Journal of Financial Planning: July 2019
Taylor Schulte, CFP®, is the founder and CEO of Define Financial. He also hosts a podcast for financial planners called “Experiments in Advisor Marketing.”
Anyone who has built a financial planning firm knows that finding new clients isn’t easy—it’s difficult, time-consuming work. You can’t build trust out of hopes and dreams, and you can’t buy a client’s respect. It usually takes some clever marketing and many months, or even years, to connect with clients who will pay for your services.
But, marketing may be getting easier—at least for some of us. Many financial planners are turning to the internet to grow their businesses in ways other marketing efforts simply cannot.
My own firm is an example. I started the “Stay Wealthy” podcast (youstaywealthy.com/podcast) to help people invest smarter and prepare for retirement, but I also think of my podcast as part of my marketing plan. Potential clients can find me by accident—or on purpose—and listen to what I have to say before they ever make an appointment, and there’s some power in that. In fact, I believe my online presence gives me a real advantage.
Still, that doesn’t mean creating content is a walk in the park. No matter what anyone says, putting yourself out there is hard! You need to have thick skin to share your ideas with the world knowing full well not everyone will be a fan. Like anything else, the spoils go to those willing to take the risk and do the work. And that’s why you see so many financial planners who are absolutely killing it online these days, whether their chosen platform is video, blogging, podcasting, or some other form of media.
Picking an Online Content Medium for Your Practice
If you wish you could leverage the internet to build your business, it helps to consider which platform best aligns with your natural traits and abilities. Adopting a platform just because it’s popular or trending will likely have poor results and, even worse, be an energy-draining activity.
I personally focus most of my time on podcasting because it feels most authentic to me. I feel comfortable and confident behind a microphone and genuinely have fun recording new episodes. Because of this, I’ve been able to consistently produce content for two years now—something I’ve struggled to do as a writer. This consistency has led to the podcast growing from zero to 10,000 downloads in a single month and joining the top 200 business podcasts on iTunes.
Since podcasting isn’t for everyone, I tapped into four rock star planners who have each had massive success in the content marketing world to learn why and how they chose their primary online platform. Here are four options to consider and why they might work for you:
Jeff Rose, CFP®, has been a financial planner for over a decade, but he has focused most of his energy on his YouTube channel, Wealth Hacker, these past few years. Fortunately, his work has paid off; Rose now has over 250,000 subscribers to his channel and over 14 million views in total.
The financial planner turned blogger turned YouTuber said he chose to break into video for a simple reason—there’s not a lot of competition. Not many advisers are willing to do all the grunt work video requires, for starters, and many don’t exactly have the face for video anyway. As a result, there’s a big opportunity for financial advisers to get in on the ground floor.
While this isn’t the case with everyone, Rose says video takes up less of his mental bandwidth than writing blog posts. He can also use video to share personal stories that don’t always translate over in the written form.
If you’re considering video to help your brand, you should be aware that there’s a learning curve at first—especially if you plan to shoot and edit videos yourself. But, like anything else, “the more you do it, the better you’re going to get,” says Rose.
Kathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA®, of Flourish Wealth Management, says she focuses her online marketing efforts on blogging (flourishwealthmanagement.com/resources/blog.html), partly because it feels natural for her but also because writing is one area where she can have some consistency. She uses a content management tool called Trello to manage workflow and create an editorial calendar, and this helps her stay on track and continue building content her clients want to read.
For Longo, one benefit of blogging is the fact she can easily share her written content on social media, which just so happens to be where she communicates and interacts with existing and potential clients.
“Over half of our clients find us online,” she said, which goes to show just how powerful an online presence can be. Of course, this also shows the opposite—that not being online could cost your business as well.
Longo says one of the challenges of blogging is coming up with new ideas, but she looks for opportunities to be inspired in everyday life. That might be a trip she’s on or a personal experience she’s just endured, but she also builds a lot of her content around client questions.
Finally, one lesser-known benefit of blogging is the fact you can leverage your website to grow an email list, which can be a powerful marketing tool on its own.
Roger Whitney, CFP®, CIMA®, CPWA®, AIF®, RMA®, of the “Retirement Answer Man” podcast (rogerwhitney.com/blog) says he started podcasting mostly because he “naturally thinks out loud.” Since he talks through problems already, he figured it made sense to establish a platform where he could share his thoughts on retirement planning in a format other people could consume.
Whitney also wanted to podcast in order to “get ahead” of Google searches. His financial planning clients mostly came from referrals when he started his podcast, he says, so he wanted to create something potential clients would find if they looked up his name, versus just having them stumble upon his LinkedIn profile.
The podcaster also personally found that writing blog posts takes him a ton of time, mostly because he self-edits to death. With podcasting, he lets the words flow and land where they may.
Whitney says podcasting might work best for anyone who isn’t a natural writer but has plenty to say. Then again, you can’t expect to have huge success if you don’t have a lot of original ideas. Your unique thoughts are going to help you connect with potential clients the most, he says. And that’s why you should “focus on wisdom and not knowledge.” Anyone can harp on the same topics and repeat the popular talking points, but your own ideas will set you apart.
If you can’t decide between blogging, video, and podcasting, you could always dabble in each until you find what fits. Or you could do them all, which is what Justin Castelli, CFP®, of RLS Wealth Management does.
Castelli, whose blog and podcast are both named “All About Your Benjamins,” says he likes creating different types of content because he “wants to be everywhere” so the right clients can find him. And that works for him, mostly because he has a knack for delivering media and takes the time to do it.
But time can be a problem—even if you’re outsourcing some of the work of your online marketing plan. There’s a learning curve to podcasting, video creation, and blogging, and that only compounds when you try to do them all.
If Castelli had to focus on one platform only, he says it would be video because “you can reuse video on different platforms.” For example, he could take the audio from his video and turn it into a podcast. And if he wanted, he would have the audio transcribed and have it turned into a blog post.
On the flip side, you can’t turn a blog post into video or a podcast—at least without taking on a lot more additional work.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a financial planner who is struggling to find your voice online, you have plenty to think about. For example, which online media platform fits your talents and your lifestyle best? And which do you actually want to try?
Once you mull it over, it can help to try a few different things—even if your initial performance is bad. Remember that it takes time to get better at anything, and that includes all forms of content creation.
And if you’re worried about what people think, you should change your tune right away. Everyone’s a critic these days, and building an online presence will certainly make you susceptible, but do you really want to avoid a profitable opportunity because someone might not like what you have to say? Of course not.
No matter what, don’t let the fear of putting yourself out there prevent you from trying something new. Financial planners are taking over the internet and you can be one of them, but you have to get out of your own way.
Journal in the Round
Join Taylor Schulte, CFP®, July 31 (2 p.m., Eastern) for a Journal in the Round live webinar. Schulte will moderate a discussion with fellow planners on successful marketing strategies. Click HERE to register.