From the July 2003 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Media Mogul

An advisor who's been there tells you how to promo

In today's challenging economy, the last thing on the minds of many financial professionals is getting new clients. Instead, most advisors are burying their heads in the sand, trying to avoid the phone calls and hoping just to hold onto the clients they have. Many advisors are working too hard for too little money, catering to high-maintenance, low-profit clients. If this sounds familiar, you may be surprised to know that now is actually the best time to attract that coveted and elusive affluent client.

But first we have to acknowledge three emerging trends. First, most financial professionals want to work with fewer, more profitable clients. These professionals are trying desperately to move "up-market" and capture what they consider to be their "ideal client." However, few advisors know how to accomplish this goal.

Second, the investing public is developing an unquenchable thirst for intelligent and relevant financial information to help them make better investment decisions and protect their hard-earned money. The media, responding to the needs of their audience, searches daily for financial professionals who can translate the news from Wall Street to those on Main Street in an easy-to-understand way.

Third, those aforementioned "ideal clients" are becoming more elusive. They want to work with someone they feel they already know and someone whose approach they can trust, i.e., someone they view as "the expert." And who's more of an expert than the financial professional they see in the media three times a week?

As an advisor, it's time for you to integrate these three trends into your marketing plan, and become the recognized financial expert in your local buying area.

Moreover, there is no better time for financial professionals to establish themselves as the experts people can trust for timely financial information. If you have what it takes and are willing to do some legwork, you can leverage free media exposure to gain visibility, enhance credibility, and drive greater profitability.

Envision Your Ideal Practice

Think for a moment about why you first became a financial advisor. You probably had a picture--a vision--for your practice. Envision that ideal practice. If you could do it over again, how would you market yourself? You probably didn't picture yourself making cold calls for the rest of your career. Did you envision a top-producing practice: a career that's working for you instead of you working for it? Do you want clients who refer you to their friends, and prospects who call you?

What about your ideal client? Think through your top five current clients--people who are not only profitable for your practice but with whom you also enjoy working. What are their ages? Occupations? Net worth? What kind of unique problems do they face? What challenges do you help them overcome? Once you've determined who your ideal clients are, you can determine how to effectively reach them through the media.

In his book, The Millionaire Mind, Thomas J. Stanley provides some telling insights into what millionaires do. He found that the top four lifestyle activities of millionaires are as follows:

1. Socializing with children or grandchildren.

2. Entertaining close friends.

3. Planning investments.

4. Studying investment opportunities.

Clearly, affluent prospects do their research. They watch the news on television and listen on radio, they read the newspapers, and they look for market trends and new investment opportunities. They prefer to work with professionals they feel they can trust, not overbearing salespeople. Wealthy people want to feel that they have options, and are highly receptive to a fee-based financial planning relationship. These are the clients you want in your practice, and you can attract them by appearing in the media and gaining their trust as a financial expert.

Understanding Your Primary Outlets

Let's take a look at the four primary forms of the media and the pros and cons of each one for advisors.

Television: TV has many advantages as a media format. Depending on the station, the medium reaches thousands or even millions of viewers. It allows prospects to "meet" you electronically before they've met you in person. It gives you the opportunity to get your message across in easy-to-understand sound bites. Television also has unique challenges. It requires you to be comfortable in front of a camera, flexible, and to think on your feet. You must look natural and poised, not nervous or panicked.

Radio: Radio can reach a vast audience, particularly during peak drive-time hours. It sports a conversational, easy-to-understand style, and lends itself to call-in question-and-answer sessions. Like television, radio also demands that you be prepared and comfortable, and while people aren't able to see you sweat on the dial, they can still hear the nervousness in your voice. You can speak from scripted material but you must still sound natural and convincing while doing so. If you have a deep or particularly resonant voice, radio may be the format for you.

Print: Print media, whether newspapers, magazines, or newsletters, also offers advantages and challenges. Obviously, you can prepare in advance for a column you're writing. Even if you're being interviewed, though, you can prepare your remarks ahead of time. Depending on the circulation of the publication, you may be reaching a wide audience, though if your comments appear in a national publication, much of that audience will be inaccessible to you as clients. You can, however, request reprints of the publication and circulate those to potential clients, which will provide you with increased credibility in their eyes. Writing a column, of course, requires some degree of skill that you may not possess.

Internet: The Internet offers a huge potential audience with unlimited access to your information. Again, many of the people who may be reading what you've posted may not be potential clients. But if you're quoted on a respected, well-known financial news Web site, your visibility and credibility will increase. Again, you can always bookmark the page you're quoted on and send it as a link on an e-mail to clients and potential clients.

Linking Advertising to Sales

If you watch prime-time television, you're likely to see commercials for several different financial services firms. Why do they spend so much money on ads? They do so to create awareness of their companies in the minds of viewers. However, the problem with advertising is that it's often overlooked as clutter. We frequently change the channel or leave the room during commercials. While we may remember a certain commercial or the company that sponsored it, we don't necessarily feel inspired to go out and immediately buy a product or service from that company. When you see a commercial for financial planning, in particular, you typically don't run to the Yellow Pages and call to schedule an appointment. Financial services is a relationship business. People don't buy the commercial; they buy a relationship with a trusted advisor. The point is that while awareness may be created on the national level through advertising, consumer buying decisions are made on the local level--that's where advertising and sales are connected and why a local media relations campaign is so critical.

As an advisor, when you appear in the media, you're part of the news, not an advertisement. That's the beauty of effective media relations. Moreover, a media relations campaign can be conducted at a fraction of the cost of paid advertising, and is usually more effective.

This doesn't mean that a media campaign is destined to immediately raise your revenues or increase your profits. The goal of media relations is to build "mindshare" among consumers--to build name recognition and trust. With each appearance, you are building credibility in the eyes of your audience, and you are increasing the likelihood that they will call on you when they need financial advice. The results may not be immediate, but you'll be sowing the seeds of recognition and trust in the minds of your future clients, until you become their natural choice for an advisor.

The Media Multiplier

Would you rather have your message broadcast to one person or to thousands of people at once? How long would it take you to physically meet with 1,000 people? If you met with each person for only 30 minutes, for eight hours a day, five days a week, it would take you over three months. But if you appear as a guest on a television or radio broadcast, or if you're interviewed in an article for a newspaper or Web site, you can reach that many people in just three to four minutes each time the program is broadcast, the paper is read, or the site is visited. Mass media allows you to efficiently convey your message in a way that lets you work smarter, not harder.

Becoming known as an expert in the media takes a full and total commitment on your part. Consider your own role as a consumer. Before you begin noticing people in the media, before you can remember their names and begin to trust what they say, you must see them multiple times. Would you invest your life savings with someone you've seen once on television? Neither would an affluent client. Keep that in mind as you consider your own involvement in the media. Over time, if you can begin to regularly appear in the media and leverage it to your advantage, you will reap the rewards.

The media isn't for everyone. It requires a sacrifice on your part, whether that's arriving at a news studio for an interview at the crack of dawn, having your schedule interrupted when a reporter calls, or staying on top of your field on a daily basis. If you can't handle that sacrifice, then you may want to consider other ways to grow your business.

What Are Your Strengths?

In order to be successful in the media, you need to discover which format you feel most comfortable with: television, radio, print, or the Internet. It may be one or two of these media outlets, or you may be able to handle all of them with ease. Whatever your situation, you'll typically discover one media format that you most enjoy and that really showcases your ability to communicate effectively with your target audience.

The following questions will help you uncover your strengths and help you match those strengths to the best media format. Not only will these questions help you identify the media category which you may enjoy the most, but they will also help you identify which categories make you feel most uncomfortable and nervous.

1. Do you enjoy being in front of people? Why or why not?

2.Do you speak well? How do you know?

3.Do you enjoy writing? Are you goodat it?

4.When you need to speak to someone, do you prefer to call them, write an e-mail, or see them face-to-face? Which type of communication are you most confident using?

5.Do you get nervous being in front of people?

6.What would other people say is your strength in communicating?

7.What is your least favorite way to communicate?

Review your answers to these questions, and you should begin to see which media format is most suitable for you. If you excel at communicating face-to-face and in front of people, television may be the best fit. If you communicate best by phone, do radio. And if you prefer to send e-mails to people or to write letters, then the print media may be best. The key is to focus your media energies where you have the greatest chance of success. Use this information to prioritize your media game plan.

Once you've determined who your ideal client is and which media outlets you feel most comfortable with, it's time to mesh those things together. Fill out a chart like the one below:

Under "Local Media Outlets," fill in the specific television or radio stations, newspapers or magazines, and Web sites that you've researched. Then next to each of those outlets, fill in their target audiences. You can get this information from the outlets themselves, either by looking at their Web sites or by contacting their marketing department and asking for a demographic report. Then, based on each outlet's target market, determine whether the outlet is a fit with the ideal clients you want to reach. Another way to help identify which media outlets to target is by asking your clients what news stations they watch or listen to and what newspapers they read.

Breaking Into the Media

In order to be invited to appear in the media, you must first do the legwork. How did I first get into the media? I contacted the news producers and newspaper editors in my local area and told them to call me when they needed a financial expert who could speak in an easy-to-understand way on complex financial topics. Then I gave them a few topic ideas that I could speak on, such as saving for retirement, reducing taxes, and other financial planning strategies. After consistently following up with the producers and editors, a TV station called me for an interview. I prepared well and made the most of my first appearance, and that opportunity led to regular appearances and tremendous visibility in my local area. You can follow these same steps to become the financial expert in your area.

Success in becoming a media mogul takes commitment and persistence, but beyond that the path to success is actually quite simple. Based on my experience, here are the three critical tips for finding media success:

1. Speak only on what you know. Once reporters and producers begin calling you, you may be tempted to accept every opportunity to be quoted or interviewed. But accepting any opportunity that is not in your area of expertise is a huge mistake. Faking your way through an interview just to gain the media exposure poses a great risk to your credibility. Suppose you're asked a question to which you don't know the answer. You might be embarrassed, and you may risk future opportunities by losing credibility with your media contact.

In the same way that you'd want only a gifted specialist to perform a medical procedure on you, the media always wants an expert for their stories. If you are that expert, then by all means take the opportunity. But if you're not, then don't hesitate to decline, or, better yet, refer the person to someone else you know who would be a better source. While it may seem against your competitive instincts to offer your opportunity to someone else, you'll actually be scoring points with your media contact--after all, you helped her get the expert she needed, even if it wasn't you. That will build trust and, when the need arises, that contact will call you in the future.

2. Concentrate on the media outlet that best exploits your strengths. In the beginning, any media exposure is good exposure. But as you begin to build your media campaign, you'll find the most success if you zero in on the outlets that promote your strengths. Take the time to think about the exercise above where you identified your strengths, and then incorporate those answers into your media plan as you decide where to focus your energies.

3. Target the specific media outlets that reach your ideal clients. After filling out the media chart and determining which media outlets will reach the clients you want, consider what message those clients want to hear. What do you have to offer that they need? What makes you stand out as an advisor? What is it about you that will make you their natural choice to handle their investments?

As you create your media plan, your main goal should be to find what you love to do, and then work it to perfection. If you can do that, you'll not only be presenting yourself in an authentic way, but you'll attract the ideal clients with whom you most want to work.

Extend Yourself

Once you've begun appearing in the media, then work on extension marketing. This is where you can parlay your media exposure into other client marketing opportunities, like dinner seminars, where people who already feel like they know you can actually meet you in person and shake your hand. Because the attendees feel they already have a relationship with you, you can focus on answering their questions and building rapport instead of worrying about touting your credibility, which you've already established through the media.

Appearing in the media can create tremendous exposure and excellent opportunities. By learning how to capitalize on that exposure, you'll have the potential to make big money. Through hosting seminars, speaking to organizations and companies, and being involved in the community, you can leverage your media exposure and translate that into more clients and higher profits for your practice. When people connect the media personality to the reassuring smile and confident handshake, that's when your media campaign comes together and the money begins to flow.

Stay in Compliance

Finally, as you begin your media initiatives, it's important to work closely with your firm's compliance and communications departments and be aware of their rules and regulations. Most firms won't have a problem with your appearances as long as you're getting across the company's message and values, and not making outlandish promises. I've found the most common requirements for interviews is to regularly send videotapes of your appearances or a copy of the newspaper in which you were quoted to your compliance department. Remember, compliance is there to help.

Here's the bottom line: Affluent clients are worried about their money, baby-boomers are retiring with lump sums, and investors want to make the best decisions for their hard-earned dollars--and all these factors suggest that now is the time for you to be the media's financial expert in your local buying area.

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