When I started reading his marketing pitch, my heart sank. I wanted to like Larry Chambers's new Attraction Marketing program for financial advisors, I really did. I've known Larry for about 15 years, as a colleague and a friend. He wrote more articles than I can count for me in my editing years, has been a columnist for this magazine,
and has been the publishing brains behind some of the industry's leading figures, including John Bowen. And his Death in the Ashau Valley about his experiences in Special Forces in Vietnam is the best book about combat that I've ever read.
What's more, I strongly believe in the precursor to Attraction Marketing, what Larry coined as "credibility marketing," which is branding one's expertise through publishing and mass media.
So when Larry's "Eat, Be Eaten, or Become an Expert in 14 Days," (available as a free download at attractionbuilder.com) started off with "If you're not marketing, you may soon find yourself out of this business," I tried to suppress the groan. Honest. But when he went on to say, "Nothing makes Wall Street firms smile more than hearing [advisors] say: 'I don't need to market; my clients send me all the prospects I need,'" I just had to put my head down on the desk.
But even though I thought the lead-in was off base, I suspected Larry was on to something here, so I kept reading.
This Time Is Different. Really.
Even though the markets have made a substantial recovery from their lows of nearly a year ago, independent advisors have not escaped the public's loss of faith in everything financial services. To regain former asset levels--and take advantage of the virtual collapse of competing advisory options--I suspect independent advisors will have to do a better job of getting out their client-oriented message. Larry Chambers has created an incredibly comprehensive program to help them do that.
From personal experience, I can tell you that the irony of expert branding, or Attraction Marketing as Larry calls it, is that the firms that most need it can least afford it. Writing is labor intensive, as most any advisor who has attempted to do his own writing can tell you. These days, with firm revenues still down and client workload up, finding additional time to write a blog, a newspaper column, or heaven forbid, a book, is not realistic for many advisors.
A good writer who knows the financial industry can greatly shorten your time commitment, but they're pretty rare, and consequently, not cheap. Less expensive writers aren't hard to find, especially in this economic environment. But the extra time it takes to fully explain your points, and painstakingly review multiple drafts for errors, usually negates any upfront savings. What's worse, poorly written pieces aren't nearly as likely to produce the marketing results you're looking for.
There's the real rub: Writing is just like managing an investment portfolio: anyone can do it, and lots of people try, but the record shows that very few can do it effectively. Writing the right stuff, in the right way, and getting it published in the right publications is the key to attraction marketing, and to do it successfully, you have to know what you're doing.
Enter Larry Chambers and his Attraction Marketing program. It's by far the most comprehensive program ever developed to help financial advisors brand themselves as experts.
Beginning with the Attraction Marketing Workbook: Shifting from Pursuit to Pursued, Larry's created a dozen workbooks, designed to take you, the advisor, through every step of branding yourself as an expert, from finding your value proposition, to turning your practice into a story, to creating the one graph that captures what you're all about, to a game plan to get your book published. It's literally a comprehensive and detailed collection of a career's worth of wisdom about how to create financial books and articles, how to get them published, and how to maximize the marketing bang when you do.
Perhaps the best part is that Larry avoids the traditional publisher's mistake of charging a mint because these are "professional books." Most of the Attraction Marketing books run between $20 and $40, with a 50% discount for downloading electronic versions. If you want to do your own writing, it's the best value you'll find, anywhere.
One Day at a Time
As I mentioned earlier, the essence of Larry's program is laid out in a small book titled Eat, Be Eaten, or Become an Expert in 14 Days, in which he provides a specific task or two for each day. For instance, on Day One, your assignment is simply to decide to market yourself as an expert. Of course, to do that, you need to be an expert, which Larry walks you through, citing the dictionary definition of an expert as: "a person with a high degree of skill or knowledge of a certain subject."
He follows the definition by concluding: "Hey, we can all qualify for that one." Maybe so, but I don't think that's giving financial advisors enough credit. In fact, in my experience, financial advisors often give themselves enough credit.
Not coincidentally, I was making this very point to one of my advisor clients the other day. In her marketing pitch for her firm's portfolio management strategy, she includes a line that goes: "What we do isn't rocket science, anyone could do it if they wanted to take the time, but most people don't want to take the time."
Wrong, wrong, wrong. From an advisors' perspective, it's not rocket science, because they've spent their entire career (in her case, 25 years) amassing knowledge about how investments, the markets, the economy, and most importantly, the financial services industry, all work. But from the typical financial consumer's perspective, it's virtually brain surgery. Left to their own "judgment" and the mercy of the financial services industry, most people who direct their own retirement portfolios have about as much chance attaining their goals as they do successfully extracting their own brain tumors.
The people who do manage their own way to a satisfactory retirement usually succeed because over their careers, they've earned three times the amount they really needed. They've been fleeced, but just don't know it.
The point is, as a successful, experienced independent advisor, you are an expert at helping people navigate the pitfalls of the financial services industry. (And if you don't fall into this category, you should be working for someone who does until you do, too, rather than building your chops on your clients' Benjamins.)
You provide expert solutions to problems that people desperately want to solve. You just have to let them know it. Larry, then, goes on to hit the nail dead center when he points out that to grow an advisory firm beyond the traditional stream of referrals, you have to dedicate yourself to letting the world know you are an expert.
His "Day Two" section on Crafting a Unique Value Statement lands squarely on another key point: "...your value statement must focus on what's in it for the customer. It shouldn't be focused on you or your company." I'm not sure why, but most people have a real hard time with this one. I suppose it's easier to talk about your firm and your investment philosophy, but that doesn't resonate with most people.
It resonates with journalists like me, because I've heard about thousands of practices, so if you're doing something unique, I'll know it. But the average potential client has no way to know whether your firm is different than other firms, or assess your investment strategy (that's something that only another investment professional would appreciate). But they do understand their own problems and the challenges they face. If you can demonstrate that you're an expert at solving their problems, they'll seek you out to be their advisor.
The 14-day program goes on to suggest buying the leading books already published in your area, querying trade magazines to publish your articles, producing free seminars, actually writing articles (to be published and/or handed out at seminars or to prospective clients), finding the one graphic that illustrates your expertise at a glance, building relationships with editors, and upgrading your Web site to brand your expertise.
You may need some help doing some of these projects (which you can get in his other publications), but it's a comprehensive and concise roadmap for how to let people know about your expertise--so they'll seek you out, rather than the other way around. If you're inclined to brand your own expertise, there is literally no better how-to source. Larry's best advice, though, comes in the program's middle entry: "Day Seven--Rest." It's a strategy used by an even bigger expert than financial advisors.
Bob Clark, former editor of this magazine, surveys the advisory landscape from his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.