The Worst-Best Financial Marketer

Worst website. Worst visual identity. Lack of snazzy marketing. It should be a recipe for disaster. And yet, when it comes to a certain asset manager, somehow none of the usual rules apply.

First off: If we’ve baited you into reading this article in order to find out who the official “Worst-Best Financial Marketer of All Time” is, we won’t force you to wait: It’s First Trust. Don’t believe us regarding their status? Well, here is their website. Enough said.

But this article isn’t to poke fun at First Trust. In fact, it’s to celebrate them. First Trust is regularly mentioned in our conversations with financial advisors as one they love. It’s also recognized at the quantitative level within several leading financial branding studies as an upper echelon brand in the eyes of advisors. 

Dissecting exactly how First Trust managed to become a top financial brand without the glitter and glamour of the other big names can teach financial marketers some very important lessons when it comes to branding within the asset management space.


A Quality Content Machine

Take a bit of a deeper look at the First Trust website. What immediately sticks out? That’s right – its content. And not just any content: It’s commentary from some of the leading economic thought leaders in the industry. We regularly hear from advisors that they deeply appreciate the perspective and insight from the likes of Bob Carey and Brian Wesbury. These are names that advisors follow and have relationships with. Sharing this content builds affinity with the First Trust brand.

If you look at one of the blogs from those thought leaders, you’ll find exactly the kind of content that advisors like: It’s condensed, built around a graphical chart, focused on key takeaways, and it’s posted consistently. That means it’s an easy source for advisors to get the exact perspective they need from the thought leaders they trust. And it’s been a key contributor to First Trust’s leadership as a brand.


Reliable Wholesaling

We’ve heard in a number of conversations with financial advisors that First Trust’s wholesalers are top notch. They are responsive, attentive, and they consistently communicate with the advisors they serve. The result is that whenever a financial advisor needs something, they know they can turn to a wholesaler at First Trust.

But wait, you may say, “Hey, that’s sales, not marketing!” Oh, how mistaken. Wholesalers are the number one preferred source of communication when it comes to interfacing with an asset management brand. That means they are your number one most important marketing channel. What they say, how they behave, and what they do has an impact on your brand. Look no further than First Trust to prove it. 


A Consistent Product Innovator

Here is First Trust’s list of ETFs. That’s…a lot.

But as we all know, more is not always better. In the case of First Trust, though, it’s an example of their constant march towards innovation. If you look within that list, there’s all sorts of interesting stuff in there.

In 2019, First Trust commented on how innovation is what’s driven their leadership in the ETF space. If you read that article, you’ll get a sense that the firm is never really sitting still. They’re thinking hard about how to differentiate their product set, they’re adhering to some core investment beliefs, and they’re committed to keeping those products in market.

You still may say “That’s not marketing”. But it is, dear reader, it is. Think about it: If you want to be known as an innovator should you say that you are an innovator, or have a demonstrable record of showing it?  

(A bit of a rhetorical question, we know.)


Living Their Principles

No, First Trust doesn’t have the most eye-catching About Us page. But what they do have are principles they believe in deeply. Are the principles unique? Not necessarily. But read the paragraph at the end of that page: 

We have a relentless focus on the needs of financial professionals and their customers in fulfilling our mission to provide original ideas, inventive products and the highest level of service.

Again, are those words wholly unique? No. But when you consider the points above, you’ll find that First Trust actually and authentically lives those values. And by consistently living a set of values, they’ve made their brand synonymous with innovation and trust – two key factors when it comes to financial advisor consideration of asset managers.


What You Can Learn

You may think it’s crazy for a financial marketing firm to write such an article. But here’s the thing: This article isn’t intended to minimize the impact of strong marketing. Instead, what it’s meant to do is to challenge us to think deeper and harder about financial branding – recognizing that it’s not just what we show on the surface, but how our people and our brand behave in order to meet a desired objective.

Ask yourself:

  • Do we have clearly defined values and principles that shape everything we do as a firm?
  • Do we regularly communicate those values internally, so that everyone within the organization is singing from the same hymn book?
  • Are our people living those values out in the field? If they’re not, how can we encourage them to do so?
  • Are we in tune with the needs of financial professionals, and are we aligning the content we produce with those needs?
  • Have we built the brands of individual spokespeople who have the ability to create trust and connection with the advisors we serve?

In the case of First Trust, they’ve answered all of those questions with a “yes”.

Have you?

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