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Improve Your Digital Presence in a Restrictive Environment

Something we’ve noticed from our work with advisers at Kalli Collective is that they are way behind in their online presence—even the basics. But, before you get defensive, hear me out. I don’t think it’s entirely your fault.

The financial services industry will always be behind other industries because of the compliance regulations set in place to protect you and those you serve. FINRA and other regulatory bodies need time to figure out how applications operate and what risks exist. They don’t allow use of such applications until they’ve had a chance to create safety measures. It was only a few years ago that advisers were allowed to have a social media profile, and by that time several organizations from other industries had already built up a reputation and following.

This lag in access combined with largely non-tech savvy individuals has created a fear of the unknown, which has created an “if I ignore it, it will go away” mindset. Many of the older, established advisers insist they don’t need a web presence because they built their business without it. It’s only in the last three to five years that advisers have started to create a presence online, but even these efforts are rarely thought out or invested in more than the bare minimum. But, don’t let this discourage you. While your competition is just scraping by with a website from the early 2000s and a social media profile they update once a year, you can reach clients and prospects with a superior digital presence.

Here are a few tips on getting started:

Take Stock

According to Pew Research, 74 percent of online adults use social networks regularly with nearly 5 million affluent investors using social media to research financial decisions. Check your current digital presence score from our Coaches Corner doc to find any gaps and areas you can “beef up.”

Define Your Annual Budget

Most marketing pros recommend that you invest 20 percent of your business profits into your marketing. This is for all marketing, not just your digital efforts. This includes business cards, brochures, signage and so on. You’ll have to judge your own situation to determine what percentage is right for your business. I do encourage you to delegate a large percentage of your marketing budget to your online presence, especially your website. Your website should be your hub of content and indicate to your clients and prospects working with you is like. Need more help? Watch our video about website budgets in FPA Coaches Corner.

Have an Overview Plan

Define your target audience. A target audience is who you’re trying to reach or connect with. Sit down and take a look at your book of business. Who are your top clients? What niches do you work with or want to work with?

Define what action/s you want your target audience to take. How can you grow your business through each segment of your target audience? What action do you want them to take?

Define where/how you can reach your target audience. Research them. Where do they get their information? What groups are they part of? What publications do they read? What are their interests?

Review every quarter. Technology is constantly evolving, so every quarter review where and how you can reach your target audience. Every year or so, review and update who your target audience is and what action you want them to take.

Create a Content Calendar

Using your overview plan, create a calendar for what content you’ll be releasing, when, where and who is responsible. Use our how-to create content document in FPA Coaches Corner to help.

Add Call to Action and Drip Funnels

It’s extremely rare to find an adviser who is forward-thinking and brave enough to create a system to funnel leads into drip campaigns and/or provide interactive sections on their website. Your website should really be more than an online brochure of your business, and each target audience segment should have its own set of funnels and drip campaigns based on the interaction of the prospect. If your prospect is interested in a 401(k) rollover, doesn’t it make sense to send them periodic emails related to that topic? By creating a funnel on your website and social media, you have the ability to do just that.

While regulations do contribute to the financial services industry being behind, it’s not an excuse for advisers to cease coming up with creative solutions and clear growth plans with what they do have access to.

Kallie_Fedusenko

Kalli Fedusenko and The Kalli Collective partners with professionals in the financial planning profession across the U.S. in their digital marketing plans. Think of Kalli Collective as your in-house marketing agency that just happens to work for your office remotely. They not only help plan, strategize and implement a marketing plan, they do the work for you so you can spend your time on what you do best—planning with clients. She is one of the newest coaches in the FPA Coaches Corner.

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Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in the FPA Coaches Corner whitepaper, “Action 2020: Create Business Success for Today and Tomorrow.” Download your copy of the whitepaper here.  


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Fitting Video Marketing into Your Business Plan

How does video marketing fit into your business plan? Does it at all?

If it doesn’t, it might help to know that almost 77 percent of small business owners get results when they incorporate video marketing.

Video is a big deal, especially for small businesses. Having a website is only part of the battle, now. With almost half of internet users looking at video before visiting a store for the first time, not having some kind of video for your financial planning firm could actually be hurting you.

To Have or Not to Have Video Marketing

Compounded with our almost-impossible-to-combat instant gratification impulse, it makes complete sense that video advertising has become the easiest and fastest ways for a business to convey a message.

Hours, days and even months can go into researching and crafting the perfect medium. Thousands of marketing research dollars, testing groups, advanced analytics tools to measure things like attention span, engagement, drop off times—you name it—it’s there. It all matters.

And of course, there’s always a risk it won’t work, and we’re left wondering if we’ll get the best possible ROI or if it will flop.

When it comes to video advertising, if it moves, is pretty and speaks to our souls then guess what, we’re probably interested. We may even sign up for your newsletter.

Sounds simple—but since you’re a business owner, you know it isn’t.

Science is showing that we have even less time to capture our audience’s attention, and it’s only about 20 seconds. Yes, 20 seconds.
But does it matter to try video marketing for your practice in 2020? Yes. A huge, loud, resounding yes!

Though by no means exhaustive, here’s a quick start guide to help you to start thinking about video content for your financial planning practice’s marketing efforts.

Starting from Scratch

You’re going to want to build a plan to develop your video strategy, which will include scripting, production and editing time and, of course, sending it off to compliance. While the following list may change depending on your practice, the general idea will look something like this:

  • Target demo: Your existing clients OR prospects (you may have to develop slightly different “buyer personas” for each).
  • End objective: Do you want to increase your visibility? Build trust? Upsell?
  • Metrics of success: Sign ups, conversion rates, referral numbers, page visits, etc, social shares, etc.
  • Distribution: where is it going? Social media? Pay-per-click ads? Your website? YouTube? Sit down with your team and brainstorm a plan of attack.

What Kinds of Video Content Marketing to Use

There are so. Many. Options.

The best part of video marketing in 2020 is that you really don’t need the fanciest equipment to deliver value to your prospects.

Heck, you could be recording a value message while driving in your car with your phone recording your dashboard and you could, technically, throw it up on your social media (though, always make sure to run everything through your compliance department first).

As a financial planner, you can create:

  • Video interviews (with existing, obviously-consenting clients to give testimonials)
  • Video case-studies
  • Video ads, 30 seconds or less
  • Quick animated videos explaining a difficult financial topic
  • Tutorial videos (webinars) that pertain to tax returns, estate planning, investments, etc.
  • Snippets of or full video presentations you’ve given (events you’ve spoken at, etc).
  • Social livestreams and snippets of the best pieces of those livestreams later

Depending on your short-term end goals (building an email list, getting a warm lead, etc.) some of these may be better than others. Do you want to increase your visibility to existing clients to be able to upsell on other products and services? Do you want to establish some trust with prospects?

Like with every piece of content you create, you want it to be part of a well-planned “sales funnel.”

Sometimes, a video is just the start of one. Other times, there’s a video at every step. And, other times still, a video could be a purchase at the end of one.

You decide how you want to use your content—just make sure it’s part of a well-conceived plan.

How Long Should Videos Be?

You’re busy, right? Well, so is your prospect. Remember this fact with not just every video you create, but every email. Generally, keep it short and succinct. The rule for us marketers is to keep a video under 2-3 minutes.

There’s tons of data that shows there’s little difference in engagement between a 90-second video and a 30-second one, depending on the desired end-result.

You might be thinking, “But Kristina, there’s no flipping way I can get my point across on an intense topic like estate planning to my prospects in 2 minutes.”

The good news is that, for more “educational” content, the second best length for a video is between 6 to 12 minutes. Yes, there will be drop off, but it’s not as significant as the plummet that occurs after the 2 to 3 minute mark.

If you want to create an educational webinar or show your prospects a conference you spoke at, then that’s fine. You can manage the video length by either creating a mini-series (each piece about 6 to 12 minutes in length), or pulling the “nuggets of wisdom” and turning them into little micro-clips for your advertising.

Where Should the Videos Go?

To start, know that mobile video marketing and social media video marketing are two different things.

If you already utilize paid ads through AdWords or Bing, a video ad works similarly to a text or image pay-per-click ad.

Social media video marketing is different. Just like with your text and image ads, you should be catering your ad length and messaging depending on the platform you use.

It also means that you pay the social platform to “boost” your video to an audience verses a search engine, or that you create specific videos intended for those social platforms

It depends on where your target demo is likely to be found. If you’re targeting Gen XY and/or millennials, Instagram and Twitter is lifeblood.

Don’t Be Left Behind

The bottom line? Over two-thirds of small businesses are now using video in their marketing arsenal, and it’s expected to keep growing by 14.6 percent per year.

So, turn on that phone and record some wisdom—and then let compliance take a look!

Kristina Rocci

Kristina Rocci is the web content manager for The CWA Network (seen in MDRT, Advisor Today, FA Magazine, PlanPlus Global, etc.) a financial adviser coaching business in Rochester, N.Y. that recently released a completely free business plan training webinar for planners. She originally hails from the fintech world in Toronto with 9 years of digital marketing under her belt.


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How to Write Like Someone Might Actually Read Your Work

One of the tips I hear most frequently for those just stepping into the world of content generation is to start by creating content for yourself. While I agree with the general sentiment (some of my favorite pieces have been written primarily for my own amusement) and think it can be a valuable jumping-off point, many of us are tasked in the course of our work to create content that gets someone to do something. In other words, we are attempting to, at the very least, get people to read, view or discuss our work.

Content that falls into this category could be designed to get someone to buy something, attend an event or become a member of an organization, and it could also mean content meant to get people to think we’re smart and/or knowledgeable. Oh, you mean like “thought leadership?” No, I don’t. That term has lost all its value due to abuse and overuse. In my experience, most content labeling itself as thought leadership is a sad copy of something better that has already been produced, and as such, is actually “thought following,” and a waste of everyone’s time.

Anyhoo, getting people to consume your work can be even more difficult than creating it in the first place, and there are few things more frustrating than spending a lot of time on a piece that nobody reads (thanks for reading this, by the way). If this has happened to you, it can be tempting to either just stop creating content at all or, if you are forced to keep creating it, to start phoning it in (i.e., “Well, we need a market commentary to send to clients. I’ll slap it together in five minutes and send it out as a Word Doc.”). While understandable, if you get into this funk, you start thinking of creating content as a chore and a box that requires checking, and my guess is that your work reflects it.

To help you avoid the strange unspoken agreement that we as content creators can sometimes make with our hypothetical readers (“This won’t be very good, but I know you won’t read it anyway”), I wanted to share three tips that I use to help myself write content that includes the assumption that someone might read it—bonus points if they get something out of it—and have a good time doing it.

1.) Write Like You Speak

How you distribute content matters quite a bit in terms of making sure your audience sees the content. Creating content that engages, however, starts with the writing and editing process. If your content is dry, boring, aloof or cookie-cutter, it doesn’t matter how great your distribution plan is—your readers will look elsewhere for what they need.

One thing that sets content that I enjoy reading apart from the rest of the noise is when I can feel like I know or have met the writer or creator upon finishing the piece. The tone and personality of content is an area that still seems to get short shrift behind sexier topics like SEO and headline writing (don’t judge me—I love this stuff), but it could not be more important. Your readers need the information you’re providing, but they also need to engage with the person offering it. For this reason, drawing your reader in often requires letting them know you on a more intimate level, which can mean:

  • introducing vulnerability (i.e., “Here’s a mistake I made and what I learned from it”)
  • tying personal stories to your main points
  • adding jokes, sarcasm or other quirks of your personality throughout
  • taking a stance and/or including your opinion and analysis of facts and data provided

Or, all of the above if it works for you. I’ve found that interspersing these more personal items into my pieces helps me write more effective content (through the lens of satisfying objectives), and perhaps more importantly, that they make it more fun to write. I’m a firm believer that, if you’re not having fun writing or creating content, your audience will have even less fun consuming it.

I think that some of the best compliments you can receive as a writer are that you “write like you talk/speak,” or that something you wrote “sounds like you.” Finding your style and committing to using the same core tone and personality in everything you write takes practice and a lot of repetition, but it’s well worth your time.

2.) Read It Out Loud

You’ve likely heard this one before—the reason I’m bringing it up again is that it truly does work. One of the most common questions I receive from content creators, especially those tasked with writing about or for the financial services industry, is how to maintain any level of personality or unique tone when the topics themselves are overly technically complex or just plain dull. This industry and profession present a great challenge in this respect, and while injecting some vitality into the desiccated husks of certain pieces of content is far from easy, I do think it is possible.

One way to check your work on this is, when you have a draft ready, to read it out loud first to yourself, then to someone else. The act of verbalizing your work can be useful in a variety of ways:

  • First, it can help you practice and ultimately, master Tip #1 (writing like you speak).
  • Second, it can help you identify the areas where you need to add some qualifiers to simplify and clarify certain thoughts. While I overuse it in my own writing, I am partial to using “in other words” in these instances, as it sounds more conversational and primes the reader for a simple way to understand a complex concept. ASIDE: I’ve had well-meaning people try to tell me that if I’d just explained myself more effectively in the prior sentence, I wouldn’t need to use “in other words.” I’ve found this to be false in many scenarios in financial services, as it’s often important to use the language of the industry in the first thought, as that’s what the reader is most likely to see in other materials. Your qualifying sentence is to help them understand the language in a different way.
  • Third, it’s the best way I’ve found to ensure that content is conversational enough for your audience, and for the objective of the piece. If you’re writing an academic research paper or an instruction manual, you may not want or need to be very conversational, but if you’re writing a blog post, your audience is often expecting you to be talking directly to them. Reading aloud will help you identify the areas of your work that really lend themselves to a conversational style (i.e., something that you, or at least some human being, might actually say), and those that need some adjusting.

While you will likely be your own most valuable critic, finding someone who will be honest with you during a read-aloud session can be extremely useful as well. Sometimes, things sound better in our heads and coming out of our own mouths than they do to others, and you can avoid tripping yourself up by sharing it verbally with someone else before publishing.

3.) Edit, Don’t Sterilize

My last piece of advice on engaging writing is to remember that the small imperfections and quirks in your writing style are not necessarily bad things. I think some of these quirks make up an important part of anyone’s writing style, and not all of them should be eradicated through the editing process.

For example, guidelines like AP Style that provide excellent constructs to help us to be better and more consistent writers can also be limiting in certain cases. This is especially true when it comes to keeping pieces conversational, and I almost always err on the side of making pieces more readable over a take-no-prisoners adherence to style guidelines. Note: This is borderline unforgivable heresy to some people I know—Melissa, I hope you’re not reading this.

One of my favorite instances of this comes from the book Delivering Happiness, an autobiography by Zappos Founder Tony Hsieh. In the introduction to the book, Hsieh lets the reader know that he doesn’t consider himself a great writer, and that they might find his style jarring, but it was important to him that he delivered his thoughts in his own words.

True to his disclaimer, the book is not a work of classic literature by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, my favorite autobiography, and the endearingly slapdash style of his writing is one of the main reasons why. I also love that he took a crack at writing the book himself instead of farming it out to a ghostwriter, as so many others have done.

You really feel that you know Tony Hsieh as you finish the book, and it’s primarily because he put pen to paper (or hands to keys) himself, sharing his unfiltered thoughts and failures so that the reader may learn some important lessons. It’s likely the same reason we sometimes like seeing shaky iPhone videos instead of studio-quality interviews—authenticity matters to all of us.

I’m not telling you to fire out a draft, then publish it immediately without any editing support. In general, the more smart people who look at your content before you publish it, the better your content will be. That said, don’t be afraid to gently push back on edits that change a thought in the way you wanted it delivered, remove a piece of your content that you think represents you and your style or sterilize a sentence that was meant to be more conversational. If you have the same people look at your work, over time, these discussions can help both you and those who are editing your work find that unique style that says, “Hey World, I’ve got something to say, and I’ve got a unique way in which to say it.”

Speaking of making content consumable, this piece is pretty long, so those who made it this far, I ‘preciate you. These tips have helped me, and I hope they help you wherever you may be on your content creation journey.

Dan_Martin_Headshot

Dan Martin is the Director of Marketing for the Financial Planning Association, the principal professional membership organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who seek advancement in a growing, dynamic profession. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @DanW_Martin and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/danmartinmarketing.

Disclaimer: The Financial Planning Association is independent of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (“CFP Board”), a 501(c)(3) organization that grants the CFP® certification to CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals in the United States. CFP Board owns the trademarks CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.