The existence of social media and search engines like Google have made it possible for niche advisors to succeed like never before, obtaining clients simply by creating content that demonstrates their expertise to their prospective clientele, and allowing those prospects to find their way to the advisor.
Yet the caveat of engaging in such inbound marketing strategies as a financial advisor is that they only work by actually creating the content, which for many advisors is a challenge unto itself in trying to think up topics to write about! As it turns out, though, there’s a remarkably easy way to come up with appropriate topics: simply create content to answer the questions your clients are already asking you!
And if writing still seems overwhelming, consider crafting an outline to help figure out what to write about. By breaking your article into 3 key points, then identifying 3 key concepts associated with each point, all that remains to create an article is just to create one paragraph (3 sentences!) to summarize each concept! (I call this writing approach the 3x3x3 strategy!)
Or alternatively, if writing is still a blocking point, consider just not writing at all! If you’re better at speaking, try recording yourself on video instead! If you just prefer to talk about the topics, try a podcast! Or hire writer who can work with you to take an initial topic idea and expand it into an article!
Ultimately, though, the biggest key to overcoming any writer’s block and producing content regularly is simply to commit to a regular schedule of content in the first place. Whether it’s just planning to do one article per month, or a rotating series of articles every week, by crafting your own “Editorial Content Calendar” you can create a form of accountability for yourself, to help ensure that your content creation efforts get the priority they deserve!
Finding Ideas To Create Advisor Blog Content
Coming up with content for a blog is one of the greatest blocking point challenges for advisors looking to start or grow a blog. Yet the irony is that finding inspiration for content that can help you attract more prospective clients who are just like your current (best) clients is actually remarkably simple: just write about the questions/issues that your top clients are facing or asking you about!
In other words, the best ideas for content to create for your blog is simply to listen to the questions your existing clients are already asking you about! If a lot of your clients work for a particular company and have questions about their employee benefits or stock options, write an (anonymized) article that highlights their question and your analysis of how you would answer it. If you have a lot of older retired clients asking questions about how to evaluate a continuing care retirement community, write an article about how you helped them analyze the situation. If your clients want to know what they should do about charitable giving from their IRA given that the rules for Qualified Charitable Distributions have lapsed, write an article to reflect the advice you would give.
The whole point is that if your best clients have this question, then other people who are not your clients but could be probably have this question as well, and might be searching online for an answer. So the goal is really simple: when people just like your best clients have questions and search online, you want your answers to come up as the response they find in Google! Now you’re demonstrating yourself to be a valuable and relevant source of information for people who might do business with you, and beginning the process of forming a connection to them so that someday you might do business with them!
So the bottom line is that any time a client asks you a question, recognize that it’s an opportunity not only to answer them directly, but also to craft an article about it that gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise. And if several clients ask you the same question, it should definitely become an article on your blog!
In point of fact, I even maintain an ongoing “note” in Evernote, that is just a list of ongoing blog ideas, based solely on questions asked to me by people I do business with. By keeping it in Evernote, I can access it from my smartphone wherever I am – which means, whenever the conversation is happening and the question arises, I have the immediate opportunity to capture the question as an idea I might write about in the future!
And once you’ve already written some articles for your website, the next opportunity for finding blog ideas is to look at your website Google Analytics, see what articles are already popular and producing results, and write more content that tackles other issues that might be relevant to a similar audience!
Overcoming Advisor Writer’s Block And The 3x3x3 Approach
For some advisors, the only thing more terrifying than coming up with a topic for a blog article is the process of actually starting to write it. There’s nothing quite like the looming fear of tackling a blank page. It can feel overwhelming.
As a regular writer who faces this challenge regularly, I’ve formulated an approach I call the 3x3x3 style of blog writing. The idea is to break down what feels like the ‘overwhelming’ challenge of writing an entire article at once, into a series of smaller steps.
The process is incredibly simple: the starting point is simply to come up with 3 key points you want to make about your topic. That’s it, just 3 key points. If you’re writing about long-term investing, you might talk about the power of compounding, how volatility smoothes out in the long run, and the virtues of long-term equity returns. If you’re giving end-of-year tax advice, your 3 points might be doing end-of-year Roth conversions, capital loss harvesting, and IRA contributions.
Once you’ve got your 3 key points, then for each one, come up with 3 key concepts to explain the issue. So for the tax advice article, your 3 key concepts about end-of-year Roth conversions might be the tax treatment of Roth conversions, the end-of-year deadline to complete it, and how to execute it by a trustee-to-trustee transfer. Your 3 key concepts for capital loss harvesting might include explaining how wash sales work, the cost to execute capital loss harvesting, and an estimate of how much it’s worth.
Ultimately, each of these 3 key concepts will become a paragraph, which means your full article is now taking shape. You’ll have 3 key points, and each of the key points will have 3 paragraphs explaining the key concepts. And in truth, all you really need to formulate a paragraph is 3 sentences. So your ultimate goal is just to write 3 sentences about each concept.
Thus, the end result of this 3x3x3 process is simply:
- Identify the 3 key points
- Determine 3 key concepts related to each key point
- Write 3 sentences about each key concept
Ultimately, this forms the entire basis for the article, broken down into bite-sized increments. The first step is simply coming up with 3 key points. The second is coming up with 3 concepts related to each point. Then all you have to do is write 3 sentences about each key concept! (Of course, you might find that for some topics/concepts, you have even more than 3 sentences to write or more than 3 key concepts to explain, which is fine too – now your article is even longer and more thorough!)
Once you’re done, you can round it out by adding one more set of 3 – an executive summary at the top, comprised of 3 paragraphs to briefly explain each of the 3 key points!
The 3x3x3 financial advisor blog template (click the image to the right) is a sample version of this template outline you can use for yourself! Just fill in the main subject, the 3 key points, the 3 key concepts in each area, and then all that remains is for you to write 3 sentences about each of the 9 key concepts you’ve listed in the outline!
Blog Content Doesn’t Have To Be Written; Recording A Video Or Podcast Works, Too!
Notably, while we’ve looked so far at blog content that is written, it’s important to note that the key part of “blogging” to demonstrate your expertise is not the “writing” part but simply the “content” part. And content has a lot of forms!
For instance, if the reality is that you’d rather present to a group of people than write an article for them, consider recording yourself in front of a camera talking through key concepts instead! YouTube is now the second largest search engine, and as educational video content becomes more popular, the frequency of “How To”-related searches on YouTube are up over 70% in the past year alone! So if your most comfortable means of creating content to demonstrate expertise is to stand in front of an audience to deliver it, then do that – in front of a camera, where YouTube can help the audience find their way to you!
Similarly, if you’re not one for standing in front of a video camera, but you’re happy to just talk and be recorded, consider creating a podcast instead. Podcasting and audio-recorded content is on the rise, and over 1/3rd of all Americans have now listened to a podcast according to Pew Research. Yet in the context of financial advisors demonstrating their expertise, podcasting remains a relatively untapped realm! In fact, having a podcast (particularly a growing and successful one) can be an excellent means to reach out and form relationships with Centers of Influence, killing two birds with one stone as the podcast both serves a key networking function and builds an audience to whom you can demonstrate your expertise!
On the other hand, if the reality is that you really aren’t interested in podcasting or video and would like to be an author, but the writing remains the challenge, there’s also the simple fact that in today’s world you don’t have to be a writer to be an author. Instead, you can simply record yourself talking through the key points and concepts you want to convey, and then hire a writer to go through the process of turning your ideas into a written article that demonstrates your expertise. There are a growing number of outsourced content creation services for advisors (which can be very cost effective if you can just record an article idea in 15 minutes rather than spending many hours writing it yourself!), or you can hire an editor very inexpensively and have that person help take a rough draft you created quickly and refine it into something that’s ready to be viewed by the world. Or alternatively, you can use a recording transcription service like Rev or Speechpad to turn your audio recordings into text, and then just edit it yourself!
Create Accountability And Make Blogging A Habit With A Blog Editorial Content Calendar
Once you’ve figured out your strategy for producing blog content, the last key is that you have to produce it regularly and consistently, a key aspect of building trust in the online environment. Which means ultimately, blogging has to be something you do more than just “when the mood strikes” – because with the fear of writer’s block, it will be too easy to procrastinate! Instead, you’ve got to make it a habit.
And the easiest way to make blogging a habit is to commit in advance to a regular schedule of creating content. It doesn’t necessarily have to be done very often at the start; a consistent habit is more important than a high-frequency one. So if it’s daunting to produce blog content any more often than once a month, then just commit to doing it once a month. But commit to doing it once a month!
To further tackle the fear of writer’s block, a related strategy is not only to commit to blog content on a regular basis, but plan in advance what kind of topic or content you’ll produce. For instance, if you were going to blog monthly, you might decide that on even months you’ll do an article about a technical planning question your client asked, and on odd months you’ll do an interview with a center of influence instead. If you blog weekly, you might decide that you’ll do three articles on client questions every month, and on the last week of each month you’ll answer a “MailBag” article where you invite readers to submit their own questions and respond to one.
Regular readers of Nerd’s Eye View might have noticed that I operate my own “editorial content calendar” for this blog. On Mondays I always write about an issue related to practice management, personal/career development, or industry issues. On Wednesdays, I cover technical planning topics, which might range from investments to retirement to tax planning issues. On Fridays, I offer my popular Weekend Reading columns. And then occasionally on the intervening Tuesdays or Thursday, I’ll fill in with a MailBag article or a Guest Post.
Ultimately, the goal of creating your own editorial content calendar – over whatever time intervals and on whatever topics you wish – is to create an accountability mechanism for yourself. If you just plan to create content “whenever you have a moment” you’ll never find the time to do it. A content calendar creates a deadline, which in turn helps to make it a priority, ensuring that you actually get it done on a regular basis. And notably, you may find that once you have regular readers who find your content valuable, knowing that your readers are awaiting and expecting your content can be the greatest accountability mechanism of all to ensure you remain on track!
So what do you think? Have you had trouble coming up with topics to write about, or getting stuck with writer’s block staring down a blank page? How do you keep yourself on track in creating content? What’s your preferred style?