How To Avoid Obsolescence: What Martha Stewart Can Teach Financial Advisors

Martha Stewart originated today’s hip and growing maker movement- giving us the tools, advice, guidance and inspiration to elevate every part of our home. So, of course, when I bought my first home, one of the first things I did was order a subscription to Martha Stewart Living. Martha (anyone who loves her magazine is immediately on a first-name basis with her) put every bit of her marketing brilliance into her magazine. It was a slightly different size than any other magazine available, so it always stood out. The photographs were high art even when they focused on the most domestic elements (even cleaning materials looked stunning).

Every month, I poured through the pages, dreaming about building my nest and enriching my life in the process. Should I paint my walls robin’s egg blue or sage green? Even my chicken rose to a whole new level. Martha’s attitude was always to imagine that with planning, industriousness and some creative juice, anything was possible and would make your life more beautiful. I made everything from homemade mustard to fennel-topped crackers. In fact, I still make her clove and cardamom-spiced apple butter each autumn and her Cioppino every Christmas (minus the mussels).

After so many years of being inspired by Martha, the news that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) will soon be a thing of the past was a touch heart breaking. And for the end to come with a degree of dishonor and personal humiliation for Martha made it even more disheartening. In June, MSLO was sold to Sequential Brands for $353 million in cash–just 25% of what her brand was valued in 1999 at her $1.8 billion IPO. To make it worse, Sequential Brands is known for buying up once bright brands and squeezing every last dollar out of them. I imagine they’ll make short work of getting the most out of MSLO’s existing distribution partners, which sell anything from high-end cooking gear to pet wear and American flags.

Clearly there are more than a few factors contributing to the brand’s decline–Stewart’s jail time in 2005 and her five-year ban from the Board of Directors required by the federal regulators among the top contenders.

However, one key theme arises from the various branding, marketing and financial wizards who once thought Martha almost invincible, as they try to make sense of her change in fortune: She never really embraced the digital space. As beautiful, innovative and inspirational as her magazine was, she was not able to translate those qualities to an online presence.

Unfortunately, there is a large constituency of financial advisors following Martha Stewart’s missteps. They neglect their websites, their online presence and their digital communications. They fail to see how social networking builds connections, increases credibility, develops thought leadership and grows sales. They are ignoring the huge potential of Generation D (digital).

Generation D is an emerging and growing cross-generational cohort of 75 million investors, with more than $27 trillion in assets. Generation X makes up about 50% of the group with Boomers and Millenials splitting the remainder (only 5% of the total assets are held by Millenials)

Generation D is defined by their ‘deeply digital lifestyle.’ They are well-educated, socially savvy, active and engaged investors with a healthy dose of skepticism for the financial services arena. Rather than simply trusting their financial advisor, this generation seeks to validate financial information with friends and social media connections before sitting down with an advisor. No digital presence? No piece of the $27 trillion pie.

No matter which demographic you serve, the fact remains: The Internet has disrupted the way we acquire information and interact with the world and it’s shaping an entirely new idea of what’s possible in wealth management. Responding to the digital demand is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. Martha learned that lesson just a touch too late.

Here are important tips advisors can learn from Martha’s digital mistakes:

  1. Social media is a marathon, not a sprint. You must devote resources and time to build an online presence.
  2. Don’t be a one-trick pony. Vary your content. Give away your smarts and find ways to bring people back to your website to engage.
  3. A well-planned marketing strategy is imperative for success; digital is a piece of that effort.

What’s holding you back from embracing a digital marketing strategy and closing the digital gap? Take a small step today, and download our guide:

Six Steps to a Spectacular Social Strategy


Download button