Ben Jones – I had the opportunity to speak with Matt from his office in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Matt started by telling me the first and most important step in creating a successful marketing strategy is to define your audience. You’re going to need to figure out what kind of client your business is targeting, and then, and only then, can you begin to understand how and where to market those clients.
Matt Halloran – I think the best marketing strategy is going to start with the end in mind. This is where most people, and not just advisors, fall down terribly, is they have to want to achieve something. It can’t just be money. It has to be something greater than money. What we’ve found the best way to define a marketing strategy and set a marketing strategy is to have an end goal to be known as. Because, again, this I marketing. This isn’t sales. Those are two hugely different things in the world of business. In our industry, people overlap those terribly. A marketing strategy is going to have daily activities, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and then annual goals. That’s another thing that I don’t think people keep their eye on the prize with, is you have to have all of those components in place to have a true marketing strategy and have something that you can follow. If you want to be that guy, you have to, first off, identify what guy you want to be. If you want to be the retirement guy, if you want to be the guaranteed income guy, if you want to be the investment guy, if you want to be the guy who only works with radiological oncologists, you have to start there. And then all of the tactics that you’re going to deploy have to lead you to that. So we’ll use radiological oncologists as a great example, just because I love saying those words together. One, you have to do some market research, which nobody ever does. They don’t go to radiological oncologists and ask them where do they get their information, what sort of information do they want, can I ask you a series of questions in order to create a marketing strategy that’s going to communicate value to you. Not sell to you, create value to you so that you’ll at least think about me if you ever need a financial services professional. Nobody does that. And that drives me absolutely insane, that they’ll just cast a really wide net out in the middle of the ocean and hope that they’re going to catch the exact fish they want, where they haven’t done any research on what that fish eats, where that fish is, is that the right size net, anything along those lines. We came up with something called your MIC, which is your my ideal client. That’s where everybody should start with a marketing strategy. What is your ideal client, and it can’t be any person who’s on the verge of retiring who has over $1M. That’s not an ideal client, and you can’t market to that. It has to be psychographic and demographic based. What do they look like, what do they do, where are they from, where did they go to school, what do they do when they’re not working? How do they accept your advice? Are they delegators, are they controlling people, do you like an engineer versus an entrepreneur mind-set. You have to create this my ideal client. And when you’ve gotten that MIC in your mind, everything starts coming into play. That’s when you can start creating a real strategy to start working towards attracting that person specifically.
Ben Jones – I love that, and I like the idea of getting that avatar or that ideal client in your mind because it makes all of your messaging come together in how you speak and the language, the voice, the content that you create. Tell me a little bit about how someone should go about figuring out what their MIC is. Do they look at their existing clients or do they look at the clients that they wish they had? Tell me, where’s the balance?
Matt Halloran – Starting with your own book of business is the best, because you have relationships with those people already, Ben, and that just makes it easier for you to start teasing it out. But that’s step one. Step two is okay, now I know what I have, I know who I like working with, now what is the next level of that? So this is a two-step process. Who do you love working with that you have right now? What happens a lot of times is people will say to us they don’t have anything in common. They really do. You just need to know to ask the right questions and you need to tease that stuff out.
Emily Larsen – So, first to identify who you’re marketing to. Next, Matt explains how to identify the people on your team or maybe outside your business who can help you refine your marketing approach and execute your plans.
Matt Halloran – After the owner of the company has some sort of an idea on where they want to go marketing – then the second step is they need to bring in their team. Their team is going to have probably more interaction with their day-to-day clients than anybody else. And then, this is, again, where a lot of advisors fall down due to fear, they need to bring in their top clients and ask them. Everybody who’s been successful loves to talk about why they were successful and how they became successful. And, oh my God, Ben, you want my advice on why I was successful and how I can make you successful? So having an advisory council take a look at this is really — That’s when gold happens. That’s when you start printing money, and everybody knows who you’re looking for you and you can have a really unified approach.
Ben Jones – So, for somebody who doesn’t have an advisory council, what are the best ways to approach a client and say hey, I’d like to pick your brain.
Matt Halloran – That’s all you have to say. It’s really unbelievable. Mr. Johnson or Mrs. Johnson, you were a very, very successful person in your career, I love having the opportunity to learn from people like you. We’re going to be rolling out a marketing plan that’s going to focus on people just like you, and I’d just like your advice. Let me buy you coffee. Let’s go play nine. Let’s go fishing. It’s hard to mountain bike and talk. But that’s how you do it. You can’t over think it. You pick up the phone and you talk to them. These people like you, Ben. Right? They like you. They’ve given you all of their money; of course they’re not going to mind helping you help people like them.
Ben Jones – So, now, you’ve done this. You’ve asked your staff, you’ve talked to your clients, you’ve created this MIC, ideal client, what do you do now?
Matt Halloran – You need to make a decision if you’re going to do it yourself or you’re going to outsource it. If you have somebody on your team who is marketing inclined, and that doesn’t mean that they’re just good on the phone or people like them. That they have a little bit of education in marketing. They can see and clearly understand where you want to go. Then you can have a lot of it in-house, understanding that this is a big job. It usually is going to take, even for a small shop, 10 hours of your support staff’s time to execute a successful marketing plan.
Ben Jones – Okay. And if somebody had someone on their team that’s responsible for this function, besides just some marketing inclination, are there any particular skills that you’ve found makes this person really good?
Matt Halloran – These are people who throw parties. They are on Facebook all the time. They have a very active Instagram account. They listen to podcasts. They get excited when you as the advisor comes back from a conference with a new marketing idea. That’s where you’re going to start. But the next piece of it is they do have to have some training. There are a lot of magnificent resources both free and paid online to help your support staff understand how to execute like a marketing calendar, using social media effectively, podcasting, blogging, video production.
Ben Jones – When you describe that, I’ve got this vision of like the advisor has this Millennial who loves Instagram and Facebook and says do you want to do this and they say yeah and then all of a sudden they’re out posting stuff and it’s a little bit undisciplined. So I think there is some caution to be heeded here to make sure that you have the discipline and the thoughtful approach to your messaging and marketplace before you engage somebody to go crazy.
Matt Halloran – Ben, the biggest concern is all of the outside training that you can do doesn’t have the compliance oversight. They don’t ever talk about that. Google’s training, HubSpot, Sprout Social, all of these great organizations, they don’t talk about our specific issues. And also just because you use Instagram, doesn’t mean you know how to use Instagram. That’s another component. There is a training time frame here. Every social media platform has free training on how to successfully use their social media platform. You have to start there.
Ben Jones – Let’s talk about the other side of this equation, which is outsourcing. I think these days I see lots of different firms that are marketing to advisors saying hey, look, we’ll manage your social and we’ll put out these articles, ghost written stuff and everything. What parts can you effectively kind of outsource and what parts do you risk outsourcing and just kind of being like everyone else?
Matt Halloran – It’s custom content. That is the first piece that you have to ask the question, are you going to help me create custom content. The biggest failure that financial services professionals have is using other people’s content and thinking that, one, their clients think it’s their own. And two, they don’t understand how the Internet works. When you have a weekly market commentary that you’re paying for from an organization, Google, Yahoo, all the search engines, knows you didn’t create it. So they’re going to bury that. They do not want regurgitated content. Which makes it difficult for people who are in BDs, right? Because this is the approved piece of communication, which they also don’t understand, too, Ben, and this is what drives me crazy. Almost every one of those commentaries are having your clients focus on something you don’t want them to focus on. Most people invest for the long-term. They don’t want a play by play sports score on what’s going on every single solitary week. Now, there are clients who do love that. And you as advisor should know that. But if I’m a financial planner who’s helping you plan for retirement and you’re 45 years old, I don’t want you freaking out every single solitary time the market goes down 3%, which by the way is nothing, in a day, because you’re not actually accepting or taking those losses. Anyway, I’m sorry about that tangent. But custom content is the key. They should be using your words, your phrases, your marketing, your unique ability, to use a Dan Sullivan phrase, in order to create your content. That’s your question number one.
Ben Jones – It’s probably no surprise to you, but I totally agree with Matt’s opinion that custom content is key to content marketing, even if you choose to outsource the implementation of your marketing strategy. Matt uses podcasting and social media extensively. In fact, he literally wrote a handbook for financial advisors about social media. In our show, we’ve covered modern marketing techniques in our modern marketing episodes that include videos, blogs, books, as well as podcasts. You might want to check those out to determine which medium is right for you.
It sounds like you can outsource the implementation really well, but at the end of the day you still need to create something of value to deliver to your clients. Is that what I’m hearing?
Matt Halloran – Yeah, you’re freaking right. Absolutely. What we found was — what is the one thing that financial advisors do pretty much every day all day?
Ben Jones – Answer questions from clients.
Matt Halloran – That’s it. So you take what you talked about during the day, you talk it out. We, personally, our company uses podcasting as that medium. And then we take that podcast and turn it into custom curated social stuff.
Ben Jones – Now, I’m curious about this because you already kind of alluded to this, but what is a content calendar? You said you’ve got to do daily, weekly, monthly things. How does that content calendar get built and put into practice?
Matt Halloran – Financial services professionals, estate planning attorneys, and CPAs love organization, as you know, right? They love that stuff. A lot of them are planners, so they love to plan. We start with the month. So that’s — when we’re talking about a content calendar, each month should have a flavor. Whether that’s life insurance month, kids are graduating so what for kids to do in the summer. You’re preparing for college. Tax-loss harvesting, end of year stuff, those sorts of things. We help our advisors come up with a 12-month calendar. That’s very, very important. Most advisors, by the way, already have this; they just don’t realize how much they can pull from that. And then from that, we will — in our system, you’ll create two podcasts a month based off of those topics. Sometimes it’s one podcast and then they interview a guest, or some evergreen content. And then we take that content and turn it into appropriately timed social media posts using an actual calendar where the advisor will get either an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document that says on this day at this time we are posting this, so that they can get it approved by compliance and then we plug it into our system and we execute. But that’s how you create a content calendar. You can use Hootsuite, you can use HubSpot, you can use freaking all sorts of great programs. You can pre-populate an entire month’s worth of posts and almost edit it and forget it. But then you’re forgetting about the social aspect of a social content calendar, which would be interacting with your centers of influence and making sure that you’re maintaining engagement with your audience. And if you’re not ever present, omnipresent in the medium that your clients and prospects are while they’re there, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
Ben Jones – We had David Armstrong on talking about his blog and modern media. The thing that I thought was most powerful about his comments around this, which directly relate to what you’re saying, is that he said he doesn’t have a single new prospect come into his office today that hasn’t already read most of his blog posts and have a pretty good idea of what they’re there to do. It’s kind of got rid of the old early discovery meeting or introductory meeting and it’s kind of — they go out, they look at the blog, and then when they get there they’re ready to take action and do business.
Matt Halloran – And that’s the way we’ve grown our business here, Ben, is we don’t have to do a lot of external major prospecting because we’re getting inbound calls now on a regular basis because of the podcast, because of our writing, because of our website, because of our overall social presence. Our sales process is nothing. They’re ready to go. Like oh, my God, I love your podcast. Okay, well I’m glad you love our podcast, but do you think you can do this yourself? Absolutely. I’ve been learning from you, Matt. I’ve been learning from you, Kirk. I’ve been learning from your guests, I think I’m ready to go, what do I need to do, what are my next steps. Dude, I’ll take that all day long. Are you kidding me? That’s like the greatest gift you could ever have, but it’s taken us 18 months. I didn’t snap my fingers. Trust me; it never happens on your time.
Emily Larsen – Growing your business and becoming known as “the guy” or “the gal” is going to take a long time, and it won’t be easy. So when you’re investing resources into marketing your business, how can you figure out whether you’re being successful? Digital marketing has many ways of measuring success.
Matt Halloran – It’s not all about numbers, it’s a lot more about activity engagement. So that’s one of the pieces that I think everybody needs to keep in mind. In each platform, even print, are going to have different means of showing success. Radio, print media, television. Unless you’re getting inbound calls directly after that episode or that paper drops, it’s really hard to show a good ROI. Whereas social, digital media, you can see that ROI much faster, but your return on investment isn’t direct sales. Remember, marketing is not sales. It’s engagement. It’s people downloading your podcast. It’s people subscribing to your page. It’s people liking what you’re posting. People bringing that stuff up when they see you in public. That was one of my favorite things that ever happened to one of our clients is he was at the gym and a client heard him talking and his head whipped around and he’s like I know that voice, why do I know that voice. He said I don’t know. He’s like oh, my God, I listen to your podcast. And the guy’s not a client.
Ben Jones – That’s interesting. That’s got to be rewarding.
Matt Halloran – I thought that was really neat. The guy said I get so much value out of your podcast. Of course, he was like why don’t you come in and talk to me. And he was like I just haven’t gotten around to it. And he’s like well, you should. That’s the sort of stuff that you want to pay attention to. If you have somebody who’s consistently liking your social media posts, you need to actively reach out to them, which on almost every social media you can direct message.
Ben Jones – In your experience with respect to marketing success, what are the leading indicators? We know the lagging indicator is client acquisition, but what are the leading indicators that the strategy that you’ve employed are working?
Matt Halloran – It’s engagement, which would mean conversation to your ideal target market. That is the only thing I pay attention to. I’ve got an advisor in Georgia. Here’s a great example. He creates private insurance companies for very wealthy people. Which is a great tactic, by the way. It’s unbelievable, very complex. There’s CPAs involved and lawyers involved. But you can do this for uber wealthy people. He needs one of those a year, dude. One. So if I can get my message in front of five of those people by using different mediums, different communication pieces, and I land one of those, then my marketing was a success.
Ben Jones – When it comes to engagement, early days people said you want likes, because that shows engagement. Now I hear more and more people say you actually want comments or re-shares. But how do you think about measuring engagement?
Matt Halloran – It used to be likes. Wow, I got 500 likes, that’s awesome, which does mean that 500 people took time to read your message, and that’s great.
Ben Jones – Does it? Does it mean that? Because one of the things that’s really been interesting to me as I’ve been out on publishing things is that I’ve published a couple of long form articles on say LinkedIn, for example, and the article takes at least 30 minutes, 20 minutes to read or digest, and I’ve been amazed how many likes I get within the first like minute and a half, and I’m like there’s no possible way that that person read what they’ve just said they liked.
Matt Halloran – So long form is definitely going to be different, and I don’t think LinkedIn will tell you how much time people spent on that article. Which Facebook used to do, they don’t let you do that anymore. But scrolling through stuff, most of time people have spent the time to read something. For you, for long form posts, you are going to want to focus specifically on comments and shares. Comments are more important than shares. Because if they comment on it, then they did read the whole darn thing. So unfortunately, Ben, there isn’t a magic formula here because it just depends on what you’re using. It depends on how you’re putting this stuff out. It depends on what your existing network looks like. It depends on who your ideal client is. There’s just way too much stuff for us to be able to say here is the formula for ROI. Now, there have been a bunch of people who have tried to do that, but unfortunately their thought leadership or that specific metric or formula fails most of the time.
Ben Jones – Okay, let’s say that you’re doing this for six months or a year, and your engagement numbers are not what you’d hoped and you’re off track. What’s the appropriate way to course correct?
Matt Halloran – It really is looking at your content specifically. It isn’t necessarily the distribution of the content. That’s the second step. The first step is are you talking to your ideal clients with meaningful content that they can engage with. One of the biggest problems in financial services is people want to come on to a podcast or they want to write a blog about what’s going on in the markets. Well, I’m sorry to say, but if I want to know what’s going on in the markets, I’m not going to go to my advisor, I’m going to go to CNBC. That’s it’s, that’s the game. I’m going to go to Fox Business or MSN Money or Yahoo Finance. So that’s why that content, that hyper-focused content has to be different. I don’t want you to tell me what’s going on in the markets. I don’t want you to tell me what I’m doing wrong in a general sense. I want you to talk to me as a radiological oncologist about what I need to be paying attention to now at this part of my life.
Ben Jones – So if everybody’s — every advisor has a podcast or writes a blog or whatever, when you’ve got this hyper-focused message, how does someone stand out from the noise? Because I know this is your expertise.
Matt Halloran – You’re not going to rise above it by doing better than CNBC. You have to rise above the noise by getting that message directly in the hands of the right people. That’s what we do. Through our discovery process, and we find out exactly who you want to focus on and hyper-focus on, then we create an entire plan and solution around that. And, if you’re working with us, if you’re nine months in and you’re still not getting the results that you want, which would be inbound communication pieces, appointments, and ultimately sales, then we have to do — with you as our client, we have to redo some market research. A lot of times it’s just — if you’re sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, which I did a couple of times, if you’re 1/10 of 100th degree off of your course, you’re going to end up somewhere you don’t want to end up. So sometimes it’s just those small course corrections. Maybe it’s a frequency. So there’s three things that you focus on when it comes to changing behavior. Frequency, intensity, and duration. Maybe your stuff is too intense. Maybe it needs to be lighter. Maybe it needs to be more jovial. Maybe it needs to be more conversational. The frequency, maybe our frequency is wrong. Maybe you’re putting out too much content. Maybe you’re not putting out enough content. We have a lot of research with our demographics that we know when is the appropriate time to do that. But your hyper-focused demographic might just be a little bit different. So frequency, intensity, and then duration. Maybe your podcast is too long. Maybe your content is too short. Those are the sorts of things that we tweak.
Ben Jones – Knowing whether your digital marketing strategy is working or not isn’t always cut and dry. But there is a lot more data to measure success in today’s digital landscape than there ever has been before. So, with that in mind, what type of investment does it take to make a great marketing strategy work?
Matt Halloran – Ben, everything you want in life you have to be willing to give up something proportionate to that want. So that’s how the universe works. There’s only five things that you can give up. Time, talents, treasures, relationships, and control. You have to make the decision right at the beginning before we even talk about numbers if you want to give up something to grow your business. Depending on how many of those five things you want to give up will totally depend on what your price is going to be. If you want to maintain a substantial amount of control over your marketing specifically, your outbound communication, all the way to that person making a decision on working with you, but you don’t want to give up a lot of your time, you don’t want to give up a lot of your talents, and you don’t want to give a lot of your money, then you need to budget minimum 7% of gross not net. That’s been played out. There’s Moss Adams reports in our industry that basically say that is the minimum that any advisor should spend on marketing, outbound communication, client communication, prospect communication. Personally, we believe it should be more like 15% of gross not net. If you want to really grow your business and become that guy, which we talked about earlier in the podcast, you’ve got to make an investment.
Ben Jones – When you think about those tradeoffs that you mentioned, I’ve always heard time, treasure, and talent, but I like — it was relationships and what was the last one?
Matt Halloran – Control.
Ben Jones – Control. So when you think about those five tradeoffs, in your experience working with lots of advisors, which of those is the thing that they should give up and which of the things maybe should they hold onto to get the best ROI?
Matt Halloran – Ben, nobody’s ever asked me that question. That could be the greatest question I’ve ever been asked on a podcast. Thank you for that. It’s control. Advisors, what makes you a great advisor generally makes you a terrible businessperson and a terrible marketer. Because you are not a marketer. I want a controlling advisor, Ben. I want you to be insanely detail oriented. I want you to be a perfectionist. I want — but that’s not marketing. Marketing is messy. Marketing is gray. Marketing works sometimes and it doesn’t work sometimes. Control is the number one thing that advisors need to give up. The number one thing that they need to control is their treasures. Because here’s the deal: advisors who are listening to this podcast right now have pissed away so much money on bad ideas, because they either think that they can throw $15,000 at a seminar and they’re going to be super successful and they do one seminar. They do one seminar, they spend $15,000, and it stunk and they don’t do it again. That’s where that control aspect, that’s where the outsourcing aspect really needs to be considered.
Ben Jones – That’s a great answer. I am curious, when you get this strategy set and in place, you’ve figured out your target client, you’ve figured out the tactics that you’re going to employ, where you’re going to direct them, what your message is, you’ve got your discipline and clarity of messaging, all of those things are done, how often should that strategy be reviewed or refreshed?
Matt Halloran – As soon as you’re not getting the results that you want, you need to reassess. Takes about six months for you to see any real results or the beginning of momentum, but then nine months to 12 months after you’ve gained that momentum, then you should be reviewing it quarterly. But you need to give it a good nine months is ideal, what we’ve found. That you need to plug away with a specific strategy consistently, whether that’s monthly, weekly, daily, for nine months and then you can reassess after that. But if you just do it for six months, you haven’t created a trend, and we have that problem often. Six months into a relationship an advisor’s like I’m not really seeing any results. You just haven’t been doing it long enough. If you do seminars, you need to do seminars for a year in order to, one, get good at it, and two, start building up a name that you’re a resource in your community that provides good educational workshops for your general population. Be patient. Dear God. This never is going to work on an impatient person’s time frame. So you’ve got to let it work. You’ve got to give it 12 months. It’s empowering and liberating. Those are the two words that you will understand and embody when your marketing strategy is working well.
Emily Larsen – So it’s not necessarily going to be easy, and it may take a long time for your business to consistently attract your ideal client. But if you’re patient, Matt says you’ll reach a stage where you feel delighted and energized by the way your marketing strategy is working for your firm. A big thank you to Matt, who shared some excellent tips we hope you’ll put into action as you tweak or create a purposeful marketing strategy to grow your business.
Ben Jones – Thank you for listening to Better Conversations. Better Outcomes. This podcast is presented by BMO Global Asset Management. To access the resources discussed in today’s show, please visit us at www.bmogam.com/betterconversations.
Emily Larsen – We love feedback, and would love to hear what you thought about today’s episode. You can send an e-mail to [email protected].
Ben Jones – And we really respond.
Emily Larsen – We do.
Ben Jones – If you thought of someone during today’s episode, we would be flattered if you’d take a moment and share this podcast with them. You can listen and subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, or whatever your favorite podcast provider is. And, of course, we would very greatly appreciate if you’d take a moment to rate or review us on that app. This show and resources are supported by a very talented team of dedicated professionals at BMO, including Pat Bordak, Gayle Gipson, Matt Perry, Derek Devereaux. The show is edited and produced by Jonah Geil-Neufeld and Annie Fassler of Puddle Creative. And these are the real people that make this show happen, so thank you. Until next time, I’m Ben Jones.
Emily Larsen – And I’m Emily Larson. From all of us at BMO Global Asset Management hoping you have a productive and wonderful week.
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