Eager to refine its ongoing conversation with advisors, Milwaukee's Heartland Advisors
] has been beefing up the operations of its two-year-old RIA Advisory Council, which Heartland uses as a forum to get feedback from RIAs on a wide variety of subjects.
, vice president and director of marketing at Heartland, had this to say on her company's goals for the forum this year:
One focus with the Advisory Council is to bring additional structure to our own analysis of how we’re delivering products and services to both advisors and their clients. We’ve convened an Advisory Council for several years, but this year we’re taking it further in a process of codifying and building out principles of buyer interest that we are now formally using when making product decisions.
We also use those principles of buyer interest to guide marketing and portfolio manager communications. They keep what’s important to investors right at the forefront of our day-to-day activities, including investment management.
Another specific focus this year is LinkedIn. Some of our advisor clients have been highly successful using LinkedIn as a way to grow their own business. Heartland also has an active LinkedIn presence, and we’re seeking feedback to ensure how we use the platform is supportive of our advisors’ use of it.
Stephenson said that Heartland's RIA Advisory Council was instituted in 2011.
"The inspiration behind the Council was to seek feedback in a formal manner on how we can improve our business practices (especially communications), to deepen relationships with some of our best clients and, ultimately, to drive sales drive toward RIAs," she said.
The Council, Stephenson said, meets in person each September and quarterly via teleconference.
She had this to say about the feedback Heartland has received so far from the council.
We’ve received feedback from members that they, too, benefit by meeting other RIAs who are from other markets, so they can network with and bounce business ideas off of each other, etc. It’s been a win-win – Heartland gets great input and they get great input from each other, i.e. share stores, experiences, what’s worked, etc.
Feedback we’ve gotten from the Council is that sometimes less is more. We’ve taken that input along with our own analysis and have been retuning our approach, for example, to quarter-end communications. For example, those changes have led to a focus on in-depth commentary and less focus on a webinar—which makes sense, as advisors are inundated with webinar invitations. We’ve changed our focus to be more oriented to commentary and timely video content that is available not just during a webinar window.
For example, Stephenson said that with feedback from the council, Heartland was able to develop a set of 10 principles for expressing buyer interest.
She had this to say on the subject:
One important point is that the principles are client directed – we were able to come up with 10 principles of buyer interest as a result of understanding from clients what’s important to them, i.e. performance, effective risk management, a process that is clearly defined and consistently applied, effective, timely and relevant communications, etc. While we aren’t able to share the specific list of principles (which this year’s Council will continue codifying and amplifying), one thing that’s interesting here is the parallel to Heartland’s 10 Principles of Value Investing. Each investment opportunity is scored on a grid using those principles. We’re taking a similar approach on the marketing side of the business. We’re scoring each specific product (fund and separate account strategy) according to these principles. Those that don’t score as highly need attention. The impacted transactions involve decisions about new product launches, communications practices, how we share risk management metrics, and more.
Heartland is also embracing social media to reach out to advisors, in particular Linkedin
She had this to say on the initiative:
If you exclude anyone who comes to our site directly by typing in heartlandfunds.com, as well as anyone who searched for us in their search engine, LinkedIn is regularly the first or second referral source by which users find our website. That’s traffic that may not have visited our site otherwise. We initiated an active approach to LinkedIn in 2012. As we’ve ramped up our presence on LinkedIn, we’ve learned a lot from our own experience and that of our RIA clients. One change we’re instituting now, for example, is putting our LinkedIn focus entirely on the Heartland Advisors page, rather than both Heartland Advisors and Heartland Funds. We’re providing investment management perspective that our RIA clients can share with their contacts. As such, our Heartland Advisors page content is evolving to be more institutional-oriented rather than general-investor oriented.
“Linkedin is the second referral source by which users find our site,” Stephenson said.
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