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5 Marketing Mistakes You Need to Avoid with Marie Swift

There are typical mistakes advisors make in their PR or marketing—like not being strategic when communicating their services, or not focusing messaging on the pain points prospects are anxious to alleviate. Before you develop a plan for gaining new clients, learn about common marketing missteps you should avoid.

On this episode of the Elementality podcast, Reese interviews Marie Swift, CEO of Impact Communications, a full-service marketing communications firm for financial advisors. Marie offers tips on how to avoid common traps that can trip you up as you market your expertise. As an advisor, you create roadmaps to a better future for your clients. Find out why your marketing efforts need to be just as deliberate.

 


Podcast Transcript

Marie Swift:
Yeah, so most advisors are impatient, and they’re cheap. You probably have heard that, or felt that. Maybe you’re not that, let’s say you’re not. But having been working with advisors for this many years, they want results, they’re impatient, and sometimes they wanna just get right to the action without a strategy. So we encourage them to really dig in and think about their market and why they’re serving that market, and then to hone that message before they jump into their marketing activities. So I call that the the three Ms: Your market, your message, and your mediums. Because if you think about that and do that every year, you can see where you’ve had some drift. Like, “Has our message or our market changed? And are we doing the right things to reach those markets? And are we saying the right things at the right time?”

Abby Morton:
Welcome to Elementality. I’m Abby Morton, CFP and producer of our podcast here at Elements. I love being a financial planner, but I know it’s a challenging profession as well, that’s why the number one goal of our show is to help you prosper as an advisor as you better connect with your clients. We know your time is very valuable. Plan on a good return when you spend it here with us.

Reese Harper:
Welcome to another episode of Elementality, everybody. I’m your host, Reese Harper, excited to be here today with an industry veteran and a topic that many of you feel like is the bane of your existence, marketing and PR. Marie Swift. Marie, thank you so much for joining me today.

Marie Swift:
Hey, thanks for having me, Reese. It’s great to be here.

Reese Harper:
You and I have some common connections here in the great State of Utah, it looks like. I was surprised to learn that at one point you must have lived here or been around here. Where are you at today? And kind of give me a little bit of background on your connections to Utah just so I can get oriented to that surprise for me, and then how you got into advisor marketing and what you’re doing today with your firm.

Marie Swift:
Absolutely. So I grew up in Utah, in Orem, Utah, went to Orem High, went to what is now known as Utah Valley University. And I still have family there, so all over in Provo, Orem, Jordan, Draper, and I get back there pretty often. I love the mountains. We go out to Moab, we go up in the Uintas, and it’s just beautiful country and great people. Today, I’m actually at my home in Leawood, Kansas, which is a little bedroom community just down south of Kansas City proper.

Reese Harper:
Just before I jump into the actual subject matter, what do you miss about being in the mid… Or being in Utah compared to the Midwest? These are very different geographies.

Marie Swift:
Oh, they are. Well, I miss the cool fall weather and the wonderful summers. I miss the mountain air. We have zero mountains out here in Kansas and Missouri, which is right on… I live on the border of the two states. So I just miss hiking and being out more in nature, because we have parks and that’s about it.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, what do you… Has there been any replacement? Is it just vacations that kinda brings that back? ‘Cause if you grew up here, if someone has been… It doesn’t matter if it’s here or Denver, Boulder, Portland, it’s hard to leave mountains and trees and outdoors once you’ve kind of made them your home, right?

Marie Swift:
Yeah, you just named all my favorite places. In fact, I met my husband in Boulder, Colorado. We’ve been married for 40 years now.

Reese Harper:
Oh, nice.

Marie Swift:
So we love Colorado and the mountains, but it’s hard to replace it. So we travel quite a bit, and we just try to get out and hike as much as we can and be in nature here. We do have some lakes. We have a lake house, so we get down to the Lake of the Ozarks area and Table Rock Lake pretty often and get out on the water.

Reese Harper:
Oh, Lake of the Ozarks?

Marie Swift:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
Okay, you got… That got famous with a Netflix documentary with Jason Bateman. Have you heard about that? I just…

Marie Swift:
I saw it. It was too gory for me.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. I’m like, dang, that got… I was gonna go visit the Ozarks until I started watching some episodes of that show. I was like, “Maybe it’s kind of a crazy place.” But it looked pretty amazing. It seems like a pretty epic spot.

Marie Swift:
Yeah, actually. We actually have our house in a calmer neighborhood. It’s in Table Rock Lake, so it’s cleaner and less rowdy.

Reese Harper:
Okay, that’s awesome. Well, that’s cool. I’m glad you’re able to enjoy the outdoors. Talk to me a little bit about the journey in your career to get to where you’re at today. Talk to me a little bit about your background.

Marie Swift:
Yeah, for sure. So I was a caterer back in the day in Boulder, Colorado, when my husband went back to grad school and he ended up with his first real job in Orange County, California. So I answered a newspaper ad for somebody to come into a financial services firm and learn how to be in the industry and maybe find a way and become an advisor, or who knows? But I started out as a secretary to the boss, to the number one top producer, his name was Anthony Regero, and he was a hard charging, top producer, alpha dog kind of boss. So I learned the ropes; I worked every station. I worked compliance, I worked admin, I worked operations. And then I fell into marketing, and I found that that was my thing, that was my groove. So I eventually ran the marketing for a group of about 20 top producers, all working under Anthony who was one of the top OSJ networks under what was then called Financial Network. Now, you’re gonna find this hard to believe, but this was the days where we had big computers. We didn’t have these iPhones in our hand or our laptops, they were big desktop computers. And I was entering data into dbCAMS, which was state-of-the art back then for money management.

Reese Harper:
Interesting. So you’ve seen a lot of evolution since then in technology and in operations.

Marie Swift:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
Did you… At what point… Where is next steps in your career? So we start to like marketing, you’re getting to where you enjoy it, what’s next steps that led you here?

Marie Swift:
Yeah. Well, so it was really an accident that I started my business. Quite literally, I was racing home to get my little two-year-old son, and I rounded the corner on one of the freeways in Orange County, and there… The traffic was stopped. Long story short, I rear-ended a big utility truck, and the airbag went off, the tires were screeching. Man, I’m getting chills just thinking about it. I’m lucky to be here. And so that just kind of woke me up. That impact, that crashing of the cars woke me up. And after I resigned from my job at Worldwide Investment Network, they said, “Wow, would you freelance? Would you moonlight? Could we be your first client?” So that’s how Impact Communications was born, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been 28 years since I founded the firm, and if you fast forward, we’ve worked with some of the greats in the industries, the Bob Veres, the George Kinders, the Joel Bruckensteins, the Sheryl Garretts. It’s just been a great, incredible space to work and make a difference. And now, today, we work with fiduciary advisors and then some of the organizations that support the fiduciaries like NAPA, like the ACP, like The Custodians, and we just love the work that we do.

Reese Harper:
That’s awesome. So did you find… Typically, one of the challenges in marketing is developing a skill as a writer, as a messenger, as a copy editor and just a… Messaging is difficult in and of itself. PR is totally different from marketing copy and demand gen copy and… What did you start… With your first client, what did you start to do? What was that first… What were they wanting you to do right out of the gate?

Marie Swift:
So my first client was my old employer, so I knew them pretty well, and so I was doing everything. I was managing the ad agency that we had hired out of Orange County, California and the PR agency out of LA. So I kept doing that. And after a while, my boss, now client, said to me, “Hey, why don’t you take this, this, and this over? I think you could do it better.” And so I just started to perfect my skills. And I think to your point about marketing and copywriting, that there is a knack for that, it’s an art, and it’s the ability to hear people and to channel their voice in a way that makes them better. So it’s authentic to them, but it actually amplifies who they’re trying to be, their best self and their best messaging. So instead of having that be slick and slimy copywriting, what I’ve learned to do is to just channel what’s the benefit, what is really trying to be said, what is that in service of? And so I’ve been able to develop that for myself and to bring that to our clients, but it’s hard to train. I found a few other writers who can channel that energy, but if they don’t have some kind of a knack, it’s more of an EQ, not an IQ.

Reese Harper:
And Marie, I apologize. I’m gonna take you in a lot of different directions today, but I wanna dive into this just a little bit more around what makes good writing. We’re in this era of self-publishing, podcasts. Email newsletters are only one form now of communication channels. What makes good content? Right? What makes good content?

Marie Swift:
Channeling yourself through to the audience and syncing up with what’s gonna be meaningful and relevant. But beyond that…

Reese Harper:
Let’s pause there just real quick, ’cause I don’t think we’ve unpacked the importance of that. Let’s… How do you know if you’re channeling yourself to the audience as a writer versus just getting a post completed or an email written? Like how do you really know if you’re really channeling your authentic self?

Marie Swift:
Yeah, so I think that that’s that blend that we’re talking about with your authentic self and then what do you need to say in order to be relevant and meaningful to that audience. So we’re all legends in our own mind until we actually do a reality check. I would actually float it by some people that you trust and say, “Does this resonate with you?” Maybe your best clients, or you have a strategic partner or a center of influence who… If you’re working with dentists like you do, Reese, run it by a couple dentists and say, “Does this appeal to you? Does this resonate? Does it hit on any emotional hot buttons or pain points? Does it get at the problem and the solution? Would you read this? Is it too wordy?” So having a circle of people that you can go to from time to time and ask, that’s helpful. Your staff, of course, that’s helpful. And when you work with the media, they’re gonna tell you if you’re good or not. They’re gonna say, “Hey, no thanks.” They’re gonna turn your articles away because you’re not hitting it for their audience. So you learn by doing.

Reese Harper:
So when you said we’re all… What did you say? We’re all legends in our own mind?

Marie Swift:
Uh-huh.

Reese Harper:
Do you find that that’s a pretty common writing… I can see myself making that mistake early in my career a lot, still making it today, but feeling like something I wrote was a lot more important or a lot better or more insightful than maybe it really was. Do you find that a lot of new writers struggle with that like I have, or is it particularly egoic people like me and we’re like in a small segment? How many people struggle with this?

Marie Swift:
I think a lot of people are insecure. I find that they don’t wanna write because they think what they have to say isn’t important or that they can’t say it well. So we encourage…

Reese Harper:
That’s the majority, you’re saying?

Marie Swift:
Yeah, I think most people are insecure about their writing and their speaking ability, because it’s risky to get out there, right? People might poke holes at what you say…

Reese Harper:
Oh, they always do, yeah.

Marie Swift:
Or what you write, or what your opinion is. So it takes a little courage to be out there, and our usual wisdom for our clients is if you’re reticent to write or to speak, do the one thing that you do the best. Right? So I’m a better writer than I am a speaker, but as I wrote I was asked to speak and versa-visa; it just feeds off each other. So writing is my way of gelling my thoughts. It’s a way to help me be a better speaker and to understand what it is that I really wanna say. So I think that the more you practice communication, whether it’s verbal or written, the better you get, because you understand how to be that best communicator. And you can outsource some of the writing, but you can’t outsource the speaking, so writing to me is a way to get more disciplined.

Reese Harper:
I wish that were possible, yeah. But it’s also, I’ve found, hard to… Like at Dentist Advisors, it became hard to leverage me. If I would get an inquiry to speak at an event, but I might not be able to do it for a variety of reasons, I had to prioritize maybe something else, like transferring authority to someone else to speak in your organization, it can be challenging, especially if your organization is a very broadly focused kind of firm. But writing seems like you can… It seems easier to have someone help you with that, but I don’t know, I feel like I really…

Reese Harper:
There’s so much content out there to read, I really want to know I’m getting the author’s authentic take. And I guess social media has made me a little biased to whether I’m even getting the author’s take because I just feel like it’s just this post mania, and I’m craving authentic voices more than ever right now. I really want authenticity, ’cause it helps cut through the noise, but I don’t know that it’s easy to know where to find that. But you can feel it when you’re reading it, if that makes sense.

Reese Harper:
So I feel like there’s a risk in having too many people get too involved in your content if they take it, if they take it over, if they institutionalize it or cut out your voice. But man, I’ve made so many mistakes in writing where I’ve published something that probably wasn’t well thought through or well-edited and it makes you look dumb, and then you regret it, and then you don’t wanna write for a couple of weeks or something, so…

Reese Harper:
My question about this whole concept that I’m rambling about is, where do you feel like the most authentic writing is published, right? How, as someone who’s looking for writing, like where am I gonna go to find the most authentic writing? Is there a channel or is it just… Can you just tell when you’re reading it? Talk to me a little bit about that.

Marie Swift:
Yeah. I don’t know that there is one channel, because you can put canned content or ghost-written content that’s not authentic on any channel. You can put it on your blog, you can put it on your LinkedIn or Medium. You can even have ghost-written content that has nothing to do with your real passion and purpose published by a magazine. And so I think that the trick there for people who wanna be authentic is to know that the benefits of being authentic help you stand out. Because I think we can all tell when it’s content that is inauthentic, it doesn’t sound like Matthew Jarvis or Bob Veres or Marie Swift or Reese Harper, it sounds like somebody else wrote it.

Marie Swift:
And I find that also with social media engagement, we all know when somebody has outsourced their engagement to a third party. It’s like why would I wanna risk my relationships and let somebody else engage with my LinkedIn connections? Not a chance. And every advisor needs to be doing some of their own social media engagement, because there’s not any assistant, not any service, that can do it the way you do it, who can see the things that you see. So I think that that ties into content too, because there’s canned content that you buy. It’s licensed and sold to many advisors. There’s curated content. You can have a robot or a service do that for you, but are they gonna get it right? Are they gonna include competitors in that curated content? Are they adding anything with your voice to make the curated posts more relevant?

Marie Swift:
Don’t get me wrong, I think curated content can be very beneficial. There’s custom content, and if you get it right with that authenticity like we’re talking about, that’s a golden, golden thing to have and to work on. And then there’s credibility content, which is being seen in the media and getting that halo effect and then harnessing that back through all of your other communications.

Reese Harper:
Let’s talk about just your firm a little bit more before I follow up with another question. What’s the ratio of larger enterprises to medium-sized firms, I would call like a Dentist Advisors? We’ve got an ensemble of advisors, kind of a medium-sized firm. A large one might be like a creative planning or a big RIA. And then you’ve got these startups. Just listening to this podcast, you’ve got probably half of our audience is like less than five employees. What’s the mix of customers like in your business?

Marie Swift:
Yeah, so we work with independent advisors and allied institutions, so it’s about a 50-50 mix. Most of our revenue comes from working with the allied institution, so those would be the custodians…

Reese Harper:
‘Cause they’ve got the budgets, yeah.

Marie Swift:
They’ve got the budget. I just did a project in 2020 for Allianz. They wanna build trust with RIAs, and so I was consulting with them. I said, “Look, if you wanna talk to fiduciary advisors, you’ve gotta earn their trust, you’ve got to invest into the community and become a part of the fabric. You can’t just say, ‘Look, annuities have changed and we have commission-free products.'”

Reese Harper:
Something I was gonna say, that the fastest way for them to gain trust with us is just change their business model and switch their product offering. [laughter]

Marie Swift:
Well, they do, they did switch their product offering, so there are commission-free products that… I’m just talking about the mix of the work that I do. The thing about the wallet is a company that’s a big company has a marketing budget. So Allianz with a mission would have a budget and so they could fund some research and that would allow me to do bigger work. So I’ve got some of the work that I’m doing right now. This year we’re doing something called Mastering the Conversation, which is around communication skills, and I would not have had the freedom to do that kind of in-depth research and writing if I didn’t have funding.

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Marie Swift:
So I’m really grateful for the institutional clients that I have that allow that kind of project work to happen because it supports the independent advisors who would not have any budget to spend on, how do they become a better communicator, or could they even hire a firm like mine to help them, right? So…

Reese Harper:
That’s a pretty insightful… A lot of the advisors have a pretty entrepreneurial spirit and they’re pretty anti-institution in many cases. You’re nodding and I’m imagining that you’ve met with so many of these advisors. You can see how they’ve just been burned, they’ve seen the inequities in the industry, the imbalances of power, money, greed kind of controlling the conversation, but I’ve seen how… If a customer like a large institution doesn’t exist, a lot of this research never gets completed.

Marie Swift:
Yeah, it’s just like having the sponsors in the conference hall. You wanna make sure that they are there with the right spirit and if they are not bringing good solutions or bringing the right kind of conversations, especially if they’re gonna be a speaker or an MC participating on any of the stage presentations, you’re gonna shy away from them. You’re gonna go to something that Justin Castelli does instead, or Marie Swift, because we’re actually subject matter experts. Now, that’s not to say that some of these institutions don’t have subject matter experts, but they’re not as close to the ground, boots on the ground, working with advisors, like an advisor like you is, talking to other advisors or somebody like me who’s been in the trenches with advisors for this many years. So I think it’s tricky for institutions to bring people to conferences as speakers and to have their voices in these research papers. And I think that if other experts like me can help to channel that and say, “Look, here’s who would be important in this paper.” I’m just holding this next paper I’m working on. I’ve got 14 experts, including Mitch Anthony and Stephanie Bogan and Bob Veres and Steve Wershing and Julie Littlechild and Jodi Jacobson and Carolyn McClanahan.”

Marie Swift:
Who wouldn’t wanna read this paper where we’re telling you everything we know about becoming a better communicator? This paper would not have been written if it was a passion project for me.

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Marie Swift:
I needed to be paid to write it, otherwise I gotta go work for my clients in order to keep my company afloat.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, that’s great insight. Let’s go into a few high-level red flags that you feel like are mistakes that advisors make. What’s the first thing that comes to mind, just mistakes that people make in their overall PR and marketing?

Marie Swift:
Yeah, so most advisors are impatient and they’re cheap. You probably have heard that or felt that. Maybe you’re not that. Let’s say you’re not. But having been working with advisors for this many years, they want results, they’re impatient, and sometimes they wanna just get right to the action without a strategy.

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Marie Swift:
So we encourage them to really dig in and think about their market and why they’re serving that market and then to hone that message before they jump into their marketing activities. So I call that the three M’s: Your market, your message and your mediums, because if you think about that and do that every year, you can see where you’ve had some drift. Like, “Has our message or our market changed? And are we doing the right things to reach those markets and are we saying the right things at the right time?” So I think that that’s one of the mistakes I see consistently.

Reese Harper:
So as it relates to a firm, some of that has to do with positioning, some of that has to do with overall strategy. I guess what I’m hearing is a broad, they’re cheap, generally, meaning they don’t wanna spend the money or time to develop a real thorough documented strategy. Is that… That’s…

Marie Swift:
That’s correct.

Reese Harper:
That’s cost, right? You have to pay for…

Marie Swift:
That’s not always the case but we do standalone marketing plans for more and more advisors because they’re starting to see, “Well, look, we’re selling financial plans. Shouldn’t we actually have a marketing plan, a strategy, a roadmap where we can see why we’re doing what we’re doing, and if we do this, that the projected result could be this?” So marketing plans are helpful because they put the rubber on the road. They give the team or the outsourced team members something to work on and a plan that can have some staying power instead of just ad hoc scattershot. And that’s the other mistake I see, is just like throw spaghetti against the wall. What’s gonna work? I saw somebody say, “That podcast work,” or “That I should write a book.” Well, why are you doing that? And does that work for your audience?

Reese Harper:
Moving forward without a strategy. The second thing you just kind of threw out there at the end was just like lots of activity with… That’s not coordinated by that strategy. So they’re doing a lot of stuff, but… Did I correctly categorize your second one? Just a lot of activity that’s not backed up by an actual plan?

Marie Swift:
Exactly right.

Reese Harper:
Okay.

Marie Swift:
And then not staying the course. Give the plan some time to work. Once you’ve got the strategy in place, give it at least 13 months. That’s 12 months plus one month. Give it a year and a month so that you can reassess and adjust.

Reese Harper:
Why’d you say a year and a month?

Marie Swift:
Because 12 months goes by too quickly. [laughter] So we do a 13-month roadmap because we wanna give it 10, 11, 12 months, and then suddenly it’s the end of that 12-month period. Give yourself a 13-month roadmap so you can have that little bit of wraparound time.

Abby Morton:
Do you ever get out of a client meeting and feel a little frustrated because you spent the whole time getting updated and more accurate data? Do you leave feeling like you want to have another meeting just to further develop your relationship with them? The Elements Financial Planning System assists you in taking care of all the functional jobs that need to be done in advance, and because the technology was created with the client in mind, they are more motivated to come prepared. That means you can spend additional time actually listening to what your client needs. To learn more, schedule a time to talk to us today by going to getelements.com/meet.

Reese Harper:
In advisor’s terms like those… The businesses just don’t move that fast. They’re… I’m surprised, six months will go by, and for most advisors, that feels like a few weeks. And so I feel it is important to give… I have a lot of people who’d be like, “I’m gonna pick a niche, I’m gonna go after a new market, I’m gonna actually put a strategy together,” three months in, they’re just like, “I don’t know if it’s working.” And if I would have done that with Dentist Advisors, it’d probably took me 12 months to even… We have 30,000… An audience probably of around 30,000 now of dentists that fuels our growth every year. But I thought the podcast that I started at seven or eight years ago, six months in I thought it was a complete failure, right? And today it’s the largest podcast about money for dentists in the US. But it looked like it was gonna die. It didn’t have legs six months in. I mean, it had some, and maybe it was a bad launch plan, maybe it was… I wasn’t as good as I thought I was and needed a lot more coaching, but it might have just been…

Reese Harper:
It took, takes a little time for something to get going. And I was surprised at a year, I still kinda was like, “I don’t know. I think it’s probably gonna work, but I’m not sure.” And I just think in financial services or in services in general, things move pretty… They move at a different pace. I don’t know. I like that advice. I thought you were gonna say something shorter, but I think a year is about the right time to let a full plan actually materialize before you start pulling the plug.

Marie Swift:
Yeah, I’ll tell you a quick story. We were working with a small RIA in Ohio, and they had about 53 million under management, small, and to invest in a retainer package with a PR and marketing firm like mine was a big stretch, but they had a strategic coach, not the Strategic Coach Program, but somebody who was coaching them and said, “Look, for growth, here’s where you need to be focusing. So go ahead and bite the bullet and get on a retainer plan with a competent PR and marketing agency.” They’ve been with us as a PR and marketing retainer client for seven years now. If you fast-forward from 53 million working our plan, which started out as a 13-month plan, they’re now approaching 400 million. And so their growth has been hampered by their capacity because they can’t hire the right kind of people fast enough. So they actually sold off a third of their book of business to Facet Wealth, I think it is, and so the clients who were no longer being well-served found a better home for them, those early clients who were no longer gonna be the future of the organization and they just needed to find a different way of being served.

Marie Swift:
So I think that that’s a pretty good way to think about the growth plan for an RIA that’s family-owned and operated. And those are really great numbers. I forget what I told Bob Veres the other day, or it wasn’t the other day, like the last time I talked with him about the growth, but it’s about 53% per year, year over year, once we got it going, but it took about three years to see that start happening.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, it’s interesting, it does take a lot of… I just think it takes a lot of effort. What is… Is there any other mistakes that kinda come to mind that we didn’t really cover, things that kinda stand out to you? We talked about not having a strategic plan. We talked about the kind of implementing and selling, kind of moving forward without that strategy. What is the mistake in the content creation itself and the messaging kind of dimension that you see? What’s an area in that world that we talked about earlier that you’d categorize as maybe a mistake?

Marie Swift:
Well, I think it goes to that communication propensity to want to talk about the reasons why someone should work with you first and foremost, without hitting on what keeps the individual or the target client up at night. So we’ve seen the rise of this thing called client personas, where advisory firms will say, “Here’s an amalgam, a little sketch of our ideal client, we’ll call them Bill and Marie Swift, or Sally and Jim Anderson. And so Sally and Jim have this much money, they have this many kids, they live in this area. But more than their demographics, here’s what keeps them up at night. Right? So what are their concerns and their pain points? And how could a firm like ours help them?” So you start with the problem and you sketch it out so that the reader or the listener can understand that you work with people and they solve problems for people just like them, and then they might warm up to the idea that you could be a resource for them. So the rise of personas has been a good thing. I think maybe that they are seen as the be-all, end-all, but what you would do with a case study after that is to send it out as a teaser really, like, “Here’s a more fleshed out case study. Here’s the persona, the types of people we work with. Here’s what makes them tick. And here is something that’s anonymized to show how we would work with Jim and Sally Anderson in this case, to work through this problem that they have.”

Marie Swift:
And of course, you have to be careful about not having it be a testimonial or that people can identify themselves, that it’s anonymized appropriately and that you’re not promising investment returns, but I think you can talk about the journey.

Reese Harper:
I heard two things. One, don’t just start writing without knowing who you’re speaking to. You’re talking about more clearly identifying who you’re speaking to. But you’re also saying, let’s make sure that we talk about things that are important to that person that are not necessarily the financial information, like the things that the… There’s what’s an advisor interested in versus maybe what the client’s interested in, and the client’s interested in emotions or feelings or pain that isn’t always the same thing the advisor is interested in or normally talks about. Am I getting some of those? Am I clarifying what you said? Maybe tell me where you’d add more.

Marie Swift:
Yeah, Carl Richards has this sketch, one of the napkin sketches he does was the Sharpies that The New York Times published in. It’s about a Venn diagram with two overlapping circles, what you wanna talk about, what they wanna hear, and where you hit the sweet spot is in that middle. So when we write or create communications for our clients or for our own firm, we try to use the “you” voice. We try to say “you” and “your” three times as many as we say “I”, “me”, “we”, “us”, because that’s self-centered. We try to be client-centered in everything we’re writing. So channeling through to that audience and thinking about what’s relevant to them, what do they wanna hear, and then what do we wanna say, and how you can marry that up. But it’s an art. There’s a little bit of a formula, but it is an art to get people to take action. And there’s this whole thing around personas and calls to action and getting people to convert.

Marie Swift:
But at the end of the day, you don’t have to have a big audience in order to have a successful business or to have a successful podcast. You can become what my friends at ProudMouth podcasting system call a “micro-influencer.” So I stole that from Matt Halloran and Kirk Lowe. But being a micro-influencer with the right people is all you need to do with your marketing.

Reese Harper:
I see a lot of newsletters and blogs out there from financial advisors on financial tips, financial ideas, like an article about crypto, an article about an IRA conversion, or an article about a tax issue. Feels like there’s a place for that kind of stuff, but it feels like maybe what I’m hearing you say is we just have an overemphasis on those things, and maybe not enough on the things that Carl Richards says the client wants to talk about. ‘Cause they’re not necessarily wanting to go to school right now, or they’re not wanting to learn about a particular financial strategy. Is that correctly summarizing what you’re saying?

Marie Swift:
Yes, and to your point, I think there is a place for that more technical information because you’re showing that you know. You know your stuff and you’re feeding the search engine spiders, and some of that is just what you have to do. You’re gonna have more technical clients, more linear clients who wanna read and consume that content. But for somebody like me, an entrepreneur, I don’t have time. I’m paying somebody else to do that brain damage, somebody who likes that stuff.

Reese Harper:
You’re not even interested in this.

Marie Swift:
I don’t like that stuff.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. [chuckle]

Marie Swift:
I’m a creative type. I’m a grandmother, I’ve got kids, I got a business, I’ve got a life. I don’t wanna read about tax laws. Somebody else fix that for me, right? So I just wanna know enough to know that my providers are experts, but more than that, I wanna know that they care about me. So there’s this balance between I know, I know my stuff and I care. I care about you, Marie, as my client. So when our wealth manager, my family’s wealth manager, sends us market commentary, it goes right in the trash or in the email’s basket, a version of trash. But if my advisor sends me an invitation to an event that I’m interested in, whether it’s virtual or in person, or asks about our kids or talks about our legacy planning, I’m interested in that. If they have content on their blog or in their email newsletters, I’m interested in that. But for me… Not everybody’s gonna be like me. I think you wanna hit on some of that more, what shows your character as a firm, what shows your culture, that you actually want to build a relationship, that it’s not just about the money.

Marie Swift:
And I’ll give you one last example of a firm that I think is doing a great job with that. Cheryl Holland and her firm in South Carolina, Abacus, I think it’s Abacus Wealth Partners, they do a great job showing… Kinda pulling back the veil. “Here’s who we are as a team. Here’s who we are as individuals. This is what’s important to us as human beings on planet Earth. And these are the kinds of clients that we wanna work with, is people who share this kind of sense of community stewardship and being good citizens and taking care of the planet.” And they’re not for everybody, but I think it’s working for them. Last time I looked, they were over $2 billion AUM.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. Well, that’s a great insight, Marie. You’ve got a lot of experience, and definitely makes me ask myself a lot of questions about this important… Just this critical topic. So if people wanna get a hold of you, get in touch with you, learn more about you, what’s the best way to do that?

Marie Swift:
So you can Google me, Marie Swift. The last time I looked, I’m the most famous Marie Swift on the internet. I’m not the poet or the make-up artist. Or you can follow me on social media. I’m @MarieSwift on Twitter. I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Facebook. And we have a website, impactcommunications.org. And I blog at marieswift.com. And I also do my own SwiftChat video and podcast series. And I wanna have you on my show, Reese, so that we can talk about more what you do.

Reese Harper:
Oh thanks, Marie. Excited to continue this friendship. I love meeting people that have so much experience. This is not an easy thing to survive in the advisor world for as long as you have and successfully make great impressions on a lot of the leaders in our industry. So thanks for taking your time today. We’ll let you leave the last word with advisors before we go today. What would you like to leave everyone with?

Marie Swift:
Just do something and stick with it. Do something really well and then add one more thing and one more thing to your marketing tool belt. And get help if you need it. For instance, I’m doing a class, a master class for NAPFA starting, I think it’s the 26th of January. It’s right around the corner. And we’re gonna be talking about how to create a lead magnet, what is a lead magnet, how to do one, and it’s gonna take our audience from just theory to practice. So a lot of people can talk about something, but we’re actually gonna do exercises and have it be a master class in participating. So that would be one way to get free, if you’re a NAPFA member, help, and I think there’s a small cost for others who are not NAPFA members. So do one thing, give it some time, and then just add something more.

Reese Harper:
Awesome, Marie. Thanks so much for taking the time today. I look forward to catching up again with you soon.

Marie Swift:
Thanks, Reese, a pleasure.

Abby Morton:
Next time on Elementality…

Matt Glazer:
I think a lot of people would argue, “Well, I do have a process and I put it on my website.” There’s a discovery meeting and a get-organized meeting, and a review the plan meeting, and an implement the plan… I think people spell out a process and they feel like that this is successfully communicating to the client what we do. But I think I tend to agree with you that that’s not specific enough, that telling people, “We’ll review your savings plan,” is candidly not specific enough in many cases. At the end of the day, most consumers still think that we do their investments.

Abby Morton:
You can learn more about The Elements Financial Planning System at getelements.com/meet and schedule a time to speak with one of our friendly financial planning experts. Elementality’s executive creators are Reese Harper and Matt Glazer. Elementality is produced by Abby Morton and directed by Jordan Haines. Have a good one.

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