I had the pleasure of speaking with Robert Sofia in May 2017.
Read the transcript below or click here to listen to the audio interview.
Robert is a marketing expert. He has personally worked with 2,000 advisors on their marketing plans. He has a ton of practice management experience. He's worked in a billion-dollar RIA. He's worked with solos and ensembles, with financial offices, custodians and insurance companies. Today, through that long journey in the industry, he is the CEO of a cool little company – but I don't think it will be little for very long. It's called Snappy Kraken.
Robert, I love your logo. It's a little red octopus with sunglasses. Tell us about Snappy Kraken’s vision and how you think about pain points in the industry. What should advisors and enterprises be thinking about today to be getting over that next hurdle?
ROBERT SOFIA: Boy, that's a nice introduction Marie. Thank you! That's a big question too. I think there are a few vital questions in there. One, related to the hurdles advisors face. How we see overcoming those hurdles and then how we fit into that. If I may, I'd like to take those one at a time. Is that alright?
SWIFT: Absolutely, jump in!
CHALLENGES FOR ADVISORS
SOFIA: Really, the reason we started Snappy Kraken is because of the problems we see advisors facing. They are related to a variety of factors. So are the external forces they cannot control. Advisors have stress over the regulatory environment, the market environment and the economy, and the geo-political issues but those things for the most part are out of their control.
But when you get into the things they can control, they still have challenges. It's hard to be an advisor today because you have to differentiate from a tremendous amount of competition both from advisors next door to online brokerages which are expanding more and more into financial planning and into wealth management. So, there is that and then you have to manage the myriad technology tools. When you look at the combination of portfolio management, marketing and all the different components of that where you have your email, your compliance, your website and your social presence and everything you use for trading, client account management, and file sharing it gets really hard to serve your clients well and run your business.
That's what today's advisor has to be. They have to be an entrepreneur, a business owner, and at the same time serve other people – being that it's a service business. Those things are always at odds with each other because the time you want to devote to your clients is often times being dragged by all the infestimal little things you have to deal with. So, basically, we understand those pains and we decided we wanted to make it easier with technology. That is what we set out to do.
SWIFT: I've seen the recent product you just rolled out for advisors; I believe it's called Visional Marketing Insights. Am I correct?
SOFIA: Yes, that's one of our products.
MARTECH TO THE RESCUE
SOFIA: I'm happy to do that – but I’d like to note that Visual Marketing Insights is really just a small part of what Snappy Kraken is doing. In fact, you mentioned our octopus logo. The idea behind that is of course to have a little fun but it's also because there are a myriad of tentacles that go out from our API junction, which is our system that can connect to any system. So, we can connect not only on the marketing a communication side but also on the practice management side, and also through CRM and other tools that advisors may use. So, the idea is to create a junction where everything can be managed from one place. And, that includes the communications.
Visual Marketing Insights is just an example of one form of communication that is designed to help the advisors engage their clients more effectively – which should be part of an overall omni-channel fully integrated client approach to client service. When you think about today's consumer they are used to engaging with brands and with companies that they patronize on a number of levels. They will visit their website, visit their social profile, come into their office, talk to them on the phone, use appointment scheduling software, they will login and check their accounts, they will do all types of things and they expect the experience to be constant across every channel. That's something that builds trust and that's something people expect from their relationships with companies.
So, when you engage with a company on one channel, you expect the experience to be the same as how you engage with them on another channel. Advisors struggle with that because they end up using all these different tools that are disconnected so their clients have different experiences. The problem is, it creates confusion and undermines trust.
If you go to an advisor’s website and there are all these different services and products but they all feel different because their experience logging into their accounts is different than their experience they have with social media versus on the website. That's a problem. So, what we're doing just with our Visual Marketing Insights product is that we are creating campaigns. Single campaigns so the clients experience it the same on every channel. What that does is it actually builds trust and reinforces that relationship with prospects in a way to lead them to a desired outcome. So, if they enter a campaign from a social media channel or from your website or from an email or from any method that is used to promote that campaign, they will enter and stay inside that campaign while the messages they initially expressed interest in are continually reinforced until they are ready to make a decision to meet with the advisor or to further the relationship in some way. So, the Visual Marketing Insights product is just a component of just that concept.
TURNKEY MARKETING SYSTEM FOR ADVISORS
SWIFT: I'm looking at your most recent news release where you announce the Visual Marketing Insights system. It's an ongoing turnkey subscription and the introductory price is just stunning – just $39/month if advisors sign up during this initial launch period. There is also a 60-day free trial.
Let’s also talk about “snackable” content. I love that term. I'm just going to read this, a couple of sentences:
To increase the shareability, each visual is just one piece of a larger campaign meant to dazzle clients and prospects while informing them quickly. Each communication is paired with a related stand-alone webpage, also known as a landing page, and this serves as another source of traffic, readership and email list building route for financial professionals while also making it easy for people to link to and share the content via social media.
Could you talk about the value of that landing page?
SOFIA: Well, a lot of marketing content out there is just noise to people who receive it. You have the constant barrage of emails, social media posts, and mailers. People drive down the road and are hit with billboards, radio advertisements, and so forth. It's just non-stop. So, people tend to tune out. When they actually tune-in, and that's the key to the snackable content, they need to see something that is visually appealing and easy to access and hopefully interesting enough to motivate somebody to click through. When that happens, you need to make sure you're maximizing the impact of that communication, that chance. It's like a little window, a rare glimpse, that somebody is getting into your business and they've just expressed interest. And if you merely broadcast content for the sake of content then you are missing opportunities.
So, what we do is we create content that is designed to capture interest and then we always have a purpose for that content. There is an objective or goal on every place where that content is featured. In this case with this product, if it's an infographic for example, then below that infographic there will be a call-to-action and it will be designed to capture information. That landing page allows you to have a little bit of introductory text, perhaps a financial lesson. Perhaps a bit of credibility that you can build into the content so it's just not content, its content and business building with lead captures so the effort really pays off. That's a big part of our focus with the landing page. It has a purpose and it's designed to grow business.
SWIFT: I love everything about this campaign-driven approach you are taking. I've seen some of the creative work and it's stunning. It's looks like the kind of content that comes out of a big New York advertising agency but the only thing is it's better because it's specifically for advisors. It's from people who really know what advisors need – all the compliance and language issues and so forth.
I love that in your dashboard the advisor can actually go in and customize to an extent that I really never seen before – and it's still stunning and beautiful visually.
I want to take you a little higher level now. I know we've been talking a lot about this current product but I'd like to hear how it fits into everything else that you doing. This is just one thing that the Snappy Kraken is doing in the industry, right?
TIP OF THE ICEBERG
SOFIA: Yes. So, there is a lot that is still in store. We are just getting started. This product is one to collaborate with our early users and gather their feedback and work with them as we continue to build out our feature set because what we really envision, Marie, is a time when advisors will be able to access one place and conduct business from one place online and their clients will have one experience and access their advisor in one place online. So, we want everything integrated.
For example, we are working on integration with trackable phone numbers. So, phone numbers can be run through the system and be monitored and measured for retargeting pixels so that anybody that visits these sites can be retargeted online through advertising. We are working with integrations with key CRMs, key website providers, etc. so that everything that happens on their website and the marketing through our system and the activity in their CRM are linked. So even activities such as when a client is about to turn 70. Our system will recognize that and automatically begin to send them a campaign if they have qualified money in an account that talks about how they can use their RMDs – and it will also notify the advisor. Or if the client has an anniversary and been with the advisor for a year automatically our system could trigger a gift to be sent to the client based on their preferences and based on the budget that is set for that client based how they are segmented in the CRM.
So, with an automated omni-channel marketing and business management platform, which is what we've set out to build, the goal is to take everything out of the hands of the advisor except what he is really uniquely qualified to do: meeting with clients, gathering assets, speaking to them face-to-face and over the phone; we want everything else to be automated. You can with technology today because there are thousands of tools – but we are not out to build another tool. What we've actually built is in conjunction … something that leverages tools. In fact, we have over thirty integrations in our system with outside tools yet you would never know that within our system. It feels like it's only one tool.
So, as we build out integrations and extend our tentacles to other services and products we aim to become "the hub" for advisors to conduct business and marketing so that practice management and everything that they have to do has been automated as much as possible. That is our vision. Visual Marketing Insights is a way to demonstrate the potential because it covers email and social and landing pages and personalization and other things all from one place. It's just a start but there are only five or six channels integrated into it. Potentially there will be hundreds in the future and that's our vision.
Some of our enterprise clients who are going to be deploying this will have more of this functionality and we are working with them on custom content. So, a company that has a specific product set or advisors with a specific profile can actually have their own library with their own custom campaigns. Their own custom workflows, business processes and forms all can be personalized by that advisor, stored securely and help those enterprises to build relationships with the advisors and help them serve their clients better. These are just a few of the things and I could go on all day but we have a lot of exciting things in store.
XY PLANNING NETWORK – START UP WINNER
SWIFT: I love everything about what you've shared today Robert. It's no surprise that you won the Fintech startup competition last year hosted by the XY Planning Network.
So, congratulations on all your success. It's really exciting to peel back the curtain and hear more about what you have in store because just this one product, the Visual Marketing Insights, is exciting enough. Everything else you've shared about one place and online and the customization and retargeting is really exciting. As a marketing professional myself I get super excited about this because it does address so many pain points for advisors and the enterprises that support them. So, with that, will you tell us how people can learn more about the latest and greatest at Snappy Kraken?
SOFIA: Sure, so we want collaborators right now. I'll be candid: we are not looking for 10,000 users to come onto our system tomorrow. We are happy to have a couple of thousand really engaged advisors who want to give their feedback and tell us what they need. Anybody that is interested in being that kind of user – a power user, a collaborator – and wants to work with us to help build something that is great for their business, those are the kind of people that should go to www.SnappyKraken.com and sign up for updates or register for our Visual Marketing Insights products just to try it out.
On every page, there is a feedback link. Start giving us your feedback. You'll find we are very responsive and we want to get to know you and your business. Again, just go to www.SnappyKraken.com. We'd love to get acquainted.
SWIFT: It's been great talking with you today, Robert. Thanks so much for being here.
SOFIA: It was a pleasure Marie. Thank you for having me.