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December 31, 2019

The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Blog-Based Content Marketing

How do you create a content marketing strategy as a Financial Advisors that really works?

In this article we’ll be taking an in-depth look at an effective strategy that’s centered around written content on your blog. Your blogging creates the core of your strategy. It’s the driving force behind it. In other words, without it, any strategy that you create has no direction, no purpose, and no goal.

Now, the word strategy means different things to different people. Some people think it means a “plan.” Others think it’s about planning for implementation. And, around here, we like to think of strategy as the activities you engage in to get from where you are now to where you want to be (and how all the internal and external realities of your business will influence your choices).

For instance, if you decide that you want to travel from Los Angeles to New York, you have to decide whether to fly, drive, take the train, or go on a very long cruise through the Panama Canal. You have to plan what clothing to take. When you want to leave and when you want to get there. You have to decide how long you intend to be there. Is it for a week, a month, or are you moving there? If you’re driving, then you need a map. If you’re flying, then you need to figure out how to get from your house to the airport. If you’re taking the train, then you probably will need to go online to find out what’s available. And if you’re planning to take a cruise, then you’ll need to contact the company that provides that service.

But, you won’t be able to just sit there in your living room, close your eyes, and imagine getting there. Because when you open your eyes, you’ll still be in your house, sitting there in your living room. So planning is key, but by itself it’s not enough.
In order for your plan to work you have to implement it. You have to do what you decided to do. I know that sounds really obvious, but I wouldn’t be saying it if most people did it.

The truth is, they don’t.

They talk about how great it will be when they get there, but they never take the steps that are necessary to make the journey. You can plan from now until the last day of your life, but if you don’t do anything about it, nothing will change. You can have the perfect plan, but if you do nothing, you won’t go anywhere. Will Rogers famously said “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

How could that possibly be? It’s because there are others who are implementing their strategy and they’ll walk right over you. You have to decide if you’re going to get going, or become a doormat for those who do.

Optimizing Your Strategy by Evaluating Your Results

There’s another element to creating strategy, and many Advisors overlook this. Even big firms quite often fail to do this. It’s that you have to evaluate your results. Big firms look at the results, but they rarely attribute failure to achieve those results to a flaw in their strategy. Usually they blame their employees for not implementing it. But, at the end of the day, it’s the lack of implementation that they blame.

But there’s another side of this you need to think about. If your strategy is flawed, you can implement it all you want, and still not get the results that you’re striving for. That’s the part which is most often overlooked.

That’s why you’re about to learn not only create that strategy, but, also how to implement it.

You have to make sure that you have the right foundation, and practical structure, but you also have to have a plan in place so you’ll be able to do it. You will have to revise both of these constantly in order to reach your goals.

What’s the Real Purpose of Content Marketing?

Content marketing should have a clearly defined goal. For Advisors, the most likely goal is to attract targeted prospects to you. Something we online marketers commonly refer to as “driving traffic” to you. Now we’re not talking about compelling masses of people to your website. No, what we want to do is “attract” them rather than to “drive” them. In other words, it would be something that they want to do – rather than something that they feel they have to do.

What do you suppose makes you attractive to your prospect? The short answer is that it’s your expertise. They want to know that you can solve their financial problems more effectively than anyone else. In fact, that’s what they’re looking for. They’re looking for an expert. That means that if you want them to choose you, then you have to not only be the expert, but you have to be seen as that expert.

I want to be sure that you understand this distinction, because it’s critical.

No doubt already you’re an expert. You may even be the best Financial Advisor in the world. But if nobody knows that you are, then you’re no more effective than the person who isn’t. You have to be the expert, but you also have to make sure that they know it as well.

In fact, they need to feel that you’re the expert that they’ve been looking for.

Here’s a quick example: In the world of fiction writing, there’s a common saying:”show, don’t tell.” Telling, like it suggests, is all about sharing facts. The classic example is the cliché scene-setting sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Showing on the other hand describes what happens in such a way that you feel it. You draw that conclusion. I don’t have to tell you because it has engaged your emotions. So for example, instead of saying that the night was dark and stormy, you could say that it was a moonless night, you’re up to your ankles in water, your hat blew off, and the rain stung your face like icicles. That’s showing. When you read that, it makes you want to sit a bit closer to your fireplace, or pull the blanket a little tighter over you.

So, with that in mind, think about all those Advisor websites you’ve seen where you’re told how great and marvelous the Advisors is. They all say that they care about clients, that they’re passionate about what they do, that they’re there to serve, that they adhere to the highest ethical standards, they strive for quality, and so on. But all they’re doing is telling you. And none of us likes to be told anything.

It’s well known that the best way to get somebody to do what you want is to make them think it was their idea. And one way to do that is by showing them the facts and then letting them come to their own conclusions. That’s exactly what you do, that’s exactly how you show your expertise to your prospects. You demonstrate it by doing what experts do. Then when your prospects see what you’ve done, then they conclude that you are the expert you claim to be. But they’ll never believe it if you just tell them.

Your content marketing strategy helps to show your prospects that you’re an expert so they draw the conclusion themselves.

What Do Experts Do?

In the minds of your prospects there’s something that separates experts from amateurs. It comes from demonstrating, that is showing, their expertise. If you want to separate yourself as an expert Financial Advisor from all the other people that are out there, the inexperienced amateurs and generic financial product salespeople, and even the other experts, you do that by showing that you’re an expert.

If you’re a new doctor, you practice medicine.

If you’re a new schoolteacher, you teach.

If you’ve just qualified as a pilot, you fly.

The only difference between someone who’s just starting out, and someone else who’s been doing it for years, is the skill that those people demonstrate over somebody else. But that skill has to be observed. If you weren’t aware of the subtleties between the two, you might not be able to tell the difference.

Let me give you an example:

Some years ago there was a BBC television show that proved how difficult it is to distinguish an experienced expert from someone who wasn’t. The program was about a contest in which several people would conduct a symphony orchestra. Every contestant that was there had studied conducting for years. They attended music conservatories, and they’d all been tutored by the best. All of them except one.

That one had been recruited for the show – I think he was a rock musician. But he didn’t know anything about classical music. I couldn’t believe how naive he was. He had never heard of any of these things, any of these pieces that you and I would instantly recognize. You don’t have to be a classical musician to recognize this stuff. There are some things that are just so common you just know they were written by Bach, or Beethoven, or whatever. This guy had no idea about any of that stuff.

Now you might just think that hey, you know, a musician is a musician. So with a little practice, he could just fake it. He could just pretend he was a conductor and no one would notice. But here’s the kicker – he couldn’t read music! Not a note. He didn’t know a treble clef from a bass clef, let alone a tenor clef. He didn’t know his sharps from his flats. And time signatures? Forget it.
But, over the course of a number of weeks, he memorized not just the music, but the most important thing is, he memorized the pattern of beating time, waving the baton, drawing more volume from one section with one hand, and less from another with the other hand. And he learned how to do it in such a way that he looked like the expert conductor that he would be if he had studied those things. As long as he just heard that one piece, then his brain kicked in and he went through all the motions as if he was conducting it, but he wasn’t. Now if at the last minute music that he was going to conduct had changed for any reason, he would have been lost. But here’s the best part. Since he couldn’t read music, it meant that he had to conduct the entire piece without a score.

I have a music background and I can tell you that it’s quite an achievement for a conductor, no matter how experienced he or she is, to conduct without a score. It’s something that most of them don’t do. In fact, only the very best people are able to do this. And for the amateur it would be useless to him for him to have had a score. It would be crazy for him to have a score up there on the music stand because he never would have known when to turn the pages. He couldn’t read the music, so if had tried to fake it by turning the pages, he would have clearly done it more than once at the wrong time.

Now, at the end of the program, at the end of the television show, the organizers, the people that knew that there was a plant in the contest went up to one of the judges and, and up until that time the judge hadn’t really suspected anything. And they asked them if they could identify the phony. And it was only then that the person who had been planted in the program had been spotted. And you know why the amateur was picked up from all the rest? It was because he was too good. It was because he had conducted the orchestra without music. But until that time, this non expert was assumed to be an expert. Just like the rest of them.

This story teaches us a lot about how prospects evaluate us. They don’t ask us for a job history. They don’t ask us for references. They don’t ask us to prove that we’ve got a degree. All they do is look at what we’ve done. What you’ve done. That means that if you provide the same kind of evidence as the established experts do, then you too will be seen as one by your prospects. That leads us to the next question…

What’s the evidence?

You already know the answer to that. It’s the content. Articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, anything that enables you to communicate your expertise to those who want it.

Why Your Content Must Be High Quality

What separates the content of the established Financial Advisors from the Advisors who are just starting out? Well, volume is one. But so is quality. The two are equally important. Established experts have a lot more content online that those who are just starting out, but they also have something that is meaningful to say. You can create the volume simply by doing a little bit every day, and over time you’ll build up more and more. But each time you do it, it has to be your absolute very best.

Some authors rearrange the same information in a half dozen different ways in order to produce tons of articles. But that doesn’t demonstrate expertise. If anything it just shows how little they actually know. And it also proves they’re not thinkers. You can’t teach deep concepts if you don’t think deeply about them. At best you can only tell people what you’ve learned from others. That raises a number of questions.

For example, where are prospects likely to see your content? Where do you expect them to go? How would they find you?
The standard way that you and I find anything online is by searching for it. That’s why search engines can be so important to your practice. If you can get people to see your content instead of somebody else’s, then you’ll have the best chance of attracting the prospects that you want. It’s at that point that the amateurs are separated from the experts.

Experts, whether they’re established, or just getting started, obtain high rankings by producing more high quality content. Others, however, use every means that they can find because they don’t have high quality content to contribute.

Let me say that again.

Experts, whether they’re established or not, or just getting started, obtain high rankings by producing more high quality content. That’s the name of the game. But amateurs don’t have any high quality content to contribute, so they use every other means they can think of in order to get those rankings.

Did you get that?

If you’re an expert Advisor, you have plenty say about the type of client needs you address, how you approach solving financial problems, your investment or planning philosophy, etc. If you’re an average Advisor, then you don’t. Because the search engines want the highest quality content at the top of their rankings, it means that when you produce it, they will reward you by giving those higher rankings. You just have to produce the content.

Let’s just back up a little bit. Why do you want people to know that you’re the expert?

It’s because you want them to come to your website. And when they visit your site, you then want them to find even more great information, and then join your email list so they can learn a bit more about you, and then eventually schedule time with you… and sign on as a client.

That’s the goal.

You want to help people solve their problems, then they have to buy the financial products and services you offer. They’ll never find out about your products and services if you don’t demonstrate your expertise just like the established experts.

Building Your Content Strategy Around Your Funnel

Let’s recap. We’re looking at how to create a marketing strategy that is centered around your blog. The reason that we’re doing that is so that you can attract targeted prospects to your website. You want them to do that so that they will join your list and become your client so that they can solve their problems. In order for that to happen, they have to believe that you’re an expert. The only way that will happen is if you create a lot of high quality information and put it in a place where they are looking for solutions. So far, so good.

The next step is to think about where to publish your evidence. The search engines have a website displaying search results, but you can’t write for them, you can’t send them an article, blog post, or podcast, and expect them to put it on the first page. Instead, you have to put it where they can find it. So we have to ask this question: where do you want the search engines to find our expert knowledge? Where do you want your prospects to find the information that you’re publishing on the net? The short answer is, everywhere. While that’s a worthwhile objective, you can’t achieve it simply by spreading your content all over the internet.
It has to happen by other means.

Those means, of course, we call marketing. Marketing is nothing more than putting your expertise in front of your prospects. Every time your prospect sees an article, blog post, or video by you, that’s marketing. This is a good place for me to introduce to you a new concept. And it’s central to our discussion of how to create a content marketing strategy.

We call it a marketing funnel.

The shape of it is significant. You’ve heard about funnels before – but maybe you haven’t really thought about it in terms of marketing. Imagine this funnel. It’s wide at the top, and it’s narrow at the bottom. What do you suppose goes into the top? Well it’s all of your marketing activities. Imagine that you’re seeing articles and blog posts and videos and podcasts and interviews and all the rest of it being dumped into the top. Where do you suppose the bottom of that funnel is pointing? It’s pointing at your blog. Every marketing activity that you do, therefore, is designed to attract visitors to your blog. And that’s why your blog is central to your content marketing strategy. Your blog will contain your best information. It will be the hub of your expertise. Just as all roads lead to Rome, all of the online marketing that you do will lead to your blog.

You’re probably wondering why I’ve placed so much emphasis on making your blog the central point rather than an article directory or even your squeeze page. There are a number of reasons for this. For one thing, you want every one of your visitors to join your list. That’s because you have no way of knowing which ones you can help, and which ones you can’t. You won’t be able to find that out until they begin to interact with you.

The second reason is, other platforms, such as article directories, want your traffic. That’s because they want people to visit their websites instead of yours. Yes, they probably provide you with a space for your bio and a link to your website, but they’re not doing it just because they’re nice people. They’re doing it because if they didn’t give you that opportunity, then you would have no reason to share your content with them. But ultimately they want your traffic. In order to get the traffic they want, they have to give you an opportunity to get some as well. They would take your content without giving you any traffic if they could get away with it.

The third reason that you want your blog to be the central point in your strategy is because it’s the one place you can own where you can demonstrate your expertise better than any of the rest.

Why Your Blog Should Be Your Home Base

Suppose that you want to discuss a really controversial topic. Each 3rd party platform has its own “guidelines” or rules. They tell you what you can write about, and what you can’t. They tell you how long, or how short your posts can be. They tell you what you can include about yourself and, usually put a limit on how much you can promote your business.

When you have your own blog, you make your own rules.  With your blog, you can say what you feel needs to be said. You also get to decide when it will be published. You can also decide where to put your content on your blog. If you use guest bloggers, the fact that they write for you just adds to your credibility as an expert.

So your strategy has to be to get your prospects from the search engine results to your blog so that they can read, watch, or listen to the high quality information you have for them. That’s so that they will join your list and eventually move closer and closer to becoming a client so you can help them solve their problems.

That’s the foundation, everything is built on that, everything.

On the one hand you have to get your expertise in front of your prospects. But on the other your expertise has to draw them to your blog so that they can discover for themselves that you’re the expert they need.

Why EVERY Piece of Content Needs to be the Best

Your blog content is the starting point for a new relationship for each and every visitor. Because your content presents them with their first opportunity to meet you.

Think about it like this. The only way the prospects will become aware of your expertise is if they do a search, then click on a link that takes them to something you have done. But it means that no matter how much content you’ve produced, their first impression is going to be with just one small part of it. That’s one reason why everything you do has to be not just the best you can make it, but the best there is.

There’s another part of this that’s even more important: the first article, blog post, podcast episode, whatever it is, it has to speak directly to them. They have to know in their heart that you’ve created that content just for them. That’s because your goal is to begin a relationship with them as soon as they come in contact with you. Then everything that follows will build on that new relationship. You can have no way of knowing which bit of your expertise they’ll come in contact with first. You have to make sure that everything that you create is capable of doing that.

The flip side of that is that if they don’t connect with you for the first time, they probably won’t come back for a second look. This is so important. Everything that you create must be focused on starting that all important relationship.

You can see once they’ve discovered that, and they know that you know what you’re talking about, they’ll start to look for your content elsewhere. They may go back to the search engine results. They may even search on your name. Chances are they’ll eventually find their way to your blog. That’s exactly where you want them to go.

How to Implement Your Content Marketing Strategy

Now that we’ve looked at the structure of your content marketing strategy, we need to think about how to implement it. There’s more to it than just creating a bunch of content and spreading it all over the web and having it all directed to your blog. You have to create a schedule, but you have to plan it before you can implement it.

How do you create a schedule?

Let me say first of all that this is really not about time. I know that sounds a bit strange. What I mean is that, it’s not about the amount of time you spend doing it. It’s about how often you want to publish it. It’s the frequency that will dictate how much you do. That will then tell you how long it will take you to do it. You have to start with how often you want to publish your content.

You need to remember that your blog is the focal point for everything you do. In fact, if you’re writing a content marketing plan, you might want to write that at the top, so that you’ll see it whenever you work on it. It’s really easy to get drawn away from this because to a certain extent all of the different platforms can appear to be equal. What I’m saying is that if you’re not paying any attention you can find yourself directing your blog traffic somewhere else. You always have to remember why you’re doing this.

And, as I’ve already stated, your primary goal is to demonstrate that you’re the expert in your niche. That means that besides distributing content at predetermined intervals, the quantity can never supersede the quality. With those two things in mind, let’s think about how to structure your schedule:

First, how do you want to make your implementation of this strategy look over the next 90 days? Most businesses make plans for 3 months at a time. How do I know this? It’s because they all have quarterly reports.

3 months will give you enough time to identify trends in your niche without getting bogged down in micromanaging it. It will also give you some flexibility. I should caution you too not to be too ambitious in this first quarter. Things have a way of taking a lot longer than you think they will. You’ll want to use this period of time as a step to help you later on. Remember that your blog is your primary platform.

Next, you need to pick one additional platform. That will give you two platforms to start. Three is probably the maximum you can ever expect to do well, once you’re really in the zone, once you’re really able to create content. You should plan to stick with two as you’re getting started.

Choosing an Outpost Platform for Your Content

Which platform, or outpost, aside from your blog should you choose?

That really depends on the medium you plan to use on your blog. If the content on your blog will be primarily text, choose a text based platform, like LinkedIn or Medium. If your content will be video primarily, then choose a video source. YouTube is the second largest search engine online.

Same thing is true for audio. If you plan to make recordings, choose another platform where you can do that. If you publish a podcast on your blog, it can push out to several major directories at once.

You’re probably wondering, why does it matter whether or not there’s any sort of consistency between the two platforms? There are a couple of really good reasons:

The first one is that you are able to create your content much more quickly if you do it that way. So if you are doing all in text, it’s going to be a lot easier to think about it. It’s much easier to think writing, or to think audio, or to think video, that it is to think writing and audio, or writing and video, or audio and video. Each requires slightly different skills, not only to create the content, but also to upload it. Since speed is a critical piece in order for you to be able to create content, you don’t want to ever do anything that’s going to slow you down.

The second reason that you want to have some kind of consistency is that people want to stay with the same kind of medium. It’s not the sort of thing that’s going to be really obvious.

Let me ask you this question: Which do you prefer to consume… text, audio, or video?

If you would rather read in order to learn how would you feel about being forced to watch a video for an hour? Maybe video is your thing, it is for an awful lot of people. The thing is that people who want to watch don’t like to read. I know a lot of people who do not like to read. You can see the problem.

If you mix the media, then the people who want to read probably won’t watch your videos or listen to your audios. People who want to listen probably won’t read what you’ve written. And neither of them will want to watch other things either. That means if you do 2 or 3 in more or less equal amount on your blog, then half or 2/3rds of your visitors won’t get much value out of it. What happens when you go to a website where the majority of what’s on it is of no interest to you? You don’t hang around do you? You leave. Your prospects will do exactly the same thing.

Does that mean that you should never put an audio on your blog if you write for the most part? No, not at all. A little variety is fine. I’ve seen blogs where they have a post, then PDF’s, audios, then video for the post… All created for the same content.
That’s so that the people who prefer one over the other can consume the information in whichever way they want to. But if you do that it means that you’re going to be putting in 2 or 3 times as much work as you are just for the one type. Even if you have the in-house expertise, it probably isn’t a good idea to do this for at least the first 90 days. Remember, you’re still getting your feet wet on this, so there’s no reason to jump into the deep end.

The main thing is to choose what’s going to be easiest for you to do (and the most logical for the type of prospect you want to attract) and make that the #1 way that you use for most of your platforms.

You have 2 platforms, choose the same media.

Plan Your Topics

The next thing in your plan is to decide what topics that you will discuss on your blog. There are a number of ways to do this as well. You could just spend a few hours just dumping ideas out of your brain. If you’re like me it’s going to take more than a day, and probably several. I know, for example that I’m fresher in the morning than I am at any other time of the day. So that’s the best time for me to be creative. If I’m going to do a brain dump, then the first thing in the morning is best and then when I run out of ideas I find that it’s better to leave it to one side for a while. Then I come back to it whenever I want to.
If that’s what you decide to do, then when you’re finished you’ll want to group the topics together so that you can create some kind of organization out of all that chaos.

Another way to identify your topics is to think of a sequence. Maybe each week could be a sequence. Let’s say you dedicate 3 days each week to produce some content, totaling 4 or 5 posts that are all related to 1 thing. And each of those posts would consist of a different subtopic that contributes to that larger one for that week.

For example, suppose you’re writing about retirement planning, and you have one overarching post discussing the big-picture topic. You can then create additional, sub-topic posts coving topics like lifetime income, tax implications, healthcare expenses, and so on.

Lists are also really popular. They show that you know a lot about your topic. And while “top 10” lists might sound appealing, creating longer lists like “37 Things to Consider Before Investing in Stocks” will be far more effective at positioning you and your expert status.

Oh, and if you can think of 101 ways to do something, you can probably write 3 or 4 hundred different pieces of content from just that one list. By answering one of these questions. What, how, and why? What is the topic, how do you make it work, and why does it matter? You can do all that with just 100 ideas.

The second benefit is that it will give all of your readers some value. Most of them will know some of what’s on your list. Most of them will be able to use at least some of what’s on your list. But hardly anyone is going to know all of those 101 ways. That means that in all those different things on your list, there will be almost no one who has tried every single one. Even more importantly, people that come to look at that list, most of them will find that they can use something on there. Almost no one will find that there’s nothing on there of any use to them.

The list of that sort of length will also demonstrate beyond all doubt that you really know your subject matter. And that you probably know it better than anybody else. The only thing that you need to remember is that whatever content you create must show that you’re the expert in your niche.

Once you’ve done all that, then you’re ready to assign topics for each week. Remember that you’re still planning. You don’t want to try to implement any of this until you’re ready. This may seem really tedious, but once you press the button, you don’t want to find out that halfway through you’re stuck because you hadn’t planned something properly. The reason for that is you’re creating a kind of momentum, once that momentum gets started you want to be feeding content into it on a regular basis in order to maintain it.

You need to decide the pattern for discussing your topics on a week by week basis. Feel free to add any other notes that you think might be relevant. Once you finish that you can set it aside for a few days and then come back to it. Take a look at your plans for each week, revise them if you need to.

More Ways To Leverage Your Content

Content isn’t just about attracting and starting relationships with new prospects. It can also be incredibly useful in nurturing relationships with with unconverted prospects as well as reinforcing relationships with existing clients.

Once you have a library of blog content established, you can reference it in meetings, seminars, and emails to your lists, adding educational value to all of your contacts.

Of course, putting a plan together for your content strategy, let alone your ongoing content and direct marketing can be overwhelming. That’s why my team and I exist: to help Advisors like you become more effective at attracting, converting, and retaining clients… systematically. To explore how we can help you, schedule a call with us here.