This is the Ultimate Advisor Podcast, the podcast for financial advisors who want to create a thriving, successful, and scalable practice. Each week we'll uncover the ways that you can improve your referrals, your team, your marketing, and your business operations, helping you to level up your advising practice, bring in more assets and create the advising practice that you've dreamed of. You will be joined by your hosts, Bryan Sweet, who has more than half a billion dollars in assets under management; Brittany Anderson, the driving force for advisors looking to hire, improve their operations and company culture; and Draye Redfern, who can help you systematize and automate your practice's marketing to effortlessly attract new clients. So what do you say? Let's jump into another amazing episode of the Ultimate Advisor Podcast.
Brittany A: Hello, Brittany Anderson here, and welcome back to your Ultimate Advisor Podcast. Today we are going to touch on a topic on why marketing is actually important. Now, I would guess, as compared to what I've seen in the industry, that a lot of advisory practices have grown their business based on referrals, which is excellent, right? That means you are taking care of your clientele. That means that you're doing a lot of the right things. But here's the deal: you are leaving money on the table by not maximizing your efforts and by not really exploring what marketing means to you and how it can help you grow your business. So Bryan, I thought it would be great for you to touch a little bit on about how referrals have really made up a good portion of the business at Sweet Financial, but how you really saw an area of opportunity and why we've emphasized marketing so much at Sweet.
Bryan Sweet: Well, I'd love to Brittany, thank you. This is one of my favorite topics because there's so much, I think, more we can do than just referrals. And probably like most businesses today, I would say maybe 95 or 100% of our business in the past came from referrals. And I would say that's a really great thing to have happened because when you are getting referrals, that means you're doing the right thing for clients, and you're making an impact, and making them feel good and they want their friends, and colleagues, and other members of their family to be part of that. So I think that's good.
But one of the things that you limit yourself when you're doing only referrals is how do you reach people that don't know you, people that aren't your clients, that aren't getting introduced to you? How do you reach those other interesting people that can benefit from the work that you do and also be aware of the services that you offer? And so we came to the point where if you do all the same activities, you're going to get the same results. And if you want to have some exponential growth, you have to add and change things to make sure that you're getting different opportunities. And there's an old saying that what got you where you're at, won't get you to where you to want to be. And so we've really spent a lot of time working on all sorts of other types of marketing opportunities to generate leads and referrals and utilizing things like social media, even direct marketing websites, webinars, and then just kind of amazing the interest and impact that it's had. And I think maybe a few of the things that would be helpful and maybe Draye, you could allude to that, is how do you go about deciding which of those marketing efforts? Do you just go in and do them all at once? Do you do one at a time? What's your perspective?
Draye Redfern: There's so much on the topic of marketing and I think that you're exactly right, both of you. Most advisors, it's slow getting started, right? And it's like that first ... that last snowflake that creates this snowball, the bills into the bigger, more or less like snowball rolling down the mountain that creates an avalanche. And as you create more and more momentum, more and more things happen for you. But the problem that we see is so many advisors just stop at referrals. And the reference point that I usually like to make, to give a little perspective, is you would never necessarily tell your clients to, "Hey, let me take your entire nest egg, all of your retirement, and go put it into one fund, or one stock, or one asset class. And then we're going to when a tee you up for success."
No advisor worth their salt would ever say or do that. Yet, this is exactly what advisors do with their own business practices. They have their entire business basically dependent on referrals. And so having that slight sort of dichotomy or shift in the thinking can create a radical sort of distinction on what it takes to take it to the next level. So to answer your question, Bryan, I think that it's important to realize that each advisory practice is going to be different. And so we can talk about webinars, direct mail, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and everything else under the sun, and there's going to be advisors who are absolutely crushing it in one of those niches. And there's success to be had in all of those niches when it comes to your marketing, but the key thing to realize here is that every practice is different and every platform is different.
So for example, if you're a advisor who loves to be on video and offering content and resources, you could have a YouTube channel and that could be a way in which you could disseminate content out to your audience. And you can email your audience an email every week, every other week, every month with the most shared or the most watched video that could add value to that client base. If you're not necessarily comfortable on video, it's not your thing, you could do an email sequence, or you could do Facebook posts, or you could even do Instagram things. All of these platforms are designed, they know that you can use to help you and your business. The problem is, is that everyone says like, "Well you got to be on Facebook. You got to be on Instagram. And you got to be doing this. You got to be doing that." And while that may be true to a certain extent, you may just be spinning your wheels, burning time, wasting money if the platform doesn't actually fit your needs.
So the first thing I would say is, what actually fits your strength as an advisor, as a business? So if we take the Sweet Financial brand, for example, there's a variety of individuals who are pretty good on camera. There's a variety of individuals in the business who shoot video and that video is a part of sort of how they interact with their clients. There's also a component of advisors in the business who host events and are out in front of people and they're mixing and mingling and they're doing things that way. There's obviously the backend of the website and all of the technology to welcome clients in digitally. But there's also a Facebook page and that's primary, the main sort of social component of the whole thing. That fits the brand and that fits the advisor's strengths for what's going on.
But if someone doesn't want to be out doing events or they don't want to be necessarily on video, there's plenty of other things that you could do to fit that individual component. And so that may be YouTube, that may be email marketing, that may be Google advertising. That may be just improving your SEO using marketing strategies to rank higher in your geographic area. So there's so much that we could literally probably just spend a week talking about all of the facets alone, but I think it would be just waste of time because I think that it's so, so important for that advisor, whoever's listening to this, to really realize what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, and focus on the strengths and double down on those things instead of just relying solely on those referrals.
Bryan Sweet: Yeah, I think that's excellent, and I can relate back to myself when I first got started in all the different things that we're doing today, and I would just tell you, it was new and scary and I was really nervous to even try. And maybe you could add your thoughts or comments for somebody that's in that camp and they've got some business coming in from referrals or they do an event and they're comfortable with that, and all this other stuff is kind of scary. So is there something that you could add or a step to at least get them over the hurdle to maybe reach out and try something new?
Draye Redfern: Yeah, so that's a great sort of followup question. I think that in general, most advisors need to become comfortable with testing. You could have the smartest marketing mind in the world. You could have all of these things figured out on paper, but it's the client or the prospect who knows best. And so the thing that I could recommend the most is that, and we do this all of the time across all of our clients, across all of the businesses that we're involved in, is just test. And the main thing that we refer to often is called split testing. So try a direct mail campaign and maybe you do a different headline. Or if you want to do a digital campaign with, maybe it's like an eBook, or a checklist, or some sort of download, you test the headline. And there's a variety of softwares out there. We can include a lot of the ones that we recommend in the show notes because I'd hate for this podcast to be listened to six months, or a year from now, or two years from now and have inaccurate information as far as what we're saying. But we'll keep the show notes up to date with the stuff that makes it easy to test. That way the audience can more or less have that as a resource to refer to.
But I think the main idea here when it comes to marketing is it's important to know, like I said, what your strengths are. But then once you do that and you go down that path, whether that's direct mail, or YouTube, or Facebook, or Google, whatever it is, just be comfortable with some things working, some things not, and constantly what I call innovating and iterating, where you're constantly going come up with new ideas, and some may be better than others, and you just create iterations of the stuff that works and you dump the stuff that doesn't work. And we're not talking about massive at cost investments here, we're talking about, 20 or 40 or $80 at a time sometimes to test these things. So it's a very reasonable amount of money, but it also gives you a lot more confidence in what you're doing and what you're building as you progress through all of these new marketing efforts.
Bryan Sweet: I think that's really well said. And as you get more comfortable and you test things and try things, that'll also give you the confidence to reach out and do something new. And as you gain confidence, that also gives you the courage to keep trying things. And you'll be surprised how many things that happen, and opportunities that come, and leads that you get just by being different and reaching out and trying different messaging. And it actually is very helpful in honing your actual branding message that you might even have on your website. Because the more you learn about what kind of clients you work best with and who you represent best, the more narrow you can get that focus, that's good in all of your marketing efforts. And the more you can get your name, and brand, and image, and who you represent best out to the public, and the more sources you can do it through, the quicker the new business will come in, the quicker people will be familiar with who you are, and how you are different, and "Why should I go contact Sweet Financial?" Or whoever your firm is, and just set yourself up for expanded success the more you do this.
Draye Redfern: And to add on top of that, I think that as the business progresses, you become more and more aware or comfortable with your avatar. And an avatar in the marketing world, isn't that fuzzy green alien from the ... or blue alien from that James Cameron movie. It's your ideal client. It's who resonates with you. It's who interacts with your messaging. It's who identifies with you, feels like the second they read your messaging, they know you, they like you, they trust you. And for Sweet, that's very well defined as a brand.
But for some of those advisors who may be starting out, maybe they're in the first three, five, even upwards of 10 years in their practice, and that avatar isn't necessarily well defined, that's okay. This can help with all of that because early on as you're going, you may have taken a piece of business over here and over there and maybe you're doing things that you don't necessarily like anymore, but as you go down this path, you begin to get really, really clear on who identifies with you, what is the messaging that that person likes to hear or resonate with. And then it really helps you as a brand almost niche down further. And as you niche down further, you create more of those differentiations. You create all of those facets that allow you to be compared to differently than all of the other advisors in your geographic region.
And so going through this process isn't just innovating and iterating your ads, or your platforms, or your social stuff, whatever you may be doing there. It also helps to clarify for you, as the business owner, who that client is, how you communicate with them, how they like to be communicated to, and how your messaging can best reference with them or relate to them. And so this process of going through and testing, and innovating, and iterating is just, it's so valuable, I think for any advisor, regardless of where they are in their career. And as I said earlier, it really helps to kind of remove that facet of like, "Well, we're keeping all of our eggs in one basket. It's the referral basket and we're never going to have an issue and referrals are always going to flow." Because we all know something's happened, markets go up, markets go down, referrals flow in and out. You don't want to be stuck in that bad side of things.
Brittany A: So as you guys were talking, I actually got to thinking about something. I would say it's probably a safe bet to state that as a financial advisor, you probably did not get into this business to be a marketing expert, right? That's probably not why you're here.
Bryan Sweet: Touché.
Brittany A: Right. So the thing I want to comment is, Draye, as you are talking, you used some terms that are super fluid to you because you are a marketing expert. But one of the things that came out was SEO. And I just want to back down or take a step back for a minute, because I think that part of the reason that we don't expand our knowledge or jump into kind of a new area that feels a little bit like uncharted territory, is because we are afraid to ask the question of what do you mean? Right? What does that word mean? I'm going look stupid if I raise my hand and say, "Hey, I'm not following you here." So search engine optimization, that is what SEO is. Draye, can you just explain a little bit more about why that's important and essentially how people can maximize that to draw that ideal avatar that you were talking about?
Draye Redfern: Yeah, it's a good catch Brittany. And you're exactly right. I do talk about these things sometimes and I miss some of that. So search engine optimization is basically what the Googles or the Bings or all of those major search engines do to rank your site. Now all of these sites have bots, little just crawler programs that essentially go through pages on the Internet and rank you based on keywords.
And so for example, we see often many advisors are struggling to rank high, or on page one or even two or even three of Google because their site isn't necessarily doing them any favors. And so the idea here is, with search engine optimization, is that you want to be on the first page of Google or somewhere on that first page, whether you're on the map, or whether you're in the search results, for your name and a variety of topics in your area. So for example, if you were to search, "women in transition," or "financial advisors for women," there's a variety of these search terms that Sweet Financial would rank for in their area.
And there's a variety of ways that that occurs. So the first one would essentially be of having content on the site in the form of blogs, or articles, or downloads, just general content that an individual can read. And what happens is these bots go to the site and they pick up these keywords and they understand that it's Sweet Financial and the domain and all of these things and they slowly start to work that page and that website higher and higher and higher in the search rankings. And so these things, you put a blog post up, you can't expect results on page one on Google overnight. Sometimes it takes three months. We've seen upwards of a year to really rank higher in these sorts of things. But it's important if you want to have more of that market share.
And for the advisors out there who were really doing well, what they're doing is they have ... they know their avatar. They know who their client is, and they know what those segments are. And so when you search for a financial advisor in their area, there's a variety of niches that may own page one of Google because you've got the blog posts out there or the content and all of these sorts of things. The problem with this, and I recognize this, is that many advisors don't want to put a blog post out every day, and especially not every week. So there's a variety of resources out there that you can go to do this. We always recommend hiring a great copywriter who can do it. But if you're on a budget, if you're just starting out, there's resources like upwork.com, or Fiverr, F-I-V-E-R-R.com where you can find writers to help you aggregate some of these things to help put content out there.
That's not necessarily saying that you just throw everything at the wall and just hope that your content ranks. You want people to actually enjoy it. You want people to interact with it because Google can tell how long an individual is spent on a page, or if they visit a page and they bounce right off very quickly, they know that your content isn't very great or that you're not really offering solutions for that individual. So if you're going to do it, do it right, but there's a variety of tools and resources out there that an individual can use to help take care of that SEO component.
But that, again, is just one tool in the marketer's tool belt in which you would use. If you really wanted to own page one of Google, and this is not something that I would say an individual would start off with, I would recommend you hire an agency or a marketing firm, or something, have your in house marketing person get trained up on how to do these things. And that would be ... you could have Google ads running so you could basically show up one or two in the first section. You can show it up in the maps, if you have a map section in Google area, and you would show up in one or two or three in the organic ranking down below. And organic is basically just the regular Google search without any ads or people paying for it.
And I've seen advisors do that. It takes time. It takes time to build up the articles and content. You have to pay for the ad side. But what it does in the long run is that, basically, you own more of that real estate if someone is searching for you on page one of Google, and that allows you to capture more business. Now one of the objections we hear to that often is that, "Well we don't want to take every single client, every single person who comes in the door via an online strategy like this. May not be our ideal client." And that's fine. And that's where, I think, Brittany can talk to at great lengths, how you can basically weed through some of these individuals to make sure they're the right fit with your firm, to make sure that you identify the goals are very clear. But the purpose of your marketing is to try and weed out as much of that as possible, bring them in the door, have them identify with you, and then it's the internal operations component next that then basically says yes or no into moving down that process of that line.
Brittany A: Draye, I think that you brought up a couple of good points there too and I want to drive this back to just the overall message of what we're talking about today. Because as you can see, when you introduce the marketing to your firm, there are a million different ways to go about this, and there are ways to do it in a very cost effective way if you are on a certain budget, right? But what I want to look at is the bigger picture here. When we look at the money side of things, okay, but money side we're going to talk in a little bit of a grander picture. When you are looking at the valuation of your company, alright, the valuation of your business, here's why all those things that Draye just talked about: hiring somebody that's an expert in the field, hiring somebody to get your search engine optimization up, hiring somebody that knows what the heck they're doing with Google ads. The reason that you invest in this and that you go this direction is that if you go to get a valuation done on your company, you are actually hindering and hurting yourself by being a primarily referral based business.
And again, while I said earlier, I would guess that you did not get into this business to be a marketer, I would also guess that you did not into this business to build it up, create great levels of success, and then just give it away, right? You want to maximize whatever your succession plan is, however you plan to exit or not exit the business. You want to get your money back, right? You want to get a return on investment. So that's why all of these different tactics that Draye's talking about, if you want to maximize your valuation, you need to have three different methods that you grow your business.
One is referrals. Obviously that's still important. We're not telling you that that should go away. That is still a huge, huge effect on your business overall. But you also need to have a good marketing flow and you need to have centers of influence referring business in. So when you talk to the different valuation firms, those are the three categories they tell you over and over again that you need to have business coming in all three of those different methods in order to maximize. So you need that spread. You need to make sure that you're implementing these different things so that you can get your return on investment just like you help clients with.
So I want to say too, Bryan, when you look at kind of why you even started going this direction, right? Why did you start really dive into the marketing? What do you think most heavily influenced you there?
Bryan Sweet: Well, that's a great question. I think if I think about that, it's several things. I've always been kind of a student of the business and always wanting to learn and get better and also try to learn from those that are aware. I'd like to be more successful. So I've gotten in the habit over the last 20 plus years to belong to a lot of great organizations. Some call them mastermind groups, but you could call some of them study groups. I'm actually in all of those and I will tell you that by doing that, first of all, you get outside of your realm of comfort in the group of people that you deal with. And if you're in a particular company or broker dealer, you just get exposed to thoughts and ideas that I would say can be really out of the box. They get you to think differently, give you a different mindset. And I will tell you that is so, so valuable.
I'm in a couple of different mastermind groups. You might have heard of a couple. Strategic Coach I've been in for 22 years. The last three years, I've been in the Genius Network. Just the people that you get exposed to and the ideas that you can share just cause you to think differently and you get exposed to people like Draye Redfern and other people that you could ask questions of and all of a sudden an idea pops up and you go, "Hey, that would be helpful for my business. How do I incorporate that?"
Even a study group, and anybody can get together five or six guys from the same company, or people that you know in the industry, and start a study group where you can share ideas on marketing and things like that. And I would just tell you it's just such a great, great way, and we'll also be talking about this in next week's topic in a lot more detail, but just get exposed to things that are outside your comfort level by joining these outside firms is just amazing.
Brittany A: Yeah, I think Bryan, that's just, I think that's what's helped our exponential growth at Sweet Financial. I mean I think that's been huge. Not just the growth of the business, but the growth of us as individuals, right? And I think that's what a lot of this boils down to is you have to be better to get better. You have to be more to get more. So I think that's huge.
So Draye, I want to go back to you and just because you are our mastermind on marketing, is there anything else that you'd like to add just as we kind of wrap up today's conversation?
Draye Redfern: So there's ... I mean I think with marketing, we're in this world where, with so many other things, a sales strategy could be golden for 10 or 15 or 20 years. Nothing wrong with that. With marketing, technology is moving so fast, and I think Bryan and Brittany have both touched on it, where it's just you got to get with this idea of being around people, and try different things, and put yourself out there, and figure out what works and what you sort of identify with. The key thing with marketing, as I said, is just get used to the idea of coming up with ideas, innovating and iterating. And there's, I would guess, probably dozens, if not hundreds of marketing firms in your area, wherever you may be in the country or the world, that could help you with these things. You probably don't need to know all of the facets of a campaign. I think it's important to understand the high level stuff, but you don't need to worry about whether this split test is working, or whether this particular language or headline is going to be ... going to convert better, whether this color is going to work better. Don't get yourself too down in the weeds. It's not your responsibility to worry about all of that. You're the financial advisor, you're the CEO, you're the whatever role you play in your organization, not necessarily marketing.
So while it's important that we address this, we give you some of those information and tools, it's ultimately not something that should probably fall on your shoulders. It's something that you should have someone else in your company handle or have another outside firm that you can rely on that you can use to help implement this stuff. But I think it's worth talking about it because if you don't know about it, then it's really difficult to know what I need or where I should go as an advisor, who to turn to or what to even ask for. And I think just by listening to this, and maybe you go back and listen to it a few times, there's plenty of little nuggets in there that will allow you to identify with the marketing, or with the resources, or with even the company that may resonate most with you when it comes to marketing your advising practice.
Bryan Sweet: Yeah, I think the key, Draye, is just, you got to commit to taking the first step, whatever that might be. And it really doesn't matter what it is. If you find something that you think might be of interest, take the first step, get your feet in the water, and the rest will kind of calm as you do it. I mean that's kind of how we've done it. Now we're in every phase of marketing. But we took it slow, but we at least took the action steps to get started. And obviously it meant lots of learning curves, and good and bad things, and things like that. But that's true with anything you try new is, it's not going to work 100% the first time. But it's not going to work at all unless you at least take that first leap into it.
Draye Redfern: That's right, and just getting ... I like to say it's just getting comfortable in the uncomfortable. It's just pushing yourself out there, putting yourself out there, trying different things. And again, the budgets don't have to be massive. The spends don't have to be massive. Just figure out what works for you. Just the easiest thing that I would challenge the audience with is just try something new each week. It doesn't have to be a massive, massive action. It doesn't have to be a whole new Facebook campaign each week, but just something new each week that maybe puts you a little bit outside of your comfort zone to allow you to just rely a little bit less on referrals every month.
So all of that being said, we hope you got a lot of value out of this episode on marketing. And in the next episode we're going to take a much deeper dive into what a lot of what Bryan talked about in just a little bit ago, on big thinkers and the groups to surround yourself with that really help you push those boundaries that make you think bigger, challenge you as an individual, and really help you level up your advising practice. So we'll see you in the next episode.
Hey there, Draye Redfern here. And before you go, we just wanted to say thank you for listening to this week's episode of the Ultimate Advisor Podcast. If you enjoy this episode, then please subscribe to the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or Spotify, and be sure to rate us five stars on iTunes. Because when you do, you'll be entered into a monthly drawing for our Ultimate Advisor Coaching Program, which is a $2,000 value. And if you would like to access more of the show notes, additional resources, and our free premium content, then please visit ultimateadvisorpodcast.com. We look forward to seeing you in the next episode of the Ultimate Advisor Podcast. We'll see you there.