Journal of Financial Planning: November 2020
Taylor Schulte, CFP®, is the founder and CEO of Define Financial. He also hosts a podcast for financial planners called Experiments in Advisor Marketing.
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As a financial adviser who loves technology, I’ve seen firsthand how the right tools can dramatically improve the success of my business.
One of my passions is trying out tech tools that can improve our marketing efforts. For example, I’m currently experimenting with an email marketing automation platform called Snappy Kraken. I’ve spent dozens of hours with their team working to develop an approach that aligns with my goals, and we’re starting to see some positive results.
While tools like Snappy can be wildly impactful, the time required to research and test can be a distraction. To help you stay focused and avoid chasing shiny objects, I’m sharing five of my favorite marketing tools. In different ways, each tool is helping me grow my practice, streamline processes for my team, and improve the overall user experience.
I use ConvertKit for all my email communication and marketing. It’s simple to use and great for sending no frills, custom e-newsletters.
Additionally, ConvertKit provides a landing page builder to help you grow your email list. These landing pages allow you to give something of value (for example, a free guide or e-book) in exchange for a person’s email address.
ConvertKit also helps you create and automate email sequences. For example, if somebody joins our email list for the very first time, they automatically receive a sequence of customized emails over the next seven days. The purpose of this sequence is to add additional value through content education and quickly build trust with a new subscriber.
This email sequencing function way outperforms Mailchimp and Constant Contact. Unlike those two services, ConvertKit allows you to segment your lists and let users select the type of emails they want to receive. Also, while Mailchimp does have a free version, it’s been known to attract a lot of spammy email marketers. This has hurt its reputation with email providers like Gmail and Yahoo! and increases the chance of your emails getting stuck in spam folders.
Switching to ConvertKit has dramatically improved my open rates and overall email marketing efforts, but it does come with a cost. Depending on how many subscribers you have, pricing ranges from $30 to $4,000 per month.
In summary, here are three things I love about ConvertKit:
1. The emails are simple. There’s no fancy branding or colorful templates, just plain text. This simplicity has been known to improve open rates. Also, not having logos and images to distract the reader forces you to think about the quality of the content and not how well it’s designed.
2. It has the ability to create tags and segmented lists. This helps me know where subscribers are coming from and cater our email communications to their specific interests.
3. You can create landing pages. It’s all bundled together. You don’t need to subscribe to different software or learn a new platform.
Most importantly, you don’t have to be a tech nerd like me to use ConvertKit. It’s simple, user-friendly, and comes with great customer support.
Sumo is a website marketing plugin for platforms like WordPress and Squarespace. In its most basic form, Sumo is an email capture tool that integrates with platforms like ConvertKit and Mailchimp.
One of the most popular use cases for Sumo is creating pop-ups for your website. Yes, pop-ups can be annoying, but they’re highly effective when used properly. The great thing about pop-ups created in Sumo is that you can customize how, when, and where they show up on your site. For example, one of our pop-ups doesn’t appear until the user scrolls halfway down the page. If someone has read that much of a page, my guess is that they are enjoying our content and might be interested in something even more valuable, like our guide on lowering taxes.
If pop-ups aren’t your thing, Sumo also allows you to create a “smart bar.” These are skinny panels that stick to the top or bottom of your screen. It’s like a pop-up that doesn’t go away and often feels less obtrusive.
You might use the smart bar for a call to action (“Click here to schedule a meeting”), to announce a change to your business, or as a prompt to join your email list.
Here are the three things I love most about Sumo:
1. You can quickly add forms and calls to action to your website without any web development experience.
2. The tool provides a lot of helpful data and feedback about what users are doing when they visit your website.
3. It’s free! Yes, there is a paid version, but most advisers just getting started with their digital marketing won’t need to upgrade.
If there’s one thing I have to criticize Sumo for it’s that it does too much. The number of settings and customization options inside of Sumo can be a distraction. Unless you have a designated marketing expert on your team, this might be one of those tools you spend time experimenting with on the weekends before injecting into your day-to-day operations.
Canva.com is a website for non-designers who need to do graphics work. Many designers use Adobe Illustrator, which has a steep learning curve. Canva takes everything you can do in Adobe Illustrator and makes it simple for people like you and me.
If you don’t have a graphic design background and don’t want to hire somebody for a very simple task, Canva works incredibly well.
For instance, I needed to create cover art for the Experiments in Advisor Marketing podcast. So, I went into Canva and grabbed a template. Then, I added some text, adjusted the colors to match my branding, and I was done. It was free, and it took me less than an hour.
You can use Canva for multiple graphics needs: to develop social media banners, get social media images for posts, make greeting cards, create letterhead, or to craft client announcements that will be physically mailed.
What I love most about Canva is that you’re prompted to add your branding elements (for example, color codes, logos, and favorite fonts) to your profile when you subscribe. When you launch a new design project, your brand elements are quickly accessible so you don’t have to spend time searching for them.
I’ve used Canva for three years and I can honestly say there’s nothing I don’t like about it. It’s one of the best marketing tools I’ve come across in a long time. If I had to find something to warn you about, it’s that you probably shouldn’t be spending your time playing graphic designer. To save me from getting distracted, I paid a designer to create custom templates inside of Canva. These templates make it easy for me to quickly create an image on my own or outsource the work to our virtual assistant.
Zapier is a unique tool that saves me hundreds of hours per year by connecting various apps that don’t normally integrate in order to automate certain tasks. Along with saving time, this tool also creates a better experience for our clients and prospects.
Here’s one way I use Zapier: When a prospective client schedules an introductory phone call through Acuity Scheduling, we have a “zap” that adds them as a new contact in Redtail CRM. It also tags them as an “active prospect” and launches our first activity. Without Zapier, we used to have to manually tackle all of these steps.
Zapier also connects the Riskalyze “lead generation” tool on our website to ConvertKit. When a potential client takes the risk analysis quiz, we zap them into ConvertKit and tag them with “Riskalyze” so we know where they came from. These new email subscribers coming from Riskalyze are then sent an automated sequence of emails over the course of a week that adds additional value and prompts them to schedule an introductory phone call with our firm.
There are a couple downsides to Zapier. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll find it user-friendly. However, it does take some time out of the gates to get familiar with how it works. Also, since Zapier connects technologies that weren’t initially built to work together, zaps do occasionally break. Tech updates or new versions of a product can cause this to happen. For that reason, it’s a good idea to dedicate one team member to manage Zapier to keep things running smoothly.
I’m hooked on Loom. This video-messaging app is a communication tool that saves me time and operates on a platform that makes it easy to share recordings.
Recording a video rather than writing a long email saves me time because, as Loom reminds us, people talk six times faster than they write. It’s also helpful that people retain far more of a message they watch than one they read.
One of the most common ways I use Loom is to send custom video messages to prospects, giving them a chance to see and hear me before we meet. You can also use Loom to send birthday greetings to clients or summarize a recent performance report. I’ve also been using Loom to delegate tasks to my office manager. Again, it’s easier than typing out an email—and it can be used again in the future to train or onboard new employees.
Most recently, we used Loom to begin building a client resources page on our website. These videos show clients how to make the best use of their eMoney client portal.
All that said, there are a few downsides. For one, Loom is still relatively new and users, including myself, have dealt with installation issues and crashes. Also, it doesn’t yet integrate with Zapier, and videos you make are viewed on Loom’s website, not your own. I’m hoping that will all change in the future. For now, I’m loving the ability to save time by creating personalized videos instead of typing out a long email. This new tool has become a valuable part of my workday and we are only scraping the surface.