Category: Design Group

We’ve all heard the same spiel from a self-proclaimed marketing expert at a conference. There, engulfed in dim, fluorescent lighting, a person on stage casually ran through their PowerPoint presentation where you may have heard the acronym SEO accompanied by the words “Content is King”. The marketing world is filled with these individuals, often claiming to be ‘gurus’ or ‘experts’, with lots of charts and statistics at the end of their industrial-grade laser pointer.

Based on what I’ve seen, financial advisors seldom act on the advice of these speakers, and why should you? You’re busy people. That’s why I want to cut to the chase with some extremely quick and easy things you can do to promote your business online. Let’s get to it.

Citations

Although they were made more popular in the 1970s by AT&T, the “yellow pages” have been around since 1883. While that inch and a half thick business directory continues to get slapped on your doorstep once a year, the Internet has its own approach. Today, there are many websites that operate in this capacity – some are free and a number of them have price tags. Let’s look at a few in each category.

Free

The best things in life are free. Sometimes. This is just a sample of the free citations I personally use for financial advisors we work with. If you want the full list, check out my working document.

  • Bing: Owned and operated by Microsoft, Bing now accounts for 24.2% of all desktop searches according to recent numbers. That’s a lot of eyes.
  • Google My Business: Have you ever searched for a business and seen something like this? You can control, or at least have a say in, some of the content that appears for your firm in that area.
  • Facebook Business Page: Facebook has become a giant and while there are reports of some folks bailing on the platform, it’s probably not going anywhere.
  • The Real Yellow Pages®: Who knows if it’s actually the same people that kickstarted the whole yellow pages thing in Wyoming all those years ago, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still here and it’s free (to an extent).
  • Local.com: I can already hear you yelling at the screen. “He wants me to enter my information dozens of times into multiple websites?!” No, absolutely not. Some of these are citation aggregators. For instance, Local.com will take the information you enter and send it to dozens of websites on your behalf.

Paid

Paid citation services are actually a decent investment for some financial advisors. It’s exhausting work, especially if you plan do it without help. FYI, none of these are endorsements; it’s just so you know your options.

  • Yext: With an outlandish number of partners in their network, they can pump out citations far faster than the average human.
  • Moz Local: Moz has been doing this service for quite some time now. If nothing else, it might be useful to do until you feel like there’s an adequate number of listings.
  • BrightLocal: They can build new ones or repair your current citations on your behalf.

What do I need?

It’s pretty simple: name, address, and phone number. That’s it. You’re welcome to upload a logo, write a brief description about your business, pick your favorite color, or offer up any other erroneous information you feel like providing. However, only the name, address, and phone number have any real use when building citations.

Why am I doing this?

You may see immediate results and have a flood of new customers at your doorstep. You may not get anything at all from it. That’s the Magic of the Internet™. Jokes aside, if you’re doing something with citations, you’re doing better than (probably) 90% of financial advisors. Also, in extremely competitive markets, you might need to go a step beyond and build links from various publications. I won’t burden you with the details of that right now, but I’ll cover it at a later date.

Building a Better Website

Based on the IFP marketing department’s observations, the majority of advisor websites are wildly outdated. We recommend that advisors update their website every year in some capacity. Here’s why.

Security

Imagine your entire job revolved around hacking into websites, placing hidden ads for male enhancement pills, then reaping the cash from people looking to spark some excitement in their relationship. Yep, hackers do it – more than I’d like to admit. An updated website will give you the newest code base and, ideally, the best security that’s currently on the market. Search engines will also discourage users from visiting your website if it’s been compromised. Lastly, you might want to consider SSL encryption to further ensure the safety of your website and the visitors coming to it.

Web Standard Compliance

Web standards change multiple times in a year. I mean, sometimes they’re big changes like Google’s decision to display websites without SSL encryption as unsecure. Other times they’re small quality of life improvements, like Bing’s decision to support JSON-LD through Bing Webmaster Tools. Don’t worry about what that last sentence even means for you. The point is, standards change all the time and unless your website is updated frequently, you’re falling behind.

User Experience

User experience (or UX as you might see it called) is the core of search of engine optimization. Google, Bing, and the other search engines all want users to find exactly what they’re looking for. That should be your goal as well. Website content delivered to users should be concise and reachable with a minimal number of clicks.

Conclusion

This all sounds pretty complicated, right? You’re a busy person and all of this seems like it’ll take some serious time. That’s why I recommend finding a professional that can help. Keep in mind that if you pay someone to do a full overhaul once, you or an administrative assistance can do edits down the road. On a similar and final note, make sure the website is built with a user-friendly software package. Make sure you feel comfortable enough to make edits and, most importantly, MAKE CONSISTENT UPDATES.

‘Til next time, advisors.

If I were selling you a Rolex, would you rather pay me $6,000 or $120 for it? Maybe I have a Ferrari I’m getting rid of and I want to give you the option to take it off my hands for either $200,000 or $4,000. Which price would you prefer?

You’d probably agree that these scenarios sound ridiculous, and it may not be a Ferrari or a Rolex at stake, but I’d argue that such a scenario exists right under your nose. Many financial advisors expend a lot of resources on various advertising methods, two of which are direct mail and email marketing. If you’re choosing one or both of those methods and not exploring Facebook advertising, you might be one of those people that would rather pay $200,000 for the Ferrari mentioned above. Let’s explore the tangible and intangible differences between these advertising mediums and why you’re literally a lunatic if you’re an advisor (or any small business owner) and you don’t at least try using Facebook ads.

TANGIBLE DIFFERENCE: COST

The all-in cost to advertise in any medium is really comprised of two factors: the cost to design the content and the cost to distribute the content.

Design Cost

For the three channels we’re considering (direct mail, email, and Facebook), let’s assume the cost to design the content is the same across the board; in each scenario, we’ll imagine a graphic designer is using InDesign to put together text and images in a way that’s pleasing to the eye and the resulting graphic can be printed, emailed, or displayed in someone’s Facebook newsfeed. In this scenario, the difference in cost between the three mediums is merely the difference in the cost of distribution.

Distribution Cost

The cost of distributing content via direct mail, email, and Facebook varies based on a lot of factors. For purposes of this succinct blog post, I researched average CPM per medium as an all-in cost metric. I also picked the most conservative CPM averages to make sure I wasn’t cherry picking data just to support my opinion. CPM (cost per thousand), by the way, is a marketing abbreviation used to denote the price of 1,000 advertisement impressions. Essentially, we’re comparing, for each advertising medium, how much it costs to place content in front of 1,000 sets of eyes. You can view the cost comparison below:

Facebook Advertising Cost Comparison

*Direct mail is calculated based on a cost of $0.46 per piece mailed x 1,000 pieces. Sources: ControlBeaters, Inbox Interactive, AdEspresso

You can see how my Rolex and Ferrari analogies weren’t too far off. A $7 spend on Facebook gets you the same level of exposure that 14x and 65x that amount get you via email and direct mail, respectively. Until the market normalizes, Facebook remains the most lucrative arbitrage opportunity in advertising. In terms of pure cost, there’s no question where, in my opinion, financial advisors should be spending their efforts and money. Also, when you take into consideration the intangible difference between these three mediums, I think my argument becomes even stronger.

INTANGIBLE DIFFERENCE: PROSPECT’S STATE OF MIND

To make my argument even simpler, I’m going to eliminate direct mail from this section because of how much more expensive it is than the other mediums. Also, as a young person, I usually only check my physical mailbox maybe once every two months. I’m not saying it’s the mature thing to do, but it’s the reality and I’m sure it’s true for a lot of people in 2017. To even consider direct mail as an advertising method is something I can’t wrap my mind around in this day and age.

Alright, I’ve said my piece, so let’s start our analysis of email marketing vs. Facebook ads.

Email Marketing

Imagine your target prospect’s state of mind while checking emails. They already get hundreds per day and the vast majority of those emails are either newsletters, updates, or unwanted solicitations. My index finger gets tired from hitting delete all day long on those emails. And you know what, I may be deleting a very valid offer of something I actually need from a legitimate company. However, I’ve been beat to death with solicitation emails and I want them out of my inbox as soon as they arrive. So, while I might be paying on average $100 for 1,000 email impressions, I would argue that those impressions are similar to the impression a gnat makes when it flies up your nose.

Facebook Ads

What is your prospect’s state of mind when scrolling through their newsfeed? I would say carefree, curious, open, and possibly even attentive. People are proactively signing into Facebook to find interesting content, including posts from their favorite companies. They are choosing to interact on the platform, catch up on current events, and keep up with their friends and family. Of course, an ad in their Facebook feed could be disruptive to their experience, but it does feel more natural than yet another unwanted email. And if the content is good enough, be it a message, photo, or video, people will consume it even though it’s clearly labeled with the word ‘Sponsored’. Facebook gives you the opportunity to place content in front of people who are in a state of mind where they’re more willing to consume it. In that state of mind, they’re more willing to do the very thing you want them to do: consider your product or service.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I know I’m barely touching on all the differences between these three advertising mediums, but I just want to get those wheels turning. For instance, we didn’t even talk about how specific the user targeting can get on Facebook. In addition, over 42 percent of Facebook’s users in the United States are between the ages of 25 and 44, which is a crucial target age range for financial advisors who need to build a younger clientele.

There’s really no other way to put it, so I’ll end this like I started it. If you’re a financial advisor that wants to grow their business and you haven’t explored using Facebooks ads, you’re a lunatic.

Securities offered through LPL Financial member FINRA and SIPC Investment advisory services offered through Independent Financial Partners, a Registered Investment Adviser Independent Financial Partners is not owned or controlled by LPL Financial.

Before I was the gatekeeper for everything involving content at IFP, I worked at a marketing agency in Tampa. While I worked there, it was my sole responsibility to ensure that each time a client started a blog, it hit the ground running and continued to captivate their target audience for years to come. In my mind, it became an art.

I could make tile laying projects sexy, discount airport parking seem like the only way to park, and beer look like a great alternative to water. No, I’m kidding – I’m not that full of myself. However, I am good at what I do, which is building an audience and finding a way to connect with them to sell a service or product. Today I wanted to discuss some tips I’ve learned over the years that might help you start or build your blog into the great resource you know it can be.

Find a Voice

Personality is hard to inject into writing. Read some of the text messages you get from people and notice how little the words reflect that person’s quirks, features, and well-known traits. Does it sound like them? Probably not.

Sadly, this is a hurdle many blog writers fail to overcome. Without some serious personality or a unique take on the topics they discuss, a blog becomes little more than a checkbox item that some search engine optimization (SEO) guru told you to check. It’s just words on a page at that point. All I’m saying is, if you want to make some noise, make some noise. Create a voice for yourself and add some personality to your writing to keep people coming back for more.

Write for Yourself

I remember my first job when I was writing 4-5 blog posts a day for clients in a variety of industries. I was writing Dick’s Sporting Goods with my cup of coffee and Macy’s with my late lunch, bored out of my mind with topics like, ‘Top 10 Reasons to Buy New Cleats’ or ‘5 Reasons Your Red Dress Doesn’t Work’. As a creative, it’s soul sucking. As a person like yourself with limited time in the day for writing, you need to find a passion for it.

Blogs require some serious start up time before they get rolling. Without passion, it’s easy to fall off the wagon a few months in and spend the time you’d otherwise be writing doing something you love to do in your spare time. If you’re like most, a jet ski sounds a hell of a lot more fun than sitting inside on Saturday thinking up new ideas for the blog. To overcome these temptations, you obviously need some passion for writing and brainstorming fresh approaches to keep your audience on the hook.

Consider the Layout

Now that I’ve written (and you’ve read) about 400 words of this blog post, it’s time to break it up a bit. Remember that my audience (hey, that’s you right now) doesn’t want to read a wall of text without any visual elements to give some variety. Therefore, I have created the beautiful graphic you see to the left, which has undoubtedly renewed your interest in this article.

In all seriousness, I recommend always trying to mix a few graphics into your articles to give your readers’ eyes a rest or to easily identify a place for a break.

Be Thorough

First, let’s talk about length. While you can absolutely sneak by with 400 words on days you really need to get some work done, I wouldn’t recommend doing it often. My typical article is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 words, but I don’t want you to only focus on a number when considering length. Consider starting with a base and building on it. While the first iteration may be a few hundred words, you can continue expanding it ad nauseam until it reaches your goal.

Either way, it all comes down to SEO. If your article is detailed and extensively covers a specific topic, you are far more likely to organically attract visitors than if you have a series of short, vague articles.

Now let’s talk about finding some eyes to read your hard work.

Build an Audience

Unfortunately, finding an audience is the hardest part of owning your very own blog. While there’s no magic bullet, there are ways to pull outsiders in, if only for a moment.

Social Media

Social media can be a fantastic starting place to capture some eyes, although it can be fairly time consuming and there’s going to be some days you feel like giving up. We live in a noisy world with thousands of individuals trying to get their blog noticed just like you, so you need to make an impact. This is why I recommend retaining a social media expert that can dedicate their time to promoting your blog and company.

If you don’t have the budget or just don’t feel like hiring someone to help out, I’ll be writing a follow-up post about engaging on social media in the new few weeks.

Guest Posting

Find a blog or news provider that offers guest posting opportunities. Some individuals may ask you to pay a small fee for a spot on their website – don’t do it. There’s no reason to pay them money and many times the amount you pay is not worth the link equity you’ll receive.

Advertising

Advertising is an option if you prefer to pay, although I also recommend you look for a professional to help out. Aside from building the visual assets required, you’ll need a real strategy to reach your target audience while spending the smallest amount of money possible.

Guest Star on Podcasts

Some of our advisors have seen some serious success as guests on podcasts in recent years. Try to identify a few podcasts (locally or nationally) that will let you on for a segment discussing plan participant needs, personal finance, or some other facet related to our industry.

Now that you’ve heard enough about building your audience, let’s talk about how we’re going to keep them coming back for more.

Retaining Your Audience

We touched on this briefly above, but I wanted to create a section you could refer back to when scanning this article. Alright, so we’ve got all these people reading your blog, engaging in the comments section, and telling all their friends about the amazing information they received from your posts. Now comes one of the easier parts: keeping them around.

Regular Posting

Set a schedule and stick to it if possible. Readers need more and more content and it encourages them to revisit your website if they know it’s constantly evolving.

Seek and Respond to Engagement

Ask your readers for comments, likes, and shares and foster a friendly environment that encourages people to interact with your posts. This helps establish an emotional connection to your posts and possibly your personality.

Build a Network

As you grow, keep in touch with other bloggers and persons of interest in your social circle. The more involved you are in the community, the more likely people are to recognize your writing and learn more about you. Don’t isolate yourself!

My Last Thoughts

I recognize that I’ve just thrown a lot at you and it can seem overwhelming. The truth of the matter is that you just need to start somewhere, writing whenever the mood strikes to grow your blog. Motivate yourself to put pen to pad and you’re already better than the vast majority of people in this industry that haven’t put pen to pad in years.

If you have questions for me or comments on my article, send me an email! Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you next time.