Video marketing: The 21st century version of judging a book by its cover

The following blog post was an article I recently had published in InvestmentNews.

InvestmentNews

Videos can provide key details about a financial adviser in an easy–to–consume format that many potential clients prefer

We are hardwired to judge a book by its cover, despite what our parents may have taught us. When it comes to attracting new clients, this is a wonderful truth that very few advisers leverage. In fact, most advisers are marketing their “book” (themselves) without a cover.

The 21st century version of a book cover is an introductory video that enables financial advisers to speak directly to potential clients and communicate what I call the TRICK: trust, relatability, inspirational, credibility and knowledge. The best first impression is all about the TRICK.

First impressions

When you meet a potential client for the first time, how do you introduce yourself?

You probably tell them about your background, your business and, most importantly, what you can do for them. Surely you wouldn’t read them your biography or detail the full history of your company. These same principles apply online.

Trust. Potential clients need to feel comfortable with a financial services company before trusting that company with their money. Gaining the public’s trust remains a key challenge for financial advisers. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer continues to rank financial services as the least trusted business sector.

Unfortunately, many advisers are still relying on an “About Me” page to communicate their trustworthiness. This is the online equivalent of handing someone your resume — it’s impersonal and does little to gain the reader’s confidence.

Relatability. Videos provide key details in an easy?to?consume format that many potential clients prefer. But you must be relatable to them. The content marketing experts at Sumo analyzed 650,000 hits on their website and found that only 20% of visitors read articles in their entirety. Your company’s site must compete with an increasing number of distractions, so holding a viewer’s attention is imperative.

Inspirational. Don’t search for inspirational quotes and think this will accomplish anything. You need to inspire viewers to want something you provide. This isn’t always easy in our business.

Credibility. Your video and/or website should position you as a credible authority on the topic of financial planning without your coming across as pompous. This may include leveraging third?party sources for validation (such as articles or books you’ve written, or B?roll video of you on television).

Knowledgeable. There is a fine line between explaining modern portfolio theory and communicating a difficult financial concept through an easy?to?understand analogy. Make sure you know where that line is when you create a video.

There’s a lot that goes into creating the perfect introductory video. Before you grab a camera and start recording, here are a few tips:

1. Keep it short. Your potential clients are busy. Wistia’s research has shown viewers’ engagement with a video drops off sharply after the two?minute mark. Aim for a video between 90 seconds and 2 minutes long.

2. Tell your story. Why are you in this business? What story can you tell that might demonstrate knowledge, trust, and credibility while inspiring someone at the same time? Telling them “what” you do is wasting valuable seconds. Focus on “why” and “how” you do what you do.

3. Speak directly to your audience in their language. Keep the tone warm. Be conversational. Focus on being relatable over being scripted and polished.

4. Focus on quality. Some companies may be tempted to create their own video in hopes of saving money. However, shooting your own video can be very time-consuming. Creating a polished video typically requires multiple takes and meticulous editing. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

According to Brightcove, viewers who watch a low?quality video are 62% more likely to have a negative perception of the brand that published the video. A professional video team can help you capture the right message and let you get back to work while they handle the editing and publishing.

5. Offer a next step — a call to action. Set a marketing goal and incorporate it into the end of your video to persuade your viewer to take the next step. Perhaps you want the viewer to schedule an appointment, sign up for your newsletter or connect with your company on social media. Make it easy for potential customers to take action by clearly providing the details and embedding links.

6. Paint a picture. Use this opportunity to paint a picture for your viewer. Whether you are painting a picture of goals and dreams (inspiration) or the picture of what to expect when somebody meets with you, be intentional about your word choice.

7. Get ancillary marketing benefit. Adding video to your site offers important advantages for search engine optimization. By tagging the video with the appropriate products, services, hashtags and, most importantly, location, you can help your video reach the appropriate audience. Also include any products or services that are discussed in the description to ensure the video shows up in search results for that topic for users near your geographical location.

Adding an engaging introduction video to your website is a great way to humanize your marketing. People do business with people. More specifically, they do business with people that are trustworthy, relatable, inspirational, credible, and knowledgeable. Getting that message across is the real TRICK.

Independent Marketing Review: RecommendedExperts.biz

The independent marketing program reviews are designed to provide an overview of a financial marketing program that is available in the marketplace. Over the course of a year, I bet I receive 50+ inquiries from financial advisors asking me my thoughts about certain programs available. Your inbox is littered with these offers every single day. My goal is to help you evaluate them objectively, and share any real-life experiences that I may know of related to the particular program. If you have a program you’d like reviewed, shoot me a note at mark@16waysfromsunday.com.

Financial Advisor Marketing Program being reviewed: RecommendedExperts (www.recommendedexperts.biz).

recommendexpert-logo-white.png

A few weeks back, an advisor asked for my opinion on RecommendedExperts. Essentially, here’s what they offer to do:

  • Draft a press release on a specific topic related to you and your business.
  • Submit the press release to various media outlets
  • Provide you with a graphics pack that includes “As Seen On” with logos and images to add to your homepage and profile.
  • The cost is $397.

To be honest, this isn’t an awful deal. It’s reasonably priced. You’re getting some writing services and a press release submission for $400. But there were a few things that caused me to raise an eyebrow. Here are a few excerpts from the salesperson’s email to the advisor, along with my commentary after each:

“we have just signed a deal with some major authority media organisations, the release we’re compiling will be picked up on the major news networks…”

My reaction: just signed a deal? This is how press release distribution companies work. They distribute the release to dozens and dozens of media outlets and major news networks.

“As we discussed, typically a spot in an announcement like this would cost anywhere between $10,000 to $15,000 and would take at least three to four months to come to fruition but because we’re in beta, we’re subsidizing the whole process… so in return for the guaranteed placement in the major news sites… and the ability to use As Seen On… logos for ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX on your website etc… we are covering everything, other than our basic costs of $397.”

My reaction: $10k – $15k? 3-4 months? Cough, cough… lie. Getting a press release written and distributed is about the easiest thing in the world to do. (We do it regularly, and can have one drafted and distributed in hours. Cost will vary by the service we use and the audience we want to send it to, but it’s nowhere close to $10,000.). I’ll share some links below.

“Lastly we also guarantee exclusivity to anyone we work with… in other words when we announce you in one of our releases you will be the only specialist in your area that we supply the As Seen On… logos to.” 

My reaction: Woohoo. So what? This means nothing. Anybody can send a release in your area on the same topic at any time.

Excerpts from the note I sent back to the advisor about the opportunity are included below. It may be helpful.

I wouldn’t do this with this company for three main reasons:

Reason # 1: They blatantly lied to you about the normal cost of this. The only thing they are doing is interviewing you and then charging you for the write up and the submission of a press release. This is NOT $10,000 – $15,000 (See # 2 below.). Personally, when somebody lies this blatantly to me, I wouldn’t do business with them out of principal (regardless of how cheap it might be).

Reason # 2: You can do this yourself. Simply draft a press release and send it. I’ve shared a few entities that send press releases and you can pay for them. It will be cheaper than what this place is charging. They are only sending it to Baltimore area media. For the price you are paying them, you could send it with a national distribution. Links to some of the places you can use to send press releases are below:

  1. https://newsroom.businesswire.com/faq-item/how-much-will-it-cost-distribute-my-press-release
  2. http://service.prweb.com/pricing/
  3. https://www.issuerdirect.com/order/seo-press-release-distribution/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAiKrUBRD6ARIsADS2OLmF48jwIAfAcNZMT-qOruOM7D8LPXbkld00T_iLKQSDgVM3PTmx0yAaAj5QEALw_wcB
  4. http://www.ereleases.com/hello/?a=3&gclid=Cj0KCQiAiKrUBRD6ARIsADS2OLm7v1ev3qSwNAgFBpXYhQGJ8qOxkgP7rpi2Eng6QjGsJrwp-p0mVQsaAhnfEALw_wcB

The big player in the distribution game is Cision, which owns PRWeb and PRNewswire (if you google around you’ll see this). If you don’t want to write it yourself, you can hire a writer (which is essentially what this company is pitching… they will write the story and then submit it, using one of the above mentioned providers, no doubt). Here’s an interesting blurb about that PR writer world. https://www.writeraccess.com/blog/how-to-set-your-press-release-rates-as-a-writer/ 

Reason number 3: Compliance is compliance. Sending a press release itself will NOT be a problem. Once it is written, you would need to have it reviewed like any other marketing. HOWEVER, the “As Seen On” thing will likely not fly because it’s not EARNED media. This is a fine line and we know that regulators are concerned about this matter. It would be equivalent to creating a 30 second TV commercial, paying to have it air one time on each of the big networks, and then saying “As Seen On…” Don’t take this as direct compliance advice, but that’s my assumption on how it would be viewed.

On a positive note: There is VALUE in doing press releases. Between improving your search engine optimization (SEO) on your website, to showing up in searches for topics that you want to show up for is all good. I just don’t like how this company pitched it. If you weren’t in a highly regulated industry, I’d probably say to go for the whole “As Seen On” thing. If you decided to hire them, you should only look at it for the benefits I mentioned from an SEO perspective, and NOT the “As Seen On” bit. My hesitance with this company is just in the fact that they blatantly misled you. That usually seals the door shut for me.

Failing the Marketing Sniff Test: the Clint Arthur “Experience”

It took the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s a while to showcase this “epic fail,” but there’s an important lesson from this story for all financial advisors to learn.

man-person-street-shoes.jpg

The story/sales pitch goes a little something like this:

“Hey Mr./Ms Advisor, you need to build credibility and trustworthiness. I have an opportunity for you to speak at Harvard or West Point. You’ll be a featured speaker on an important topic to your business! You’ll gain instant celebrity status and prospective clients will swoon over the fact that you were invited to speak at such a prestigious facility.”

Sounds intriguing, right? That’s the short version of “marketing guru” Clint Arthur’s pitch to advisors, insurance agents, and anybody else considered to be an entrepreneur. There’s just one problem. It doesn’t pass the sniff test. At least, it shouldn’t pass YOUR sniff test, and it certainly won’t pass the sniff test of any regulator.

In full disclosure, I’ve never met Clint Arthur nor have I done business with his company Celebrity Launchpad or Guaranteed Celebrity. He could be a stand up guy. However, when this idea was shared with me by a few advisors with whom I work, something about it didn’t sit right with me. As they say, the devil is in the details. In fact, the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s did their best to share some of those details in their stories published earlier this year (Meet the Guy Guy Who Gets Financial Advisers Appearances at Harvard and West Point & Advisors Using Harvard, West Point Speeches as Marketing: Unethical?)

Here’s what I understand about the “opportunity”- you pay a pretty penny for the chance to speak. You deliver a 5-7 minute speech (give or take.) The audience is full of the other business owners who paid to be there. The room at the venue was rented by Clint Arthur and gang. There is zero affiliation with the university/facility, although the marketing and branding certainly positions that to be the case (after all, they want you to be able to say that you were invited to speak at Harvard).

So, what’s the problem? After all, it is technically true that you were invited to speak at Harvard (albeit you weren’t invited by Harvard, and thousands of others were also invited). And you did actually speak on a financial topic at Harvard, right? So telling people that you were invited to speak at Harvard and actually spoke there shouldn’t be a problem, right?

The line is pretty gray here. There are really two parts to this equation – the ethical part and the regulatory compliance part. The Barron’s article focused more on the ethical issue that exists. In my opinion, the real issue becomes one of a compliance issue. Regardless of how you are registered or what licensure you maintain, all regulators have some rules regarding misleading consumers. In my opinion, this is why this marketing/PR activity doesn’t pass the sniff test. The average consumer WILL perceive this to be something different than what it truly is – there’s absolutely no denying that.

In the end, there are far more legitimate ways to build credibility and earn trust with the general public. There’s a big difference between “earned” media and “paid for” media. Some “paid for” media is legitimate, but it requires you to be more careful when scrutinizing and evaluating the opportunity.

 

6 ways to leverage tax reform in your marketing strategy

InvestmentNews

The following blog post was an article I had published in InvestmentNews:

Changes like tax reform give you an opportunity to educate and provide value to the public.

After months of deliberation, our government passed the largest tax overhaul in over 30 years: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Whether you agree with the changes or not, the public will need advice on how to manage their finances under the new law. When approached properly, the new legislation should provide financial advisers with the leverage they need to expand and exceed their 2018 marketing goals.

Here are six ways you can use the new tax plan to build existing client relationships and acquire new clients:

1. Hold an educational seminar. Whenever a new law is passed or regulations change, the public will always ask, “What does this mean to me?” This type of uncertainty creates a great opportunity for advisers to offer free seminars addressing common concerns to both existing and prospective clients. Seminars can also be held on a variety of more specific topics to targeted audiences. Since each demographic is affected differently, specific seminars can offer more relevant information to each group, so those in attendance receive personalized direction for their current and future needs.

2. Give presentations to the most-affected groups. Make your practice more accessible to new clients by offering free presentations in your community. This will give you the opportunity to share your specialized knowledge with a group that will benefit from it, while allowing you to build your brand and connect with potential clients in a niche area. The groups that are impacted the most by the new bill include charities, churches, universities, families, business owners and real estate investors. Develop some collateral that positions you as a dynamic speaker on specific topic or specialty within your practice, while keeping in mind that all of this material must speak directly to the interests of your target groups. Some options include a website, video or a simple brochure.

3. Provide existing clients with information. It’s great to bring in new clients, but it’s also important that you keep your existing clients up-to-date on legislative changes that may alter their financial situation. Some changes might affect your entire client roster, while others might just impact a small segment.

One suggestion is to group similar clients together when distributing information, so you can tailor it to their specific needs. Identify the best channels to communicate with each group and create a strategy for reaching them. This may vary from creating a fact sheet or new email marketing campaign to an informational video or social media campaign. Information that is accessible and easy to share will likely bring in more referrals as your existing clients spread the word about your services.

4. Reach out to CPAs and tax preparers. Many advisers struggle to develop meaningful relationships with CPAs. One way to start is by asking your existing clients who will be preparing their taxes this year. With your client’s permission, reach out and mention that you have a mutual client before asking them to a business lunch where you can exchange opinions on how the new bill will impact your clients.

Remember, when it comes to taxes, you are crossing over into their turf. To earn their willingness to provide referrals, you have to demonstrate knowledge, credibility and trustworthiness first. Share a few ideas and strategies that you are looking to integrate with your clients and get his or her feedback on what you’re doing to help people.

5. Reach out to real estate agents. A relationship with a real estate professional can lead the way to receiving referrals, as agents generally work with a wide variety of clients, many of whom are new to the area. First, however, you must establish your worth.

Real estate agents will likely be significantly impacted by tax reform, but they may not understand its full effect. To prove your value, consider creating a personalized seminar or write a short guide on the new tax reform bill’s impact on the real estate industry. With this personalized touch and expert guidance, agents will be more likely to recommend you to their clients. As with CPAs, maintain your relationship by sharing case studies with them in order to continually demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to your clients.

6. Offer a free consultation. With even a limited budget, you can offer free consultations to existing customers and warm prospects. These risk-free meetings are a straightforward way to provide your insights to those willing to listen. The value of your time will likely pay off in the long run when clients decide to sign on with you thanks to the personalized touch.

The best thing that could ever happen to financial services marketing can be summarized in one word: change. Change can provide you with the opportunity to educate and provide value to the public, especially when you’re working in the financial services industry. Potential clients are bound to have questions, and as an adviser, it is your job to market your services as the answer. This new bill gives you the chance to maintain relationships with existing clients and reach new audiences you might not have thought of before.

DOL Fiduciary Rule Enforcement: How Massachusetts May Have Provided the Spark for a Massive Fire

On Thursday, February 15th, the state of Massachusetts charged Scottrade with dishonest and unethical conduct and a failure to supervise. This is believed to be the first known enforcement action under the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule.

Where this will end up, nobody knows, but it could be the spark that triggers a fire within the financial industry. According to the regulator’s complaint, Scottrade violated impartial conduct standards by conducting some sort of sales contest with incentives for their employees to bring in new assets.

Let’s talk about the reality of this: anybody who has been in the industry for any length knows this happens all the time. It has been a part of the wirehouse and insurance sales culture for decades. The problem is this: far too many financial professionals (and the firms they associate with) are under the impression that the Fiduciary Rule (or Conflict of Interest rule) isn’t yet in effect.

As somebody who is actively involved the everyday communications with our own affiliated advisors, as well as the daily efforts to attract new professionals to our firm, I can tell you that there is a great amount of confusion surrounding this rule. In many cases, it isn’t confusion; it is flat out ignorance.

This is what advisors need to know: this rule is in effect. Today. Now. The “delay” that was triggered as a result of the Trump administration only impacted the second phase of the rule. Here’s where it gets a little fuzzy – it was assumed (due to statements coming from Washington, D.C.) that there wouldn’t be enforcement action taking place. The state of Massachusetts has proven that assumption to be faulty. And it won’t surprise me one bit if other states follow suit.

What does this mean to you as a financial professional? Much of that depends on the firms with whom you affiliate, the licensure you maintain, and the recommendations you make. Don’t be mistaken, regardless of your answer to the three questions items listed above, the rule still applies to you. The risk/exposure may be different depending upon your response to those items.

It really comes down to operating in an environment where impartial conduct standards are established and ensuring that those standards are adhered to by the institution and the representatives of that institution. For example, if you are affiliated with a broker-dealer or corporate RIA, has there been a process and standard established to review recommendations for best interests, as well as an honest effort to reduce or eliminate major conflicts of interest? If you affiliate with an insurance brokerage entity (FMO/IMO/MGA), do they understand the importance of adhering to this standard? Unfortunately, many are still running sales contests, sales incentives, and offering production-based compensation. Knowingly or not, many of these activities are a direct violation of the portion of the rule that is in effect and they are putting the professionals with whom they work in the cross-hairs of a potentially devastating regulatory mess.

This isn’t just an opinion. It’s a substantiated fact as evidenced by the state of Massachusetts. You may love the rule. You may hate the rule. You may be like me and think there should be a logical compromise to this regulation that could accomplish the goals of putting the interests of clients first without creating such a confusing and complex overhaul to the way business is done within all of the different entities that operate in the financial industry. None of that matters though. Our feelings about the rule today don’t change the fact that we all need to operate in a new environment. Sadly, some professionals aren’t quite there yet. And what’s even worse is that many financial institutions (broker-dealers, RIAs, FMOs, etc.) aren’t there yet either. And ignorance won’t be much of a defense if a regulator knocks on the door.

In the meantime, this Scottrade charge will be an interesting story to keep an eye on. You may not be aware, but TD Ameritrade is in the final stages of its acquisition of Scottrade. I’m sure this is the last thing they wanted to deal with as this thing gets buttoned up. If it turns out that the Massachusetts regulators have a leg to stand on when it comes to enforcement actions, you can bet that it may pave the way for other states to follow suit.

For more information and details on DOL Requirements, you can refer to our DOL Executive Summary and DOL Extension Fact Sheet.

For those of you already affiliated with USA Financial, you can find this information on the dashboard.

 

 

All the best,

Mark Mersman

Merry Christmas, and a Financial Advisor Marketing Prediction for 2018

Merry Christmas!

This time of year is typically pretty quiet in the world of personal financial advice news. Yet it appears as though Donald Trump and our friends in DC won’t be letting that happen as we cruise into the new year.

Change is upon us. Tax reform is here. Regardless of how you, your clients, and the rest of the nation may personally feel about the bill, one thing is for certain: It presents an incredible opportunity.

In the world of financial advisor marketing, I’ve observed that there are marketing trends that take place. Those that are ahead of the trend benefit the most, those that ride the wave of the trend enjoy some success, and those that sit around and watch are left to wonder why everybody else is having success and they just can’t seem to make it.

Some blatantly obvious trends over the past years have been the fiduciary rule, Social Security maximization, and Roth conversions (a few years back). This year will be the year of tax reform. I know, I know … it’s not exactly a “bold” prediction.

Advisors who are early to educate their clients and their friends, along with the community they serve, will benefit immensely. The biggest catalyst for financial advisor marketing is change. And change is absolutely something we can say was delivered to us in the form of this tax reform bill.

The gun was just fired. The race has begun. Get out of the blocks.

All the best in the New Year,

Mark

Independent Marketing Review: GuideVine

The independent marketing program reviews are designed to provide an overview and general review of a financial marketing program that is available in the marketplace. Over the course of a year, I bet I receive 50+ inquiries from financial advisors asking me my thoughts about certain programs available. Your inbox is littered with these offers every single day. My goal is to help you evaluate it objectively, and share any real-life experiences that I may know of related to the particular program. If you have a program you’d like reviewed, shoot me a note at mark@16waysfromsunday.com.

Financial Advisor Marketing Program being reviewed: GuideVine (www.guidevine.com).

 

guidevine

General Overview: An online-based directory of financial advisors. Think of it as a digital version of yellow pages for financial advisor searches only, or a matchmaker service for consumers and financial advisors.

Biggest competitors: WiserAdviser, BrightScope AdviceMatch, Paladin Research and Registry. The Financial Planning Association (FPA) and CFP Board have similar tools for their members.

How it works: Advisors pay to be featured on the site. At the time of review, here was how the pricing worked:

  1. Up-front setup fee.
    • Silver – $400 – profile creation, civil/criminal/regulatory due diligence, advisor provides videos.
    • Gold – $800 – profile, background check, 1-hour script coaching, 3 videos produced
    • Platinum – $1,200 – profile, background check, 1-hour script coaching, 5 videos produced
  2. Lead generation plans
    • Basic: $0/mo., $25/per-ask communication, $250 per connection communication (scheduling a meeting)
    • Premium – $1,800 annually – flat fee – no limits on lead amounts.

 

What I learned about the company: They have been around since 2013 and formally launched in 2014 in New York. They have opened it up nationally now, but there’s no doubt certain areas will be better than others. The positioning is all about the client finding the right fit. One of the cofounders used to be a VP at Morgan Stanley and focused on navigating marketing technology.

The stated goal is to enhance an advisor’s digital footprint. Evidently the screens they use for whether an advisor can participate are as follows:

$10 mill AUM
No termination events
No multiple disclosures
CCO reviews all advisors applying to the service
Must be an IAR
Must have 5 years of experience in financial services

They specifically stated to not expect a high volume of leads. Their goal is 3-5 quality engagements per year.

My gut reaction:

I love the concept, especially the fact that it is more than just a name directory. The videos are a nice touch. If I were you, I’d likely create videos on my own. That’s not to say that the quality of their video service is bad, but I think you could make them more impactful with a little more of an investment.

PROS: Pretty inexpensive and can be structured (if desired) to only pay for success. Will likely help SEO and digital discoverability and referrals to your site.

CONS: The low price will likely prohibit the service from ever being able to drive any sort of major traffic. The company would need to be bringing in a much higher cash flow in order to spend the advertising dollars needed to get a respectable amount of traffic.

Real-Life Advisor Stories:

I work with three advisor clients that have used this service.

Some feedback about the process:

ADVISOR 1:

“The initial questions and phone interview were great. They provided me a script, which I edited for flow and clarity to how I speak. The videographer was on time and easy to work with.

On the video, I was reading a script off a laptop set up near the camera. We were trying to get it to look like I was looking direct at the camera but couldn’t quite get it all the way there. In retrospect, I should have had the camera at an angle as if I was talking to an interviewer off-screen. I think that would have looked more natural.”

ADVISOR 2:

“The initial onboarding process seemed to be thorough and well thought out. The scripts they provided after the phone interviews, however, left much to be desired and we had to rework them more than we anticipated prior to filming.

The videographer was professional and the finished products were very nice. We incorporated them into our website as well.

Turnaround time on the videos was fast. We filmed on 7/07/17 and received our animated logo the very next day and the finished videos shortly after. We submitted the videos for compliance, everything was approved, and our GuideVine profile went live on  7/14/17.

It has been over 4 months, and we have not received a single phone call or request for a meeting.”

Some feedback about actual leads/activity:

ADVISOR 1:

“I have received one email status update with limited activity. I am not sure how well they market the service or if people just don’t click all the way through.

I will probably not renew the service as I have received 0 appointments so far.”

ADVISOR 3:

Their process has been very easy to use and they provide excellent service. The most important reason I use them is to help improve my name search on SEO. I don’t see it as a lead source as much as a support to the other marketing activities we do including social media, radio ads, radio show and our website. Each month I get 20-40 views of my page. Usually 7-10 viewers watch my video interviews. No direct leads/consults thus far.

 

My Final Grade: C+

My final thoughts: As I mentioned, I actually like the concept and think the general structure and approach they are taking is professional. Some of these types of lead services can feel a little bit like bait and switch. Unless they get a big infusion of cash, I have concerns about their ability to deliver any sort of true lead volume because the cost to advertise this sort of service is really significant.

Would I do it? Possibly. If you already have high-quality videos produced, you could do the Silver package, get the profile, and choose to just do the basic (pay for performance) service and the whole thing would be relatively inexpensive. It’s another credible website that would have your messaging out there and can only improve your search rankings. For this reason alone, it is worth considering. If you can look at it from the perspective of “any leads are just gravy,” I think it is worth considering. Just don’t count on it to be a major activity generator for your practice. The world of financial services digital marketing is filled with questionable characters. My initial gut reaction about this place and the folks I spoke with did not raise cause for concern. They seemed really genuine and were pretty open about expectations. I truly hope these guys can make it work, as there is much about their approach that I like.

All the best,

Mark

 

These days won’t last forever

Last night was an unusual and highly coincidental night.

For starters, I should warn you that this post is more philosophical and about life in general than anything. Writing is nothing new for me, but this blogging thing is a bit of a newer endeavor. I’ve been told and have read that I need to schedule my time to write posts. I understand the reason, but inspiration hits you at different points. Today, for me, it was at 5:40 am … as I reflected upon “the night that was.”

Shortly before we got into our bedtime routine with our girls, I had a conversation with a close family member who has been going through some difficult times. He’s been battling with depression and other challenges. I was sharing with him that this chapter in his life will be over and the next chapter has yet to be written. My exact comment to him was “these days won’t last forever.”

Less than an hour later, I found myself reading the third book of the night to our soon-to-be 3-year-old daughter. She’s at the phase in life where she has mastered the most important rule in sales – don’t accept the answer “no.” Frankly, if I could get her to understand a few basics about expense ratios, asset allocation, risk, and the importance of reliable retirement income, she’d probably pick up more clients in a week than most financial advisors do all year. She’s that cute … and that convincing.

We finished the third book, and I reminded her that it was time to go to bed. She was quick to remind me, “Daddy, I’m already in bed.” It’s hard to argue with good reasoning. She needed me to define my wishes more clearly. “Charleigh, it’s time to go to sleep.”

“But I want you to tell me a story …”

Pretty hard to say no to that. After making up two “once upon a time” stories, my request for her to go to sleep became a little more stern.

As she rolled over, I pulled her blanket up to cover her shoulders. And just as I was ready to declare victory for the evening, she broke out the kryptonite.

“Daddy, will you cuddle with me.”

That was only the jab. The right hook came when she dialed up the sweetness factor 40 notches and whispered, “Will you hold me?”

If we’re really smooth and clicking on all cylinders, our bedtime routine for our two little ones can usually be tackled inside of 25 minutes (assuming the bathtub didn’t enter the equation). Last night … I lost track around the 2-hour mark.

But as I cuddled up to my sweet, little, Jedi-mind-tricking daughter, only one thing came to mind … “These days won’t last forever.”

And yet … that’s not the end of the story.

Since I prefer the comfort of my own bed, the next step in the process is to pull off a “Yoga-esque-Mission Impossible” style maneuver to quietly and gracefully exit the bed and the room. Since the end result is inevitably a pulled muscle, I know I’ll be up for a little bit yet.

I wrapped my night up by reading a few chapters from The Energy Bus, by Jon Gordon.

It’s a book I try to read every now and again, when I’m needing the reminder about the importance of surrounding yourself with positive thoughts (and people).

Ironically, the theme of the last chapter I read could most easily be described in one sentence …

These days won’t last forever.

And with that, a few nuggets of advice to end this post on:

  1. Stop spending so much money on sales consulting courses and books. Volunteer at a day care. I’d suggest the 2.5- to 4-year-old room for the most effective training.
  2. If you have the privilege of putting little kiddos or grand-kiddos to bed at night, might I suggest something larger than a twin-size bed.
  3. If you’re feeling like the positive energy just gets sucked out of you throughout the day, or if you are simply not starting the day with much positive energy, give that book a try. It’s profoundly simple.
  4. Lastly, … in the financial industry, like all others, just remember – these days won’t last forever. If your days are tough now, have the fortitude to push through. If the days are great now, have the wisdom to make the best of them.

Enjoy,

Mark

The biggest mistake financial advisors make with drip marketing…

I suppose my title is a little misleading since the biggest mistake financial advisors can make with their drip marketing is to not do it at all. Assuming that’s not a mistake you are making, here’s the answer you are looking for…

D'oh mistake - Homer Simpson

Image copyright Fox News Entertainment

You are overthinking it.

I’m in the fortunate position to meet and talk with financial advisors every day. When I ask them what their drip marketing efforts consist of, the top 3 things I hear from them are:

  1. Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly stock market or economic updates. Don’t get me wrong, you are in the financial advice business and stock market/economic updates may be what you think your clients and prospects expect from you. In fact, there are some great turnkey options for you out there. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few that I think do a solid job:
    • Emerald Publications
    • Peter Montoya’s Marketing Library/Marketing Pro
    • Ron Carson’s Peak Advisor Alliance
    • FMG Suite (pretty sure they offer one)

I know I’m leaving plenty of quality newsletters off the list. Here’s the biggest challenge with using market updates as your drip campaign. You’re training them to watch the market, or at least you’re suggesting that it is something you want them to see. This holds true for clients and prospective clients.

2. Cutesy, fluff newsletters. (Maybe you’re even including a recipe.) While this is less egregious than putting the market updates in a prospective client’s face all the time, it’s not likely to trigger them to make a call to come in and see you. It’s still pretty impersonal.

3. The third most common item I hear about when it comes to a prospective client drip campaign is a stuffy financial letter or update on current events. If this is written by you, maybe you could get away with it because it will have a little personality to it. The biggest challenge with most of the services out there is that they have to appeal to the masses when they write content.

I should point out that doing any of the above three items is better than doing nothing. However, you’ll have to concede that most of the emails won’t be read and that hopefully you get a few “branding” points from time to time.

So … what’s the best approach? Something simple and not packed with too much information. If you can personalize it in any way, that’s great, but this can be trickier to accomplish when you are seeking to automate your efforts.

A handful of years ago I created a 3-year drip marketing program for advisors. Literally, every single month I have multiple notes to me about how it triggered appointments. There are a few emails in those campaigns that are the most effective. I’ll share one:

Subject line: Checking in

FIRST NAME,

I was thinking about you and wanted to shoot a quick note to see how things were going and if there was anything I could help out with.

As you know, we help answer questions about ________, and basically anything related to your financial well-being.

I hope this note finds you well. If we can be of assistance, please shoot me an e-mail back and we can try to set up a time to connect.

All the best,

ADVISOR NAME

PHONE NUMBER

I told you that you were overthinking it.

All the best,

Mark

Forming Marketing Alliances

Just the other day I received the email below about “marketing alliances” from an advisor-client we work with. This topic is certainly applicable to many, so I figured I could share some excerpts of my response to her.

A couple of people have approached me about establishing a promotional marketing partnership for the purpose of education and, of course, lead generation. One is a senior market realtor (certified) and the other is a mortgage loan specialist.

The idea is to target prospects in the 50+ marketplace by providing educational workshops around topics of retirement income planning, real estate decisions and options for home equity (have a mortgage, no mortgage, etc).

My question is about co-marketing like this. How do I establish a theme for video marketing (the lending person has a video production dept), yet clearly define myself as a planning professional? We need to create a branding slogan or title, create a branded marketing piece (the mortgage person uses postcards), etc. And of course, the whole time we’re planning this, I’m thinking of compliance requirements.

For messaging and target market, here’s what we have so far:
– 50+
– Educational
– Financial and Lifestyle Choices

Want to keep it  educational not salesy. Thoughts?

Alliance

(My response …)

I’ve certainly got some thoughts on this. Some are more general to the concept of a marketing alliance, and some are more specific. I share those below, but before I do, it should be pointed out that this concept is one that many entities have formalized. Some call them networking groups. There are certainly some that are specific to the financial planning industry as well, with most of them disguising themselves as “non-profits.” Personally, I think that part of it is a bit misleading, but the general concept of having collateral professionals working in unison in some way, shape, or form is pretty basic.

In general, here are some basics about setting up these types of arrangements:

  • Align yourself with the right people. This seems blatantly obvious, but there’s more to it than you might think. Many financial professionals wrongly assume that having a relationship with an accountant or attorney is going to automatically trigger referrals. Most advisors will tell you that’s a fool’s dream. The right partner should check off a few boxes:
    • Be likeable. Frankly, anybody that you refer a client to will be a direct reflection on you.
    • Be willing. The right partners must be willing to refer business to you. This may not happen immediately, and you may need to demonstrate where you bring value and how you help people, but in the end, it’s not a marketing alliance unless they are willing to say positive things about you and refer you to their clients and connections.
    • Be able. Not only do they need to be willing, but they must be able to refer you to the RIGHT people. If their client base is different than yours, it doesn’t make sense to pursue the opportunity.
  • Get on the same page right up-front. If it is truly going to be a marketing alliance, you need to clearly define what is expected before getting too far into the relationship. It may be the case that a direct referral is not what anyone is looking for. It might be as simple as doing events/activities together so you can co-mingle clients and prospects of one another. Whatever it is, cast the vision early and make sure everyone agrees to it.
  • Be fair (and realistic). It’s no secret that a client’s value varies from industry to industry. For example, a tax preparer may make $200 per client, whereas a realtor stands to make $10k-$20k+ per client. Given this information, the professionals that stand to benefit significantly more should be in a spot where they may have to contribute more financially to the alliance. The idea here is to be fair. And fair does not necessarily mean equal. Everyone needs to make commitments up-front.

As for some specifics…

The name. When naming this sort of thing, most people put the focus on the group itself, rather than incorporating the “WHY” into the naming. I often see names like “The SW Arkansas Networking Group.” There’s nothing about that name that is friendly to consumers. Look for something like this:

  • Financial Health & Wellness Initiative
  • The Money Project: Helping Boomers to Become Financially Savvy
  • The Grand Rapids Boomer Project: Providing Financial & Lifestyle Education to West Michigan area Boomers
  • The Well-Rounded Boomer Project: Helping Grand Rapids Boomers to become more educated on lifestyle and financial decisions.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas on where to start with the naming. With this approach, each alliance partner can promote their involvement in the project/initiative. It can receive its own branding and is certainly something that the media might latch on to from a PR perspective.

The activities. Treating the initiative as an educational effort will allow you to deliver life group presentations, recorded (or live) webinars, videos that promote your involvement (that also include the snippets from the alliance partners), and you can promote this via social media. I’d encourage there to be a Facebook page set up once the initiative is named. With each alliance member promoting their involvement via email, direct mail, including it in the footer of emails, etc., you are now able to multiply the reach and growth of any social media page. One of the first recommendations would be to define the goal and write a one-page brief on the project/initiative. Consider inviting other collateral professionals to join, but be sure to get the right ones (see above).

Sharing marketing concepts. Every business markets a little differently. As one of the first steps in the organizational meetings, each member should share how they have marketed in the past, what they are doing currently, and aspirations they have in the future. Openly discuss what was effective and what wasn’t. You’ll gain a tremendous amount of insight this way, and always look to find ways that you could bring value to their marketing efforts. Don’t be selfish here. Just remember, pigs get fed… hogs get slaughtered.

Leverage more than just clients. While it’s natural to salivate over an alliance members’ client base, you have to realize that the opportunity goes much further than that. Every alliance member has relationships beyond their client/prospect base that could be beneficial to tap on the should to get involved in the initiative. Define these opportunities (easiest way to do that is to really understand one another’s value proposition, and willingly discuss one another’s network.

Hope that gets your wheels turning! There are truly 16 ways from Sunday as to how you could approach this!

Mark