What started as a small test run on social media and blogging has turned into 10 years of ideas and best practices on growth, efficient practices and firm differentiation. We’ve had many collaborators, both in-house experts and guests. We’ve shared videos, promoted webinars and whitepapers, linked to articles and excerpts from books, and we’ve even won an industry social media award. It has been an amazing run.
As I reflected on the last 10 years, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the many lessons we have learned from creating Practically Speaking.
In the beginning, blogging for financial advisors was relatively new. It was practically unheard of to have a personality-driven blog from an investment management firm aimed at advisors (it still may be). I hope these lessons will provide some help to anyone else who wants to better connect with their clients and prospects.
1. Social media is your last/best way to share with prospects who you are and the value you provide.
In an age with large mega-firms and virtual digital providers, independent advisors need to find a way to stand out, to share their expertise and to let a prospect know what it would be like to work with them.
Social media breaks down formality. It lets prospects who are searching on social channels quickly understand what you do and how you help clients. You demonstrate your value by providing content that allows them to make an educated decision to hire you.
2. Share your authentic voice; let them hear from the real you.
People want to work with people they like. The real you, your personality, needs to come through in your content. Write or speak in order to make a connection. Share your humor, sorrow, or frustration. Share stories. Let your personality come out so clients can see and hear you. A cold recap of the weekly performance of the S&P won’t build a relationship.
3. Know who you are writing for.
If your writing is too broad or too general, you won’t build an audience. Create a persona of your ideal client(s) and speak to that person or couple. The messaging should resonate with your target audience every single time. They should think you are an expert in “them.” Too many blogs mix up content so much I don’t know what they are trying to accomplish – being a generalist in today’s market means you go unnoticed and unappreciated.
4. Find the time, and plan it out.
Early on in writing for Practically Speaking, I mostly wrote on airplanes as I was traveling to different conferences. Today, I have every other Friday from 3-5 p.m. blocked on my calendar. By setting aside time, and sticking to your schedule, you place a priority on creating content for your prospects that can’t be interrupted by the challenges of the day. It means having the discipline makes sure it gets done.
5. Your life, your clients, and your conversations are all fodder.
Content is all around you, if you pay attention. Many advisors who are considering social media have a fear regarding content. You could fill multiple blogs with the conversations you have with clients every day. Pay attention, carry a journal or notepad, or use a voice memo on your phone. By sharing conversations or situations, you show prospects how you bring value to others.
6. Share and be shared.
Trying to build a readership is tough, so leverage multiple platforms and content. Early on, I was posting our content to about 15 different financial advisor groups. We would submit posts to the media to attract readers and build a name for our blog. We tried anything we could think of to build our subscription list. I still regularly reach out to bloggers and ask to repost their work (with full credit) or have them write a unique post for us — then we cross-promote. We make it easy for COIs, strategic partners like broker-dealers and SEI spokespeople to share via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
7. Mix it up.
For the most part, Practically Speaking has been focused on blogging. But we’ve also shot introductory videos, done a few podcasts, and even shared scenes of a holiday party or two.
If your goal is to provide content, as well as let the prospect get to know you better, adding various media presents different angles on you and your personality. It gives the viewer or listener the ability to choose how they best take in information.
8. Add other voices but control the message.
A blog doesn’t have to be all about you and you don’t have to write all of the content, but the message has to be consistent.
We have been blessed with lots of collaborators over the last 10 years. Each was able to share their expertise and personality, but we always kept the reader in mind — our ideal reader. In our monthly Practically Speaking blog meetings, we share our ideas about what we want to say, but we always tie them back to that ideal reader. This allows all of us to make sure we are consistent with the message that keeps our readers coming back.
9. Forget about the daily, weekly, or even monthly movements of the markets.
If your value is your unique ability to consistently outperform the markets by hundreds of basis points, year in and year out, then by all means write about it. For the real world, clients who are interested in the performance of the S&P will have looked it up well before you summarize what happened to the indexes a few weeks ago.
In order to have readers come back, you need engaging content that is unique to you and your firm. Feel free to discuss your process but know that the more you discuss markets, performance, or the economy, the faster you get lumped into all those other commoditized areas and will soon be replaced.
10. Have fun, and celebrate the wins.
If we don’t step back once in a while, it becomes drudgery. You have to celebrate the wins or it will show in the quality of the work.
My Friday afternoon writing schedule is now topped with a nice glass of wine — only when I have completed the post and hit send. We celebrate when one of our posts gets picked up by another publication or blog, we celebrate our anniversary and we celebrate each other’s posts by reading, commenting, and sharing.
Over the last 10 years, Practically Speaking has truly been a labor of love. I could discuss the business metrics: the number of subscribers, the top 10 most-read posts as well as our engagement stats, etc. But what is important is that it has opened many, many doors. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have met someone for the first time who quotes back to me a post I wrote, or says that they are a subscriber (I have a standard, self-deprecating joke in response). It allows us, unobtrusively, to be in our reader’s inbox weekly reminding them of SEI and our value.
As an independent financial advisor in a nearly post-COVID-19 market, traditional old-school marketing and client relationship managed methods have to be reconsidered.
Clients are using the internet and search engines even more than before for financial advice. They are looking for personalized conversations with experts, they are looking for customized solutions — they are looking for you. Old dry text from institutions that are focused on the markets are a dime a dozen but you can stand out by showing your personality and leveraging the tools to get noticed.