From Branding to Demand Generation

How First Rate Uses Thought Leadership Content to Grow the Business

Having the same brand since their start in 1991, First Rate knew they had to make some major changes if they were going to compete effectively and grow in today’s digital era. Given their mission to help wealth management firms grow and thrive as stewards of their client’s investments, First Rate needed an innovative approach that would help empower investors and advisors to simplify and better understand their financial world.

“We’re uniquely positioned because of our diversity in product offerings, but we compete with large firms that have more resources available to their marketing and sales team. We needed a strategy that would allow us to build better prospect engagement and create client relationships that told the story of our subject matter expertise,” said First Rate President Craig Wietz.

The first step was to revitalize the brand around thought leadership in the wealth management space, but unlike many firms where they turn it over to marketing as a project, First Rate decided to solicit feedback from the individual business lines and back into an overarching strategy that would enable growth and content marketing

Content Marketing to the Rescue

Knowing that the best course of action was to implement a content marketing strategy focusing on thought leadership, First Rate sought help from Sales Engine Media, a content marketing firm headquartered in Austin, TX. 

“We didn’t have a lot of experience in actively pursuing prospects through content marketing; most of our clients have come from referrals and channel relationships,” said Marketing Manager Emily Traxler. “We really wanted to create an environment where we could go out and actively seek prospects that want to receive this information, and we knew we needed some external expertise from a firm that could also provide us with a fractional marketing team in the areas of content creation, distribution, metric tracking, analytics and CRM integration.”

Once the rebrand of the website was complete, First Rate implemented their content strategy in conjunction with Sales Engine and experienced immediate positive results. “Because we are now in a position to generate consistent, value-added content for our prospects and customers, driving people to our new website is a much easier proposition,” said Traxler.

Quick Results Validate the Strategy

Strong content engagement and increased website traffic is a welcomed result from First Rate’s new marketing initiative. “In the past, we would send out campaigns but there was never a tangible asset that really provoked downloads or views.  People were not visiting our website even though we are subject matter experts on certain topics. Because our new approach has added so much thought leadership collateral and content, we’ve been able to re-position ourselves as industry leaders and keep them coming back for more. In that way, our content strategy is enforcing the entire brand,” said Traxler

Because of their long sales cycle (an average of 1 to 2 years) First Rate’s new content marketing strategy includes multiple lead nurturing campaigns. “Thought leadership is important to our brand, but developing relationships with prospects it’s really what it’s all about, and because we now have a content library that maps to their buying path, we’re able to hit them monthly with a new asset that assists them through the process at their own speed,” said Traxler. 

Another big change First Rate made was to their sales follow up process. “Currently, we have a sales team of four people and an outside prospecting firm that looks at our active lead lists and calls upon marketing qualified leads now that our demand generation engine is running. Now that marketing is proactively sending leads, we’ve been able to increase our average conversions into sales conversations.” 

Outsourcing Thought-Leadership, Expert Content

In the past, First Rate has had some challenges in outsourcing content development because of the learning curve involved in understanding the solutions and service that it provides. “People outside of our organization don’t understand our business and the technology we have and use. We couldn’t just repurpose current content because our new strategy requires that we continuously add value. Because of Sales Engine’s content development process, the learning curve was much shorter and we had campaigns running within three months,” she said. 

In fact, the outsourced thought leadership content has been good enough to be nominated for several WealthManagement.com 2016 Industry Awards recognizing different providers, wealth managers, broker dealers, and registered investment advisors that are going above and beyond to help their clients in the areas of innovation, social responsibility, and compliance. “We submitted our content in the Technology: Thought Leadership category, where we are helping educate our prospects and taking them on a journey with us throughout the entire process. We were ecstatic to be nominated for an award in three out of the four categories and in a total pool of over 400 submissions,” she said.

What’s next for First Rate’s Marketing Efforts? 

“We’re still trying to figure it out,” said Traxler. “We see the success and the failures and we’re always reimagining and recreating the way that we’re doing things to keep it innovative and entertaining and help continue our marketing strategy. We’re invested in content marketing, and we’re already talking about 2017 and becoming proactively involved—what can we do a year from now to keep our clients engaged? What can we do a year from now to keep our prospects engaged? What can we do a year from now that other marketing teams aren’t doing? We continue to think about our corporate motto Fostering Growth and Empowering Investors – what does marketing need to do to continue that? It is very exciting and we are eager as ever to tackle the obstacles we will face.”