In this Swift Chat video conversation, Marie Swift of Impact Communications, Inc. (Impact), speaks with Claire Akin of Indigo Marketing Agency (Indigo). While Impact and Indigo both offer content creation and social media / digital marketing solutions for independent financial advisors, the firms have different strengths and philosophies -- in fact, Impact and Indigo may even cross-refer depending on their initial assessment with the advisory firm. See if you can spot the differences in this fun and interesting conversation.
You will also pick up some quick tips for improving whatever marketing you are doing on your own (or with an existing marketing partner).
To learn more about Indigo Marketing Agency and Claire Akin, visit: www.IndigoMarketingAgency.com
To learn more about Impact Communications and Marie Swift, visit: www.ImpactCommunications.org
What might be advantages for one advisor might not be advantageous for another advisor. So what I recommend when it comes to your marketing is to find a way to tell your story ... and to do that consistently. It's really important to own your channels, be consistent and customized (not generic)."
Authenticity is so important -- especially after everything we've been through in 2020. So, for instance, when we are working on video assets for our advisory firm clients, we focus on that. It does not have to be a big Hollywood production (in fact, that can actually be off-putting)."
Transcript of Conversation
Marie Swift: Well, hello everybody. And welcome back to another Swift Chat. Today I'm joined by Claire Akin of Indigo Marketing Agency. Claire is the founder of that firm. Claire, I'm just delighted to have you here today because we want to talk about marketing for advisors and as two marketing peers, you and I have compared notes over the years. Now that we're in 2021, and we've kind of gone through that whole reset of the COVID and the market crash in 2020 I'm just wondering what's on your mind when it comes to advisors and marketing? What's working today from your perspective?
WHAT'S WORKING FOR ADVISORS TODAY
Claire Akin: Thank you so much for having me. Marie and I have been friends for many, many years, and I always look up to you and your work in the industry. I think the kind of evolution of marketing over the course of the past couple of years is certainly adapting to technology and advisers were well on their way, adapting their marketing in a digital world when COVID hit. So many of them were halfway there and COVID forced us to get all the way there when it comes to prospecting completely virtually. Meeting on zoom, doing your client and prospect interactions in a virtual world, which is hard to do in a trust-based business that is very personality driven.
It's forced advisors to think about their marketing in a new way and take it to a digital platform and that's exactly what we help advisors do. We run all of their digital marketing strategy, everything from their websites, their email marketing, their social media marketing, to creating content for them in a way that really captures their personality and what makes them different. I would say today, it's important to be crystal clear on who you are called to serve and what is the most important benefit that you offer that group. If you can't articulate that you're not in a good position to provide for your clients or to market your business and so that's one of the discoveries that we help advise with.
Swift: You know, that's so true. I like to talk about the 3M’s your market, your message, and then your mediums or your methodologies. I don't know if you find this too, Claire, but I find a lot of advisors who come to Impact don't want to do the market and message piece and they're off kilter a little bit. If they don't sync that up before they go out with their methods and their outreach, they're really kind of wasting their time and money.
Akin: Absolutely. I totally agree. So many advisers come to us, and they have a generic website with, you know, golf or lighthouses or beaches or retired families and they want to grow their business, but they don’t have a focus. You have to understand why clients work with you. What do your clients think makes you different? What sets you apart? Why would somebody work with you instead of another advisor? You have to really understand who you love serving and what's the problem that you're solving for them. That's really where we start is how to create a radically relevant message and that's from Bill Cates, who I know Marie you work with as well, how to create a radically relevant message that cuts through the noise, through your marketing. Once we have that identified and we can align your message with your mission, then we can create your marketing content for you in a way that's very authentic, personal, and tells your story well.
CREATING A HYPER-RELEVANT MESSAGE
Swift: So, how do you get to that kernel, that truth, that mission, the message. Do you have a process for that?
Akin: We do. We help advisors think through why did they get started in this business? Why do they go to work every day? Why do they care about their clients? Why did they become a financial advisor?
That's the first piece of content we always write for our clients is why I became a financial advisor. It's almost always the most visited page on their website because people want to understand your motivation and your passion before they understand how you can help them. We have a workshop that we go through with advisors that you can think about it from two ways. First you could look at your current book of business and your favorite clients. So not necessarily your top clients in terms of account size, but the ones that you love working with and write them down and identify the commonalities that they have.
You can look at it from that way and think, you know, all of my favorite clients are business owners, and their businesses are $5 to $10 million in revenue. And here are the common problems they have and here are the common hobbies or political affiliations or passions that they have and go about it that way.
The other way you could about is who do you love to serve and what problems do you love solving? Maybe you are super passionate about tax efficiency and tax planning for retirement. Who needs that solution and go after it that way. So, it depends on if you're happy with your book of business now, or if you dream of going in a different direction with your future.
Swift: Yeah, I so agree. The one thing that is unique to every single advisor is their story. You know, what lights them up, what their passion, their purpose is. I think people want to know why are you in business? Let's talk about that a little bit. For me, the reason I'm in business as a communicator is to find my voice and to help other people find theirs and specifically financial advisors and allied institutions.
What's your why Claire? Why do you do what you do?
Akin: So many of you who have met me know that my dad is a financial advisor and I grew up in the business and I know how important this work is. I see him go to work every day, helping his clients, and I want to help the independent advisors out there to serve more clients, to do more of the important work that they do.
I know a critical point to that is telling their story and explaining who they serve and how they help. At the core of getting people to know, like, and trust you is understanding your story. Why did you get into this business? Why do you care about your clients and why do you do what you do? I'll give you just one example.
Yesterday, I was working with one of our advisors who had this great story about what motivated him to get into the industry. And it was. His great-grandfather had worked really hard to build a fortune and it was a small fortune, but he was able to pass that onto his grandfather and they bought this beautiful house on the coast of Santa Barbara, overlooking the ocean. So, this adviser as a child grew up in this house, you know, going to his grandparents' house, running through the citrus fields, playing on the beach and it just every great childhood memory was in this home and then unfortunately his father didn't do the correct estate planning. Didn't do the correct financial planning and lost everything. And so, he can still drive by this house and see it, but he can't go to it because somebody else owns it and that drives him crazy. That drives him every day to help his clients to protect what maybe generations before them have built.
The story that we created for him was “How My Family Lost Everything” and that was the biggest marketing piece that he had ever put out. It was the most clicks, the most likes the most engagement on his website and it's obviously very memorable. It tells his story in a way that people are interested in that they can share with their friends. It's a story that doesn't include, you know, acronyms or investment jargon. It's just a human story that people remember as why he started working with his clients and what his mission is. It's important for every advisor out there to develop that story for yourself.
Swift: I so agree, and we know that stories sell. People want to hear stories. It's easy for them to retell a story. They can't say your value proposition, but they can tell your story. If we help people understand our why and why there's purpose and how we help people, it's easy for them to share that with others who may be a good client for you or a good strategic partner. You know, we're talking about your backstory here and you kind of got into it a little bit, but I think there might be a little bit more about how you got into the business. What else has happened to bring you to this place in your career?
Akin: While I was working with my dad, I’d learned that what I really love is the marketing side. I started doing his marketing, and then I started learning more about marketing for financial advisors. I was so passionate about it I actually went back and got my MBA in marketing from UC San Diego. They teach a course that incorporates entrepreneurship and so I decided that I wanted to start my own company. I briefly worked with a company called FMG suite, which is kind of the largest company serving independent financial advisors for digital marketing.
I was able to feel that I learned everything that was out there about marketing for advisors, but I wanted to take it a step further and I wanted to do more for them. So, I think at the time we had maybe 30,000 clients on the FMG suite platform, and I took a look at the top performing websites, and I said, what are these advisors doing to be the best of this large cohort. I identified what they were doing and it was really embracing a specialty, telling their story, using their FMG suite tools to the next level to customize their content and to share content that was relevant, valuable, unique. That’s what I set out to do for advisors. That's why I started my firm so that every advisor out there who maybe doesn't understand marketing or doesn't have the time to devote to marketing, or the technical expertise can have a beautifully polished marketing presence that is maximizing their exposure so that they can help as many people as they are uniquely qualified to help.
Swift: I love that. I know you've also written a book is that on LinkedIn, on the specific topic of LinkedIn.
MODERN MARKETING FOR FINANCIAL ADVISORS
Akin: I have two books. My newest book is The Marketing Guide for Financial Advisors, and we are so happy to have unanimous five-star reviews on Amazon. I've gotten incredible positive feedback from that book. It really gives away everything that I know about marketing for advisors. So, you can check that out on Amazon. Then I have a more niche specific book, which is LinkedIn Marketing for Financial Advisors on Amazon as well and so you can check that out if you want to go a little bit deeper into the strategies that you can actually use to find the people that you want to reach on LinkedIn and approach them in a way that isn't salesy, that actually resonates with them. We've had many clients get new business and new referral partners using that stretch.
Swift: The LinkedIn book is the one that I remember, but I'm going to have to check out your new book as well.
HOW IMPACT AND INDIGO ARE ALIGNED
You and I catch up every so often and we just compare notes, how our businesses are evolving, how we can cross pollinate, collaborate. You know, really there are no competitors in this business. We all serve a specific need. So, some of our listeners, our viewers may be wondering, well, Impact Communications does marketing. Indigo does marketing. How are our firms different and why are we here together? Aren't we enemies now? I think we're friendemies. What would you add to that?
Akin: I totally agree. Personally, I live my life in a mindset of gratitude and abundance. I think that there's always enough to go around and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What may be advantageous for one advisor might not be right for another advisor.
What I recommend when it comes to your marketing is that you're going to want to tell your story, right. We can all agree on that, but you're going to need to find the way that you want to tell your story that works for you, that you can do consistently. Whether that be a podcast that you do every week or a video that you do every month, or like us, we write articles for our clients every single month that explains what they do, who they serve and how they help.
Figure out the channel that you can commit to and then get it done on a consistent basis. Whether you're working with a variety of different firms out there, it's really important to really own your channel, be consistent and tell your story in a way that is authentic and customized. I encourage all advisors out there to try to dig a little deeper, a generic marketing solution is better than no marketing solution, but you're going to want to, if you want to take your business to the next level and be serious about your career and the impact that you can have with your career, you're going to want to customize your marketing and stand out from the crowd and work with somebody like Marie or myself or any of the other dozens of really good professionals that are out there.
Swift: Claire, you're such a giver. I remember, was it a year or two ago you actually compiled a list of marketing professionals and marketing teams that serve independent advisors. I've had people call me from that list. I read about you in Claire Akins article, and I just thought, how great is that? That we can support each other as small business owners supporting this niche and there are a number of other people in that article that I cross-pollinate with because as you said, we're not right for everybody, right. My firm does a certain style of marketing. We do really broad, comprehensive marketing with a lot of video and digital assets and a lot of PR. We also serve fintech companies and financial services firms (such as IBDs, custodians, M&A firms, insurance companies, consulting entities, industry thought leaders and conference producers, etc.) as well as independent, hybrid financial advisors and RIAs. I don't think you do some of what we do, and we love what you're doing to niche in with your service offering. So maybe you could talk about that.
Akin: Absolutely. I'm so glad you're getting business from that article, because it's all about identifying what you do best and attracting the clients that are the right fit for you and then referring clients who aren't the perfect fit to somebody who can be the perfect fit for them. So, same thing for advisors, right. If your specialty is in, working with doctors or dentists or a nurses you don't want to take on the engineer, but maybe you know an advisor down the road that works with engineers, that would be the perfect fit for them.
It's all about giving people resources and value so that they can find the best solution for them. That's what I encourage advisors to do as well. We don't do any PR because we're not the best at doing PR it's, as you know, it's complex, it's a different skill set than marketing, marketing content marketing that we do and so we outsourced to your firm. Same thing if we have an advisor that really doesn't know where to start in embracing their specialty, I send them to Bill Cates, who that is, what he does better than anyone in our industry is helping advisors to figure out what is their niche and what is their radically relevant message. It just depends on what you're looking to do and what you feel like you can do best and charge a premium for and do that. Then help people find the other solutions that they're looking for.
Swift: I like to think of myself and Impact Communications as almost as a clearing house. My job is to know everybody who's anybody in our space and when someone finds Impact Communications to actually tell the truth, listen, I think it'd be better for you to work with Maribeth Kuzmeski at Red Zone or with Claire Akin at Indigo or whoever the case may be, because it could be that I'm at capacity and we'd be great, but we just don't have the room or we're focused on something else because we're always looking at how to really serve the people that we've got on our client roster and hit that value meter, we call it the value meter at Impact Communications, hit it high and then if we're not going to be able to well serve that particular advisor, or we serve allied institutions as well, not just advisors, but those who want to court and serve advisors. You know, then we're doing them a disservice to take them on or to say, we can handle what we're maybe, maybe it's over our head. I think that the point is find your partners and then get into the group with them and give us some time to get working because there's no magic fairy dust.
Akin: Absolutely. In this industry, clients are very high value and there's a long sales cycle and it's similar for my business. The advisor's watching, you may be watching this and hearing about Indigo Marketing today, and you'll think about it over the course of the next weeks or months. You probably won't become a client of ours for at least a year. We know that people watch our webinars, they read the book, they look at my weekly marketing tips for financial advisors and then at some point there's some urgent need where they become a client, and it's the same for advisors. People hear about you of, oh, he's the advisor that helps Intel executives to retire on time and through their career, they're watching what you do. They're reading your stuff. Maybe they're watching your webinars, and then at some point they get laid off or they get burnt out or they decide, you know, maybe I have enough to retire. Maybe I should talk to the guy that's an expert in this.
So there's some tipping point that happens and when that happens, we want them to think of you as the go-to expert that can help them solve this problem. That's why it's important to clearly identify who you serve and how you help, and then have really easy actions for them to take no matter where they are on the buying cycle.
So, if it's early in the buying cycle, maybe they want to read your blog posts or watch a video or a webinar. If they're getting closer, maybe they want to schedule a 15-minute phone call where they can ask specific questions about their situation or if it's urgent, maybe they actually just want to call you up and look at the number on your website. You need all of these things available. You need these small bite-size next steps for them to take along their journey to becoming a client.
AUTHENTICITY AND SHOWING YOUR PRO-PERSONAL SIDE
Swift: I think that authenticity is so important, you know, especially after everything we've been through in 2020. People feel like they're willing to be a little bit more vulnerable.
So, when we're working on video assets for our advisory firm clients, sometimes we’re saying, hey let's just use your iPhone this does not have to be a big Hollywood production. People want to see your face. They want to see you. More often than not you don't need to spend a ton of money producing a slick corporate video. If you're a smaller firm or even if you're a larger firm, you just want to show the character and the culture of the people.
Anything to add around video audio, getting your voice out there. I know writing is your specialty.
Akin: I completely agree with you with on the video and I'm so happy in a way that this digital revolution has happened because so many advisors thought, well, how am I ever going to do a video? Do I need to hire a crew? Do I need to go to a studio? No, you don't. You know, your clients know what you look like. They know what you sound like. They want to see your face. They want to hear your voice. All you need to do is maybe declutter your background, maybe get some better lighting and get in front of your camera, using Zoom or WebEx, and we help you with all of that. We help our advisors to record videos and then we have a phenomenal video editor that cleans up the audio and the visual as well as adding overlays. So, you know, there's the logo and music as the video starts, there's overlays if you give a list of three things, the text comes up with one, two, and three adding visual interest to your video. So that's something that takes you five minutes to get in front of the camera to impart your insights then becomes this amazing marketing piece that we can use over and over on your website, sending out by email, sharing across social media.
We even do YouTube channels for advisors, so we are huge fans of videos. We see that for the same topic video gets about twice as many views as a text only, a blog or article. So, to the extent that you're comfortable on camera, which you should be, because it's exactly the same as sitting face-to-face with people and seeing them. If you've been meeting with your clients in the past, you should not be shy about getting on camera and speaking to them. That's just a great way to get more bang for your marketing buck and to get in front of your clients in a really authentic, relatable way.
Swift: For sure and that's exactly what we're doing today. We happen to be using Zencaste today, but Zoom works, GoToMeeting works, WebEx works, your smartphone works.
When my team and I shoot video for Morningstar--we have been doing this thing every year for them called the Social/Digital Hub for about five years now--well, we couldn't go to Chicago in 2020, so we set up what looked like a booth in a big space that we rented with high ceilings and kind of like the industrial pipe showing, you know, just kind of like shabby chic hip, but we used our iPhones and they turned out great, these little videos, but it was the postproduction that made the difference. Not everybody has the wherewithal, but if you work with a firm like Indigo or Impact, or even like go to a elance.com, you can find people to help make your videos look good.
Scenes from the Social/Digital Hub at Morningstar
Akin: Absolutely. It’s so funny to me, because now that I have three kids, I have a three-year-old a two-year-old and a six month old so I don’t have a lot of time, but I do have time to jump in front of the camera and impart ideas.
I just did a video on how do you compare to the average independent financial advisor? I went through things like age, demographics, how much you earn, what's your book of business, what are your fees, things like that. When I was saying this by myself, in my office to the camera, It feels like it was kind of falling flat, but when I saw the edited produced version, I was like, this is a great video. People are going to like this, cause there's graphics, there's charts, there's overlays, there's music, there's cutaways. So, a great video editor can really make you look amazing and make your content even more interesting. I think it's a great option when you get questions from clients to put it on your list as that would be a great quick video. If people are asking you, should I invest in Bitcoin or is now a good time to refinance my mortgage? These are all questions that if someone's calling you to ask, probably more of your clients are thinking about it and not calling you.
So, it's a totally perfect thing to proactively make a video to educate your audience and your clients and stay in front of them. Give your insights, give your framework of how you think about things and smile, be cheerful and just connect with people. Stay top of mind and just give away a little bit of value.
Swift: That's so true. You know, just address what's on their mind. I know Carl Richards, the sketch guy, has got that little cartoon, the sketch, where he says how to be relevant, what you want to talk about, what they want to hear and somewhere in the middle is how you stay top of mind and gain followers and people who like, and trust you.
JUST GET IT DONE
I'm looking at the clock here and I want to start wrapping up because I promised our Swift Chat tribe that we wouldn't go over 25 minutes or so and we're at 23. In the last couple of minutes that we've got here, Claire, is there anything that's on your mind that you think would be a great way to leave our viewers and our listeners today?
Akin: Yeah. I think the most important thing for financial advisors when it comes to marketing is to get it done. I know you guys are busy, you're running your business, you're taking care of your clients, you're doing phenomenal work when it comes to financial planning and investments and all the things that you do.
In the same way that you encourage your clients to outsource their financial planning to a professional, I encourage you to outsource your marketing to a professional that can get it done on time. So whatever budget that looks like, whatever channel that looks like, it is important to find somebody you trust, whose style matches yours, that you can comfortably outsource your marketing so that it's getting done each and every month, because it really is the fuel to the fire of the growth of your business and your career.
The earlier you can start doing it consistently the faster you'll grow and the better right fit clients you will find. I think it'll just really help you to enjoy what you do when you're working with the right fit people and to be excited and happy about the growth of your business.
That's my top recommendation for all the advisors listening or watching.
Swift: The old saying the best time to plant a tree was yesterday, right? If you want shade in the future, get those seeds planted. Get those trees planted. Same with marketing don't market when you need business market ahead of that.
Claire, your website is IndigoMarketingAgency.com. You've got a ton of free resources there. I encourage everybody listening or watching to go to Claire's website. Also visit ImpactCommunications.org and MarieSwift.com where we give away almost everything we know, because it's the right thing to do and because we know if we do that with a spirit of generosity, that good business will find us. The same thing can hold true for advisors who are listening or watching to this today.
Claire, thank you so much for being here with me. I loved every minute of it, and I think you and I have a webinar coming up, right. Is that in July?
Akin: We do. Yes. So, everyone listening should subscribe to this podcast. Marie is doing amazing things and as Marie does podcasts and video chats, I do webinars each month. If you're interested in webinars, go to my site and sign up for any of the webinars and you'll get all of our webinars each month, Marie and I will be doing a full webinar for financial advisors on a different topic coming up.
Swift: Sounds great. Well with that, Claire, I'll let you get back to your busy day. Thank you so much for being here.
Akin: Thanks for having me. Bye.