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Don’t Like Marketing? Try Building Community Instead

There’s one thing I’ve noticed almost all financial advisers have in common: they don’t like marketing. They don’t enjoy it. They don’t think it’s fun. Some tell me they just don’t get it.

I’d argue that last point, because marketing is simply communication. If you communicate your value to the audience you want to serve, congratulations—you “get” marketing and should be able to do it successfully.

But still, I understand the first two points: if you don’t like marketing, or don’t enjoy it, it’s tough to make yourself sit down and do it (or even think about it).

And unfortunately, most of us need to do some marketing tasks—especially if we’re trying to build and grow businesses. Choosing not to think about it isn’t really an option, either, even if you outsource. You’re likely responsible for setting the vision and the strategy for your team or your contractors so they can execute on your ideas.

So what can you do if you hate thinking about marketing and you definitely don’t want to do it—but recognize that it’s a necessary evil?

Here’s what I’d suggest: Don’t try to market yourself. Focus on building an audience and a community instead.

Build a Community Instead of a Marketing Machine

If the idea of marketing leaves you feeling less than enthusiastic, consider how you can build up an audience, a network or a community.

If you can build these connections and nurture those relationships, you could leverage a very powerful way to build your business: word of mouth. Word of mouth takes some of the burden off you because your customers or clients begin doing the work of marketing for you.

Community could be anything, from online groups or followings centered on a particular brand or product, to in-person meet-ups, events or organizations’ events. There is no one right way to go about it—you just want to bring people with shared interests, needs or problems together.

The best community for you to focus on building will largely depend on who you want to serve. What kind of format best meets their needs? What kind of community are they most likely to show up to and participate in?

Your Community Doesn’t Need to Be All About You

As you think through questions like these, remember that you don’t necessarily need to build a community that’s based specifically on your brand. Your community doesn’t have to be brought together by your services or your industry, either.

Perhaps there’s something you’re passionate about or a problem you know you could solve instead. This might make a great starting point to think about how you can put yourself at the center of the solution.

For example, when I moved to Boston from Atlanta, I found it very hard to make new friends. I knew one person—my significant other—and that was it.

Boston is a hard city. People tend to be very transient, moving frequently for work (which means people may live in Boston one year and be gone the next). And the people who are native to the area have very established social circles that date back to their grade school days.

Those factors, among others, make it very difficult to make friends (especially when you don’t have an office full of coworkers, which I didn’t because I work for myself!). As I tried networking and slowly met a few people, I realized we all had the same problem: It was hard to move to Boston from outside the state and make friends as an adult.

So I started a community for these like-minded women who faced the same struggle. I organized happy hour events once a month, and the group grew from our first gathering of 10 women at a local restaurant to nearly 50 women at the last event I hosted.

I also started a Facebook group that grew to hundreds of members—and every single member was a woman in her 20s or 30s, most of whom were self-employed or did some kind of freelance work on the side of their day jobs.

In other words, they were a niche. They were a ready-made target audience. They became a tribe who knew me as the founder, the heart of this community, and every single one of them understood who I was, what I did and the type of client my business could serve.

Give to Your Community, and They Just Might Give to You

Through that group, I expanded my professional circles and gained influence in my local area. It was a powerful way to give my career and business a boost—and it didn’t require me to market in the traditional sense.

That’s what the community did for me, on my behalf. This is just one example of how your community can benefit you; you could easily take this and replicate the model in your local area and make it specific to a niche you want to connect with.

Can you serve a group of people in your town? Could you create an online community to bring together people of specific interests or needs from various locations around the U.S.? Could you build a brand that seeks to give rather than constantly sell?

Marketing might not be your thing, and that’s okay. You don’t necessarily need to build out a powerful marketing machine if you can instead focus your efforts on connecting directly with people and fostering a community that offers mutual benefits for everyone involved.

KaliHawlk

Kali Roberge is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.


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You Need a Story to Succeed in Marketing. Here’s How to Find Yours and Tell It

“The best businesses are the best stories.”

This was one of my favorite quotes from a marketing conference I attended last year because it gets to the heart of what it takes to be successful as a marketer and entrepreneur. You need to develop a story—and then share that story with others.

Stories are compelling because they trigger our emotions. They align (or don’t) with our existing beliefs and values. The ones we like confirm our worldviews and our biases.

All these things play into our decision-making process. As much as we’d like to think we’re perfectly rational when we make choices, we’re simply not. And you need to keep that in mind if you want to convince more prospects to become paying clients of your firm.

This being said, finding success—developing your story and then sharing it well with others—isn’t easy to do, which is why most people (and planning firms) don’t market themselves well. Good storytelling is an art, and even if you can spin a yarn that resonates with others, you need to find a good one to share first.

Here are some of my best tips to be able to both find your story and tell it well.

Make Sure You Have the Raw Materials for Building a Story

I would not describe most of the financial advisers I know as “thrill-seekers.” And that’s not a bad thing. Most people get into this profession because they’re naturally inclined to protect and nurture valuable assets, both for themselves and others. If you’re stampeding through life, taking unnecessary risks and making stupid mistakes, you likely won’t make a great financial planner.

But a little adventure, a little risk and a little discomfort are good things that so often we become averse to seeking out on our own. The problem with that? If you’re comfortable, you’re not doing anything new. You’re not pushing yourself; not exploring or challenging anything; and not gaining useful experiences that you can use as the raw materials for good stories.

Finding a good story is not about dreaming up something more imaginative or innovative than the next guy. It’s more about being able to think creatively to piece together seemingly random, disparate ideas to come up with something new, interesting and original.

Living life and seeking out things that push you just a little outside your comfort zone each time is a wonderful method of developing great stories—as well as getting new insights, finding ways to think differently and giving yourself the opportunity to consider new perspectives.

I’m not suggesting that you be in a constant state of anxiety or discomfort in order to grow or form new ideas. But you have to be willing to step into a situation you know will be uncomfortable for you in order to give yourself the chance to grow, see things in a new light and develop the experiences necessary for a good story.

Talk About Where You Divert from the Mainstream

Ever get that feeling that the crowd is moving in one direction—and you’re doing a 180 in the complete opposite direction? Treat that feeling as an indicator that you might be sitting on a good story to tell.

We try to do this often at Beyond Your Hammock, in both blog posts and on podcasts. We’ve challenged the idea of homeownership as “always good,” specifically pointing out that there’s a lot of pressure for high-achieving 30-somethings to want to buy a home…but a lot of us don’t want that at all.

We’ve pushed against the FIRE movement’s idea that there’s only one way to “financial independence,” and it’s through extreme measures. We’ve been willing to say, you know what? Being good with money is not all about how much you can save. It’s how well you can use your money as a tool to live well today and still plan responsibly for tomorrow.

It takes some vulnerability to stand up, raise your hand and say “I don’t seem to feel the same way as everyone else. I’m thinking differently about this and here’s why.” But these are great places to find a unique story that others will appreciate, because what happens is you give a voice to the things your audience already thinks but might not feel brave enough to say.

Think About What Matters Most to You

What gets you fired up? What do you feel passionately about? What do you believe in with such conviction that you’re willing to take a stand for it without being moved or dissuaded?

These areas of your life make good hunting grounds for stories. What can you share about how you came up with your beliefs? If you have a philosophy or a mantra you live (or do planning) by, what is it and what led you to develop it?

Telling Your Story: How to Share It Once You Find It

Developing your story is only the first step. You also need to hone your communication skills so you can share it with a receptive audience. Keep these quick tips in mind:

Polish your story first:

If you follow the advice above, you might dig up a really awesome story you want to tell—but that doesn’t mean just word vomit somewhere and people will enjoy it. You may need to trim bits and pieces, or just tell us a snippet of the story. You might need to lop off a lengthy intro and get to the point. Knowing what to share and what you can cut out is a critical component of good storytelling.

Aim to form connections, not prove points:

Stories are not lectures or sermons. A story should serve as a channel for connecting with other people—so don’t be afraid to dive into things that feel a little squishy or intangible or not even directly related to financial planning. People want to connect with other people. Be vulnerable, be human and share openly about what makes you, you, and how you came to form your views on how you do business, the advice you give and the people you want to help.

Use the right medium:

Is your story best told with visual aids? Then a podcast might not be the best way to tell it. On the other hand, do you want to tackle something controversial? Video or podcast might be better than a blog because people tend to be more receptive to new ideas when they hear them rather than just reading them. Consider the context and choose an appropriate medium for your story.

Give context to information:

A story is not a recitation of facts. None of us needs more information; if we need data or stats or info, we can ask Google. The value you can provide with storytelling is to put that information and the data and the facts into context. Information is widely available more than ever thanks to the internet. And context has never been in shorter supply.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this piece of advice for developing your story and the content to tell it with (a favorite tip from fellow writer and blogger Chris Guillebeau): When it comes to sharing your story, communicating your message or publishing your content, strive to be educational, entertaining or inspirational—but preferably all three.

KaliHawlk
 Kali Roberge is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.


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Do These 4 Simple Things to Enjoy More Business Success in the New Year

Endings and beginnings serve as natural signals for us to stop and reflect, and the fading of one year into a new one is no exception. If you haven’t yet, block off a few days (or better yet, a full week) on your calendar and devote that time to some strategic business planning now in the new year.

You’ll want to look back at the previous year and honestly evaluate what worked, what didn’t, what moved the needle toward success and what you may need to change going forward. Hopefully, going through this process will allow you to identify some actions to take in this new year.

Just in case you need a little help, allow me to suggest a few very simple things to try that could create some massive shifts toward success for you and your business. Some of these tweaks are changes in mindset, others are more tangible to-dos you can implement. But they’ll all help contribute to a more productive, creative and, hopefully, profitable 2019.

1.) Get Crystal Clear on Who You Want to Reach

If your answer to the “Who do you work with?” question is, “Individuals and families,” it’s time to do a little market research. Understanding the specific people you serve is critical to a number of functions in your business, from business development to marketing to customer service to client success and more.

After all, the clients in your book of business are real people who are just as complex, nuanced and complicated as you are. To reduce them to a general, bland group like “individuals” is disrespectful—and it also puts you at a massive disadvantage.

Why? Because it’s hard to effectively communicate in a way that persuades, delights and influences your target audience if you have absolutely no clue what makes them tick, what matters to them, what keeps them up at night and what worldview they operate with.

Be able to list off not only your ideal clients’ demographic information (age, location, earnings, ethnicity, gender, job sector, etc.) but more importantly, know their psychographic information: their fears, beliefs, values, desires, needs, dislikes and more.

2.) Eliminate What’s Not Essential

At a conference I spoke at recently, an audience member asked a great question that was about content marketing but could apply to just about any aspect of your business. This attendee asked how he could avoid becoming “the dancing bear.”

In other words, how could he avoid getting caught in the trap of producing content for the sake of throwing something out there to entertain followers day after day after day?

The answer is that you don’t have to hit publish all the time. You just don’t. Sometimes, it’s not essential—and if you come across a non-essential task, it’s a good candidate to cut from your to-do list entirely. There will be times when you don’t have anything to say. So don’t say anything. Make the choice between adding to the noise or waiting to be the sign.

Whether it’s content marketing or any other aspect of your business, quality likely matters more than quantity. Look at what you’re currently doing and ask, “What’s essential here? What’s serving a function that moves the needle—and what’s just noise, busywork, clutter or being done for the sake of quantity rather than quality?”

3.) Understand What Really Fuels Creativity

How many projects for your business have you put off because you weren’t feeling creative or inspired? It’s natural to feel like you’ll do your best work when you feel particularly compelled to act, but there’s a problem with that: creativity is not fueled by inspiration. It’s fueled by work.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I get some version of the question, “You write so much—how do you stay so inspired?” all the time. I understand why. I do write so much. (I once tried to estimate just how many words I manage to write in a month and the total easily topped a couple hundred thousand written words—every month!)

Many people assume I must be extremely creative, highly gifted or constantly inspired (or some combination of all three). The truth is, I have a system and I stick to it. If I only created content when I felt inspired, I wouldn’t write a thing. I’m able to create so much because I take the work of creating very seriously and I sit down to do that work regardless of whether I’m feeling particularly creative or inspired.

If you can make this shift for yourself and understand that putting off important projects until inspiration strikes is a sure way they’ll never get done, you may find yourself a little more productive—maybe even prolific—in the new year.

 4.) Invest in Personal, Not Just Professional, Development

Stick with me here, because it’s going to get a little woo-woo. Most of us are perfectly comfortable with spending money on professional development; we’re happy to fly to conferences, gather up CE opportunities or invest in specific training courses.

Too few of us, however, are willing to make the same investment into our personal development. That’s problematic because by skipping over the personal aspect of developing yourself, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to run a better business.

Personal development can help you improve your decision-making skills thanks to the understanding it can give you of your own thought processes. Self-awareness is critical for anyone in a high-powered position, from lead adviser to firm owner, because it allows you to better spot potential flaws in your own thinking.

Similarly, personal development work can help you uncover blind spots that you didn’t even know you had. The more things you didn’t know that you can discover, the better you’ll be at shoring up weaknesses or gaps in knowledge, skills or abilities.

And finally, I’d argue that investing in your personal development simply makes you a more engaging, interesting, thoughtful person that others tend to gravitate toward. You’ll likely improve your communication skills, boost your emotional intelligence and radiate confidence and a sense of groundedness in who you are and what you want to accomplish in your business and your life.

KaliHawlk
 Kali Roberge is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.