OODLES OF CONTENT MARKETING RESOURCES: JUST IN TIME FOR YOUR 2019 PLANNING

I was super happy to be a speaker at the recent Schwab IMPACT 18 event in Washington, DC. The topic? Content Marketing: How to create a lean, mean, inbound marketing machine.

It was an information- and resource-packed, three-hour, pre-conference session. We discussed thought leadership and authority marketing, digital branding, tactical ways to get started and easy ways to create and share content. Thanks to Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator, I also shared about 200+ blog ideas.

Rather than keep all the goodies to myself. I thought I’d share them with my website visitors as well.

So, here are links from Edleman to two research reports that I referenced in the workshop; their collaborative research with LinkedIn and their annual Earned Brand Executive Summary. (I’m a huge fan of Edleman’s work all the way around.)

And, here’s a link to download a plethora of handouts and resources that were shared — from a personal branding resource to a listing of My Favorite Things. (Granted, it is a little early for the peppermint mocha, holiday reference…but still.)

Here’s hoping that you’ll find some tiny bit of inspiration to get your content marketing moving along for 2019. (Oh! And, if you’d like to explore your own three-hour content marketing workshop, let’s chat.)

Happy National Fiduciary Day! Or not?

For those living under a rock, there was a big ruling last week regarding the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule. You can read all about it here.

Since I’m in no way qualified to discuss the technical merits of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, you’re safe. This isn’t another article about the regulations themselves – or the possible Supreme Court showdown between the Fifth Circuit ruling and the Tenth Circuit’s opposite view of the rule.

This is about trust.

We, the financial services industry, already have a bad rap. Each year Edelman – a global marketing and communication firm steeped in helping their clients create lasting trust with their communities – studies the tides of trust in the world. And each year, for the last ten years, the financial services industry has been the LEAST trusted of the bunch. 😢

Let’s not even discuss Millennial’s distrust of Wall Street.

If I understand the issue correctly, the product distribution folks see a bright line between sales people and advisors. Bottom line: Sales conversations are sales conversations only, and do not contain the trust and confidence of an advisory discussion.

What? We’re selling Americans financial products, solutions and services every day. If you ask me, when it comes to money and financial security, trust is an essential part of every conversation.

This is about authenticity.

Imagine, if trust is gone, then what? Interestingly these same organizations that wish to steer clear of trust and confidence still pursue branding and marketing messages that that point toward fiduciary-ish relationships. So now we say one thing and do another? That’s not gonna work in our hyper-connected, social media-savvy Age of Authenticity; they’ll just head on over to Google for something Better(ment).

This is about opportunity.

No matter. Even if the some organizations want to tuck fiduciary away, it’s there. If John Oliver did a piece on the subject, the memes of a client’s best interest and fiduciary will not disappear.

I remember being a 401(k) sales person back in the early 2000s. (Would I be a fiduciary now?) Anywhoo…the organization I worked for was quite skeptical of ESOPs, as many organizations were/are. My thought? Run toward ESOPs! Don’t be scared. Be different. Be valuable. Be really good. And charge for it. Ditto for fiduciaries. Be different. Be valuable. Be really good. Be a fiduciary! And, charge for it.

So, Happy National Fiduciary Day! We have millions of Americans to help; we need you.

FYI: Michael Kitces, this is entirely your fault! Your fantastic article about the ruling and the surrounding issues was extraordinarily helpful. Thank you!

The Trouble with Turtles

We all know the financial services industry moves a bit slowly. We say that with regularity. Somehow we seem to think that being risk-averse and moving slowly is fine. (Then there’s compliance, which intensifies our turtle-like approach.)

But this slow pace isn’t gonna work as the most connected, personalized, multidimensional generation steps into leadership roles.

Since day one, Millennials have had a remote control, a microwave, cable, computers. Not to mention the younger members and their own cell phones. Whether they’re Millennials or Xennials—Gen X/Millennial hybrids—they’ve seen their access to technology, flexibility, speed and control compound every year. And they’ve grown to expect it. No more checking a smart phone for the weather, just ask Alexa.

Since day one, Millennials have also been given choices: “Do you want to wear your blue shoes or your red ones today?” (We were told choice eliminated the morning-shoe meltdown.) “Do you want to play soccer or softball? Or both?”

This is a whole new world, and we have to change the way we market to this generation. We have to change the products we offer and the messages we send. Even the way we depict the American Dream.

The slow, one-size-fits-all approach we’ve taken in financial services just won’t fly with Millennials. We have to provide efficiency, convenience, choices, innovation, personalization, with a splash of color. Millennials believe they can have whatever, whenever, however they want.

Then they encounter the turtles in financial services.

How’s that gonna work?

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Don’t get me wrong about compliance. I know and respect their efforts. At times I’ve shared my love for them. (I couldn’t do their job.) We all must work within our industry’s guidelines. I get that.

But I can’t help but think about the Fosbury Flop. (Stay with me for a second.)

Dick Fosbury had challenges with the high-jump in high school. He was unable to compete with the scissor-kick, the straddle or the belly-roll. Then he invented the Flop. “The advantage,” he said, “from a physics standpoint is, it allows the jumper to run at the bar with more speed and, with the arch in your back, you could actually clear the bar and keep your center of gravity at or below the bar. It was much more efficient.”

The Flop looked very strange at the time. Track coaches were worried as young athletes began to imitate Dick’s Olympic Gold-winning moves; afraid their athletes would break their necks. Then it stuck.

Now the standard is the Flop.

No one did it, because no one did it. Until they did.

Now, think about the four-minute mile. No one did it, because no one did it. Until they did.

That’s the trouble with 🐢. They aren’t engineered to Flop. Yet.

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I recently joined Ed Kless, host of the Sage Advice Podcast, to talk about all things digital marketing. (Well, an eight-minute dive into digital marketing.) Listen in!

WTF?

I guess you could call me a pointillist. I believe that every small dot, selected with intention, can connect to form a beautiful image. The world of marketing, branding and client experience is as vast as the ocean and feels like it requires huge budgets and endless hours – not small dots. Not necessarily true. We just have to choose our details wisely.

Over the past year, I’ve worked with a variety of financial advisors as their marketing coach. For three hours—alongside their wholesaler—we dive deep into their marketing and branding concerns and questions. What’s working right now, where they want to be in the future and what I’d do if I were their Chief Marketing Officer.

Surprisingly, these Rent My Brain consulting sessions are never the same; advisors’ challenges, marketplace, growth plans and team capacity are all quite varied. Not to mention what they’ve selected as a focus for our time together—from pitch books to websites and everything in between.

But no matter what our focus, we have to start with the dots.

In one of my recent three-hour coaching sessions, we spent two hours reviewing their 18-page pitch book and focusing on the small stuff. I reviewed one page at a time and pointed out areas where there were inconsistencies in the details. Really simple ones—like their fonts—that, when changed, create a significantly more professional book.

The Trouble with Fonts

What font do you use for your pitch book? Do you use Calibri, the default font for PowerPoint? While it is a perfectly fine font, it feels too casual, too regular and most importantly, not unique in any way. Anyone can have Calibri, so, everyone does. What does that communicate about your practice? You’re fine being like everyone else?

Or maybe some days you use Calibri and then the next you use Times New Roman. You do this because you get bored—or possibly because someone else built the deck this time. These random decisions can send a message of inconsistency.

Yes, even a font has the power to make a bad impression. It may seem like such a small detail. But, in the world of financial services, details matter. Details matter all day long.

I’m a typography geek, and will spare you the rules of Serif and San Serif for now. However, here is a quick checklist for your pitch book.

  • Your font? Use ABC. (Anything but Calibri, Comic Sans or Courier.) Pick one (or two) and stick with them. Check out Google Fonts for free, open source fonts. I like Karma and Open Sans Condensed together. At ShoeFitts, I use Avenir for printed materials such as proposals, pitch books and presentations. It has classic roots from the 1920s but is modern, crisp and clean. Oh, the history of Avenir. Apple uses Avenir for its Maps app and some Siri screens; Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has used Avenir and Avenir Next for its mobile apps and websites since 2012.
  • Look at the size of the font from page to page. I opt to have one size headline (32 pt or so) and one size for the body copy (24 pt or so). And, don’t reduce the size when indented or bulleted. That’s letting PowerPoint push you around. It looks horrible. Indeed, there are some cases when you’ll need a smaller option. That’s fine, just create a rule and stick to it. (Speaking of PowerPoint: Just say no to clipart. Just say no to word art.)
  • How do you “treat” your words? Are your headers consistent? Are they ALL CAPS, Sentence case, Title Case, etc.?
  • BTW, stop with the underlining. Underlining is old school, a remnant of the typewriter when folks couldn’t bold. If you want to signify a heading or title or important point, bold them. (Use bold and italics sparingly, if not then nothing is important.) More importantly an underline might be misconstrued as a hyperlink.
  • Speaking of bold. If for some reason you opt for the Arial family of fonts and take a liking to Arial Black, do NOT bold it. It’s already bolded. (Told you I was a geek.)
  • Ditto for two spaces after a period, exclamation point, question mark and every other punctuation mark. Yep. Only one space is correct. Short explanation: No typewriter, no monospaced fonts. Need the details? Read more here.
  • Need more ideas for consistency in word selection and punctuation? Download my AP Style Guide cheat sheet.
  • Want to do a deep dive into the Oxford comma?

 

Feeling commoditized? Show some love!

Business printing isn’t necessarily a hip industry. It’s really just paper and ink.

Think printing, think commodity. Right?

Even worse, ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, pundits have been pointing to the death of the printing industry. (We all have digital screens. Who needs paper anyway?) Combine this with increased global competition and skinny margins and you’ve got an old, declining, boring industry.

Who’d jump into that?

Someone did: MOO.com. And, if you ask me, they’re really not printers. They’re customer experience masters. They’re a serious disruptor to that old, declining, boring industry. Their materials are impeccably printed, their website is bright and helpful, and much like some of the high-tech toys folks, they’ve made packaging part of the whole experience. It’s evident they love what they do.

One of my favorite keynote sessions I deliver is Your Brand. Your Business. Your Bottom Line. During that talk, I hand out superpower cards: mini cards with a well-Googled superpower such as invincibility, elasticity, force field, etc. Superpowers are handed out by the hundreds each time I speak, several thousand over the past year. All printed by MOO.

All of this got me thinking about how advisors can take a cue from MOO and improve their customer experience game, too. Are you making customer experience an important part of your business model?

The best way to set your firm apart in the financial services industry is to create a culture of intentional customer experience. Start with the moment you pick up the phone and list out all the little ways you could up the ante on that experience. Some examples:

  • Is your voicemail the standard your-message-is-important-to-me bologna? Why sound like everyone else?
  • When you welcome someone as a new client, can you add in creative packaging?
  • Are there particular ways you celebrate key milestones in your clients’ lives or the lives of their families?
  • Walker suggests there are three components of excelling in the experience economy: personalization, ease and speed. Pick one area of focus when reviewing your practice. How easy do you make things for your clients?

Need more? Read The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. Tons of inspiration and ideas about conscientiously creating remarkable moments.

Feeling commoditized? No problem! Just love your clients and create an unforgettable experience. Then do it over and over again. You’ll be fine.

And, Happy Valentines Day!