Sure, it can be expensive to invest time and money in technology and multimedia tools, and there’s no guarantee they’ll work as well as you hope, but advisors who don’t keep up will soon be left far behind. Tips from these media-savvy advisors who maximize the value of the media tools they use will help you get started.
The idea of investing a chunk of hard-earned profits in media tools, some largely unproven in the advisory space with no guarantee they’ll deliver results, doesn’t disturb Janet Pack as much as the thought of what might happen to her practice if she doesn’t keep pushing the media envelope.
“Media and technology don’t scare me,” says Pack, who heads Senior Care Alliance, a retirement planning practice in Tacoma, Wash., that specializes in estate, long-term care and Medicare planning. “Not having enough business scares me!”
The fear that the prospect pipeline might run dry is part of what motivates Pack and advisors like her to keep pumping resources into media tools, whether it’s traditional channels such as radio or newer or emerging vehicles such as social media, webcasts and the like. “I’m always looking for something new,” she says. “You just keep your eyes and ears open and do the research to find what works.”
From a weekly radio program to a downloadable e-magazine called Your Retirement (also distributed to people on the firm’s email list) to a “live” homepage social media feed on the website, media tools “are something we have made a conscious effort to integrate into every part of our practice,” says Nolan Baker, chief financial officer of the Retirement Guys Network, part of the Retirement Resource Center in Maumee, Ohio. “I counted, and we have 26 ways we use multimedia tools in our practice.”
For advisors like Baker and Pack, tools like these are proving valuable for practice-building, relationship-nurturing and client service enhancement. But in a world where technology and the public’s media preferences can change suddenly and unpredictably, there’s no set formula for how to maximize their value and no guarantee they’ll deliver ROI. It’s up to individual advisors and practices to develop their own distinct approaches to media. “It’s always a moving target to try to find the right mix or balance of tools,” acknowledges Pack. “And it can be expensive trying things that don’t work.”
You may not be inclined to use media 26 ways like Baker and fellow Retirement Guy Mark Clair. But in a media-driven world, you can’t afford not to use at least some of the tools available to you. To avoid expensive missteps, here’s a look at some of the approaches media-savvy advisors have found most effective to maximize the value of the media tools they use.
1. Investigate your options, both traditional and new
The Retirement Guys homepage alone houses a live social media feed, links to Twitter and Facebook, along with links to a blog, news, free audio CDs and downloadable reports on retirement-oriented subjects, plus the e-magazine and weekly radio show.
It’s part of a strategy to make the website a destination, Baker explains. “We are trying to make it a daily destination for clients.”
Not all advisors have the wherewithal or the inclination to develop such a broad media arsenal. Some are wise to focus on the tools with which they are most comfortable and that make the most sense to use, given their priorities and the types of people they’re targeting. “I haven’t focused as much on social media like Facebook,” notes Pack, “because I don’t believe that’s how I’ll reach the people I want to reach” — mainly retirees and pre-retirees.
Instead, she relies more heavily on traditional media such as a weekly financial radio show and a book she recently wrote, “The 10 Biggest Retirement Mistakes,” augmenting them with new tools such as webcasts, which, she says, “are truly going to become an integral part of advisors marketing themselves” in the near future.
2. Choose tools wisely
Every media vehicle has its strengths and its limitations. Determining the tools that are best for you and your practice begins by asking yourself a question, says Clair: “How are people you are targeting consuming information and media?”
The answer often comes down to target demographics. Baby boomers, Pack points out, “are much more technologically savvy than older retirees,” and thus more inclined to find value in tech and Web-based tools such as webcasts, Web conferencing and social media. Pack has developed a website specifically to offer free, downloadable workbooks and webcasts aimed at retirement-minded boomers. “Having these resources online gives people a chance to check them out on their terms, in their own living room,” she explains.
That site complements her main practice website, where visitors also will find podcasts of her “Smart Retirement” radio programs that air on a local AM station. While lamenting that the airwaves are increasingly “flooded” with advisors offering financial advice, Pack says her radio program remains the focal point of her media strategy. “It just adds so much credibility,” she says.
A radio show serves as a similar centerpiece for Chad Burton, CFP, CEO of New Focus Financial Group, a comprehensive wealth management and financial planning firm with offices in San Mateo, Calif., and Vancouver, Wash. “The most valuable [media tool] for us is still radio,” says Burton, who participates in a daily financial talk show on local radio in Portland, Ore. “The things we do with media we use to complement what we do with radio.”
That includes offering a Twitter link on the firm home page through which visitors can pose questions to Burton, plus links to branded “New Focus on Wealth” podcasts (which are popular, garnering 5,000 to 6,000 views a month, he says), blog posts, a live feed of the radio show to the firm’s pages on various social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.
That mix of media tools, he says, has proven effective at building and serving a boomer-heavy, higher-net-worth client base whose average age is 57.
3. Lay the groundwork by clearly defining your media strategy
To maximize an investment in media tools, it’s vital to develop goals and a plan for using them, because as Pack observes, “they all intertwine and they each serve a purpose.”
Thus, it’s crucial to think throughwhat you want your chosen media vehicles to achieve for you and your practice, the kind of information you want to deliver, and the audience to which you want to deliver it. In Burton’s case, it’s about educating the public and helping prospects and clients get comfortable with him and his firm’s expertise.
“We put a lot of resources into media-based educational tools that allow people to get to know us,” he explains, “so by the time they come to our office for a meeting, they’re already comfortable with us.”
For the Retirement Guys, the goals in developing all that content for print, broadcast and digital/online environments are to educate the public, find new prospects, keep the brand highly visible and perhaps most importantly, to keep lines of communication open with clients, Baker says. “The biggest reason we use all these [media] tools is to stay connected with clients.”
4. Be willing to invest time and resources to support that strategy
“Mark and I have a genuine passion for [media],” Baker acknowledges. While it may be difficult to rival the passion and breadth of the Retirement Guys’ media embrace, it’s important to dedicate enough time and resources to give these media vehicles a chance to succeed.
“You have to budget for these things,” says Pack. “A lot of people in this business are reluctant to put their profits into media and marketing.”
It’s about budgeting time as well as money, adds Baker. “Mark and I have dedicated time on our schedules to coordinate media.”
They also have a dedicated person on staff — one with broadcast media and journalism experience — to help coordinate multi-faceted media campaigns so they stay on-message and true to the brand. “It’s really important to keep a consistent message across all our media channels,” Baker says.
“It’s important to have a key person or people on staff” to handle the responsibilities that come with managing many of these media tools, echoes Clair. And if staff can’t handle them, find a reliable third party to do so. There are many entities that provide advisors with those types of outsource services.
5. Be open-minded
If there’s a common thread to how Pack, Burton and the Retirement Guys approach media tools, it’s a willingness to experiment and adapt. Communications tools that worked well a decade or two ago, like printed newsletters for example, may lose their effectiveness, while others, like webcasts, gain impact. Burton, for instance, has begun relying more heavily on online conferencing via the GoToMeeting app to meet with clients. “A lot of busy people today just don’t want to spend the time to drive to your office,” he says.
6. Don’t go content-crazy
Offering fresh content is important, but for the sake of efficiency (and your own sanity), look to repurpose content for multiple media vehicles. “It’s our goal not to recreate the wheel over and over again,” explains Baker.
Web-based solutions such as Hootsuite, Everypost and Buffer are available to push content to multiple social media platforms, for example. Content developed for a newspaper article can be transformed into a blog post, and vise versa.
7. Keep compliance front of mind
Being active with media tools means “you have to be very careful with compliance,” says Burton. In particular, he points to the “cyber audits” the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission conducts of firms’ online activities, including content on websites, social media and more. Besides SEC guidelines, advisors also must comply with FINRA rules governing online content and engagement.
Those regulations make documentation, record-keeping and archiving particularly important, according to Burton. To handle compliance responsibilities, his firm not only has invested in content archiving solutions such as PageFreezer, it has sent its operations manager to gain designation as an investment advisor certified compliance professional (IACCP).
The extra time and money it takes to produce, distribute and parse media content for compliance is well spent, asserts Pack, if it helps keep the pipeline full. “I want too many people to talk to, because if I have that, I’ll always be ahead of the game.”