Richard Rosso, senior financial adviser for Clarity Financial in Houston, Texas, communicates with an enthusiasm that’s infectious. I tapped him as a guest blogger last year to discuss “The Fee Value Proposition.” When he mentioned his writing for MarketWatch Retirement when we met at my presentation in Houston in March 2014, I got the idea of asking him to share his thoughts about the benefits of that writing, as well as his blog. In the Q&A below, he says that he can “attribute roughly $2 million in new client relationships to blogging.”
By the way, although Richard suggests that I’d tell him to shorten his blog posts. I think the right length is different for everyone. For folks who struggle to write, shorter is better. There are also people like me who just prefer to keep things short. Then, there are bloggers, such as Michael Kitces of Nerd’s Eye View, who regularly attract readers with very long posts.
Q. When did you start your Random Thoughts of a Money Muse blog and when did you start guest-blogging for MarketWatch Retirement?
A. I started Random Thoughts as a labor of love in 2010. Blogging felt like a natural extension of the writing I was doing on a daily basis for my book that was published in 2012, Random Thoughts Of A Money Muse. Blogging became a method to share voices and experiences, both from myself and others, especially those experiencing troubled relationships with money. The blog is purposely off the traditional path—I call it “the fringe of money”—when compared to bloggers and blogs I respect and read religiously, like Josh Brown’s www.thereformedbroker.com and Michael Kitces’ Nerd’s Eye View at www.kitces.com. Friend, mentor, and best-selling author James Altucher told me that financial topics are boring. People tune out quickly. So I sought to add personal stories (sometimes painful), pop culture, a bit of the spiritual; and then bridge over to salient money lessons. To me, creating a story, painting a picture, makes financial topics easier to digest, and broadens the appeal.
As for MarketWatch Retirement, I am a financial geek at heart and retirement planning as a topic of study is a passion. I’ve been working with Robert Powell at MarketWatch for years. He’s featured as a “money muse” in my book because he is [one of the most studied journalists on the topic of retirement. I began submitting article ideas to him. Since January 2014, I’ve become a regular contributor.
Retirement planning is a formidable challenge, especially post-financial crisis. I seek to share relevant experiences of pre-retirees and new retirees with subscribers to Retirement Weekly and MarketWatch. Life stories are important. They provide Main Street context and valuable lessons for readers.
Q. How has your blog brought you new business or improved your existing client relationships? Please explain and quantify, if possible.
A. The blog has improved my client relationships because it opens up a part of me that’s personal. Clients feel connected. Several have tough life stories they are no longer hesitant to share with me and others.
My client relationships are deeper and robust due to the writing. Several posts have generated calls and greater discussion with client families, especially the kids. The blog makes me a real person—I make mistakes. This vulnerability exposes me as human and approachable. People often hesitate to ask questions of—or feel intimidated by—advisors. My clients and prospects feel comfortable asking me anything because I expose pieces of myself and they know they’ll receive straight answers. My material is in depth enough to showcase my knowledge, but I don’t overdo it. Subtle is best.
On occasion, I’m surprised at the responses. Recently, I had two clients come forward and tell me how much they look forward to my posts and share my commentary on a regular basis.
Another benefit is that posting my blog segments to social media occasionally generates story ideas for media. I’m honored to help reporters blend the money and human side. As a result, their stories are robust and memorable.
The writings for MarketWatch Retirement Weekly allow me to “report” what people are thinking and how they’re living in retirement. I’ve received an increased number of hits to my blog since I began contributing regularly to Retirement Weekly. More importantly, the blog assists my marketing efforts. Blogging is such an inexpensive way to share knowledge. Combined with social media, blogging has resulted in prospects and clients. I can attribute roughly $2 million in new client relationships to blogging. It’s a lot of work—you need to stick with it—but the rewards are worth it.
Q. What blogging techniques or topics have most helped your business?
A. I have trained myself, along with lessons in your book on financial blogging, to keep my technique simple and straight. It’s challenging for advisors to take their ego out of their work. I make sure my writing is not about me, it’s about the readers. It’s designed to stimulate responses, emotions and then ostensibly, connections to money lessons. I rarely go longer than 1,500 words, although I know from your guidance that I should cut the word count by half. I’m a work in progress!
It enhances readership when I add pictures or photos to blog posts. People sometimes remember the photos with a smile long after the words are forgotten. It’s a challenge to find just the right visual or mix of photos as to not overwhelm the reader; I think I’ve gotten it down purely by trial and error. There’s no doubt that well-placed visuals add impact.
Topics that have worked for me include how to cut down on debt, the psychology or emotional biases of money, how to raise money-smart kids, and how to increase return on life. These definitely resonate. I purposely stay away from short-term market commentary. There’s plenty of it out there. I seek to have readers examine themselves or their financial situation from 30,000 feet looking down. Focusing on one stock or how the Chinese PMI came in is best left with economists and financial journalists. I can converse about these topics with the best of them. The focus for my blog posts is to inspire the heart, not the head.
Q. What are three of your favorite—or most effective—blog posts?
A. The three blog posts that are the most effective or that have generated the most conversations are the following:
I consistently come across people who tell me they feel they’re bothering their financial advisors if they ask questions.
I will tie in to story lines of popular television shows as attention grabbers. Here, the money lesson focused on replenishment of savings and the act of saving money.
When I went through a stress-induced illness I openly shared the experience with readers. The money advice? How good financial habits create less stress.
Readers tell me that blog posts like this evoke emotional responses. Well, isn’t money emotional? If I can evoke a feeling or incite passion then slip in a money lesson without anybody noticing, then mission accomplished!
Q. What’s your best tip for advisors who blog?
A. For advisors who blog my best tip is to check yourself. People don’t care how smart you are until they know how caring you are. Reveal your vulnerable or human sides, take ego out of your work, keep readers emotionally involved, be entertaining, keep it simple (no math, just words.) Remember—you’re selling yourself to clients and prospects. There are ways to surgically showcase your financial knowledge without overdoing it.