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DIY or Do It for Me (Marketing Edition)

Are the majority of your plan participants invested in the QDIA or are they taking the time to select their own investment allocations? For those who are going it alone, do you think they are properly invested?

The reason we’re starting with these questions is that many advisors feel frustrated with misallocation participant blunders. Wouldn’t you agree that most participants would be better off simply investing in the QDIA or a managed account? After all, they are designed in participants’ best interest.

When speaking with advisors about this topic, we hear stories like, “My brother-in-law told me to get into international,” “I don’t want to lose money, so I’m in all cash,” and “I evenly selected all the investments,” as common participant responses. Then we hear the advisor sigh with disappointment.

Does that sound familiar?

The moral of the story: Just because your plan participants have the ability to select their own investments doesn’t mean they should. We believe the same is true for advisor marketing. As a retirement plan expert, you understand the complexities of our industry: plan design, investments, ERISA compliance, etc., but do you know how to package that in a way that will attract plan sponsors’ interest? So, when it comes to marketing, why are advisors trying to DIY?

Let’s take a step back. The term “marketing” has a lot of different definitions. Let’s discuss different examples.

Mission Statement

Your firm’s mission statement should always come from you. It should feel organic, natural and true to your passion as a retirement plan advisor. It is your “why.” That being said, if you need help (maybe writing isn’t your thing), then partner with a firm that will listen. Your mission statement is in there. By partnering with a marketing firm that hears your authentic voice, you can bring your mission statement to life.


Do you know how to code? Do you study the Z movement of the human eye? How does color influence emotion? Are you up to date on the latest trends in website design? These are all attributes of good digital designers. Find a partner who can take your language and apply it within your site to look, sound and feel like your firm.

Read more commentary by Rebecca Hourihan here


A PDF-ed Word document is not a brochure. There, I said it. A brochure is a visual story. It should showcase your professional services (fiduciary investment advice, plan design education, benchmarking, financial wellness partnerships and more). It is a well laid out step-by-step visual conversation with the reader.

As a quick example, one of our clients is an avid surfer (his SoCal culture), so we created a brochure that started with a guy waxing his surfboard (setting up a plan), paddling out into the water (thinking about plan options), catching a wave (evaluating options), relaxing on the beach (contemplating next decisions), and leaving the beach at sunset (confidently selecting a plan to move forward). In Southern California that imagery works really well, and it resonates with the local plan sponsor community. His clients include some of the largest health-focused companies in our country, and they find that message (his message) speaks directly to them and their values.

Find the imagery, the words, and the passion that speaks to your plan sponsor community and guides decision makers through a visual conversation to answer why they should select you as their plan advisor.

These are just a few examples; however, your marketing should always feel like you. It should be natural, authentic and represent your values. At times, yes, you can totally do it yourself. Other times, as with your DIY participants, this causes more harm than good. Take a look at your materials and reflect on your own return on marketing investment.

Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned industry professional, your marketing is a direct reflection of your professionalism. Why not have beautifully written and designed content that highlights your retirement plan expertise, authentically represents your firm’s culture, and speaks directly to how you service clients? Your marketing has the power to convert clients and centers of influence into raving fans, which turns into new client introductions, referrals and much more.

Thanks for reading and Happy Marketing!

Rebecca Hourihan, AIF, PPC, is the founder and CMO of 401(k) Marketing.