Happy National Sock Day!

If you’ve been in the audience when I speak or train, you know I love a question-asking-question-answering-all-in-engaged audience. And one of the ways that I “reward” people for their participation is to give away socks—they’re brightly colored, polka-dotted, cozy and high quality.

They’re unforgettable.

During two sessions I recently presented about the client experience at Schwab Impact 2017, I passed out about three-dozen pairs of socks. Yes, three dozen! (Well, the sessions were three hours each.)

Since I can’t give you socks today, I thought I’d share some of the homework and treats from that presentation, titled Out Care the Competition: How to Use the Power of Brand and Client Experience to Differentiate Your Firm.

  • AP Stylebook Cheat SheetI’m a fan of consistency in all things related, including words and punctuation. A clear set of rules makes all the difference. (Not unlike an Investment Policy Statement.) Professional writers and journalists use a style guide that outlines the “rules” about grammar, punctuation and more. I’ve grown up using the AP Stylebook, which contains the nit-pickiest writing and punctuation rules you’ll ever need to know. No need for that book just yet. To help you get started, I’ve created an AP Stylebook Cheat Sheet. Use it to put the final touches on your RFP responses or pitch book. As an example, are you consistent with your use of serial commas? What about setting numbers, such as “ten” or “10”?
  • If something is worth doing, it is worth doing intentionally. Even the quality of paper you select for your business cards matters. (What does a wimpy business card say about your organization?) Early in my career I was a graphic designer. I always knew that the feeling of paper mattered, I just didn’t have a scientific reason why. And then, when researching material for my client experience seminar, I found some very interesting work on the neuroscience of touch.
  • Finally, I love a good hack. To get you off to a good start for 2018 and beyond, I’ve created My Favorite Things, a short list of resources to help you hack your visual brand. In it I list some of my favorite marketing resources, such as Canva and iStock, just for starters.

Here’s to a lovely December. And here’s to celebrating National Sock Day wherever you are.







Boo! Marketing is Scary

At the Excel 401(k) Conference this past week, I taped an upcoming episode of the Retireholi(k)s. If you’re not familiar with them, think TPAs, ERISA and beer – discussed by a group of passionate and prepared Southern California types from Plan Design Consultants. The show is there way of adding value to the advisor community – without another boring webinar.

They’re a disruptive force in our world of 401(k) marketing.

As we chatted about two specific marketing concepts I’ve been exploring – on being unforgettable and out caring the competition – the topic of marketing and fear was discussed. As an example, every time I push the send button on one of my these emails, to a list of 7,000+ industry professionals, it takes an act of courage.

Courage to be different, courage to think different and courage to act different; courage to feel like an impostor and keep doing good work. The impostor board meeting in my head goes something like this:

  • Who am I to put myself ‘out there’ as a marketing expert?
  • Why would anyone care what I have to say?
  • What might happen if I make a mistake?
  • OMG, what happens if someone doesn’t like me?

But I take a breath and just push send.

I often hear that compliance is the biggest hindrance to doing good marketing. My challenge for you is to peel that onion a tiny bit. Chances are, you might be wondering if your work is good enough to share with the world.

There are two books that tackle this subject head on; about feeling the fear of creating and creating anyway. Check them out.

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Godin

War of Art, Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield

During our taping, JD Carlson shares a very similar feeling regarding marketing and courage. I’m certain you’ll enjoy the conversation. Once the episode is live, I’ll post a link here on sherifitts.com.


See you soon?

I’ve been on the road a bit, speaking at a variety of industry events and meetings. In a few weeks, I’ll be in Chicago discussing all things branding and client experience. I hope to see you there. (Or, book me for one of your events.)

Schwab Impact 2017: Out Care the Competition: How to Use the Power of Brand and Client Experience to Differentiate Your Firm

Happy National Coffee Day!

Starbucks didn’t create the coffee culture; there were plenty of places to get a cup of coffee before they started. What they did was turn a once-upon-a-time purchase into a daily ritual for many of us. (Short Flat White anyone?) When Howard Shultz bought the Seattle-based firm, he shifted our idea of what coffee could be. No longer simply slopped into a cold white cup as an afterthought; its preparation was handled with craftsmanship and care, the star of the show. Now, those drinks with the fancy Italian-sounding names – once thought to be available to the rich, famous and educated – were available down the street.

When speaking about the world of branding and client experience, I often use the Starbucks example of moving from a commodity to an experience. They welcome you into a hip “third place” – sometimes knowing your drink as you walk in – usually with a hand-selected play list in the background, greeting you with a scripted request, “What can I get started for you today?” It is evident Starbucks thinks about every inch of your journey.

And, you’ve likely seen that happen in other industries – computer retailers, book sellers, shoe peddlers and theme parks come to mind. Even banks understand the significant and value of focusing on client experience.

Have you considered your client’s experience? Have you mapped their client journey?

What do they experience the moment they engage with you? As you plan for 2018, my recommendation is that you begin to map that experience.

Here’s a starting point: Do you have a client welcome package? Rather than simply throwing paper at them to sign, is there a way to acknowledge their trust in you and your services before digging into the work? For now it could be simply a handwritten thank you note. You could eventually move to a sweetly packaged gift that includes a note. (Hey, maybe an artisan coffee mug with some locally roasted beans?)

What about having your phone number on the front page of your website, rather than behind a Contact Us button? How does your inbound voicemail message sound? Do you help them beyond their financial lives?

While compliance can be a hindrance for some marketing efforts, many of these “wow”able moments can happen outside of the compliance bubble. Need inspiration? Look outside of financial services. Pay attention to your own customer experience. Look for an extra special interaction. They are often tiny and might even seem inconsequential until you see how they add up to create a unique connection.

Need even more inspiration? Download my Brand Touchpoint Audit Checklist.

See you soon?

This fall I’m headed out and about to speak at a variety of industry events and meetings. I’ll be discussing all things marketing from branding, digital and client experience. I hope to see you there. (Or, book me for one of your events.)

Excel 401k | Las Vegas, NV | October 22-24, 2017: Behind the Curtain, A Day In The Life of a CMO and Next Steps Discussion: Elevating Branding & Marketing

WIFS 2017 National Conference | Minneapolis, MN | October 25 – 27, 2017: You Are Who Google Says You Are

Schwab Impact 2017: Out Care the Competition: How to Use the Power of Brand and Client Experience to Differentiate Your Firm

Dear Ary: You’re right, except…

Recently ERISA attorney Ary Rosenbaum wrote a great post, Marketing For Plan Providers: What It Can Do And What It Can’t. In the article he mentions a variety of not-marketing tasks and tactics that every business must consider before marketing. These include ideas such as finding a target market, creating a company culture, providing an exceptional client experience and more.

And! I agree wholeheartedly with the ideas he outlines with one exception: EVERYTHING is marketing. Well, let me explain.

Recently, I presented a two-day Deconstructing Digital workshop for a group of advisors at Cetera. Yes, two full days of helping them get their arms around the world of digital marketing and social media. And, I’m certain they were expecting we’d start the first day with a predictable PowerPoint presentation about Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. Nope! In fact, the first full day was discussing everything that Ary points out in his article (as not marketing). And, you know what? He’s right. It isn’t marketing; it is branding. But they are two peas in the same pod.

On the first day:
• We discussed the necessity of a heart-centered message.
• We dove into the courage it takes to serve a niche.
• We explored the experiential economy and how customer service links to client experience.

If brand clarity does not exist at the outset, marketing will not succeed. It will simply be noise—and noise gets you nowhere.

I say this to many advisors and organizations who seek my help: Branding must begin with asking yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Deciding this, and having the courage to see it through is a deeply introspective and soul-searching experience.

Great branding starts with your customer’s story—not your own. It appeals to their heart rather than their head. It makes people feel like they belong. It gives them something to believe in.

Out of this work comes creating your marketing strategy and tactics to find the right people; creating and delivering the right message; and developing solutions that serve them in the right way.

Marketing’s role is to help an organization connect to people in an emotional way to build influence, elicit trust and serve sales.

Marketing is pretty much everything.


If you’d like to get a list of the homework I give folks to help them think through their brand and marketing strategies, simply text the word SHOEFITTS to 33444. I’ll send along some treats and inspiration from my presentation Your Brand, Your Business, Your Bottom Line.

One other tip: How did I know Ary mentioned me in his story? Google Alerts, of course. I have one set for my name and my firm name, in addition to other hot topics. Need help on creating your own “listening channel”? Here’s a helpful article I wrote for NAPA-net.