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In Thanksgiving of You, Readers and Bloggers

Most likely you are nowhere near your computer, your tablet or phone right now to be able to read this. I hope you are all enjoying your Thanksgiving meals surrounded by the people you love and appreciate most in this world.

But since you are all loyal readers, you’ll read this eventually, so I wanted to tell you a few things.

Today, in lieu of our normal blog post, I wanted to convey to you, readers, how much I appreciate the time you take out of your day to read our blog posts. I hope that they provide you some takeaways to improve your financial planning practices.

But our dear bloggers, I wanted to tell you that on this Thanksgiving, I am particularly thankful for your knowledge, your expertise and your dedication to writing for the FPA Practice Management Blog. I realize that it is a tremendous gift that you give of your time and your talent to share what you know with Financial Planning Association members and soon-to-be members.

I appreciate you all. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.



To Succeed with Content Marketing, Get Out of the Financial Planning Business

Many advisers I talk to feel frustrated by content marketing. “I’m on LinkedIn,” they tell me. “I publish a post once or twice a week. We wrote a blog post last month. But it feels like a waste of time. What are we doing wrong?”

If this sounds familiar, let me offer some advice. First, publishing pieces of content for the sake of publishing content on social media or a blog is not content marketing. Yes, you created content and yes, you hit a publish button—but unless these actions take place within the framework of a larger strategy, they won’t do anything for you.

Second, even consistently creating and sharing lots of content may not be enough to get you results (and certainly doesn’t count as a strategy). This is where many advisers throw up their hands and walk away from the idea of content marketing.

And that might actually be the right move for you to make.

The Problem with Content Marketing: Expectations vs. Reality

Many advisers bring the wrong expectations to the idea of content marketing—or fail to understand what it is and how it works. Many firm owners think “we’ll publish a blog post or two a month. That’s content marketing!”

Only, no, I’m sorry to say, but it isn’t.

Content marketing is the process of creating high-quality, unique content that communicates your value and specific message to a specific group of people. It’s the process of providing information, insights and ideas to those who want to dive into a topic that you speak on as an authority and an expert in that particular domain of knowledge.

This is why writing a blog post on “how to do a backdoor Roth conversion,” publishing it on your blog, then posting the link to that blog on LinkedIn doesn’t work. It fails to fulfill the duties that true content marketing carries out:

  • It’s not high-value content, because almost every single adviser with a blog has already written this exact article (not to mention all the articles on the topic provided by major publications like MONEY or Forbes).
  • It doesn’t communicate your value, because again, any halfway decent adviser should be able to tell you how to do a Roth conversion. This doesn’t speak to anything about what makes you unique or different if it simply lists out the “how-to” steps of the process.
  • It doesn’t provide a specific message to a specific group of people. In fact, it’s essentially the opposite: it’s a generic message that could apply to literally millions of people.

Content marketing requires a commitment to creating excellent, high-quality, useful, valuable and impactful content that your target audience wants to read.

This is not something you can dabble in and see success from. Nor, if we’re being honest, is this something that anyone can do (or at least, not something anyone can do well). If content creation—writing blog posts, creating videos, recording a podcast, etc—is not your strong suit, you might want to explore alternative strategies and tactics for your marketing.

Similarly, if you’re not willing to learn how to execute a successful content marketing campaign or you feel unwilling to dedicate real resources to your team members who are responsible for creating content, this probably isn’t for you either.

You should only commit to using content to market your business if you’re all in; if you’re willing to devote the time and energy required to develop content worth consuming. Otherwise, you’re only adding to the noise while failing to serve as a signal—and that doesn’t help anyone, including your own business.

The reality is this: to succeed with modern marketing, there needs to be at least a segment of your business that acts not as a financial planning firm, but as a publishing company.

How to Win the Content Marketing Game: Become a Publishing Company

I’ve started to frame the issue this way to advisers who ask me about the time and energy commitments you must make to use content successfully. If you want to get the most from your content marketing efforts, pretend a tiny publishing company exists under the umbrella of your firm.

A true publishing company exists to sell what it publishes. Book publishers want to sell books. Magazines and newspapers want to sell more magazines and newspapers. TV and radio stations want to sell their shows by getting more viewers and better ratings, and therefore more advertising dollars.

Publishing companies succeed when they create the kind of content that viewers, readers and listeners want to consume so much that either they’ll pay for it or they’ll tolerate interruptions to it in the form of advertisements.

You can do the same and create content that specific audiences want so badly that they’d miss it if it wasn’t there. Only, in your case, the goal is not to sell the content (either to consumers or advertisers). The ultimate goal is to have your audience ask for more—and that’s when you can offer them your service.

But producing that kind of content—content that’s valuable, unique, can’t-get-it-anywhere-else, interesting and engaging—requires serious work and effort. Writing another blog post about a Roth conversion will not leave anyone on the edge of their seats begging you for more. Making this mindset shift may also help you understand that content campaigns are not small or simple endeavors. They’re big undertakings when you do them right.

The other thing to consider about publishing companies is that every single one of them does more than distribute information. They make new ideas accessible. They expand perspectives. They spin and share stories.

Rarely does a publishing company that simply peddles the same information already widely available succeed. They must constantly find new ways to create engaging content that resonates with a specific target market, whether in the form of ratings, subscribers or book sales—or they’ll fail.

None of this is to suggest you should shut down your firm and start a newspaper instead. But what I do suggest is that, if you want to enjoy greater success with content marketing, you need to consider your firm as more than just a business that offers financial and investment advice.

Start looking at a segment of your firm as a tiny publishing company tasked with making the ideas, beliefs and values that fuel your financial planning and investment management philosophies widely accessible to your target audience—and having that target audience eagerly come back looking for more.

By doing so, you’ll better position yourself to succeed with your content—or at the very least make it clearer that this isn’t the best marketing approach for you to explore. And knowing what isn’t right for you is often even more valuable than understanding what makes a good fit.

 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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3 Steps to Create Excellent Habits

Habits play an important role as we go about our business as advisers. Creating excellent and productive habits is a combination of being able to recognize and eliminate any poor practices while implementing a series of positive and effective behaviors. This ability allows us to most efficiently complete our most complex and oftentimes repetitive tasks (i.e. cold calling, handling objections and closing a sale). Being aware of and consistent with what we do and accountable for our daily actions contributes to cultivating habits that can help put you into success mode.

Aristotle is widely cited as saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

Let’s take a look at a step-by-step approach successful advisers can use to create and maintain excellent habits:

Step 1: Create Conscious Activities

Oftentimes, rookies and veterans alike find themselves reactive all day long. The reason that this is so prevalent is because they are not consciously aware of how they are going about their daily activities. Instead they simply show up to the office and put out fires which can lead to neglecting several other vital facets of their business.

Here is a real-world example of how one financial adviser client of mine experienced this challenge:

Bill C. is a 20-year veteran financial adviser who explained to me in our first coaching session that his business was stagnant because he didn’t have time to prospect. Instead, most of his time was spent servicing his client base. Later, he admitted that his prospecting skill sets were rusty and that at his age he didn’t like getting rejected.

The first step for Bill was to help him understand what he was doing. He was not delegating tasks to his assistant that he easily could have. As a result, he was doing many unproductive activities and his business suffered. So, we mapped out structure to his day and a way for him to handle—and prioritize—interruptions and tasks.

Step 2: Create Consistent Activities

The next step after knowing what activities will help move business into and through your pipelines is to focus on doing them consistently at the same time each day so that good habits are formed.

In Bill’s case he needed to prospect first thing in the morning instead of putting it off until he had time, which was nearly always limited. His first time block at 8:00 a.m. was to make outgoing prospecting calls to his natural market. After helping him script the proper dialogue it didn’t take him long to start to enjoy prospecting again. However, in order to ensure that prospecting would become a habit he needed to take the next step.

Step 3: Create Accountability for Activities

You MUST have someone that you can be accountable to everyday. The best way to do this is to assign yourself to send an “accountability email” that is sent to an accountability partner (mentor, colleague, trusted individual) for at least 30 days.

Bill began sending me daily accountability emails and we had actually attached a reward or punishment system to his activity level. This created an additional level of accountability because he was trying to reach reward status while attempting to avoid any punishment.

So, what happened to Bill?

His level of productive activities increased exponentially, his pipeline filled, he closed additional business and formed excellent habits while truly enjoying what he did for a living again!

Why Practice Makes Permanent

It’s been said that practice makes perfect however, part of my coaching philosophy is that “practice makes permanent.” Perfection can be elusive, so a focus on streamlining your habits with an eye to constantly evaluating them offers a more realistic process.

Now, the question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I tackling activities in a way that is producing positive habits with desired outcomes?” If not, it’s time to take some dedicated time to review the aforementioned steps and get yourself a plan for creating your own set of excellent habits.

If you would like a free coaching session, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley
Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.