Official launch of 16 Ways from Sunday podcast : Exploring Financial Advisor Marketing From Every Angle

I’m thrilled to share with you the official launch of the 16 Ways from Sunday podcast. This podcast is a podcast for high-performing financial planning professionals that are committed to improving their craft. It takes a rifle-approach with a focus on financial advisor marketing and business building.

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Each episode provides actionable marketing ideas and insights, typically delivered through candid interviews with some of the top thought leaders in marketing and/or the financial advice industry. From digital marketing to traditional direct-response marketing, each episode delivers straight-forward and engaging content that any financial professional can use to improve their bottom line and grow their practice.

You can subscribe via iTunes, Google play, and a number of other podcast apps.

Visit my podcast home page to get all the details and check out past episodes.

The first three episode titles and links are below:

Episode 01: Mark Mersman: On the Sales and Marketing Funnel for High Performing Advisors

Episode 02: Mike Lover: On the Imporance of Process and Elevating the Client Experience

Episode 03: Brian Hart: On Turning Press into Profits: Simplifying Public Relations for Financial Advisors

I’m looking forward to this endeavor and anticipate at least two new podcasts to be released each month.

All the best,

Mark Mersman

The post Official launch of 16 Ways from Sunday podcast : Exploring Financial Advisor Marketing From Every Angle appeared first on 16 Ways from Sunday.

The World We Live In: How Yelp, YouTube and other platforms can land you in hot water

Marketing 101 will teach you that third-party validation is one of the strongest trust-builders available as you seek to grow your customer/client base. This is true for every industry. Small businesses will often rely on testimonials and endorsements from satisfied customers. In fact, small business turn to social media platforms every day to help them accomplish this.

The unfortunate reality is that the financial advice industry has to be extra careful when it comes to testimonials and endorsements, even if they appear to be on the up and up and out of your control.

Just this past week, the Securities and Exchange Commission censured and fined three investment advisers for violating the testimonial rule by promoting their business on Yelp, as well as for advertising testimonials on their website and YouTube channel.

InvestmentNews broke the story earlier this week. 

Let’s dive a little deeper into how this happened (and I’d like to share in the frustration that I’m sure many of you reading this will also have).

From what I’ve gathered, these advisors hired Dr. Len Schwartz, the owner of a marketing consultancy firm Create Your Fate. The story suggests that they hired him for one of his services called “Squeaky Clean Reputation.” The irony is unbelievably laughable if it weren’t such an unfortunate conclusion. (The end result of them hiring him to improve their reputation resulted in the exact opposite). I digress.

Full disclosure: I don’t know Dr. Len Schwartz. I’ve been solicited by him a few different times on LinkedIn, but I’ve never taken the bait. For all I know he could be an incredibly upstanding professional.

With that said, there is some danger in hiring outside consultants/professionals. The liability they have for the work they do for you is FAR LESS than the liability you have. According to the story, Leonard Schwartz and his firm would reach out to the clients of the advisors and solicit testimonials, specifically on Yelp (who knows if the clients were encouraged to provide testimonials elsewhere).

According to one of the advisor’s administrative proceeding notes, Dr. Schwartz was contracted to solicit and compile and post the testimonials on various websites and YouTube.  It goes without saying that this is in direct violation of the testimonial rules. If you’re so inclined, the PDF link below is guidance from the SEC regarding the testimonial rule and social media.

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Stop

Some Guidance and a short rant (I’m sure many of you have the same frustration)

The basic rule regarding testimonials applies to investment advisor representatives. Unfortunately, it does not apply to financial professionals who are only registered representatives and/or insurance agents. This is one of the many flaws with the regulatory nature of our industry. The playing field is not level. For those of you that operate in a fiduciary capacity as investment advisors, I’m sure there is nothing more frustrating than to see other advisors websites littered with testimonials. As a marketer, it irks the heck out of me since establishing third-party credibility/validation is a foundational marketing activity.

Here’s the quick actionable guidance I’ll give you:

  1. Re-assess who you have helping you with your marketing. Evaluate whether they truly know the industry you are in and whether they truly have your best interests at heart. As somebody who builds marketing systems and programs for advisors, compliance with the rules is my number one priority. And yes, it occasionally results in us not being able to do/say some of the things I’d like to be able to say.
  2. Rid yourself of testimonials. I hate it. You hate it. But it needs to be done.
  3. Build third-party credibility in other ways. EARN yourself media opportunities. This is far easier than you may think. There is a little bit of detail regarding this here: Turning Press Into Profits
  4. If your clients are truly willing to give you a testimonial, then they are worthy of cultivating into a referral source in other ways. I call the program “From Clients to Partners.” At the core of the program is a focus on client experience and creating professional contrast. Shoot me a note if you’d like to find out more.

That’s all for now.

Be smart out there! Clients first. No shortcuts.

All the best,

Mark Mersman

 

 

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).

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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.

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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.