Over the past several years, financial advisors have increasingly utilized digital channels as a part of their overall marketing strategies, as the more traditional tactics for generating new leads have become less effective (and especially in recent months amid the ongoing COVID pandemic). Of course, a key ingredient of digital marketing is content (whether it be a book, podcast, blog, video, or any number of content ‘artifacts’). For many financial advisors, however, content creation isn’t something that comes as naturally as, say, comparing decumulation strategies or analyzing Monte Carlo simulations, and it’s easy to hit a roadblock when staring at a blank screen.
In our 39th episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and financial advisor communication expert Carl Richards share some actionable steps that advisors can take to create content for digital marketing that can then be used to establish the advisor’s expertise with their existing (or prospective clients). Because the reality is that there are far more tools available for creating all sorts of content in a myriad of formats and packaging beyond simply typing out words one paragraph at a time into a long-form article.
As a starting point, it’s helpful to actively observe internal sticking points that may slow down the advisor’s capacity to create content, and then consciously turn them into ‘features’ instead. For instance, don’t have the capacity or desire to deal with the logistics of booking guests to have on a podcast? Decide instead to produce a short podcast without guests where the primary feature is the listener’s opportunity to hear from the advisor directly. Use the memo feature on your phone to remember stuff or take notes as someone who doesn’t like to write? Upload them to SoundCloud, and share them on social media or with a client newsletter as an audio recording that clients and prospects can listen to without needing to read it!
Another tried and true method for effective content creation is to simply keep track of the questions that clients already ask, and turning the answers into something (appropriately anonymized for the particulars of the situation) to share out with the broader base of clients and prospects. And (importantly) it doesn’t have to start as something that is written down. Instead, it can start as a spoken response, that is then transcribed and edited using any number of tools, or even produced as a podcast... or both! In fact, there are several services where freelance creatives are available to take raw content (the advisor’s expertise answering common client questions) and turn it into polished material, that can then be repurposed and distributed on different platforms.
Because the simple fact is that, for advisors who have decided that they have expertise that they feel would help a broader audience or a perspective on an issue that they want to share, there are a few relatively simple steps to take – track notable ideas and observations, block out just a little time each week to review those notes, record observations, and send that basic commentary along to a freelancer – to start regularly creating content. Because, after all, while many advisors get writer’s block, few get talker’s block!
***Editor's Note: Can't get enough of Kitces & Carl? Neither can we, which is why we've released it as a podcast as well! Check it out on all the usual podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, and Stitcher.
- Behavior Gap Radio: Exploring human behavior...with a Sharpie
- Google Keep
- Rode Lavalier Microphones
- Dragon NaturallySpeaking
- Repurpose House
Kitces & Carl Podcast Transcript
Michael: Good morning, Carl. Good afternoon in London.
Carl: Yes, it is afternoon. Greetings, Michael. How are you?
Michael: I'm doing well. I'm doing well. I think we've finally mostly figured out the five-hour time zone difference between me being in the US and you being in the UK right now. And if you can overcome massive time zones to figure out how to schedule a podcast, I feel like anything is possible in the world of content.
Carl: For sure. For sure. In fact, that's probably a good lead in to what we should talk about. Like, you know how people finally feel like they've gotten over the impostor syndrome, they've figured out like they have something to say. Even if they've relied on other people saying, "Hey, you've got something to say." And now I'd love to talk, like, really specific, kind of nuts and bolts about, how do you take it from a thing... let's assume, based on the last episode... that now we've got words on a page or a voice file, how do I now put it into the world? And maybe we can talk about different... I think of them as artifacts. People get so hung up on the art. Like, "I don't want to create...I don't want to write a book. I don't want to..." No, don't get hung up on that. But let's talk about specific artifacts now, and artifacts being a blog post, an email newsletter, a podcast... how do people... I'd like to walk through how I do it and how you do it. How do you actually put it into the world?
Creating Content For Marketing When You Do Think Of Yourself As a "Writer" [02:18]
Michael: So I like that framing, including that we're going to call them artifacts going forward, right? I've always struggled with this phenomenon that we...when we talk about things like content and content for marketing, that a lot of it is written. Certainly, a lot of what we put out is written. A lot of what you put out is written. And I find for some advisors, that becomes the blocking point because they say, "I'm not a writer. That's not my thing." And then we get hung up on, "I can't do marketing and communicate this way because I'm 'not a writer.'" First of all, you may be more of a writer than you realize. We'll come back to that in a moment. But secondarily, just to point like, you don't have to write it. Like, if you like talking, talk and turn it into a podcast. If you're great in front of people, awesome, stand in front of the camera and turn it into a video. Like, there's so many different ways that you can make content a thing that you put out in the world.
So I'm with you. We're going to run with just calling this an artifact. You make an artifact that you share with the world. That might be a written thing, a video thing, an audio thing on your site, in another site. There are lots of tactics about how you do that. But let's just talk about creating artifacts. Like, people are asking you a question, you want to answer the question to create some value in the world and show your expertise. You're ready to make an artifact, how do you actually make the artifact?
Carl: Yeah. Look, I could talk through the Times column or the sketches. But I think what I'd love to do, just because this is like the simplest. So I'm a huge fan of noticing when I run into a roadblock, and then making that roadblock, instead of feeling like it's a bug, making it a feature, like just flipping it. And so I was like, "Ah, I kind of want to...I want to start..." And this is at the encouragement, this sort of constant annoyance of Seth Godin saying, "You should do this daily, you should do this daily, you should do this daily." So a little while ago, I was like, "I'm going to create...so I'm going to write daily." And I actually got asked, "Why aren't you doing this every day as a blog? Why aren't you blogging every day?" And I was like, "Well, I don't..." I actually don't like to write. I process better verbally, and I like to communicate verbally, or visually, but mostly verbally. And so I was like, "Well, I'm just going to..."
Michael: And this coming from a "New York Times" author.
Carl: Yeah. Well, and I should tell you, like, most of those columns were literally like me trying to type, and then like shutting the keyboard being, "No, like this," and I would say it. So I get that feedback all the time. Like, "I love your writing because it's so conversational." And I'm like, "Well, that's because I was talking to myself in the office." And then I started just recording it. And then I would just listen to the recording and I would write what I heard. And now, of course, there's easier ways to do that with Descript and whatever. So yeah, it was literally me talking. So remember, most people don't get talker's block. You can get writer's block.
Michael: Oh, that's good.
Carl: Here's one way to do this. This is literally how simple it was for me. I was like, "I want to create a podcast. Oh, but I don't want to have guests." I do want to have guests, but I don't want to deal with scheduling, and, like, I just can't right now, and tech and recording and quality. So those are all excuses. Like, maybe invalid, like, reasons not to do it. And that's the roadblock. As soon as I hit those roadblocks now, I love to go, "Okay. Well then, if that's the reason, what could I...holding that constant, what could I do?" Like, "Okay, well, you could have a podcast with no guests." Are you allowed to? Yeah. Yeah, you're allowed to. "I don't want to spend a bunch of time on Twitter in conversations." Are you allowed to just broadcast on Twitter? Yeah. So it's like, okay, well then no guests. "Oh, I don't want to spend a lot of time on it." Then make it short. So like, okay, what if I just noticed one thing a day and record an audio?
And I'm skipping a step, actually. Even before I started thinking about the podcast, I was like, "I'm just going to record an audio every day and tell no one. I'm not going to put it in the world." It's just for me to notice. It's like a private journal about the business finance world, doing things, permission, like impostor syndrome. So I started recording and I was saving them in a Dropbox folder. And the team saw them. And they're like, "Hey, what are these? Can we...?" And I was like, "No, no, no. No, no, this just..." Because I didn't want the pressure.
So they're like, "Well, this is really amazing. Can we share it in the newsletter?" I was like, "Sure, whatever." So they put it...they started putting them on SoundCloud and sharing it in the newsletter. So SoundCloud, free, easy. So far we're in Apple memo, "Greetings. This is Carl. Today I want to talk about..." It was that simple. Nobody has to edit it. Goes up on SoundCloud. After a little while, people were listening to it in the newsletter. They would see it on SoundCloud, and they started writing me, "I love your podcast." And I was like, "No, no, no, it's not a podcast." And it'd be like...I actually got an email from somebody who said, "Carl, I don't know what you call it, but is there any way you could put it on iTunes so I can listen to it in the car?" And I was like, "Okay, fine." So we put it up as a podcast. So now it's literally, I record an audio file. I go into SoundCloud. Nobody touches it. Nobody edits it, nothing. I upload it to SoundCloud. SoundCloud is linked to iTunes. There are easier ways, but that's...there are better ways, but that's super simple. And I've been doing that for five or six years and we've crossed a million downloads, and that we haven't told anybody. It's a secret podcast. I don't broadcast it.
So that's like...the only reason I want to enable that is I don't buy excuses anymore. I don't buy them. Like, if you have an excuse for why...assuming you want to do this, assuming you agree that your voice needs to be heard in the world, or assuming that you just have a feeling that your voice needs to be heard in the world, and we're throwing fuel on it, assuming you want to do this, no excuses. Let's just look at those excuses and go, "Okay, cool, what if I created something that that actually was a constraint and that become...?" Now I'm like, "I love..." I get this feedback, "I love your podcast because it's short and just you."
Michael: And originally it was like, "Oh, God, I don't know if I can make something long enough to be valuable. And I've got to find all these guests that I don't know if I can get. So like, I'm just going to do something short and me because it's all I've got time for." And then that turned out to be your greatest feature of that podcast.
Carl: Right. I think that's the same thing with the hand-drawn sketches. I tried to download Adobe Illustrator. This is in the late '90s, early 2000s, Adobe Illustrator said like four hours to download, and I thought, "Any program that takes four hours to download I should not be touching." So then I was like, "Well, what should I do? Well, I'll do it on Sharpie and card stock and stick it through a scanner." And I tried last year again, I try every couple years to hire a designer and turn these into beautiful graphic ones. Jack Butcher and I just worked on this a little bit. And the feedback I get is, "No, where did the hand-drawn ones go?" Right? So the bugs that originally feel like bugs, that old saying in software, it's a feature, not a bug. Like, the bugs you can flip and they can become features.
So that's just one example of like, you could...everybody right now could do that tomorrow. You pull up your iPhone, the iPhone mic's good enough. The earbud's mic is good enough. I just bought a little Rode Lavalier. Lavalier mic is good enough. You record, you hit "save," you upload it to SoundCloud. You connect SoundCloud to podcast and every once in a while you say something about it. If you really want to throw fuel on it, share a tweet a day. "Today I talked about this. Listen here." You do that for 20, 18 months, you will have something. It's not complex.
Creating Content By Recording Verbal Responses To Client Questions [10:49]
Michael: I think you make an important point as well around just the ways you can use the spoken word to get through a lot of this. As you've put it, like, most people don't get talker's block. At worst, our talker's block is our own self-doubts about, "Should I really talk about this and share it out with anybody?" But if someone asks you a question...very few financial advisors that I know that can't figure out how to talk an answer when a client gives you a question. Which means, to me, one of the most straightforward ways if you're not sure how to create content, regardless of whether you want to be podcast or video or blog post, they can all start with talking. In fact, I know someone that produces most of their blog posts. They just take the question and they speak the answer into an audio file. They use Dragon NaturallySpeaking to turn it into a written article, a written transcript, and then they send it to a freelance editor and say, "Make it pretty because I just talked through this." And the freelance editor takes their stuff, their knowledge, their expertise, and makes it nice grammar.
I had heard this statement from...I think I heard it originally from Gary Klaben, although I believe he had drawn it from somewhere else as well, that you don't have to be a writer to be an author. Being an author is about having some thought, some idea something that you share into the world. It came from your mind. You created it and put it out there, the way that you delivered it, the way that you framed it, the way that you answered that question. If you're not a writer, fine, there are lots of people out there who can help make the words pretty and grammatically sharp, particularly in today's world, where there are a lot of very, very smart people at media companies who are unemployed because of the challenges of the media industry. Like, there are a lot of really good people who can help you take your ideas and turn them into a written thing. If you're not sure where to find them, just go to upwork.com, which is a freelancer site, and start looking for editors. You will find people with a ridiculous amount of experience doing this who can help you with that.
But it really can be, I'll just say like, as simple as that. I know an advisor who all of their blog posts is just taking a question that a client asks, answering it into Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and sending that transcript off to an editor to say, "Make this pretty." I know someone else who creates their articles, literally all he does, he takes the question, he just does the...I think literally what you do, like, Apple Voice Memos, he just voice memos the answer and sends a sound file to a writer/editor that says, "Take my words and make them written in paragraphs." Right? Like...
Carl: Yeah, look, that's so important. And one thing to notice about that whole process, I love that, like, there's just no reason... And you could even cut one more step out. You could literally just post the sound file on your blog. Like, people go in there, you embed the SoundCloud player, they press "play." That's what "The New York Times" did. So here's another funny story is I used to take my Times column, and I would record my thoughts about it. So it was like a...it was kind of like the behind the scenes, like the backstory. And I would put that up on SoundCloud like a couple of days after. And the audio, like, the sort of multimedia editor team at "The New York Times" found them. And they're like, "Could we just embed that in the article?" I was like, "Yeah." Like the impostor syndrome got something like 300,000 listens because they just started embedding it in the... So you can take...SoundCloud makes it so easy to just post SoundCloud or any other service, by the way, to post.
So yeah, thinking about ways that you can just...yeah, but I love, love the idea of recording something...and I'm going to just be straight up in your face, like, recording something every day, saving them, sending the whole lot to an editor. They pick one a week to clean up. Now, you are not hiring a ghostwriter. That's the important thing to realize here. A ghostwriter you say, "Hey, write something about diversification for me." Right? That's different than you recording 5 to 10 minutes about diversification.
Michael: You've already talked about diversification. Just take what I said in free-flowing conversation and make it some nice paragraphs with appropriate breaks.
Carl: Yeah, you touch the keyboard is all I think about. I have a writer that does that for me. His name's Chris. I try not to touch the keyboard. Chris writes Carl better than Carl writes Carl. Like, his entire job is to capture the voice. If it doesn't sound like me, we hit "delete." So that's a great, like, tactical thing. Like, no more excuses. There's no place to hide. Assuming you think this is... There are plenty of reasons why this is not something you even need to worry about right now. Like, if you're a financial advisor building a practice, there might be reasons you don't need to do this. No problem. But assuming you think it's a good idea, there's no place to hide. So let's go through another one, Michael. Tell me about specifics, like nut and bolt, like, let's say a financial planner wants to write a weekly email newsletter, what tools would they specifically use?
Michael: So weekly email newsletter. I'll frame this from our mechanism. Well, so first and foremost, all you really need to get it out there is a way to deliver emails on a weekly basis. So you can do this as simply as, I'm going to make a mailing list of my clients and hit the "send" button in Outlook, or I'm going to tag my clients in my CRM system and once a week do an export, dump those email addresses in, paste them into Outlook and hit "send." And I know people that do it that straightforward. I am a fan of actually using an email system. There are a bunch of marketing automation systems to do this. The most common one I see in advisor world by far is Mailchimp. The starting base package is free. You can start adding client email addresses into your list there. You can take people who opt in to doing this for as prospects and Mailchimp can queue it up. They have templates built. You can get another freelancer on Upwork to maybe spend a few minutes making a slightly prettier version of a template with your logo on it.
Carl: Pause real quick.
Michael: Drop content and hit "send."
Outsourcing The Production And Distribution Pieces [18:15]
Carl: Let's just pretend like we're going to do Mailchimp. We're saying it's so easy, but I have people show up at my house sometimes, like we need something done, like the sink needs to be unclogged or something, and they're like, "Carl, that's so easy to do it." I know when somebody tells me it's so...like, "Oh, tile the floor? Tiling the floor is so easy." Let's pretend like we're saying it's so easy to set up your mail...I'm talking specifics about Mailchimp account now. Just Mailchimp for now. This applies to plenty others, but just Mailchimp for now. We're saying it's so easy. Let's pretend like you don't even want to have to deal with that so easy part, use the word "Upwork." Just talk us through what you would do if you... And how much are we talking here cost-wise to hire somebody to get your Mailchimp account set up so it's all ready to you to do the ongoing part?
Michael: I haven't quoted it out directly on the setup end. If had to guesstimate, you are literally talking like $50 to $100. For someone that has done this, it's going to be an hour or two of their work at the most in order to do this. We produce a giant podcast and put it out there, right? Like, multiple hours every episode on a weekly basis that's got to be prepped, edited. There's a bunch of production work that happens behind the scenes. If I boil that down to like an individual episode rate, I think I pay less than $150 an episode to have a multi-hour episode hand-produced and edited. So that from my end, like my entire podcast production process for that whole thing to handle a nearly two-hour interview is I schedule a two-hour time block, have the conversation, and I literally don't do anything after that. Like, I send an email to the person and says, "I recorded the file, it's in the folder it automatically saves to, let me know how it turns out." And I don't touch it again. Like, I don't do anything more for the podcast than literally the time it takes to have the conversation and to send one email to someone upfront that says, "Would you like to be on my podcast?" Right? Someone I have to invite them on to be a guest. Because I didn't have the time and capacity for the rest, and so I didn't make it any more complex than it needs to be. And I hired the rest out for what at the end of the day is a remarkably small cost for a big chunk of time.
Again, there are a lot of very hirable people in the media world to help with pretty much all of this. Like, what it really comes down to at the end of the day if you want to have a Mailchimp weekly newsletter, speak the thing into your microphone that you want to record. And if you do...
Carl: Let's go step by step. So speak the thing in the microphone.
Michael: Speak the thing in the microphone, send an email to the person you hired with the sound file, and don't do anything else. Those are the two steps.
Carl: Okay. I agree, but let's real quickly...so step one, we're going to notice things in the world and we're going to write them in our notebook. Step two, we're going to schedule a time every week to review that notebook. And again, don't get hung up on the artifacts. Everybody uses the artifact as an excuse, like, "Notebook, what notebook? What notebook?" Just pick one. What did the Buddha say? There are 80,000 paths to enlightenment? Pick one! So like, Evernote, Google Keep, you can use email, whatever. You've got a notebook, you notice things. Step two, you schedule a time every week to review the things you noticed. Step three, you pull out your recorder of choice. I'm making it really easy on you. You pull out your iPhone or your phone, you hit "record" in voice memo. You talk about what you thought and what you've been thinking about, about the thing that you noticed. Step four, you take that voice file, if you want the easiest, simplest path, you take that voice file, you send it to somebody and say, "Turn this into 250 to 500 words. Capture this in my voice in as few words as possible," whatever, 500 words, 250 words. Once you get that back...
Michael: That's an editor/writer type you probably found on Upwork. I'll also note Fiverr has a bunch of these folks that do this work as well. But like, you pulled them from a freelance site, they do your thing. It's not terribly expensive. If you hire someone you don't like them, find someone else. There's a bajillion people on that site.
Carl: And let me give you even another trick on step four. To find that person, hire four, send all of them the same thing on the first round. Just send all of them the same thing with the exact same instructions. Get back, look at the one you like the best, send them the second one. That's the way I would do it. So that's step four. You don't have to tell them. And you're paying them. This isn't one of those goofy like, "Hey, do a logo and we'll consider you." No, you pay them for it. Of course, you pay them for the experiment. So then step five is you've got a piece of content. Step six you've already done. You've hired a Mailchimp person. You've called them on the phone, "Hi. Hello." You've hired a Mailchimp person. They have simply set up your account. They've uploaded all your email addresses that you give them that you have permission to use, of course, all those things. They've established a template. I don't actually like templates. I like just plain text emails. But that's fine too. The open rates are better, by the way, but it's fine if you want a template. They've established the template. So it's waiting for you. You get the content back from step five. Step six is you open your Mailchimp thing, you put the thing in, and you hit "send." And you could get rid of step six, you putting the content in and hitting "send," with another person, either on your team or somebody else.
Michael: And so in practice, our...kind of in that flow, our step six is we take that article and we copy-paste it into WordPress, on our blog.
Michael: We hit "post" there. And Mailchimp has what's called an RSS-to-email automation that says, "Oh, anytime something new appears on your website in a blog feed, it detects that a new thing has been posted, and it automatically queues it up and sends it out in an email." So in practice, even for our team sending whatever the ungodly number of emails are that we send in Mailchimp now, nobody in our team even logs into Mailchimp. All we do is hit the "post" button on our website, and everything even from there happens on an automated basis. That was an automation that we created for I think $150 nine years ago. And we haven't had to touch it once in 9 years and probably 1000 articles.
Carl: Yeah, so good. So good. So that's so simple. And then let's just go one step further that we will cover in-depth in another conversation. But the next step is, that thing now is a blog post. It's been sent out as an email. If you wanted to, that original voice file, it wouldn't take much for you...the voice file you're going to send to the editor to write, it wouldn't take much for you to speak that in a way that was also accessible publicly. So instead of saying, "Hey, I'm thinking this, this and this," you can just say, "Hey, it's Carl here." Then that voice file could be uploaded as a podcast really easily. And then, and this is what we want to cover in another episode, the content snacks episode, would be you could...it's very easy to take that one piece of content, turn that into anywhere from 5 to 20 tweets, every one of them pointing back to your newsletter signup, right? So the purpose of the tweet is say, "Hey, here's something valuable. If you want to go deeper, go here." Right? And again, you can do that, but there's also companies. We ran into one called Repurpose House. And you could build a system internally where you just say, "Hey, somebody on my staff, please read this and pick out five zingers," that's what we call them internally, like, pick out five little concepts that are tweetable. Share it on Twitter. Guess what? Throw them in a little card, share it on Instagram. And you're done.
Like, if you do this right, if you understand the leverage of this, and again, I get so fired up about this because I know it will change the world. And the people listening to this are the very, very people, like, you are the secret society, right? Nobody knows you exist. And it's your voices that we want in the world. That's the reason I get so fired up about this. But if you understand the power of this, like, I don't know what you could...I would imagine I could wrap all that up. I don't even know that we would get to $1,000 a month. I think we would still be $500 a month, including the tweets and the Instagram posts. But even if it was $1,000 a month, I can't think of a better way to use money in terms of leverage. You could literally just do the recording and everything else happens. And we've walked through it very specifically here. If you think it's a good idea, there's nowhere to hide.
Michael: And again, and the piece that starts with all of it is, and all you're doing is answering into a microphone the questions that clients are asking you already that you were already answering with your voice to other people...
Michael: ...anyway. Just instead of doing it one client meeting at a time, also do it once to the microphone so that you can share it with the broader world as well and show a little of your expertise.
Carl: So good. So there's literally no excuse. I would love to see either on Twitter @behaviourgap or firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to email. I want to see examples of these. Like, if you're doing this and you're starting it and you feel like no one's listening to you, like, I want to. So send those to me. I'm sure Michael feels the same way.
Carl: So send them to us because we want to see it. We need to see them. In fact, Michael is going to now give you his personal cell phone number so you can call him and tell him about it.
Michael: Or you could just tweet it to me. I don't quite want to bomb the cell phone. But thank you, Carl. But @MichaelKitces on Twitter, email@example.com on the site. That stuff really does route to me. Yeah, I would love to see what people do and how they take this and put it out into the world.
Carl: Amen. So good, Michael. Thank you.
Michael: Awesome. Thank you, Carl.