Common Content Marketing Mistakes (and their Simple Solutions)

Journal of Financial Planning: September 2018


Kali Roberge is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial planners grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She is regulator contributor to the Journal’s Practice Management blog.

You write a blog post every two weeks, or maybe once a month. You set up social media accounts and you tweet and post to Facebook on a regular basis. Maybe you even put an opt-in form on your website and make an offer to your visitors, promising a valuable download in exchange for their email address so you can communicate with them periodically to nurture that lead into a true prospect for your firm. You could try podcasting, or recording videos to upload to YouTube, or even writing a book to self-publish on Amazon.

All of these are sound content marketing tactics you can use to attract an audience and build a pipeline of prospective clients. The only problem? That’s not actually happening.

If you find yourself tweeting into the void or posting a bunch of content but seeing no change in website traffic or sending emails to your list that go unopened, something’s not working in your content marketing.

Here are some of the most common missteps I see financial planners make, followed by ideas on how you can quickly correct each mistake:

You Fail to Promote

You create a lot of content, but you don’t do anything to promote it. As a rule of thumb, you should spend 80 percent of your time promoting your content and just 20 percent creating it.

The solution is not to add to your
workload; you might need to cut back on the content you’re producing, focus on quality over quantity, and put your energy into promoting a few things rather than creating a ton of stuff that doesn’t make it to your audience.

Your Content Isn’t User-Friendly

Most of us learned how to write or create content in an academic setting. The rules we had to follow in college often carry over to corporate America, where writing becomes even more stiff, formal, and dense.

Looking at a wall of text might be impressive on paper. And writing in a highly formal, impersonal tone, being verbose, and using complicated vocabulary might be required in some settings, but it does not work online. In fact, it’s downright painful to read.

Instead, make use of white space. Use bullet-point or numbered lists. Keep paragraphs to three or four lines—or less. Don’t be afraid to use choppy sentences and speak as plainly as you can. Write like you talk and don’t use five words when one will do it. Keep it simple, straightforward, and conversational.

These little things will make your content friendlier to your audience and encourage people to actually read what you wrote.

You Only Talk About Yourself

It’s awful to go to a networking event and find yourself cornered by the kind of person who doesn’t listen to a word you say but drones on and on about themselves, what they do, and what they need from you.

It’s just as awful to follow someone like that on social media, who only posts self-promotional content—or content that just isn’t relevant to your needs and challenges. You can say the same for emails you receive from brands that only seek to sell, but never try to offer value to subscribers without asking for anything in return.

If you post on social media, keep your content relevant to your audience and be a giver. Promote other people, share cool stuff that’s helpful for others even if it’s not your content, and shout out people doing cool things. That doesn’t mean never talk about yourself, but strike a balance.

With email, don’t constantly hit people up with requests that only serve you. Sure, send out an email to explain your business and ask for a referral—but only after you’ve sent three other emails where you offered something helpful to the recipient, be that a download or food for thought or just a cool link they’d really enjoy.

While all these little tweaks can help improve the performance of your content marketing campaigns (and yes, there are many more little fixes like this), there’s one big problem that may be the root cause of content that doesn’t work: you’re doing what everyone else is doing and not letting your unique, defined, authentic voice shine through in your marketing.

Pour Your True Self into It

It may sound downright unstrategic, but finding a strong voice and tone, defining your opinions, and speaking out about what you believe and sharing openly—maybe even getting a little vulnerable—will make your content marketing extremely powerful.

Sharing the “what” and “how” of financial planning tactics and techniques is helpful for the DIYers out there. But that’s not useful for someone who doesn’t want to do it themselves, AKA: potential paying clients.

If you write in a formal, instructional way, that’s not going to resonate with the people you want to reach and help. It’s also going to be completely devoid of personality, and as humans, we don’t want more facts and data. Most of us don’t connect with numbers so much as we connect with other people and the stories they tell.

You may not feel this way, which is why writing about the numbers is so tempting. That is compelling to you and it’s why you’re good at your job. But you aren’t your clients, and if you continue to approach your marketing with this lack of empathy for the people you want to speak to, you’re not going to find success with these strategies.

If you want your content marketing to work, take a step back from all the tactics for a moment. Then, work on identifying your unique voice. Define what you feel strongly about. Flush out your philosophies and beliefs and practice articulating those—and why you hold those beliefs.

Find what you feel opinionated about and speak up on that topic. And again, write (and create content) the way you’d speak with friends on subjects you’re passionate about. Let your personality and your way of thinking shine through and be part of the content you create.

Don’t shy away from speaking your mind in the context of what your audience cares about and needs from you. Putting your authentic self in your marketing differentiates you from other firms, makes it clear what you stand for and who you stand for, and makes it extremely easy to create content that rises to the top.

Anyone can write about technical topics. Only you can create content around your system of thought and how you practice what you preach in your own life. 

This column was originally published on the Journal’s Practice Management Blog. Read more at

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