Tips for Financial Advisors on Being Different, Standing Out: A Conversation with Claire Aiken and Marie Swift
A few weeks ago, Claire Aiken of Indigo Marketing asked me to be her guest on her marketing podcast. I was delighted to accept. In this 20-minute conversation we discuss:
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Introduction: This is the marketing podcast for financial advisors with Claire Akin. Claire is the founder of Indigo Marketing Agency. A full- service marketing firm tailored specifically to financial advisors. She delivers complete proven marketing strategies with a minimum investment of your time and now, here's Claire.
Clarie Aiken: Alright, for today's episode we have a special guest Marie Swift of Impact Communications and I'm really excited to welcome Marie. She is the President and CEO of Impact Communications. They are a full-service PR and marketing and communications firm that works solely with financial advisors and so Marie and I have known each other way back when I was back with FMG Suite. We've worked with clients together. We've kept in touch over the years and she is just a great resource for advisors in our industry who are looking to communicate what makes them different. She also, addresses large audiences, speaks at broker dealer conferences and she has created the Advisor Thought Leadership Summit. I'll let Marie go into the details about that. I wanted to welcome her to the program.
Marie Swift: Thank you Claire.
Aiken: Great. So, Marie today we are really going to be talking about how advisors can really stand out from the crowd and how they can figure out what they do best. What makes them different and communicate that to clients and to what would be client’s, so they are memorable. As you know there are so many financial advisors out there who don't always differentiate themselves, so we are going to dive deep into that topic today. But before we get started why don't you tell us a little bit about your personal life and what you are most excited about personally this year?
Swift: Oh, thank you for the opportunity to share. I'm really excited. This weekend I'm getting ready to be leaving for a trip overseas. I'm going to be going to New Zealand for the first time in my life. My daughter happens to be studying abroad for a semester so my husband and I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to go and be with her and see Wellington New Zealand which is where she is studying. And then she convinced us that we ought to take a side trip over to Australia and see the Great Barrier Reef while we still can see it.
Aiken: That is so cool! I can imagine that is going to be an amazing trip. Congratulations on that! Let's talk a little bit about marketing for financial advisors. Where are you seeing the biggest opportunities for advisors in their marketing?
Swift: I'm so glad you asked. There are so many opportunities and it all really hinges on digital communications and the ability to create a message that resonates and to get it out and near real time or with very minimal drag on what you have to do to make it presentable in the form of an audio. Sometimes, this is referred to as a podcast or a video which can even be done with you iPhone now. There are so many great tools and typically the mobile devices are pretty much able to handle many of these digital communication tasks that advisors have. That reduces the barrier. It reduces the prize and I think it really gives advisors more of a platform to be out there, to be seen as authentic human beings who are professionals, but they also have so personal interest. We all know that we work with people we like and trust. Typically, people will make their decisions with their hearts and then they will justify it with their brain. I think the biggest opportunity is to connect heart and mind through digital communications at today's new reality that we live in. You can do so much to show your character culture, purpose, through your iPhone, Android phone or even like a webcam video. Today, we are using some digital technology to record this audio, this podcast.
Aiken: Absolutely, I totally agree and couldn't agree more. I think from a marketing perspective if you can just do a few videos or few podcasts it really helps set the tone for your marketing. It helps people to just get to know you and then they feel like they know you in the future so when they read your blog posts in the future, they have a face to put behind the words. It's not like you have to do it every single time with your marketing but just getting a few videos out there I think really goes a long way
Swift: Absolutely and one of the things you mentioned earlier in our intro you read or prepared, thank you for mentioning the Advisors Thought Leaders’ Summit because this has been a dream of mine for many of years to bring groups of advisors together and really get them comfortable in front of a camera. So many advisors are shy about being on camera. They are a little worried. What am I going to look like? Am I going to forget what to say? In today's world the reality is we need to get over that. We need to be able to be camera ready, to do videos, to do them ourselves, to be in a position where when a peer or another thought leader, let’s say at the Morning Star Conference which I was just at, we were grabbing people out of the hallway and saying come to do an audio, come do a video. So, advisors really need to get trained and how to be grounded in who they are and that they have something to say and people want to hear what that is. They want to see who they are. The Advisor Thought Leaders’ Summit is my way of reducing the price of getting that kind of media training, the camera skills training, and just being ready for those opportunities because they are more and more abundant.
Aiken: Absolutely! I think it's so great that you are doing that because I get questions every single day from advisors who really need creating video. Our firm will do the legwork of writing your video scripts and getting those approved by compliance and we can edit your video, but we can't actually shoot your video. So, advisors have a choice hiring somebody locally that would be five or ten thousand dollars to have a team come to their office and shoot video or they can do to an event and record many videos all in one day. It's just a fantastic value and to have that coaching and that support there is a great way to get a better outcome for them. When an advisor comes to you, and a lot of times I get advisors who come to me and we help advisors communicate what makes them different with their specialty? All the advisors that work with us because they want to really embrace their specialty through their marketing. Sometimes, we get advisors that come to us and don't know or have a specialty yet. They aren't sure on who to focus on or who their ideal prospect is. Walk us through how you help advisors choose who to serve.
Swift: The way you articulate your value proposition which is really around your character, your culture, your purpose is so important because people need to feel that passion, that authenticity come through, and so what we do is we have a message mapping process. Typically, we do that in a room with the advisor or the key stakeholders of a firm. We can just be listening and stirring things up with them maybe sparking a new way to communicate who they are that will help them stand out as different. What we don't want to see is advisors who are just kind of borrowing some language from another website or appear that they think sounds good for that other firm but then people start to sound the same. I think the best thing to do if you want to stand out is to take a little bit of a chance to have a little bit of a voice where you just don't seem homogenized like all the other financial professionals. It's really sometimes what you say but it's also how you say it. So, practicing and articulating what you want to say, internalizing it, but then having this bubble luck of enthusiasm. People really want to feel that. What we do in our process is around message mapping and just good old fashion dialogue and practice.
Aiken: That's great! I think it's important to know, and I tell advisors all the time they need to specialize and it's hard for them to choose a specialty and maybe part of your specialty could just be your personality. So, we work with advisors who do faith based financial planning. They talk about their faith in their articles and that is kind of their specialization. I had one advisor who actually gave one of his kidneys to his uncle so he's very passionate about organ transplants and he works with doctors and nurses who do transplants. So, that could be your specialty. I have another advisor that is basically a person who loves adventure. He has offices in Alaska and in Denver. He talks about his backpacking adventures. Other people who love adventures tend to work with him. So, your specialty doesn't necessarily need to be working with employees of certain companies, or doctors, or dentists. It could just be a flare that you have when it comes to the way you communicate and tell your stories. I think that's great advice.
One of the things that keeps advisors from choosing a specialty is I think they have this fear that they are going to alienate somebody. Of course, if you have a big book of business, you have clients from different walks of life, so they aren't going to be all of the same demographic or age or have the same financial concerns. So, how do advisors go about communicating what makes them different without alienating people who don't fit within that profile?
Swift: So, again I go back to how to say what you want to say. You can say just about anything if you are respectful and you a courteous way about communicating that. On a website it might be a little bit different because most likely people are going to be reading the content on your website or on your social media profile. But I don't think it's bad to say over the years we've developed a specialty, like you were telling me earlier intel executives, some of your clients are working with intellects and employees on pension package changes and their benefits packages. So, I don't think it hurts to say we have become specialist, or we have intently chosen to focus on this specific demographic or psychographic or pool of people. Because, if you are marketing to everybody you are really just marketing to nobody, and people don't really see themselves fitting in. I love the example that you gave just a minute ago about some of the people who are adventure based and they are drawn to the advisor who has that similar kind of life passion. I was going to mention that I heard about an advisor I got to meet this advisor and he's really into hip hop and he has three young kids. So, he's not afraid to say I specialize in working with people who have my same kind of life interest and about the same life stage. I guess he would fall in the millennial bucket if we wanted to look at that demographic but he's a rather hip young guy. I don't think he's worried about alienating anybody by being authentic. He's not a suit and tie buttoned up kind of guy in a high-rise building. He is just a really professional component likable financial advisor. So, again how do you communicate without alienating. I think you just have to be respectful and say this is who I am, this is who we serve. If you know of anybody who would be a good fit for this equation send them our way. If you are looking for a financial advisor and we are not the right fit for you, we will let you know who would be a good fit for you instead and maybe refer those folks to a network that you belong to. Maybe it's the XY Planning Network or Garret Planning Network or the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners, NAPFA, FPA and so forth.
Aiken: I think that is key advice. You don't want to take on all clients that come to you. I think that is one cool thing that Marie and I have this referral relationship because when I come across a client that needs her help, I will refer to her and she will do the same. you want to know what you do best and who you serve best and so every client can have an A+ experience. So, referring out to people who don't fit your target demographic and aren't your ideal prospect, there is no shame in that. One other thing that I would like to mention about communicating your specialty without alienating people, is one tip that I give advisors is to embrace a broad specialty and a very narrow specialty. So, what I mean by that is that it could be executives at Bristol Meyers Squibb Corporation and families looking to retire on time. So, almost anybody fits into one of those two groups. Another example would be LGBT people and also busy professionals. Most people fall into one of those groups, so you are not going to necessarily be alienating anyone by saying here is the specialty we serve, and we also help these people. One of my clients works with busy professionals and tennis players. So, if you don't play tennis you are not going to be alienated by that but maybe you do know somebody that does play tennis and you are going to refer because he has that passion. You don't want to hide your specialty from people because they may know somebody who would love to work with someone just like you. That is the person you really want to meet. It's interesting to make that distinction and do your marketing from that specific and broader specialty.
Swift: I love that advice Claire. That is beautifully said.
Aiken: One of the next questions I want to ask Marie is you know so many advisors are the same, and to the general public it's hard from them to understand what makes us different. How is an independent advisor different from somebody with a wire house or somebody who is a fiduciary or sells annuities or somebody that does comprehensive planning. How do we really cut through the noise out there? To the end consumer a lot of financial advisors are all the same?
Swift: So, I think it goes back to being a little different. Dare to be different and have a point of view. Have a little bit of personality! Probably you don't want to stray into the too colorful arena because that may be a little bit more than you want to reveal about yourself, but people care to know initially but being a little different is a good thing. Whether it's the colors that you use, the slogans, the words that you use, the way you stage your videos or do your podcast and just articulate the value proposition. People are looking for real human beings to works with them because they are real human beings. So, you can't be anybody than who you really are. You can't hide that, and people can see who you are when then meet you and as they get to know you. So, don't try to play it too safe be out there, be visible, take a chance. If you aren't comfortable with video, start doing a little video and test the waters. You might do better than you think you would have done. If you are a better speaker than writer and play to that strength, then maybe you want to speak to a podcast or seminars or if you are a better writer maybe you want to play to that strength and do a little more writing. Grow your speaking ability over time. So, just stand out and be different and be out there more and more public.
Aiken: I love that advise of just getting out there more. One secret I will tell advisors listening is that most advisors are not doing any marketing. They just do not consistent on market their firms. You can commit to yourself to do marketing every week or every month and do it for months and years, you will stand out from everybody in the crowd because most advisors are doing nothing. It's really easy if you can commit to yourself that you are going to write a blog post every month or do a video every other week or whatever it is. Commit to it, hold yourself to at least a year or two and I guarantee your business will grow as a result. So, Marie tell us what are the biggest mistakes that you are seeing advisors making with your marketing?
Swift: So, in addition to playing it too safe and blending in and I would say another mistake is being inattentive to how you are portraying yourself and your firm online. So, you need to pay attention to your online presence. I run into so many advisory firms where they don't even have Google News Alerts set up to see who is talking about them online or if something is coming around on the newswire or in an article. So, having Google News Alert set up so you know what people are saying and paying attention to your social media to build relationships but also just to monitor your own online presence and then doing an annual audit. Is everything still okay? Are the links broken? Is the imagery, right? Is the site loading properly and quickly? If you go on automatic pilot and think I did that three years ago, chances are something has slid. It could be the articulation of your value proposition. Or it could be the technology is not supporting what you would like to present to the world. So, I would say that's one of the biggest mistakes is just going on autopilot and not paying attention.
Aiken: Absolutely, I agree. You need to be updating your website and your social profiles at least once a year. Take a look at them! I recently hired a professional proof-reader who went through every single word on my website and corrected every single error and any broken links and this was a task if I put it on my to do list I would probably would have procrastinated for months or forever. She could it done in less than a week and it cost me around three hundred and fifty dollars. It's just about taking the time to get things done once a year, everything is up to date, everything is buttoned up and polished and you feel that much more confident in your marketing and your online presence. So, to kind of round out today's episode, could you just walk us through if you could just tell advisors one thing to really get started with their public relations and their marketing communications. What would that be?
Swift: My number one piece of advice is to do more. Do the next thing, you know what it is. Do that next thing. You are probably doing something but do that consistently and then add something more. Do one thing really well and then add something more. So, do the next thing and get out of your comfort zone because you have a purpose, you have a story, you have a reason for being a financial advisor. You need to get out of your own way whatever it is I'm afraid of how I'm going to look, or I don't have the time. There are no excuses anymore! The cost barrier is low, the learning curve is low and there are people to support you in getting the message right and getting your personification and the way you present yourself right. So, do that next thing.
Aiken: Yeah, that is great advice. One of the things where Marie and her team really excel is helping advisors who are maybe five years away from selling their firm. We are going to talk about that on another episode of this show. We are going to have Ron Carson on and he's going to talk about how advisors can prepare to sell their firm. Marie's group can actually come in five years out and start helping you from a branding and a marketing and PR perspective to really clean up your firm and maximize the value and get it ready to sell and it's an impressive asset instead of a liability for you. I think that's a cool service you guys offer. I just want to thank you for being part of our show today. We really appreciate all your insights and I really hope advisors listening got a lot of value. How can advisors learn more about you and your firm?
Swift: Just Google us. I'm everywhere online. Go to my blog www.MarieSwift.com or go to our website www.ImpactCommunications.org.
Aiken: That's great! Thank you for being part of our show and we will talk to you soon.
Swift: Thanks Claire!