Tag Archive for: marketing

Q&A with Michael Kitces of Nerd’s Eye View

Blogging can help advisors attract and retain clients. I’ve decided to collect stories from advisors that illustrate this.

I’m starting a Q&A series with a contribution by Michael Kitces author of the Nerd’s Eye View blog and Pinnacle Advisory Group. Blogging has brought him more visibility, which has “helped to bring clients and cement relationships with centers of influence,” as he explains below.


1. When did you start your blog, Nerd’s Eye View?

The Nerd’s Eye View blog first launched in March of 2008, at the same time that I launched my advanced educational newsletter for financial planners. My vision at the time was that the newsletter would be where I provided content eligible for CFP CE credit – which has a certain length requirement – while the blog was where I would publish “shorter” discussions of technical topics (that didn’t merit a full newsletter issue) and cover practice management ideas (ineligible for CFP CE credit) that I wanted to share.

However, the reality at the time was that the blog had no visibility and generated no traffic, and I generally found it very unrewarding! As a result, I actually stopped writing for the blog altogether after just a few months, and it lay dormant on the site for about two full years.

In the fall of 2010, I “revived” the blog again. The light bulb that had gone off in my head at the time was the rise of social media; in point of fact, Facebook and LinkedIn had been out several years already, and Twitter was almost two years old, so social media wasn’t exactly “new” even at that time. But I realized that, while the challenge of writing a blog is that it’s hard to build an audience, social media provides an opportunity to get the word out about the content. So at the suggestion of advisor tech guru Bill Winterberg, I started up on Twitter (and invigorated a LinkedIn profile which up to that point had been little more than an online resume), and the synergy of the blog and social media has just grown exponentially from there!


2. How has your blog brought you new business or improved your existing client relationships? Please explain and quantify, if possible.

The combination of the blog and social media presence has been absolutely incredible for business, though I will confess that one-to-one situations – “this tweet got me this client” – are almost impossible to track.

It’s important to bear in mind that the blog (and social media) started as something that was attached to my newsletter and then-nascent (in 2008) and growing (in 2010) speaking business, so I measure my business results first and foremost in that context.

My net newsletter subscriber count (plus growth, minus some natural attrition) has grown steadily at a pace of about 15%-20% per year for the past five years, and the only means I have for making the newsletter known is my website (which people visit via the blog and social media).

The speaking business has grown even more dramatically, and there I can often track new business/conferences directly to engagement via social media. I have been invited to speak at conferences through relationships I formed online, and have even been hired to keynote a conference through a series of a half-dozen Twitter direct messages (DMs)! Overall, I have more-than-doubled my speaking fees since I re-launched the blog and started on social media, and despite those price increases my speaking engagements are up 60% from 3 years ago.

Notwithstanding what was originally a focus on the newsletter and speaking engagements, my blog and social media presence has started to significantly “spill over” into marketing for Pinnacle Advisory Group, the financial planning firm where I am a partner. The blogging and social media activity has generated an incredible flurry of media activity; I’m typically fielding three to five media inquiries per week from industry and major consumer publications (and a handful of smaller publications), and my visibility on social media has helped cement several highly visible consumer media opportunities, including becoming a Marketwatch RetireMentor, one of the WSJ Wealth Management Experts, and a member of the CNBC Digital Advisory Council. In the end, we could have hired a media/PR firm for tens of thousands of dollars every year and still not gotten the firm the visibility that I’ve been able to generate “for free” through blogging and social media.

And ultimately all that PR visibility has helped to bring clients and cement relationships with centers of influence. It also bolsters referrals from existing clients; it’s one thing when a client says “work with my advisor, he’s great,” but it’s another when the client says “work with my advisor; did you see the article about his research in the New York Times yesterday?”


3. What blogging techniques or topics have most helped your business —either at Kitces.com or Pinnacle Advisory Group?

This varies a bit by which business I’m using to measure results. In terms of my core writing and speaking business, my technical articles on advanced planning techniques have been most effective at demonstrating and cementing my brand as a financial planning expert. This has helped generate newsletter subscriptions and speaking engagements.

Notably, though, my technical articles have also helped me to build a following of reporters who want to keep up on the latest material I’m studying, researching, and writing about. As a result, the technical articles also lead to a great deal of consumer media exposure.

The content I write on practice management and industry trends has been most effective for reaching our industry press, which indirectly helps to support my brand as a speaker. It has actually been so successful in building my credibility on these issues, though, that it now helps to support several related businesses, including our recruiting firms New Planner Recruiting and Experienced Advisors Recruiting, our investment outsourcing business for other advisors (Pinnacle Advisor Solutions), and what is now a growing series of technology firms I work with on a consulting basis about how to understand and reach advisors.

Overall, I’ve found that the key to success with blogging and social media is sheer consistency. Good articles come and go; I try to make every one a winner, but the data are very clear that… some are better received than others. Balancing content that I create with content that I share has also been key. On social media channels, less than 20% of the content that I share is my own, and I’ve grown a significant following with my “Weekend Reading For Financial Planners” series, where I highlight the best dozen articles I read for the week, with summaries of each and links to click on to view the full article.

Ultimately, the key is to be a resource. Yes, I hope that my content is a resource, but it can’t be the only resource. So I share as much as I can to be helpful to everyone in every way possible; and I hope it’s appreciated that some of it is content I created myself!


4. What are three of your favorite—or most effective—blog posts? Provide the titles, URLs and a comment about why you included them.

Whew, this is a tough question; I’d like to think that everyone I try to create is effective, and I hate to pick favorites!

In terms of overall results and impact, I’d say my top three are:

1) Financial Planning Implications Of HR8 – The Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. This article was a summary of the fiscal cliff legislation that passed at the very end of 2012. The Senate passed the final version of the legislation a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, the House took it up on New Year’s Day, and the president signed it into law on January 2nd. Anticipating that the House was to pass the legislation and not push us off the fiscal cliff, I actually spent New Year’s morning reading up on the legislation and posting my own “first look” commentary. Despite the fact that article didn’t even post until the early afternoon, and it was a holiday, the post was so widely shared that January 1st of 2013 was the biggest traffic day the site has ever had; and the second biggest day ever was the follow-on traffic on January 2nd! It’s pretty amazing what happens when you publish timely content on an important issue!

2) Should Equity Exposure Decrease In Retirement, Or Is A Rising Equity Glidepath Actually Better? – This article was actually a write-up of some recent new retirement research I did with Wade Pfau. The article received such a strong reception that the blog post alone, and the buzz it created, resulted in coverage in several national publications, including the New York Times, Kiplinger, and AARP. Not only was this great general publicity for the firm, but I’ve been able to track several new business opportunities directly to the publication of this single blog post!

3) Weekend Reading For Financial Planners. About a year after the blog had launched and my social media activity was increasing, I started getting questions from other advisors, basically along the lines of “what do you read to keep up on information the way you do?” I got the question so much, I decided that perhaps I should just start making a list of the best articles I’d read each week. Modeled after the “linkfests” popular in the finance/econ/investment world – but recognizing that there just isn’t nearly as much “news” in financial planning every week – I launched my weekend reading column. Over two years and 100 weekly-reading-summaries later, this continues to be my most popular ongoing content on the blog.


5. What’s your best tip for advisors who blog? Personally, I would love to know the secret of how you manage to spark so many conversations.

I’ve got to give two tips here, as the answer to your question has two key components.

The first tip is that if you want to succeed with blogging and social media it requires consistency, and the only way consistency happens is if you make it habit, and the only way you can create a habit is to make a commitment to a schedule of how often you’re write, with deadlines, and hold yourself accountable to meeting it. I’ve varied my publishing schedule a few times over the years; for a while I was posting once a week, then twice a week, then three times a week, eventually five times a week, but then backed off to three times a week and have stayed there. I now have a pretty consistent routine to manage that consistent publishing schedule; I capture topics I want to write about in a never-ending Evernote list so I will always have lots of ideas when I sit down to write, and I’ve got a process for carving out the time to do it. Granted, I don’t think most advisors “need” to blog as often as I do, but the principle is the same whether you’re trying to write three times a week or just once or twice a month. Have a schedule, set deadlines for yourself, commit to keeping them, and make it a habit.

My second tip is that to be able to create a steady stream of compelling content, focus, focus, focus on your target audience. Think about what their issues are. Read the publications they’re reading. Talk to them constantly (they’re your clients, so hopefully you are, but make sure you’re taking the time to listen to what’s on their minds). Virtually all of the content I write is inspired by a conversation I have at a conference, a question someone emails me, or a question/issue that a client raises. The trap I see most advisors fall into in this area is either that they don’t keep a focus at all – they’re sharing everything from things that matter to their clients, to things that matter to them (which is not always the same thing!), to things that are just plain irrelevant – or they don’t have a clear focus on who their reader is supposed to be and how they can differentiate. Ultimately, this is why having a niche is so important; as financial advisors, few will be capable of differentiating themselves and creating unique content by publishing the same generalized financial information that can be found via Kiplinger, MarketWatch, CNBC, Money, etc. There are lots of generalized consumer financial sites out there, not to mention an already crowded personal finance blogosphere. But with a niche, you can truly specialize; you might be the only one blogging about the latest issues for executives at a particular technology or pharmaceutical company making options decisions, or about a new strategy to manage malpractice insurance costs for OB/GYNs, or about the latest tip for young upwardly mobile female entrepreneurs. Having a focus – having a niche – is a way to stand out from the rest; your audience might be smaller than “everyone” but you can be highly differentiated and clearly stand out as an expert for all the people in that niche. And given that most financial advisors “top out” somewhere around 100-150 active and engaged clients (if not fewer), the reality is that virtually any niche is capable of working when those are all the clients you need for a wildly successful practice!

If you have a great blogging success story worthy of being featured in a future Q&A, please contact me. I’d like to hear from you. If you’d like to write better blog posts, you’ll find step-by-step instructions in my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

My big newsletter mistake’s lesson for you

When’s the best day and time to send your e-newsletters? My January mistake upset my beliefs about this topic.

My usual routine and its rationale

I usually send out my monthly newsletter around 8:15 a.m. on the first non-holiday Tuesday of the month. I send it early in the day because my Constant Contact statistics indicate that many people open it before 9 a.m. I figure they get to work early. I’m happy to make it easy for them to read before they’re distracted by work.

I picked Tuesday because I’ve read that people are distracted on Mondays and Fridays as they start and end their workweeks.

I publish on a consistent schedule because I’ve read that your audience values consistency. They want to rely on receiving your content regularly.

However, I skip holiday Tuesdays because I figure my audience reads me at work. I hope you’re not checking email on holidays.

My mistake: Sunday delivery

I made my mistake in haste after proofreading my letter the Sunday before my usual Tuesday in January 2013. I forgot to schedule my newsletter instead of letting it default to sending immediately.

Oh horror! I imagined my newsletter languishing unopened in hundreds of email inboxes. I was extra mad at myself because this newsletter was most of my subscribers’ last reminder about registering for my blogging class. I probably cursed out loud that afternoon.

The surprising results

But lo and behold! Over the following days, my newsletter hit its usual level of subscribers opening it. I didn’t suffer at all for sending it at the “wrong” time.

What a relief! I don’t need to freak out the next time my newsletter deviates from its usual schedule. However, I plan to return to my usual schedule because it’s good discipline for me.

What’s the point?

My experience convinced me that Scott Stratten, who tweets as @unmarketing, was right when he said in “The best time never to send email” that “The best time to never send email is when someone else told you to” because what matters is what recipients do when they receive your emails.

On the other hand, Michael Katz of Blue Penguin Development may be right that there are bad times, but no best times to send your emails, as he suggested in “Why Today is a Bad Day to Publish Your Newsletter.”

What works for you?

I’m curious about your results from sending e-newsletters at different times. Do some times work better than others for you?

Two ways to encourage comments with a no-comment financial blog

Compliance worries make many advisors shy away from allowing comments on their blogs. If you’re in this camp, you can still encourage reader interaction.

Two techniques stand out for me: 1) polls or surveys and 2) calls to action.

1. Polls or surveys

Polls and surveys encourage readers to share their opinions with you. However, they don’t carry the same compliance risks as blog comments because readers’ answers aren’t open to public scrutiny.

Readers enjoy answering questions that are meaningful to them, especially if you promise to share the overall results on your blog. They’re most likely to answer when you also make it quick and easy for them to participate online.

There are free and inexpensive ways to run online polls. I’ve used SurveyMonkey and PollDaddy.

2. Calls to action

The call to action, often abbreviated CTA by marketing geeks, is a classic technique for engaging your readers. You ask your readers to take an action—for example, an online click, social media share, email, or phone call—that brings them into a closer relationship with you.

For example, let’s assume you wrote a blog post about four problems faced by forty-something women who are caring for children and parents. Your call to action could be “Call me for a free consultation if you face one of these problems” or “To receive a special in-depth report on solutions, click here.”

Other techniques?

Please comment if you’ve found another way to create more interaction with a no-comment blog.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you want unexpected visitors to your blog?

The appearance of a raccoon on my squirrel feeder made me think. Just as a dried ear of corn on a nail drew an unintended masked guest, your financial blog may draw readers who don’t belong to your target audience. Is this good or bad?

Are you still serving your target audience?

If you’ve chosen your target audience well, your top priority should be serving them, NOT your unintended visitors. After all, you’re aiming at a narrowly defined group of potential clients, referral sources, or other folks who are in a position to help you meet your goals.

It’s bad if you attract unintended visitors because you routinely stray from topics that interest your target audience. Your ideal readers will abandon you if they can’t find enough good content on your blog.

On the other hand, if your blog meets your target readers’ needs, but still attracts broader interest, that’s good. You never know where your next referral will come from. Your ideal clients may be best friends with people who don’t share the characteristics on which you focus. Those oddballs can be powerful referral sources. Plus, social media’s unexpected dispersion of your content can eventually put your content in front of great prospects and referral sources.

Raccoon-squirrel analogy

If I’d attracted a raccoon because I’d put out a form of corn that’s loved by raccoons, but spurned by squirrels, that would have been a failure. Since the dried corn also pleased the gray squirrels that abound in my yard, I was okay.

Still, if I start to see more raccoons than squirrels at my feeder, I should rethink my feeding strategy. You should do the same with your blog.

Rethinking the traditional content process

John Refford’s tweets and posts about marketing technology caught my eye before I ever met him. I’m glad that Twitter connected us for some interesting conversations about the intersection between marketing, technology, and investments. At our last meeting, I thought, “I must ask John to guest-blog for me!” This post about content creation is the result.

Rethinking the Traditional Content Process
By John Refford

Just a few years ago the traditional content development process was really a “print” process, although it wasn’t called a “content development process,” but more likely “getting something up on the web.” Content producers slightly adapted their styles and processes and turned brochures into PDF documents placed on websites. These methods still exist today for some organizations (especially those not focused on e-commerce), but are in steep decline. However, a better process is emerging, as I’ll explain.

What’s Wrong With the Traditional Process?

The traditional content process, as shown in my diagram of “Content Creation – Old Way,” fails to deliver on several important measures. Let’s review four of them.

  1. It takes too long. Content is locked away inside your organization undergoing multiple revisions. And the longer it stays inside your organization, the more revisions are needed because the information has become stale.
  2. The information never gets customer-tested. Long content development cycles mean a lot of resources are sunk into one project. If you misread your target audience and the information does not resonate well with customers – that’s a large waste of resources.
  3. It tends to focus on one deliverable, such as a whitepaper, therefore missing numerous other communication vehicles such as video.
  4. Studies show fewer users are visiting corporate websites. If you’re not posting information in social media outlets, you’re not getting in front of your customers.

content creation - old way

QUIZ: Is My Organization’s Content Process Out Of Date?

Here’s a quiz that will help you to assess whether your content development process is keeping up with the times. Answer this question: How many of the statements below hold true for your organization?

  1. PDFs hold a large portion of content on my website
  2. Our social tactics include sharing links to PDFs and press releases
  3. The organization does not take advantage of social media outlets

If you answered “yes,” to one of these questions, then your process needs some work.

A Better Way to Create Content

Things have changed with the rise of the social technologies. Platforms originally used by individuals—such as YouTube, blogs, Twitter and Facebook—are now used by brands as part of their broader communication strategy. The range of options, strategies and tactics have made online brand marketing much more complex.

With the rise of social media marketing, traditional content development processes go from old-fashioned to antiquated. Let’s look at a more contemporary content development process.

content creation - new way

Given the wide array of options available, your content development process will undoubtedly be different than the image above. However, if you’re still developing content the old way, it’s time to rethink how you are creating content to support your brand objectives. The process in my diagram, “Content Creation – Better Way,” has four steps.

  1. Start with an idea. No change there from the old-fashioned approach.
  2. Validate the concepts of your ideas publicly. The value of sharing ideas early is that it gives organizations a chance to test them in the market before further developing them internally. Some vehicles for testing ideas include blog posts and discussion threads on social media sites like LinkedIn. This step provides feedback useful for fine-tuning a concept.
  3. Create multiple pieces of content that illustrate the concepts. Rather than a single deliverable, such as a whitepaper, create a series of pieces. This allows individuals to process the material several times in different formats. We know people learn differently; they learn by reading, seeing, hearing and doing. By providing different content formats you increase your audience’s ability to consume the information.
  4. Share the content socially. Sure you can share links to the content but you can also use the content to drive conversations. You might be in a position to allow your employees to share the content with their networks as well.

The Next Content Development Process?

Indeed, what does the future hold for content development? It remains to be seen but it will be shaped by today’s forces. Data will play a big part in content’s future. Consumers throw off tons of data from their online activities and as more devices come online (cars, appliances, offices, etc.), expect the amount of data collected to grow. This data will be analyzed in real-time and consumers will receive content that is highly contextual, personalized and provided just when they need it.

And what will become of traditional processes? In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Dana Rousmaniere predicts advertising will be replaced by new content processes by 2020 – that’s in less than seven years. You’d better start now.


John Refford writes about marketing technology on his blog, you can also follow him on twitter at @iamreff.

Newsletters: Can you offer too much good stuff?

A newsletter can work with as little as one good article. While more articles may boost the number of clicks, my experience suggests that most people only sample longer newsletters. The bottom line? Don’t feel you need to push out a multi-article newsletter.

Highest ROI for one-article newsletters

You get the biggest bang for your buck by simply sending some sort of newsletter, even something with just a few lines of text. Why? Because the mere act of appearing in your subscribers’ inboxes is a powerful reminder of your existence.

The longer your newsletter, the more readership drops toward the bottom of the page

I find that the first article in my monthly newsletter typically gets the most clicks. Clicks drop dramatically as readers scan down the page. Still, overall, my newsletter has received way more clicks than average, even after I introduced a streamlined format in May.

What’s YOUR newsletter strategy?

I’m curious to learn about what number of newsletter articles works best for you. Please comment.

Is Google+ worth the effort?

I didn’t understand the appeal of Google+, which is why I decided to read Guy Kawasaki’s What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us.

In his chapter on “Why I love Google+,” Kawasaki says, “Google+ has powerful and sophisticated features that the competition doesn’t, and Google+ does things in ways that make more sense to me.”

Here’s my take on the case for Google+ based on Kawasaki’s chart comparing features of Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Google+

That’s not enough to get me excited about Google+. I have an account so I can keep learning. After all, I hated Twitter the first few weeks I used it. Now I’d hate to live without it.

If you’d like to learn about using Google+ effectively, the rest of Kawasaki’s book offers tips that would probably help if I took the time to apply them.

More reasons to consider Google+

I’ve started to like Google+ a bit better since I originally drafted this blog post in November 2012.  Three things stand out for me.

  1. Google+ Communities make it easier for me to engage with others.
  2. Google Authorship can help me rank better in online searches. Michael Kitces convinced me of this with his communications, including “Why Every Financial Planner With A Blog Needs a Google+ Page, Now.”
  3. Google+ has yielded more helpful comments than other social media on some questions I’ve posted.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from McGraw-Hill in return for agreeing to write about it.

The Six Keys to Confident Presenting

Beverly Flaxington knows the investment and financial advice industry and she knows how clients and prospects think. I still remember how her explanation of personality types riveted the audience at a Boston Security Analysts Society presentation that I organized. I’m delighted to feature her advice below.

The Six Keys to Confident Presenting

By Beverly D. Flaxington


There are many very smart people in the investment business. It takes a lot of dedication, intelligence and discipline to obtain a CFA, or CFP or other investment industry
designation. Unfortunately when it comes to delivering the knowledge to others, many very smart people are sorely lacking in their ability to communicate effectively.

As a college professor I watch students struggle with this, and as a consultant and coach to the investment industry I watch advisors and portfolio managers, among others, struggle with this daily. It’s important to know how to communicate, and how to present because excellent information can get lost on the audience.

There are six keys to confident presenting to think about before the next presentation of any type, to one person or to many, you need to make:

(1)    Know why. Think about what you want as an outcome. Why are you delivering this material? Don’t just focus on content, think about purpose.

(2)    Know who. What is the make-up of your audience? What do they already know about what you are presenting? If you can research before the presentation, it’s great but even during the presentation ask for a show of hands of how many people know certain information. Or go around the room and ask what people know, and what they want to learn.

(3)    Create flow. This means chunking the information down. Have sections, or groups of material. Too many times a presentation is a mish-mash of all kinds of data, charts and background information. Look at your information for themes and categories.

(4)    Provide context. Adult-learning principles tell us that adults learn best when they can interpret information through a lens that they understand and recognize. Show the audience why they should care and the “so what?” about the material Don’t ask them to figure it out, make the link for them.

(5)    Understand your style of communication and that of your audience. Talk fast but your audience is more slow and thoughtful? Modify, and match to your audience.

(6)    Provide closure. What do you want the audience to do as a result of your presentation? What’s next from the meeting? What is the follow-up? State it. Get commitments.

Review your next communication in light of the six steps and see if there is anywhere you can improve for greater success.

Beverly is co-founder of The Collaborative and Advisors Trusted Advisor, consulting businesses devoted to the financial services industry. She is a human behavior expert, a college professor, an award winning and bestselling author and investment industry expert.


Outlook Social Connector: A cool email helper

Outlook Social Connector

You can see multiple categories of information using Outlook Social Connector

Better email communication results from a better understanding of the person with whom you’re exchanging messages. It’s hard to keep all of the relevant information in your head, or even to collect it in one place. This is why I like Outlook Social Connector, which I learned about in consultant Bill Winterberg’s presentation on “Transformative Technology You Can Implement Today” at FPA Experience 2012. While Winterberg highlighted the tool as an aggregator of social media activity, I especially like its email function.

Email history display

When I write anything more than a simple email, it helps to see an overview of my recent emails with the recipient. Sure, I can get that by doing a search, but Outlook Social Connector automatically presents that information to me.

Eyeballing this history may remind me of something that will strengthen my email. Another tab shows me attachments we’ve traded recently, which is handy if I want to confirm that I’ve sent the latest draft or invoice.

Social media information

I’ve connected Social Media Connector to my LinkedIn account. When I click on an email, I see my contact’s LinkedIn

  • Photo
  • Recent activity (New connections)
  • Status updates

This helps me to personalize emails to the recipient. For example, I may comment on a blog post link posted by the recipient.

Facebook is also an option

Outlook Social Connector connects to more than just LinkedIn. The most noteworthy other option is Facebook. I wish they’d add Twitter. However, LinkedIn, in my opinion, is the most helpful option for business.

If you’re using Outlook Social Connector, I’d love to hear how it has helped your emails, client relationships, or marketing.

POLL: What are your blog’s goals?

Why do you blog? I’d like to get a better sense of why my readers blog and the obstacles they face. That’s the focus of this month’s two-question survey.

Talking with students in my blogging class for financial advisors, I often hear that they’d like to attract more clients. In fact, some of them take the class because they’ve seen a drop in new business when they’ve stopped blogging regularly. Those folks seek a way to rediscover their energy for blogging.

Educating people also typically ranks high. Advisors would like to prevent their readers from making mistakes and put them on a path toward better financial futures.

When I recently asked on Facebook and Twitter about goals, some additional goals surfaced. I’ve included these as options in Question 1. Please check all the goals that apply for you.


I will report on the results of this survey in a future issue of my e-newsletter.

By the way, I’d like to thank blogger Chuck Rylant for inspiring this poll with a series of exchanges on the Investment Writing Facebook page.