How Financial Advisors Can Be More Inclusive in Their Marketing

Sometimes writing a blog can be like writing songs for an album.

You’ve got the songs you know are going to be played on the radio. Those are the hits. In old record lexicon, they’re the A side of the album.

And then you’ve got the B sides. Good songs, still, but they go on the back side of the record.

And there’s always songs that don’t make the record. Those get put onto a Greatest Hits record eventually, or if the recording artist is prolific enough, they get collected onto their own “unreleased songs” album.

This blog is one that I started writing over a year ago and never finished. It became one of those “unreleased songs” because I questioned whether I had the authority or the background to speak to the issues it talks about. Those issues? Diversity within financial services, and the tendency of the industry to be, as one of my friends puts it, “pale, male, and stale.”

But in a country and industry where Black and Latino people make up 30% of the population and only 4% of CFP professionals, not speaking at all about diversity and inclusion is the wrong move.

Of course, action needs to be taken. It’s not a situation where lip service and tossing arounds words like “diversity and inclusion” will make the industry more representative. But it’s also true that for many people, seeing people like themselves in a group makes it easier to envision themselves as part of that group.

So what I’ll be writing about today is how advisory firms can take simple steps to make their websites give the impression (and hopefully, the reality) that financial advice is for everyone.

These recommendations certainly won’t fix the issues that the industry has with bringing in and keeping talented advisors who don’t fit the pale male stereotype, but I think they are some small changes that can improve advisor websites across the board.

Choose Diverse Photography

Pick ten advisor websites at random and look through the stock photography they use. I’m willing to bet you’re going to see the same type of photos every single time.

The front page? An older couple, probably smiling at a distant sunset or looking deep into each other’s eyes.

They’ve got gray or white hair. They’re also white.

Click to a subpage, you’ll see more retirement-age people. Sometimes a family in their 40s with younger kids.

But almost always, they’re all white. 

So if you want to attract a client list or staff that looks like the country that we know, make your firm’s website look like you actually want to. 

According to one InvestmentNews survey, 32% of advisors think their firm makes an attempt to develop a more racially diverse staff. 

But if your website is only stocked with stock photos of white people, are you really giving the impression that you want a diverse firm? Or are whatever good intentions you have being obscured by subconscious bias?

A small way to correct this is to look for ways to make it visually apparent that you are open to working with more than wealthy white people.

Choose a black couple for your home page. Make that younger family an interracial marriage. Use a photo of a single woman as your hero image on one page.

In the distant past, I’ve worked with clients who pushed back against stock photography featuring minorities. Their reasoning was that the vast majority of their clients, who were white, wouldn’t see themselves represented and they might be turned off by it.

And to be honest that’s one of the grossest feelings I’ve ever encountered as a professional. 

We all know that financial services is overwhelmingly white. A 2017 study from the CFP Board for Financial Planning found that more than 80% of the clients for the average white financial planner are also white. But those statistics don’t have to mean that it needs to stay that way.

Here’s a principle of marketing I fully believe in: Good marketing should keep people who you don’t want to work with away from you as much as it attracts people who you do want. 

If you have a prospect that doesn’t want to work with you because you’ve got a black family on your homepage, then that’s a prospect who isn’t worth your time.

If you need places to start for more diverse stock photos, check out this blog post from InVision for eight resources.

Say It Loud

Like every other marketer on the planet, I’m a fan of niche marketing for financial advisors.

When you decide to market to a niche, it’s a good idea to create your ideal client persona and get everyone within your firm onboard with the idea of talking specifically to that person and their typical concerns. 

But beyond that, it’s great to call out your type of client in your marketing materials too. Usually this ends up looking something like “We specialize in working with tech start-up entrepreneurs” or everyone’s favorite, “We provide financial planning for millennials.” 

The niche you choose isn’t what matters here for my point; what’s important is that you put it out there and make it known.

When you want to ensure you are more inclusive in your website and marketing, it’s always important to make statements that make your position known.

I think the most relevant application of “say it if you mean it” is in regards to LGBTQIA individuals and couples. There are advisory firms who specialize in planning for this group, certainly, but what about firms who don’t specialize in working with same-sex couples, but would take them on as a client just as readily as they would a heterosexual couple?

It can still be hard for same-sex couples to even get a cake sometimes, so it’s important to think about how to project a willingness to provide services to people who have traditionally been marginilized and exempted from even the simplest activities. 

If you need to work up to a full statement, even a sentence like “We work with people of all beliefs, backgrounds, and identities” on your website can be better than nothing.

Small Steps Can Lead to Big Changes

The financial services industry as a whole talks a lot about how much it wants to become a more welcoming and diverse industry.

But it’s the same talk I’ve been hearing since I started working in it back in 2009.

At some point, talk and good intentions have to turn into action.

I’m not saying that choosing diverse photography for your website or making statements about your ability to create financial plans for LGBTQIA families will fix any of the issues that the industry has been grappling with since the beginning.

But, they are actions that can be taken. Small, simple actions can be easily built on with more complex, stronger, bigger actions.

If you don’t know where to begin, start here, with your website. And keep going from there.

Related: George Floyd and Systemic Change for Financial Services