Hannah: Well, thanks for joining us today, Dan.
Dan: Of course. Thank you so much for having me.
Hannah: So, I read an article that you posted on FPA practice management blog. And I think I read it and three weeks later, it was still just rolling around in my head. So, I really want to get to that. I’ll give the listeners the title of it. “Financial Planners, Stop Making Excuses and Start Marketing.” So, well jump into that a little bit later, but for the listeners, can you give them just a little bit about yourself? Kind of what’s your role with an FPA. You have a degree in marketing. You’re not a financial planner, right?
Dan: Correct, yes. Degree in Journalism and then a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing.
Hannah: For your whole career, have you been involved in the financial services profession?
Dan: I have, yes. So, I graduated from the University of Denver in 2006 with a Journalism degree, and it turned out that that was not a great time to look for print journalism jobs. So, I gravitated to marketing because I wanted to at least use some of the skillset. And I think the journalism degree, it’s still been so valuable for me. But I ended up in the insurance world, so the retirement insurance world. And so, over the last 11 years I’ve had marketing communications roles and many different parts of the financial services world. But I think my favorite and probably the most useful stint was, at least in my early career was with a broker dealer, because it was there that I was finally able to build relationships with financial planners.
And we’ve talked a little bit about this beforehand but, I thought meeting all these planners that first of all, I love these people, and most of them are nice, they’re smart people. They’re trying to make a living by helping others which is just such a wonderful thing. And what struck me was how totally different it was to meet these planners, than how they’re perceived, even within their own industry. And so, at that point I kind of made a decision that I wanted to try to change that paradigm and not just because I think it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s a great marketing challenge. The shifting perception is that’s one of the central tenants of what marketing can do. So, right now I’m Director of Marketing at Financial Planning Association, and that’s a position where I think and hope that I can do some good in terms of changing the perception to be a little but closer to reality when it comes to what financial planners can do and the kind of impact that they can make.
Hannah: Let’s talk about that discrepancy. Because I think we all know that it’s there. I think sometimes we’re a little too close to the trees to see the forest. Can you describe what that discrepancy is? Like what’s our perception, and then what do you see is the reality?
Dan: Yeah. I think the perception that is out there, and granted, I don’t want to make too heavy of generalizations, but just that advisors and financial planners, first of all, that a broker is the same things as a financial planner, which there is a large, a huge gap between those two different types of things. But also, that a financial or an adviser or a broker is first a salesperson. They’re going to try to sell you a product. And I think there’s a lot of reasons for this, that perception. But part of is that it’s a numbers-focused industry, and there this connection with Wall Street and the perception of Wall Street is, and in some ways correctly, that they’re going to get as much money out of you as they possibly can, regardless of whether or not it’s good for you.
And granted, there’s always, every tree has rotten apples, but most of the planners that I’ve met are, what we were talking about before, that they’re small business owners, for the most part. They’re people who are trying to help others, and they really believe that they’re trying to, or that they treat their clients like they would treat their family. And something like money is so personal and so central and so emotionally-driven, that an advisor is, the numbers piece is sort of implied, but an advisor is there is almost one of your most trusted confidants. And the difference between the perception and the reality of that is stark and in some ways even shocking.
Hannah: Maybe this is a million dollar question, but from your perspective as a marketer, how do we fix that?
Dan: Well, I think one way is, and granted, I’ll plug the podcast here, I think what you’re doing, what you do in this podcast Hannah is so wonderful. Just because it’s going to take a collective effort. Any time you’re trying to, it’s like the analogy of turning an aircraft carrier. It’s going to take time. And it’s not something that anyone can do alone. It’s going to take a collective effort of organizations like FPA, other industry focus group, profession focus groups. But I think you cannot underestimate the impact of what the change you can make on a personal level for all financial planners. And I think what this podcast shows is that your contributions do matter.
So, if individually we all start to change the way we talk to clients and prospects about the value of financial planning and take it outside of the numbers, everyone that lends their voice to the effort is a step in the right direction, and collectively if we can all do that together, I think it is possible to change the perception. But, I think part of the title you were talking about is, we need to stop relying on everyone else to do that for us and saying, “Well, that’s the industry’s job. That’s an association’s job.” It’s really all of our jobs.
Hannah: One of the things that I’ve struggled with personally just having my own firm and being a solo advisor is, I see these ads on TV. They’re doing a great job. And I see all these companies, they have focus groups that they’re paying to really, their marketers are working with focus groups in order to get the best copy and everything on there. And I struggle sometimes with how do we compete? And maybe, yeah, how do we compete with that?
Dan: Yeah, I think that’s a really great question. I think that that’s, well, if you read a lot of marketing blogs and things like that, there’s a change you get completely overwhelmed and say, “Oh well, I don’t have money to do, spend a lot of money on some Google ads or get into search engine marketing.” Or, “I don’t have SEO,” or, “I don’t have a big CRM.” And all of those things are helpful, and they can certainly help you increase your reach and distribute the content that goes out there. But I believe so passionately that the story is what matters the most. And if you can create your own story from a personal standpoint, and it’s a story that’s true and that shows both your strengths and where you’re maybe even vulnerable, and then what your vision is, sort of what you focus on that maybe other planners don’t, I think that there is the David and Goliath story that there is a way that planners can still compete if your story is powerful enough.
Something like social media has leveled the playing field. Because a lot of that, some people say you have to pay to play, which is true from an advertising standpoint, but social media gives you the reach to compete on a level that frankly, those smaller businesses couldn’t before. So, I think that yes, you’re probably never going to be able to compete on in terms of the total spend, but I think there are ways to level the playing field.
Hannah: So, a lot of people talk about story. And I love that idea. But how does that actually play out within a financial planning firm?
Dan: So one thing, and that’s a great question, because there’s always, and marketing has this problem just like everything else, that there is theory and then there is implementation. Okay, that sounds great, but how do I do that? And I think something that everyone can do is to start a blog. And I think the term blog scares some people, because people think that you have to post something every single day, or that you’re going to spend all your time on the blog, and then you have your business to run and you have your clients to meet with. But really, if you have a website, which most planners do, it’s really nothing more than a new tab and addition of some buttons. Or you can even launch a standalone site in Squarespace for a couple of dollars a month. And it’s really intuitive to use.
But, so there’s compliance regulations, of course, and the content itself. You may have to submit posts for review and that sort of thing, but I think depending on the content, what you have in there, that can be really a minor hassle. And here’s why a blog is valuable: Number one is, you need to build your, a social media following, which is the only free marketing basically that you can do besides in person and referrals face-to-face. You need content. And you look at social media, the vast majority of posts are driving users to something else. The content of the social media itself is sending people back to a blog or a video or a webpage.
And so, the blog, that is your story. That if you create a blog and you, let’s say you do one post a month even, to start, that’s, and even that could be aggressive, but it’s I think everyone has time for one post a month. And you take that directly from your client interactions, you have all the content that you’ll ever need sitting in the chair right across from you. And so, if you talk once a month about the sort of hot topic of the month, and what you did to solve the client’s most important problems, and even taking it from your own lens as a planner, then you repurpose and share that one post on social throughout the month. That is the foundation of a content strategy. And so, to me, it’s overwhelming when you look at all these things telling you that you have to have a content strategy and personas. And again, those things are important, but really, if you start with a blog and social media, that is the beginning of your story telling program.
Hannah: One of the things that I’m seeing a lot of advisors do is paying to outsource all of their content. So, they pay a writer to pitch them ideas, and then they’re writing for their blog. What’s your perception of that?
Dan: Well, I’m biased as a content creator myself. But I think it can probably be successful in some capacities, but I always fall in the camp of the personal tone is what matters most. So, here’s an example of that. There’s like market commentary for example. Like a lot of advisors like to use market commentary, and that’s something that’s easy to outsource. And so, there’s all manner of companies who are saying, “Here’s the newest market commentary,” and you just put your name on it and send it out.
But so, let me compare that to when I was working the blog for the large insurance company that I used to work with. I had a colleague who’s a great writer, and I was really trying to get her to write something for the blog. And she said, “Well, I don’t really have a,” she worked in PR, said, “I don’t really have a financial background, a planning background. I don’t know what I would have to say.”
But she eventually, we had an international trip to London for a conference, and she was going to drop her kids off at her parent’s house, and they would not take her kids, because she had not written a will and testament. And she was going with her husband. And so, if the worst should happen, there was nothing to say what would happen to the kids. And so, she was shocked by that. But I think her parents had a point. And so, she went through the process of creating a will. And so, she wrote this deeply personal post, nothing about, there was no numbers in it or, and it wasn’t, if you want to call a product. It was more just about, this is my personal story about creating a will and why I can tell you as a person, it’s important. It was the single most-viewed piece we ever had on the blog, and for an entire year. Most pieces have a shelf life of a month or two.
And what that tells me is that a market commentary is something that every planner can speak to. Yes, it fits your skillset. But they’re often so dry, and they talk about the American consumer, and people don’t want to be the American consumer. They want to connect with you on a human level. And so, I think that that’s, and a lot of times when you outsource content, you lose that personal touch. And I think that is what engages people. A blog is designed to pull users onto your website. From there, you can talk about, you can tell your story in your about section of your website, but the blog is attracting people to the story to say, “This is something that I’ve felt. Yes.” It’s connecting you to the reader on a personal level, and there’s just no substitute for that.
Hannah: As advisors, we love to pride ourselves on being the experts. And so, it sounds like you’re advocating to be more of that personal, and for a lot of people that’s really vulnerable, and they’re afraid that people aren’t going to view them as the expert, especially listening to this podcast, we’re getting a lot of younger planners who feel like, it’s what they have. They have being an expert. What are your thoughts on that?
Dan: That’s one of my favorite topics right now because it goes so counter to ever tying that we’re taught. We’re taught all of our lives never to show weakness. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about relationships because we all have weaknesses. And so much of marketing is about building a camaraderie, building a relationship that, and financial planners are excellent at that, and so there’s a lot of financial planners I meet with that say, “I’m not a marketer.” And that’s probably true. But I think if you’re excellent at building relationships, you have something that honestly a lot of marketers struggle with.
And so, I think to start, when you’re thinking about vulnerability and weakness, think about the things that every client that you’ve ever had struggles with financially, because there’s that laundry list of topics. And it could be saving enough money. It could be prioritizing college saving versus retirement. Any one of the things, market volatility that’s going on right now, that’s a great example. Then, think about those things that you yourself have struggled with. And so telling, and marketers do this too, that’s marketer they think, telling your clients on social media or your blog or whatever medium you choose that you, a financial planning expert as you say, that you have struggled with something in your own life, is such a powerful message because it tells a client or prospect that, “I’m not perfect, and I’m opening up this relationship to you to say, listen, this is something that I even struggle with.”
And so, to me that doesn’t make you less of an expert. It makes you more of one. And it tells them, what I think everyone wants is they want to know that it’s possible to learn. They want to know that it’s possible to get to the, financial planning at the end of the day is about the outcome of I want to make sure you can fund this uncertain future. And what you’re telling them by opening yourself up to that is it is possible. I did it. And so, I think that that, that to me is connecting at the human level. And a lot of people say that. But, financial planners have this amazing opportunity to really do that. That’s really not available to every profession.
Hannah: Many of the listeners are millennial or on the younger side, and at their firms they’re not working with other millennials. They’re working with Boomers or people that are looking to retire or have retired. Can they still make that personal connection even with the generation difference, do you think?
Dan: I think so. I mean, we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t a challenge. And I think, and anyone who’s been in a relationship where you’re younger and you’re having to tell someone older, give someone older advice. But I do believe that it is possible. And I think it’s finding those commonalities and experience because there are some things like, and it annoys me to no end all the things about, “Here’s how to deal with millennials,” and “Here’s how to deal with baby boomers,” and those things come out every day, and yes it gets a lot of clicks, because everyone wants to figure those things out. But I believe that we’re more similar than we are different. Just, and that’s certainly up for debate. But that’s always what I believed.
And so, I think looking for those commonalities of experience, and that there are certain things that all of us feel. And so again, it’s coming down from the high level to the personal of it’s a lot of, and financial planning is a unique example, these things that have been historically numbers and data-driven, are about feelings. And so, you find those commonalities and connect with, regardless if someone could be 80 years old and you can be 22, there’s some shared experience there. And I think more shared experience than not. And making sure that, focusing maybe even on those shared experiences. It’s like meeting strangers in public and somebody drops their phone and you help them pick it up. I think there are those opportunities for us every single day in every aspect of our lives, but as a planner, I think the age, hopefully, matters less than the experience.
Hannah: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, you talked about your journalism background. I want to touch on the article you wrote in the Journal of Financial Planning that just came out this month. So, it’s called, “Using These Behavior Tips to Science Your Clients on Savings.” So, your background is marketing, and this is more of a behavioral finance piece. Can you talk about what kind of led you to write this piece?
Dan: Definitely. Yeah, it’s something that I’ve been interested in for quite some time, and just, because so marketing as a profession, being a marketer I think was really different ten or 15 years ago. And it’s gone from kind of the nuts and bolts and sort of push pull, more of this, I guess if you want to call it the scientific side of marketing to more of a, marketing is more of sort of the human element. And marketing, and financial planning too, which is this great, one of the reasons why I like being a marketer in this industry, this great confluence of both are a lot about how humans behave and how we all perceive things.
Because for example, in saving, I spend a lot of time in the retirement industry thinking about, so why do we all know that saving is important? If you did a survey out of everyone, and everyone responded, they would all say, “Yes, saving is important.” But then, the percentage of people who have actually saved for retirement is 40% or whatever the numbers are.
That’s, it’s just like the perception gap for financial planners is that, that to me is so interesting. How can we go about something that we know what to do, but then, we can’t do it? And I think a lot of it comes back to our brains. One of the most interesting things, and I think this article touches on that, is that when you dream, you can age everyone else in your dream, and you have these dreams with people from all aspects of your life. And your brain can age every other single person in there. And your brain is so powerful, so you can look at it and say, “My colleagues in my dream, they’re 35 years old, but my brain can make them 70.”
But if you happen to look in your mirror, you can’t age yourself. Because your brain is so wired to live in the short-term, which is an evolutionary response. But what really struck me and the reason I wrote this article is that, so your brain is working against you every single day. The person that you know 30 years in the future, yourself in the future, that person may as well be a stranger. And so, that I think, if you read The Power of Habit, which is a wonderful book by Charles DuHigg, is he gets into habit formation and behavioral science and those sorts of things.
And one of the most valuable pieces from that book for me just because I, it’s like I said earlier that you want to know that’s possible to change, and I like anybody else have a lot of bad habits that, you read this book and he says, “Step one is just even understanding that you have the habit.” Because part of the brain is being able to remind yourself on a daily basis that this is an area where you have a weakness. Even that is a step in the right direction.
And so, there’s this kind of aspirational message of, yes our brains are in some cases working against us, but we can overcome that. And in that, it’s a great financial planning message of that’s, instead of separating the client or the investor, you’re the investor, you’re the planner, and the planner’s trying to get through to the client, but you’re not connecting. The financial planner has a wonderful opportunity to help a client understand that, “Hey, listen. In a lot of cases this may not even really be your fault that you’re not doing this, but if we can work on this together, there is a way to sort of break out of these habits and to train your brain.”
So, long-winded answer to a short question, but it’s just so interesting to me, and I’m trying to pick up everything that I can on behavioral science and behavioral economics, just because the brain affects so deeply both the world of marketing, how you communicate with prospects and clients, and the world of financial planning.
Hannah: It’s so interesting to me with that crossover. Some of my clients have credit card issues, and when I talk to them about that, and we kind of talk about the issues, it’s realizing that these credit card companies have marketing teams trying to get people to spend more money on their credit cards. It’s all these competing forces trying to get our clients to change their behavior.
Dan: And there’s some companies and organizations that are doing better than others, but I think it’s going to come down to that in terms of, my most recent post on the [FPA] Practice Management Blog was about differentiation, and I think that’s going to make a difference in terms of the people understand that you’re really just trying to communicate, connect with people. And I think there is, the hard sell piece of the credit card company that think some of them are good at it. But my hope and dream is that the hard sell will be slowly phased out in all areas of marketing and just in terms of our lives and all the millions of advertisements we see every day. I think marketing is specifically, and I think financial planning in some capacity is, as we talked about, is focused more in some cases on dollars and cents. So, marketing the question is always, what’s the return on investment? And even in a small business, obviously that’s very important. If you have money going out, you have to have money going in.
But I think, to the point about the hard sell is, if you focus only on immediate returns from your promotions or communications, I think that that can be extremely short-sighted, and I think it’s an outdated way to look at marketing. And small business, big business it doesn’t really matter. I subscribe to Jay Baer’s theory that smart marketing is about help, not hype. He wrote in his book Youtility, that’s Y-O-Utility. It’s still my favorite marketing book I’ve ever read, and I would encourage every planner and business owner to read and internalize it. It was written in 2012, but it’s still so valuable. And it’s all these case studies of all these different size businesses and different products, different services, part of the point being that, if you can simplify what you’re doing, and instead of trying to sell yourself or sell your business, that if you can build the relationship instead, and that it not only drives the sort of client for life mentality, but it also drives the numbers. And so, the difference is making the money secondary.
And so, when I think about marketing relationships, which nothing could be more important in marketing. Just imagine how you’d feel if someone gave you the hard sell on the benefits and features of being their friend. Right? And so, in just a human relationship, I think I would hate that. Right? Instead, so marketing needs to focus on I think helping those who may be interested in working with you, with no expectation of return. And that’s kind of, if you read the book, that’s sort of the heretical, it’s heretical to the common traditional marketing approach. But I have to believe that marketing must focus on telling the truth, because it’s really about helping others understand who you really are.
And I think that’s what will help all of us stand out in this. Everything is a commodity now. And so, if you can do these things, the belief is that your clients will choose you, eventually not because you tricked or you forced them to, but because they want to work with you. And I think that’s how you move from a transaction. And so a client is already looking for their next planner the second they step through your door, because you’re competing on things like price, or I have more features than you, or I have this technology that they don’t, to a relationship, a real relationship where a client who just can’t simply, who can’t imagine working with anyone else.
And obviously that’s easier said than done. But starting with things like the blogging we talked about before, I think it’s such an important shift for the way that we communicate not only with clients, prospects, but just with each other because the more of us that start to think this route, the more we’re going to really drive overall change in, to your point about the credit card companies, change throughout industries and professions which I think, just as financial planning the profession is changing, I think the marketing world is changing too. And it’s driving it, I hope and believe, to this sort of model.
Hannah: You’ve talked a lot about what’s your story. You being vulnerable. What about the person who is, there’s a lead adviser, they’re on a staff of 20 or so advisors. Is there a way to kind of build out their own marketing story? Or how is that? Are there competing marketing stories within a company, or how does that work?
Dan: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. And I think, at least in the organizations I’ve been in, there absolutely are competing stories. That’s every marketing department and communications department, you’re always trying to get to one consistent message. But that’s difficult to do. I mean it is, and I think it’s something that’s sort of, you’re constantly always, you’re always working toward it but it’s not always going to be perfect. But I do think, one thing that’s been helpful to me just as I’ve gone through my career is, focus on building your personal brand as much as you can. Obviously it’s within the compliance and within the regulations. But oftentimes there is the businesses, the practices story, this is who we are, the sort of formula that I like to use is sort of the positioning statement, “We do X for Y, so they can Z.”
And so I think that’s been out there for quite some time, but you have that vision for the overall practice. But I also think that you can build your personal brand too, and Hannah, you’re a good example of that. Having the podcast, of course, is a piece of it, but there’s the connection between your business and your personal. And so, I think even if you have advisors above you or you have a lead advisor, or just one of many in the business, I think that shouldn’t stop you from building your own personal brand and again, social media’s a way to do that. And it’s not just original content. It’s social media following, it’s based on what you share too. And so, that can be a pretty easy part of it. Again, within compliance obviously, but you personal brand is, a share is an advocacy for that idea. And so, what you share is build up your own personal story on social media. I hope that answers your question, but I think you can do both.
Hannah: Well, and going back to the title of your first one, “Stop Making Excuses and Start Marketing.” Maybe a little harsh, but.
Dan: Right. Well, maybe a little click bait too, but.
Hannah: Hey, it worked on me. Yeah. So, your second article that you wrote for the practice management blog. So if anybody’s not subscribed to it, it’s a really good content. I’m embarrassed to say I only started subscribing like year. And I was really missing out. But you talk about to find your differentiation, focus on your “and”. Can you talk more about that? Like, can you kind of tease that out a little bit?
Dan: Definitely, yeah. And it’s, I don’t drink a lot of soda now, but when I do, I pick up a Coke Zero. Even though they changed the formula, it’s still delicious. But there’s a Coke Zero advertisement, I link to it in my article, but there’s a young man and he’s shown in a bunch of different situations. Like one of them is he has a job interview, and the manager offers him the job. And he says, “You get the job.” And he says, “And?” And then he ends up with a boat or something, or the same, and he gets an ice cream cone and he says, “And?” And he puts sprinkles on it. And I love that commercial. I think Coke has forgotten more about marketing than most of us I think will ever know. But it’s a good, I think, analogy for this idea of for so long, so much marketing, and financial planners are not the only ones who are guilty of this. So many industries are of just giving people a long list of, “Here’s all the many skills, here’s all the many things that I can do.” And it ranges from minimizing the impact of taxes to just a long list of many things that financial planners have skill in.
But essentially, what we’re doing is, we’re just talking. We’re giving them a list of all these things that are implied, without really focusing on what’s different. And so, the “and” piece to me is, that a lot of the greatest companies, the product is almost secondary. The service is almost secondary. It’s sort of, this is what we believe in. This is our mission. This is what we’re doing. Oh, and by the way, we also, I’m also an expert at financial planning. And so, the end concept really made me think of that as like, what makes you as a planner, truly different? What sets you apart?
And it’s often something that’s more of an emotional driver. And so, something that, and it could be done maybe through testimonials, but I think these are the reasons why people choose firms in most industries as, if it’s all about the price or if it’s all about the specific product, yes the product has to be good, yes the price has to be affordable, and it has to fit with the rest of the industry. But, I think that those things are secondary to what really makes you unique. And it’s not always going to be something that’s extremely tangible. I always think about it as great marketing, it can’t be asking our prospects, so the people that we’re looking to build a relationship with, we can’t ask them to sift through the message to find what speaks to them, because first of all, they won’t do it.
But it’s also, think about how you shop online. Think about how you shop for anything. We’re in this world of we look at reviews from our peers. We’re more likely to make a decision based on a review than we are 100 marketing brochures or websites from that company. And so, we should treat our prospects in the same way, and show them that what we care about the most in the world, is solving their important problem. Like, what’s the reason people are searching for a financial planner is because they have a problem. And I think a true financial planner, which is, that is a class in and of itself, can solve those problems. But it’s finding that differentiator within that piece, that that’s going to make a difference. And to your question earlier about how do you separate yourself from, and how do you compete with people putting all this money into marketing? I think it falls into that category, doing some soul searching about why am I different.
Hannah: Do you have any good examples of this?
Dan: Amazon is a great example. I’m just pulling up the site. So, when they came out with Prime, so their vision, the mission statement of Amazon is, “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” So the first part of that, especially the vision is, it’s not really about how fast the box gets to you. And it’s not, because that’s a great benefit of Prime, and that’s the product Prime. $99.00 per year, and this will get to you in two days, and if it doesn’t, then you can do what you need to do and they’ll give you credit or whatever it is. But being Earth’s most customer-centric company is, that makes Prime an “and.” So, and we also get it to you in two days.
But like for example, I bought something and a totally different product arrived from Amazon. And I went on their website, and just to file a claim I had to click one button, and instead of the claim even going to the third party seller, Amazon just said here’s a credit for the amount. We basically, we trust you that if it’s the wrong product, you keep that product and we’ll send you a different one.
That is being Earth’s most customer-centric company, and that sort of thing will make me an Amazon Prime for life. And so, if my net Prime shipment comes in three days, I’m probably not going to complain about it. But that’s what I mean about differentiating the product itself from who the company really is.
Hannah: Okay, so I’m selfishly trying to figure out how this applies to my company. Figure out what my thing is. On your article, you did say that it takes some soul-searching. So, maybe that’s more where my next steps lie.
Dan: Yeah, I think so. And you might start with, and most great marketing I think today starts with what your customers have to say. Because you, it’s like any marketer’s dilemma, always is. I have access to all this great data, and I have my marketing experience, and then I have the company that I, the organization that I work for, but I could still make a decision that’s totally off base for what my customer wants, in this case the number. Because I have to take what they actually have to say into account, and so I think surveying current existing clients, or taking, excuse me, taking testimonials from current and past clients is, you’ll find, I think, in those, the gems that sort of, this is, “Hannah transformed my life for these reasons. Working with Hannah was not what I expected for this reason.” Like those are the types of things that that’s how you build your story.
And so it’s not, you’re not selling it based on, “Your portfolio got five percent,” or “You’re not trading on those things.” It’s more along the lines of like, my client, this is testimonial directly from them, but that said, “I can’t imagine working with anyone else because she changed my life. I had a, insert life event, and Hannah was the first one I called.” And those things, if I read that type of review, I’m thinking that’s what I need. I’ve had a life event. That’s what I would want.
Hannah: And so, testimonials are kind of hard, but I mean, with the compliance side of it, but we could, I mean, case studies are a great way to do that.
Dan: Right, exactly. Yeah. And a case study is a little bit even more detailed. Yeah, a testimonial is interesting from just from working on thinner side of things that it’s how they classify testimonials and how compliance looks at testimonials is different. But yeah, a case study, and maybe we wouldn’t even want to call it a testimonial. But just finding ways to especially to stay away from the product or stay away from guarantees or promissory statements, I think that is still a possibility. You just have to be maybe a little bit creative with it.
Hannah: Let’s pretend that I’m writing good authentic blog content every once or twice every month. And I have my story down. What’s the next step from a marketing standpoint?
Dan: So, I’m a content guy. So, I always start with content, but. But I think, so if you have one or two good blog posts a month, you have the foundation of your strategy. Then the next step is deciding how to distribute that to clients. One way is, and I think a blog post is, in some ways, what I would call a keystone content. So, it’s a nice, big substantial piece of content that you have. So you can use that in a myriad of different ways. You can put it, you can probably tweet about it ten to 15 times a month just using a different lead-in or a different quote from the article. You can put it on other social platforms. If you have an older client base you could print the post out. There’s a lot of templates online where you can, free templates where you can find a way to print it.
You obviously have to get some of these things reviewed. But number one is making sure you get the most value out of, especially since once a piece of content is approved. Get as much possible, squeeze as much juice out of the lemon as much as you possibly can in doing a bunch of different ways. That will help you build your reach, number one. But you’re also, you’re not spending so much time creating content. And I think number two is probably, so you read a lot about influencer marketing.
But once you’re able to get these types of things out there, getting either clients or other planners to help share the content, because a share is probably the most valuable thing that can happen to you when it comes to digital marketing, because it just expands your reach so much. You’re accessing every share. You’re accessing a totally different network of people. And so, it takes time to build that network of people who are willing to share your content. Sometimes it’s quid pro quo. They want you to share their stuff and, which probably isn’t a bad thing if their content’s really good.
So, basically all of these are ways to get this content in front of the most possible people in your target market without having to spend a huge amount of money on marketing. We at FE are calling it a free-to-pay strategy where you start with what you can do for free. Because there’s a lot you can do in marketing now with social media that it’s not that expensive. And I don’t want to say completely free, and could put money toward it. But then move towards if you want to make a big splash, there are things you can pay for too, but making every piece of content count, but making your budget count while you’re doing it.
Hannah: What is the future of marketing, from your perspective?
Dan: I think the future of marketing is what we talked about in terms of relationships. And my sort of utopia, marketing utopia is that all of marketing is being that sort of helpful friend to, no matter what the product is, no matter what the company is, is that all this information is out there. A lot of it is already. But all of this information is out there and available to help people try to get as far as they possibly can on their own. And that’s the central tenent of content marketing. We were talking about that earlier that you give your content away for free, and it’s so valuable people come back and become your clients, because they can’t live without you, they can’t live without that content. And I think that’s sort of swept the world in a lot of ways, but we’re still not quite there. And so, then you’re really, I think you’re competing on more the value that you’re providing to the prospect or the client as opposed to competing on things that are transactional.
And so, I would love to be in a world where no matter where you work as a marketer, everyone believes that’s the, that strategy is more about just being absurdly helpful to everyone. And maybe it’s too much to ask but, that’s the kind of marketing world I want to live in.
Hannah: What advice would you have for planners?
Dan: I think number one has to be to try to keep is simple in terms of, because if you’re living in this sort of perception does that meet reality world, there’s, and plus you’re getting messages every day saying, you need this for your marketing. You need this platform. And a lot of marketing now it’s tech and it’s digital. But technology is only as good as the people who are using it. And so, if you can buy some fancy great piece of technology, and a lot of those people are great salespeople, so they can, they’ll sell it to you. And a lot of it, as I said, is valuable.
But if you don’t have your story down, and if you don’t really understand who you are as a planner, as a practice and probably more importantly, who you are not, then none of those platforms probably won’t help you. And so, to the point of the soul-searching is, starting simple and sketching out, sort of, what’s why, what do they call it, target client profile. But, even deeper than that, where can I make the most impact as a planner? Where are my strengths? And where are the places where is somebody comes to me, I will probably refer them elsewhere? Because I think, especially with small business owners, there’s this temptation to be all things to all people, but in marketing and in ever tying, that often spreads us too thin.
And so, just sketching out, maybe it’s a simple even piece of paper or Word document of, “Here’s our mission as an organization or as a practice. Here’s where I feel like I’m really strong. Here’s where I’d like to get stronger. And here are things that maybe I’ll refer out.” Just understanding that, and another great marketer to follow is Doug Hessler, and he writes a lot about being insane, having insane honesty in your marketing. And it’s very much that concept of that you’re not going to please everyone, but if you can get to the point to have the courage and obviously the financial ability to bring on the clients that fit, that are the type that fit your values, that fit your business, and to sort of ignore the other ones, that’s I think where you want to get to. Obviously easier said than done, but starting simple and starting small and then working out from there. Not trying to bite off more than you can chew would probably be my number one piece of advice.
Hannah: I struggle with not biting off more than I can chew.
Dan: Right, me too.
Hannah: Oh, that’s great. Well, is there anything else that you wanted to be sure that we hit on.
Dan: Well, I think a couple of, I like to end a lot of my posts with, and it’s, well, it’s not probably cheesy, it is cheesy. But I still like to make two points about marketing that, again, it’s like any industry, you’ll get a top five, here’s five things to enhance your marketing. And a lot of times they’re sort of how to sort of spit shine it and polish it. Nothing wrong with polish, but I think number one, just making sure that your passion is available and out there in terms of your tone is so important. Because it’s better to be if, we’ve all seen it where, and I don’t know if this is even possible, but I’ve heard people say, “That person’s too passionate. They’re over the top.” But I think it’s better to be too passionate than to look like you don’t care.
I think we’re in this business especially we’re kind of pushed towards, you want to be drying, you want to be, everything needs to be clean and professional and have the same stock photo. The same people having a serious conversation. But I have to believe that it’s better to go overboard on the passion piece, because that’s who people want to work with in a lot of cases, is they want to know that you like your job. That you love your job. And so, don’t be afraid to inject a little bit of passion into your content. Because I think it will make a difference.
And then the last piece is, have fun with your marketing. Because we’ve talked a lot about the personal aspects and the tone of what you put out there. And how you perceive yourself, it’s easy to perceive yourself in one way, and then to show up in a totally different way, just because, and that’s why marketing is difficult. But, I think your enjoyment and telling and showing your story is contagious. I think, again, with the passion piece, if you love what you do, how much fun you’re having in telling people about it should be readily apparent. And so, I have a post-it that I keep in my desk, where like, “Don’t forget to have fun doing it.” Because that shows, I think, more than anything.