Welcome back to another episode of the Independence Playbook. In today’s episode, John is joined by Gordy Abel, Chief Marketing Officer, to discuss how advisors should approach their brand development and marketing strategy as they transition to a fully independent RIA model.
SPEAKER 1: [00:00:00] Hi. Welcome to the third episode of The Breakaway Playbook. Today, I’m joined by Gordy Abel, Chief Marketing Officer of Dynasty Financial Partners.
Hey, Gordy. I know you get a barrage of questions about marketing from advisors. There’s a lot of concern and consternation about how it all comes together. Can you just give us some high-level points about engagement with it?
SPEAKER 2: Great. Thanks, John. I appreciate being here. You know, I think, actually, marketing and developing a brand is probably, from my perspective, one of the most exciting areas when launching a new firm. It’s just high energy. It’s high creative. And in many ways, it really, you know, is a manifestation of just what everybody’s been thinking about and dreaming about and aspiring to do, and it just really all comes together through that brand development.
You know, John, often, you know, the questions I get asked when teams come in or… you know, “What’s my website going to look like” and, you know, “I hate the color green. I don’t ever want to see green and…” You know, those are all really great, great questions and thoughts but–
You know, our approach is to take a big step back in the beginning and to create what we call a “Brand DNA and core messaging.” And this is work that we go through that really zones in on things like establishing a vision, a mission, really getting and discussing the brand’s personality, its values, its unique proposition, you know, all of the core tenants and support points, the elevator pitch — everything that goes into it.
[00:02:00] So when we start to think about things like naming and logos that we’re working from a very established brand lens and filter, that really helps guide the decision-making process. So we take out a lot of, you know, kind of maybe, you know, personal preferences and we make it all about the firm’s new brand.
SPEAKER 1: And so when you engage with the team, Gordy, how do you explain to them sort of the timeline and how they’re going to get all of that work done within a specific timeframe?
SPEAKER 2: Yeah. You know, John, I’ve had the real honor and pleasure over the past six plus years being with Dynasty to now launched over 32 new unique independent brands in the wealth management category, And I tell you, I think… You know, without really patting ourselves on the back but, you know, we’ve kind of perfected the process on helping teams go from having basically a blank sheet of paper to really having a full-integrated brand ready for day one launch.
And on average, John, I would say that takes about three up to four months for us to do it well and to really, you know, lean in, be good partners and create something special for the investment that the team is making.
SPEAKER 1: And over that three or four-month period… Obviously, it doesn’t all happen at once. It’s broken down into sort of manageable timeframes in terms of the work that needs to get accomplished. But let’s talk a little bit as we get closer to the day of the launch. What are some of the additional things that are going to come up as the date approaches to go live?
SPEAKER 2: Yeah. Well, certainly, a big day, right — launch day. But in that three to four-month period, John–
I’ll take a little bit of a step back and say, you know, we’ve identified kind of seven key steps to get us to launch day. And like I said, it really starts with that brand DNA and core messaging work that we do. [00:04:00] From there, we identify kind of key themes that allow us to get into naming. And naming is a critical first step because it really is, you know, the message conveyed in a single word or two that announces who we are.
We go through a trademarking process as well, John, to make sure that, you know, six to eight months down the road, the team doesn’t get a nastygram, a cease and desist, right, you know, where we have to start over.
Once we have that name, we’re off to the races, right? We’re developing logos, visual identity, mood boards that really then become the direction for how we think about creating websites, stationary kits, business cards, pitch books, all of the different things that we’re going to need for launch.
As that is in development, we start putting the marketing tech stack in place — so email platforms, thinking about the data science that’s going to be needed so that we can optimize down the road, CRM integration, the entire tech stack.
As that’s being deployed, we start to think about PR communications. Our head of PR will come in. Sally Cates begin to work with the team off their core messaging platform to A] develop the press release that may be needed for launch and also to begin to train the teams because many of them over the years have been told, “No, no, no. You can’t do PR.” And if you do, you’ll be fired, right? So we need to do a lot of training to make sure the team is prepared.
As we get a little bit closer, we’re going to start to think about experiential marketing — so potentially, an open house, maybe some gifting for teams, family members, clients and so forth. And then we get up to the day. And it’s an exciting moment. There’s so much going on. But we are, you know, at the ready.
[00:06:00] So once the team resigns — for us, generally, that’s on a Friday — we will get an update from our transition manager that all of the paperwork has been signed. It’s been cleared through legal.
And then we launch the website. And that takes, I would say, about an hour to two hours for the site to fully propagate, right, and the new brand is live. So the team can go there, you know, their ecosystem of friends, families, network partners. Anyone can go and start to learn about the new brand and what the team is doing.
SPEAKER 1: That’s terrific, Gordy. So we get to the point where we go live. There’s actually a press release. Sometimes, there’s press interviews and things get published about the new team and the new firm.
Can you talk a little bit about the ensuing days as the assets come across and the advisors begin to what we’ve been describing as growth through the transition? So they want to start marketing and attracting prospects into the new firm. Can you talk a little bit about how we enable them there with respect to both organic and inorganic growth?
SPEAKER 2: Absolutely. So a couple points on that, John, just to build off of the launch day.
So the following week — generally, on a Wednesday — we’ll do a public announcement of the firm. Again, the press team comes in. And in the development of the press release that we will put on Business Wire, which then gets disseminated across many different media channels, we’re not only making the announcement that the new firm exists but we’re starting to plant seeds in terms of future aspirations.
And in many cases, right, firms will tell us, “Hey, you know, not only did I launched today in St. Petersburg Florida,” let’s say, right, “but we have ambitions to open up offices in Miami.”
And with that press release alone, we’ve seen inbounds come in, not only congratulating the new team for their launch but advisors in Miami saying, “Wow. [00:08:00] This looks interesting. I’ve been looking to join an independent firm. I’d like to talk to the new firm X.” So even on that first day, from a PR perspective, we can start planting the seed for inorganic growth.
At the same time, John, we are fully launching all of the different social channels for the team across important platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and certainly, incorporating SEO and SEM into the program.
So this is a way for us to start to tell the story at the corporate level but more importantly or equally as important, at the advisor level, right? So this allows the advisors to begin to tell their own unique story relative to their own focus or area of expertise while we’re telling the larger brand story at the corporate level. And again, this has a huge impact on both organic and inorganic growth.
SPEAKER 1: Yeah. And I know your team is directly involved in all of those activities especially leading up to the day of the launch and then the week’s post-launch.
Three to four months in, what are some of the activities and work that your team is doing to continue to advance the marketing for the team that has been launched?
SPEAKER 2: Great question, John. So first of all, I’m a huge proponent that marketing be viewed as an investment and not a cost, right — not a drag on the P&L. [00:10:00] And in order for us to do that, we need to make sure that we’re removing shiny objects, you know, we’re not chasing trends or fads, right, but that we’re bringing the right marketing strategies to bear that align with the firm’s business objectives.
You know, we have access to a lot of data here at Dynasty, John. And I tell you, I think, you know, one of the values of working with the Dynasty community is having an aggregated access to all the data points that we see across our network.
And from a benchmarking perspective, you know, we can see things like, on average, right ,72 percent of traffic that will come to a website, the Dynasty network, will come from search, primarily Google. The next 12 percent will come from LinkedIn, the next channel will be PR and then the long tail will come from, you know, direct typing or referral sources.
So it’s important for us to look at that data to understand where engagement’s going to come from but then align that back to building a foundation for each firm that we work with so that later in year one, year two, year three, they’re set up for success.
Quickly, you know, from a Dynasty perspective, our teams get assigned a marketing manager by which we do two things. One, on a regular basis, we’re sitting down and leveraging what we call an “Editorial calendar.” This is a calendar that covers key themes.
And we take a 30 to 60-day view out to understand with each firm, what are they doing, different activities. [00:12:00] Are they producing a market commentary? Are they attending a charity event? Are they launching a new business unit? Have they expanded into a new market — all of the things that are going to require communications and distribution and will create awareness and consideration.
With that, we’d also begin to look at the data. We have a proprietary dashboard called the “PRO Dashboard.” That stands for “Performance Reporting and Optimization.” But this is an aggregation of all of the different data points across marketing — website, social, CRM, paid campaigns — so that we can take a holistic view at how things are performing. Are they generating leads? Are we seeing ROI, right? And are we getting that level of return for both the people and the dollars that we’re putting in to make marketing and effective investment?
SPEAKER 1: That’s great, Gordy, especially the perspective of how you and the marketing team, you know, help with the pre-launch, during the launch and then obviously, the post-launch efforts that are going to lead to the great results that we’re seeing across the network. So really appreciate your insights today, Gordy. Thank you very much.
On our next episode, we’re going to focus on operations and feature
SPEAKER 1: Okay. — Our next episode will focus on operations and we’ll feature our Head of Operations, Angela Gingras.
SPEAKER 2: Great, John. Thank you for having me.