|Clients:||Financial advisors, advisory firms|
|Value proposition:||Enterprise communication software, automated marketing platform|
|The executive team:||Kevin Mulhern, Chief Executive Office, Co-founder
Martin Hill, Chief Technology Officer, Co-founder
AdvisorStream is an automated marketing platform for advisors that aims to improve client engagement and capture new leads. It creates a flow of relevant content to provide to clients, which in turn strengthens relationships and brand loyalty.
I was eager to learn about AdvisorStream because digital marketing solutions for advisors isn’t something I commonly hear about. I spoke with Kevin Mulhern, AdvisorStream’s CEO and co-founder, to learn how the company manages to create effective content and communication strategies for advisors.
Kevin Mulhern has been working on the technology side of wealth management for nearly 20 years. Over the course of his career, he has built portfolio management and web-based tools for TD Waterhouse and helped implement big data technology for Morgan Stanley. While working for a boutique brokerage firm, Mulhern noticed that most advisors weren’t taking advantage of digital marketing. AdvisorStream was born out of his process of trying to determine the most effective means of automated marketing for the average advisor.
AdvisorStream in a nutshell
Kevin says that one of the biggest challenges in the market is creating highly credible, up-to-date content. Content flow is often dated because it must go through a long process of compliance workflows and approvals before it can be posted. Instead of fresh news, clients often receive months-old content.
The second problem in existing communications and marketing platforms is that much of the content is, as Kevin puts it, “very canned,” and it is often written by the advisor himself, herself or the head office for everyone to use. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when you look at it in terms of current affairs—and in terms of quality and credibility—it is often not as effective as it could be. AdvisorStream supports advisor- and firm-created content with credible sources that people trust such as The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Bloomberg, Fortune, Money, and The Economist.
Instead of clean-slating content strategy, Kevin says that his team builds stronger client engagement through resonating email newsletters, social media, and blog posts. For example, AdvisorStream utilizes real-time content feeds from its publisher partners, which tells the curation team what the most engaging content is throughout the day from each publisher. To build an effective automated marketing platform, compliance needs must also be addressed so AdvisorStream met compliance officers at both large and small advisory firms to understand their needs and then built a supporting compliance module ensuring firms meet regulatory requirements.
“So, similarly to building out the advisor product, we went and formed a small advisory group of highly effective senior compliance officers from across the United States, and we started talking with them about how we can incorporate real-time content from today, or this week, into communications.”
News publishing agencies allow anyone to share their articles. However, there is a little-known tool that also lets people license their content which is necessary when you are sharing content on a commercial basis. AdvisorStream is the only digital marketing platform that is licensing content for Advisors to use and this has simultaneously opened a new revenue stream for publishers and provided the best, most up-to-date content across all communication channels.
How is content chosen?
Kevin highlights that his company and team focus on content intelligence by employing machine learning algorithms. All content goes through three levels of curation before it’s automatically included in an advisor’s communication.
Levels of content curation
Level 1: Algorithms determine what content is most relevant and engaging, and AdvisorStream selects the cream of the crop—in other words, the content that is trending and being consumed by readers.
Level 2: Content is thoroughly checked to make sure it meets all FINRA 2210, SEC and FCA guidelines and other marketing regulations. Kevin points out that content in the platform’s library doesn’t contain references to or suggest a specific security or investment. Any material that doesn’t abide by guidelines and regulations is filtered out.
Level 3: This is the human curation level. Before reaching clients, someone from the AdvisorStream content and curation team reads every article, watches every video, reviews all infographics, and selects the content that will most likely resonate with advisors and investors.
Content + curation + technology
On the platform side, Kevin says that AdvisorStream has just launched the first round of artificial intelligence tools for evaluating content consumption. Even if an advisor has 500 clients, AdvisorStream provides a consumption profile for each client. So how does this benefit the clients? They’re served the most relevant content on an individual basis.
“It’s all intertwined: the content side of our platform, the curation side, and the technical side.”
Kevin also says that the company’s engineers are spending more time on this one-to-one algorithmic curation than before, because its effect on engagement rates (i.e., open and click-through rates) has been excellent.
Experienced engineering team
AdvisorStream’s engineering department comprises two sub-teams. One develops the platform and handles platform scalability, and the other builds and expands product features and functionalities. Martin Hill, AdvisorStream’s chief technology officer and co-founder, is responsible for the overall platform. He built the platform from the ground up and works with his team to deliver high-quality service at scale.
Matt Rayan, AdvisorStream’s senior platform lead engineer, is responsible for the new features the company releases on a weekly basis. Kevin says that Ryan is in charge of implementing content intelligence for content curation and content matching systems.
“The leads on our product team are people who have run other products for many years or worked inside large broker dealers for many years on the technology side. So they have deep, deep history with what we call ‘rich, vertical understanding.’ They understand the financial advisory vertical very well.”
What’s next for AdvisorStream?
Mulhern and his team are working on a number of new features and projects including a system for finding qualified leads for advisors. Today, AdvisorStream captures leads organically, but they’re looking to other active systems to find investors who want to connect with advisors.
“We want to be able to deliver these leads to our advisors. For example, a client named John Smith lives in Birmingham, Michigan, his salary is X, he has $825k in the bank, is retiring in four years, has no children, owns a house, and he would like to talk to an advisor. Would you like us to set up that meeting?”
This new lead-generating tool will be tested in the next couple of months and will likely be rolled out before the summer if the pilot is successful.
The bottom line
Nobody likes boring, outdated content. Of course, advisors can provide external links, but this takes clients away from their firm’s website, breaking the client-engagement chain. With AdvisorStream, news is available in real time from credible sources. Moreover, this fresh content is distributed across all of the advisor’s or firm’s branded communication channels.