Join us with Maribeth Kuzmeski of Red Zone Marketing to unlock what makes your firm truly different. In order to get referrals and new clients today, advisory firms need to stand out from the crowd. But that’s not always easy. In this episode of our financial advisor marketing podcast, Maribeth will give her exclusive tips to:
- Figure out what truly makes your firm different.
- Communicate to stand out from the crowd.
- Focus on what clients truly care about.
- Use language that actually resonates with prospects.
- Use video and social media to capture attention.
Red Zone Marketing: https://www.redzonemarketing.com/
The Advisor Thought Leader Summit: https://www.advisorthoughtleadersummit.com/
Listen here now, or download and subscribe on iTunes to listen on your commute!
Check out the first four episodes of our financial advisor marketing podcast:
Thank you so much for joining us for this episode of The Marketing Podcast for Financial Advisors. Today I’m really excited to have one of my mentors, Maribeth Kuzmes with Red Zone Marketing on the program. I’m so excited to welcome Maribeth to the show because when I was a financial advisor about 10 years ago, I saw Maribeth speak at an LPL conference in San Diego. And I was so blown away by her branding and her marketing that I copied it, and I modeled my firm after hers. She is Red Zone Marketing and when she speaks at advisor conferences, she wears red and she’s so memorable. She talks about football analogy. She’s a Packers fan and she was wearing a bright red dress, and I completely remember that presentation. I think that’s so unique and so cool because how many conferences do we go to as advisors, and how many breakout sessions do we see and how many do we actually remember the presenter? That’s probably the only one in years of conferences I actually remember, and I created my firm Indigo Marketing. I always wear blue. There’s blue everywhere on my website and I hope that it’s memorable in the same vein. Maribeth, welcome to the program today. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you for having me. I’m very excited.
What Maribeth does so great, from a branding perspective, is help advisors to do for themselves. She works with large RIAs and advisory firms, and she helps them to be memorable and to stand out from the crowd because there is so much noise out there. To an average consumer or investor, all financial firms look alike, so it’s so critical to position yourself as something different so that people can refer you, because we know you know most of your new clients are going to come to you through referrals. That’s the number one way that people choose a financial advisor. If people can’t remember who you are or what your name is or what you do, how are they going to refer you when they come across someone that needs your help? So that’s really what Maribeth helps advisors do. She has a PhD in business. She has written seven books, including the bestseller “The Connectors.” She’s an international keynote speaker. You’ve probably seen her speak at conferences and she helps advisors all over the country to position themselves, communicate what makes them different and to stand out from the crowd. Maribeth – I just wanted to welcome you and ask personally what are you excited about this year? What’s going on in your life?
Well, thank you very much by the way, and what’s going on in my life? There are so many things going on in my life. I have started teaching at a university and it’s a sideline thing. It doesn’t really take away from anything that I’m doing, but it’s super exciting. I teach at Columbia University in the summer and then I teach at Oklahoma State University, which is where I got my PhD because they have a unique executive PhD program. They asked me to come and teach and pilot this whole new class on the principles of marketing, and it has been so exciting putting all of this stuff together. I’m thrilled because when we work with financial advisors it’s awesome and it’s very fulfilling in many, many ways. But to then be able to take what I’ve learned in marketing over my entire career and share it with young students, they have a different perspective on everything. It’s really awesome and I absolutely love it and I feel like we’re going to bring a lot of new, amazing marketing people into the world. So that’s what’s exciting to me.
Congratulations. That’s awesome. Just talking about marketing, I know you and I are both so passionate about marketing and we both help advisors with their marketing, and we also have other ventures where we are just immersed in this marketing world. Tell me a little bit about where you see the biggest opportunities for financial advisors from a marketing perspective.
I think that what has happened over, I don’t know, maybe the course of the past five years, compliance has changed a little bit and I’m not sure that the advisors necessarily have lock-in step changed as well as compliance has. Today it’s a lot easier to use social media even though advisors think it’s impossible. It’s not impossible. You know that Claire, you’ve built your business upon doing great things for advisors in social media. I think that lots of compliance has changed and it’s giving us the opportunity to really stand outside. I think we were so afraid of compliance before that we would just be very black and white or as I say, a gray suit against a gray wall and nobody could see it. They couldn’t find you when they really needed you, but that’s how we kept everything in line.
I think today, without going outside of compliance’s boundaries, we can actually find ways to stand out and be memorable. Just like you were talking about my brand and your brand, the idea is to be memorable because that’s what people are going to take away when they’re thinking about, “Boy, we really need a financial advisor. Ah, I did meet that one person that one time.” It stuck in their mind. And that is exactly what we need to do because a lot of things in marketing are not necessarily sending out direct mail and hoping that you’re going to find some new clients. It still is very referral-based so a lot of the marketing tools and strategies we use are to build upon referrals. I think it’s a better opportunity than it’s ever been before because of the slight loosening of compliance.
Absolutely. I totally agree with that. It’s so funny because four years ago we could only work with some of the larger independent RIA firms, or the larger independent broker dealers. But now I’m even working with clients from big wire houses. Places like New York Life – where social media was a four letter word – and now they’re able to do social media marketing. They’re able to do content marketing, they’re on Facebook, they’re on LinkedIn, they’re on Twitter. Compliance has really gotten wise to the developments on social media. They’ve realized that it’s not dangerous, it’s easy to archive, it’s easy to supervise. We don’t need to be afraid of it anymore. I think that’s a great development that I’m excited about as well. Like you said, it’s a referral game and it’s not only referrals, but it’s also many, many touches between when somebody becomes aware of your firm, and when they actually call you to schedule an appointment. They’re not going to just see your website one time and call you up and make an appointment. They have to be exposed to your firm probably seven, eight, 10 times before they actually decide to make an appointment.
We’ve always known that, but what social media does differently is it allows you to stay in front of them in a cost effective, easy manner so that you can continue to build your relationship, and nurture those prospects and push them along the pipeline to the point that they’re ready to schedule an appointment. Which is awesome. One of the things I get a lot of questions from advisors about is how to really be different. There are so many, there’s about 300,000 advisors in the United States and a lot of them are the same. How do you help advisors to stand out from the crowd and to truly be different?
The first thing that we have to do is figure out what really is different about your firm, because a lot of advisors will say, “Well, we provide really great service and that’s what’s different about us.” That might actually be very true, but it’s not necessarily something that is going to really help you stand out. The reason for that is, is because everybody’s saying the same thing, and if everyone saying the same thing, it really doesn’t allow you to stand out. So what we do is we focus on figuring out what is it about what you’re doing that really is different. It might be the people in the firm, or it might be the culture of the firm. We have a firm that we work with and they’re the smartest people that I’ve ever met, and how do you say that? “Well, we’re really smart and we like to help people.”
The whole goal is to find that uniqueness, and be able to really expose it and exploit it. I mean that in a really positive way because if people don’t know how great you are, how possibly can they make that decision to come in and see you, and we usually start with what that core is, what’s your core messaging? What’s your differentiator? Then we work it into the website next. Your website shouldn’t say we work with individuals, and families, and businesses helping them with blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, because that just is a gray suit against a gray, “Well, everybody says that.” What you need to say is what really differentiates. We’d like to use words that clients actually use. We take the, I don’t know if you remember the old Verizon commercial and there was the guy who’s now on the sprint commercials, but he used to pop up out of manholes, and in the middle of the desert, and in all these crazy places, in the middle of the city and he would say on his phone, “Can you hear me now?” He was testing the Verizon network.
He was saying, “Can you hear me now?” Because that’s what we were all saying. We were all saying, “Oh my gosh, this phone doesn’t work. Can you hear me? Can you hear me?” When we saw the commercial on TV, we go, “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly me. I need to go to Verizon because I need someone to be able to hear me when I’m actually using my phone.” So we take two different tacts. The first is we need to use words that your clients are actually using. Clients do not talk about their “Assets.” They talk about their money and their savings, and they talk about things that are way different. We don’t talk about, “Well I’m really afraid I’m going to outlive my assets.” Nobody talks like that in the real world, so the key is how do we use the words that our clients are using, and our prospects are using, so when they come and find something that we’ve put out there on website or social, or someplace, an article we’ve written, they go, “Oh my gosh, that’s me.”
Part of it is figuring out what the want is and figuring out what that is that is going to actually connect with them. For instance, with business owners. Business owners don’t want 401ks. They need them, they don’t want them. If we go, “Well, we do 401ks for business owners.” It’s doldrums because they don’t actually want that. No, they need it and we can always give it to them later, but in order for good marketing to work, it’s got to be focused on the what. Every business owner wants revenue today and to eventually sell or transition that business in the future, so if you have any information on those two things, that’s really great and a lot of advisors help business owners get to that point where they’re ready to sell their business. And business succession planning for business owners, and valuation, and getting all of that ready and then being able to help them once they sell that $25 million business.
Instead of going in with the need, go in with the want. We’re actually giving them what they go, “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what I want.” That’s what marketing is supposed to do. People don’t want financial plans. They want whatever it’s going to do for them, and the second thing that we do to really help to become memorable is not just using the words that our clients use, but using completely different words that typically financial advisors don’t use. When they get to your website they go, “Wait, this is different. Wait a minute.” You’re either going to get them because you’re speaking their language, or you’re going to get them because you’re stopping them in their tracks. There’s a financial advisor website that says, “Financial services is meticulous and beautiful.” And he’s like, “Are you kidding me? That is not how people typically talk about financial services.” Being able to either describe something that is totally different using different words, not regular financial services, comprehensive financial planning words, or you’ve got to reach them exactly where there are with the want. Those are the two things that we really work on going deep, and sometimes we do both and sometimes it’s just one with a firm.
I love that. That is so great. One of the things that we do for our advisor clients is we run client surveys for them each year. This is so powerful because it gives us the words of their clients. Each year we do a survey that says, “How happy are you? What’s your favorite part about working with our firm? Why did you choose us instead of a competitor?” The answer to that question is key for their marketing. Why have you referred business to us or why haven’t you? So the answers to these questions are beautifully put in the client’s own words of why they work with an advisor. Do you know what I never hear as a response to those questions? Is that it is because the return on assets is higher than the advisor down the street or the fees are lower. Yet there’s so many advisors out there saying, “We have better investments.” Or, “We have lower fees.” Or, “We have better service.” Or, “We have a better way to plan your retirement income.” Clients just don’t care about that. What they care about is that they were referred by a trusted friend, or that the advisors seem to understand their unique circumstances or some other reason that has to do with them, not about their money, not about you, not about how your processes. That’s what we really want to focus on from a marketing perspective.
I think that’s so great that you help advisors to really pinpoint what makes them different then doesn’t have to be that they work with divorcees, or employees at a certain company. It could be who they serve and how they do it. I work with one advisor out of Omaha where they have fresh baked cookies in their lobby every single day, and they wear business casual kind of farmer dress, because that’s what their clients wear. Their clients wear button up shirts and jeans so that’s how they dress. They have warm cookies waiting in the lobby, which is what they do differently. I also worked with a firm that on our website, front and center, I was so proud of them because it said, “We work with nice people who saved money well.” That’s who they love to work with and God bless them. They identified that they want to work with nice, positive people that are good savers and that could be your niche. If that’s what you love to do and that’s who you love to serve, that could be the perfect niche for you. So it doesn’t need to be dramatic, it doesn’t need to be alienating people who don’t fit into that group. It just needs to be personal to you and it needs to be something that you are passionate about.
Right. The other thing is that it seems like, and clients don’t always say it like this when they’re asked the question, ‘Why did you choose this advisor over this other advisor?” is “I just liked them.” They don’t typically say that, but we know that that’s such a big reason … “I just liked them.” I consider this a really big, huge factor because if you look at an advisor’s LinkedIn profile or their website they’re talking about how much money they manage, how many awards they won, how many years they’ve been in the business, and all of these kinds of things that is exactly what we expected. But there’s a little secret that the clients know that this person is super funny, or they’re likable, or they’re so friendly, or I go in there when I don’t even have an appointment to have a cup of coffee with them because I just loved them and the way that they’ve done all these meaningful things in my life. Yet none of that comes through in their marketing.
One of the ways that we can do that and truly be memorable and sometimes the only thing that differentiates us is our own personal story. My story is the only thing that differentiates me from someone else who does what I do, because it’s not all that much incredibly different. The difference is, is my story, and how I got here and how I’m going to move forward, and my “why,” right? The Simon Sinek, “What’s My Why?” And when we can pull that out of advisors all of a sudden you’re tipping your prospects off to something your clients already know. That, “Wow, you’re really likable and you’re different than the other advisors that I see online, or that I have met in the past.” Or whatever and those are the kinds of things that we have to get out there.
Absolutely. I totally agree. My Dad is one of these advisors that struggled finding his niche and his specialty, and what made him different. What really makes him different is that he cares about his clients so much that he actually is a caretaker at heart and he goes to his client’s houses, and meets with them and helps them move furniture. He takes them to pick out their new cars. He just recently was taking a little old lady to the DMV. Yet it’s hard to communicate that through your marketing, right? He started with his sales and his referral process having his referral process be such that he took his existing clients out to breakfast, coffee, or lunch to meet their friends or somebody who they wanted to refer because he needed that transfer of trust. When people said, “Oh, he does a great job with our investments.” That’s not compelling to the prospect.
When they sit down with him for breakfast and the clients say, “Tom helped me to pick out my new car.” Or, “When my husband died, Tom helped plan the funeral.” Then people start to get it. “Oh wow, this advisor’s more than an advisor. This is what makes him different.” And that’s how my dad now gets his new clients. Is through that transfer of trust and that’s the way that he really imparts on his prospects what makes him truly different. Whatever it is for you, it’s important to find that out and build that into your sales process and your marketing process. Thank you for that insight. That is super helpful for advisors. I want to ask you kind of the big question out there, the elephant in the room, how can advisors use marketing today to get more clients?
As we were just talking about a lot of new business comes from referrals. Now it’s not the same way as it used to be, where somebody says, “Hey, you need to go see my advisor.” And they would just walk in and see you. That’s just not how it works anymore. How it works is somebody says, “Hey, here’s some information about my advisor.” They talk about all the great things his advisor has done, and the first thing they’re going to do is Google search you. Your reputation is really important, but your online reputation actually supersedes your regular reputation, because they’re going to go online and see what they see and they’re checking you out. By the way, they’re not checking you out to figure out all the reasons that they should go in and see you. They’re trying to find any reason not to.
I say that with all due respect because we know, Claire, you and I know all the value that the advisors bring, but to change financial advisors sometimes, especially when you have significant assets is a real pain, and it’s painful on a lot of different levels. Let’s say you’ve never even seen a financial advisor before. Well, that’s also painful. Now I have got to pull these things together. I’m going to tell this advisor all the financial mistakes I’ve ever made in my life because I don’t care how wealthy you are, you’ve made a lot of mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes and now you’ve got to go share this with someone new, and you go into maybe a planning process, and you’ve got to pull all these statements out and talk about all these things.
You are kind of scared because maybe you don’t have enough money and people don’t actually want, desperately want to do it. If they’re in some kind of a life transition, they have to do it. Otherwise, it’s not like they’re just looking for a reason that they can put it off, and we cannot give them the reason to put it off when they get to our website or some online presence, your LinkedIn profile or whatever it is, those are the two most likely places. Then we need to get them to want to find out more. Like you said, it’s going to take several touches, but so they go to the website, they go, “Oh, okay, well maybe I should continue looking around here.”
Next, maybe they sign up through email newsletter, or maybe they just check you out online on social or whatever it is and then they decide to reach out to you. So that business is still coming from referrals, but it is a much longer path and that prospecting cycle is much longer. And in order to get new clients you’ve got to just hit him over the head with, “This is the right place. I can’t say no to this.” How do you get to that point? It’s not by just spending five minutes putting together your website messaging and your social media presence. You’ve got to spend some time thinking about all the things that you and I have just been talking about, Claire.
Absolutely. Yeah, I love that. And one of the cool things that advisors I think sometimes don’t realize is that technology and social media marketing make it really easy to do that today. For example, for my firm, if you go to my website at indigomarketingagency.com you browse around, maybe you read an article, maybe you saw a post on there, maybe you get my emails. Then when you go to Facebook, there’s a pixel that has tracked your behavior on my website. Then when you’re on Facebook, you see an ad to watch my flagship Webinar, The Truth About Marketing for Financial Advisors. So you’ve already self-selected as somebody who may be interested in my services. I don’t have to do that. I know that you’re interested in my services because you’ve already visited my site, and then this ad will pop up on your Facebook feed to re-target you, and it’s just pennies on the dollar of what you would pay for a traditional Facebook ad.
It just shows my Webinar to people who may be interested in it. Once they watch my webinar and they spend 30 minutes with me, then they’re on my email list. They get my follow-up emails, they get my offers, they get my weekly blog posts, they get my monthly webinars. The average time between somebody first visiting my website and becoming a client is about one year, but that is the process that is common for advisors too. The average time between somebody becoming aware of your firm or first hearing about you, and actually transferring assets is going to be a year or more. It’s important to be nurturing these relationships, and social media makes it really easy to do that. To close out and I’ll let you impart your recommendations for these advisors listening. Can I just ask you, what is the one recommendation you would give to advisors listening about how to stand out from the crowd with their marketing, and how to grow their businesses into the future?
I would say that your goal should be to try to be different, not to try to blend in. The thought is that “Well, I’ve got to do things like everybody else does. I’m going to go to X advisor number one in my firm, and I’m going to see what he’s doing or she’s doing and I’m just going to do the same thing.” That is the opposite. The other thing that I’ll say is that it’s trying to stand out and be different. Not trying to be the same by the use of our words. Words become the biggest mistake that we make in marketing. We do not message ourselves properly to the exact person that we really want to do business with, because we’re not talking their language, or we’re not talking about what they want, or we’re just not simply talking to them.
The words that we use are the reason for success in everything that we do in marketing, including your seminars, your website, your social media, your prospecting meetings, your phone calls, your webinars that you might do, or some advisors do podcasts and things like that. It’s the words that you’re using that are either attracting or repelling people, and if we want to really stand out and be different we’ve got to get better at our work. I would suggest that is the one thing. And by the way, that is so in our control. You don’t need to hire somebody to have better words. You need to think about it and really spend some time thinking about it. Now, of course you could hire somebody like Claire or myself to be able to do that, but ultimately you can do it yourself by just thinking through, “Am using the best words? Is my online reputation good?” It doesn’t take an MBA in marketing to be able to figure out how to do that better. It just takes some time and a little bit of focus.
Absolutely. I love that and one of the recommendations I give advisors who are struggling with their value proposition or their sales process is try out some cold calling. Remember the old days when all advisors out there did cold calling. I started out, my first job out of college was with Northwestern Mutual. They sat me in a cubicle and they said, “Okay, call all your friends, all your family, all your distant relatives and try to sell them life insurance.” That’s what I did, and that’s what I do every week with advisors is I’m on the phone 10 hours a week talking to advisors. That is how I refined my sales process because when you’re on the phone was a potential client, you can hear when things click for them. You get the same questions over and over. So you realize the answer to that question needs to be built into your sales process.
You can hear when they start to trust you, you can hear when they start to think that you understand them. They start to give you that credibility. They start to loosen up a little. So cold calling or calling prospects on your old prospect list, and listen to the way that they respond to your words can really help the way that you present your firm, and your sales process, and your marketing language. That’s just one recommendation that I would give. Maribeth, I know you have a retreat coming up with Marie Swift who’s also a guest on this season’s podcast. It is The Advisor Thought Leader Summit. It’s in Kansas City. I want to invite all advisors out there to attend the event. It’s going to be an amazing time to learn about marketing, PR, to actually shoot video for your website. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that so the advisors listening can check it out?
Absolutely. Marie Swift and I did this last year in Chicago and it was met with such excitement, and we really wanted to create an experience and we think we did with the feedback that we got from the first one. So we decided to do another one. Not in Chicago, but in Kansas City. It’s really about how to become a thought leader. That could be, maybe it’s through your use of video, maybe it’s through your use of the media. It takes some time to figure out, “Okay, what is my message and how am I going to present this to the world?” Today if you can’t use video to present things, you’re probably missing out on presenting things to the world. Advisors, because they hadn’t been able to use video for so long now can use it much more reliably than they could before.
Compliance departments are more used for dealing with video and how you would use it. It is one of the greatest tools. It’s like a seminar, somebody shows up at a seminar and they’re sitting in the back of the room because they wanted the rubber chicken, and then they realized, “Hey, this person’s pretty smart up there. Maybe I should go in and see.” It’s part of the process of them sitting in the back of the room and watching this person live talking, and sharing ideas and you go, “I like them. I think I want to come in and meet with them.” That’s what happens and that’s how seminars work is because you’re converting somebody live. That same idea can be done using video, but the problem is we don’t know how to use video very well so we have best practices. We have a woman who was coming in from PBS who is an amazing person in front of the camera, and shares best practices with us.
I’ll talk about messaging and messaging strategies for creating the best videos and the best media interviews. Marie Swift will talk about those kinds of things too.Then we do an actual video recording of each attendee. You’ll do an actual interview and we don’t do it in front of the whole group. We have a side place where we’ve learned a lot about how to do this stuff then we’d go and recreate it and we send it back to you. You put it through compliance and you can put it up on your website. It’s absolutely amazing because sometimes, I mean it might cost thousands of dollars to get a video recorded. We’re doing this for less than a thousand dollars. It’s a super great deal. It’s an amazing experience and we’ve got so many great videos and testimonials from the last time around. As I said before, that’s why we decided to do it again. So that’s what we’re doing and it’s amazing The Advisor Thought Leader Summit. advisorthoughtleadersummit.com and it is August 12th and 13th in Kansas City.
Awesome. I really recommend everyone check that out. Advisorthoughtleadersummit.com. If you want to learn more about Maribeth and Red Zone Marketing, go to redzonemarketing.com. Maribeth, I just want to thank you for being a part of the program and for sharing your knowledge with the advisors out there.
Thank you so much, Claire.
If you’d like any resources from today’s episode or from other episodes, go to indigomarketingagency.com/remember. It’s hard to forget that address. Indigomarketingagency.com/remember.
Claire Akin runs Indigo Marketing Agency, a full-service marketing firm serving financial advisors. It’s her mission to help independent financial advisors help more people through their incredibly important work. Claire is a former Investment Advisor Representative who holds her MBA in Marketing from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego as well as a BA in Economics from UC Davis.