It serves our different stakeholders in different ways. The primary driver of it was intended to be a feeder to our financial advisors websites and their social platforms. So we post here, and they can choose what to use and what not to use.

Since the whole system only works if the right content is then passed along, how do you manage to get these advisors to use the materials that you create?

We see our financial advisors as clients. They can choose to use our content or not, so the content has to be compelling. We also are a very independent culture, meaning the advisors have different business models. We respect that. Some of them hold themselves as portfolio managers and really value the content that talks about investment ideas or the economy. Then we have other advisors who orient their practice more around financial planning and wealth management. The content they use is more focused on life events and financial planning topics.

And they value the content? They’re adopting and sharing it?

Ninety-five percent of them have used marketing materials or content that we’ve created in the past three months. Depending upon how you measure it, it can be hard to put an ROI on marketing in the wealth management business. However, from an engagement perspective, we’re seeing a high percentage of advisors use it and continue to use the content. It’s validating.

We have also had some other more tactical indications of success. We’ve seen an explosion of growth in the use of our social media platform, where a lot of our content takes life, reaching over a million clients and prospects that are part of our advisor networks. We have seen that grow from nothing a couple years ago to close to 4,000 today. We have a ways to go, because we have 6,000 advisors, but that’s good evidence of the progress.

How do you manage listening to all of those advisors?

We have real-time feedback when an advisor engages with our services. We have surveys where we ask them what their experience was like and what else they would like to see. We have an editorial creation calendar that, in large part, drives ideas and direction for both the clients and their advisors. It shows what they would like to see more of.

Obviously, in the digital world, it is easy to see where advisors are using content, where there is engagement. We want to use metrics for that as well.

So the advisors are on board, but what’s your relationship with compliance? Do you have to work to get them on board, or stay on board?

Especially in our industry, it’s really important to be compliant. We have a small compliance group that physically sits in marketing, so it’s an integrated part of the process. There are various steps when we are going through the planning process or production process where they can flag things to say: “That’s a topic that may require additional review.” I know in some places you create a great piece of content and you pray that it is going to get through compliance. We don’t approach it that way. It’s integrated from the beginning.

How’d you get to be so lucky?

We have a very progressive compliance function. But there are real efficiency benefits of it, too, that help.

Is that where you see content marketing and financial marketing in the next ten years, better teamwork?

I think so. We have to go with the flow, with the trends that are happening with communication, media, and consumer preferences. Financial advisors, particularly in the wealth management space, are not going to be on the cutting edge, in a big part because of compliance. I think, in a lot of cases, if our clients are in a place and want to consume information, we have to be there as well. That’s why we’ve made a major investment in social media and in our content management systems.

[This interview has been edited and condensed.]

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