How to Market to RIAs

If you look at the statistics, registered investment advisors (RIAs) are the fastest growing segment of the wealth management landscape. This is a group that increasingly controls more assets and more share of the advisorforce than any other, and for good reason: The thirst for independence among financial advisors has only been growing – and has been increasingly enabled by technology.

Unless you want to miss out on a key area of business growth for your financial firm, you need to figure out the RIA segment. But how do you do it? Read on, dear reader, read on.

Understanding the RIA Mindset

To market to RIAs, you must understand RIAs. So, let’s take a step back and think about the unique attributes of this audience:

  • RIAs are fiduciaries. RIAs take pride in the fact that they unanimously put clients first in everything they do. Before anything else, they care about their clients.
  • RIAs are independent business owners. They do not have a broker dealer fulfilling key tasks like compliance and marketing. As such, they wear a lot of hats – and they need a lot of help doing so.
  • RIAs are sophisticated. There are plenty of sophisticated advisors within broker dealers, but RIAs are notably “smart” –borderline institutional – money. From having their own investment committees to having a longer tenure and experience in the industry, they care about complex investment themes and the broader issues facing their client base.
  • RIAs are tough to reach. The nature of RIAs as independent business owners means that this is a highly balkanized audience who is difficult to reach – you don’t have the luxury of walking into a broker dealer and touching every advisor inside the firm. 

With these factors in mind, let’s discuss how to reach this audience.

You Need to Engage RIAs from the Business Out

RIAs have particular needs. They don’t want big commissions to investment products. They want simpler products they (and their clients) can understand. They want a dedicated salesforce who understands their business. They want to be able to integrate your services into their technology stack.

Your business offering needs to be built for RIAs. Otherwise, anything you market is already dead in the water – it’s a non-starter. With that in mind…

Take a Segment-Specific Approach

Thou shalt not send an RIA a marketing piece that doesn’t specifically mention RIAs and things that matter to them. Remember: They are proud to be RIAs. They look at it as part of their identity. If you are just taking a catch-all approach to reaching this segment – sending them messages that every other advisor is getting – you are already playing from behind.

You have to make room in both your business and marketing firm to segment all your messaging (and even the experience, products and services you deliver) to RIAs. But don’t take our word for it:

  • Dimensional Funds achieved incredible business growth by solely marketing and distributing through RIAs early on in their business. They are now one of the top asset management firms in the world, partially due to this smart strategy.
  • Capital Group has a separate dedicated area on its website for RIAs, not to mention its branded RIA Insider program.
  • Altruist – who we wrote about recently – has targeted all of its marketing specifically to RIAs and is quickly growing to be one of the largest custodians via this marketing strategy.

If you want to dedicate efforts to the RIA segment, be dedicated – across your marketing, sales, programs and more. It will pay off, promise.

Help, Don’t Sell

As we mentioned earlier, RIAs need help. They don’t have a huge broker dealer doing all the investment research – they’re doing it themselves. They probably aren’t marketers by trade – they’re financial advisors who care about their clients.

So, they have pain points. And you, dear marketer, are here to help. Think about interesting, engaging programs that can help RIAs grow and manage their business. Arm them with valuable research and education that helps them serve their clients. Be available to go above and beyond in the sales process. While these things seem like basics, they are the quickest way to endear your brand to an audience that is looking for ways you can add value to their practice and the lives of their clients.

Integrate the RIA Community Into Your Marketing

The nice thing about engaging with an audience not affiliated with a broker dealer – all the chains are off. So, you do have the opportunity to integrate this audience into your marketing efforts via storytelling, testimonials and features in your marketing. This is a huge opportunity – with an audience that powerfully self-identifies as a part of a “set,” the chance to showcase other peers sends a powerful message to your audience.

One caution, though – given that this audience is fiduciary in nature, you aren’t going to get them hawking your products for you. What they will (hopefully) do is be willing to share the story of their business and its growth to help other RIAs like them be successful.

Sorry: You Need to Advertise

We mentioned earlier that this is an audience that is highly balkanized – there is no “single throat to choke,” so to speak. You need to take an advertising and marketing-led approach to reaching this audience. There are conferences, publications, targeted social media that you can deploy to build awareness among this audience segment. PR is another great vehicle.

At the end of the day, you need to make an investment in reaching this group. But hey, at least you aren’t paying the revenue-share fees to get access to a broker dealer’s advisors?

In Closing

RIAs are unique, and it’s your first test as a marketer and a businessperson to figure out how to take a segment-specific approach to targeting this audience. All the statistics show it’s worth the investment. So go forth, and be one with the fiduciary!

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