Regardless of the size of a financial advisory firm, clients are a constant necessity to sustain a profitable business. And while some form of advertising is how firms have traditionally attracted clients, some advisors have asked if not actively marketing themselves can be a viable option, where new clients find their way to the advisor through a referral network who vouches for the good service they provide. Notably, while some businesses have achieved phenomenal success with little to no marketing efforts, is it realistic for financial advisors to anticipate success without promoting themselves, but by simply providing exceptional work for their clients?
In our 121st episode of Kitces & Carl, Michael Kitces and client communication expert Carl Richards discuss the importance for advisors to advertise their expertise, and whether focusing on providing exceptional work can be enough to attract and acquire clients to sustain a healthy and remunerative business.
As a starting point, there are unconventional marketing principles that can help advisors who do not want to engage in traditional marketing campaigns to effectively attract and acquire clients. For example, by getting very specific about the financial issues they can solve – whether they involve optimizing tax loss harvesting opportunities or helping professionals negotiate better salary and compensation agreements – advisors can establish credibility and build the trust that is essential in establishing a steady stream of referrals. Because if clients know from the start that an advisor has the knowledge and expertise to solve their specific financial problems, they will be more likely to engage with that advisor… and then to let others know about their positive experience.
Importantly, whether advisors choose to advertise themselves by using traditional marketing strategies or by focusing on more unconventional approaches, being very clear on how they can solve specific financial issues for their clients and delivering exceptional service to their ideal client can help them build a reputation that naturally attracts clients to engage with their services. And as advisors build a reputation based on their expertise, their visibility – and their chances of creating a robust stream of word-of-mouth referrals – will also grow.
Ultimately, advisors who can provide exceptional service to their clients don't necessarily need to promote themselves through commonly used avenues of advertising (e.g., creating social media content or using SEO tactics), because satisfied clients can be a powerful source of referrals, especially when their advisor has expertise in solving a very specific set of financial problems. And by projecting this message, an advisor's referral network can help the advisor maintain a profitable business without the advisor needing to spend any advertising dollars – all while attracting precisely the type of clients the advisor enjoys serving!
***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.
- Carl Richards on X (Formerly Twitter)
- The Society of Advice
- Kitces Financial Planning Value Summit
- Morgan Housel
- Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon
- Master of Change: How to Excel When Everything Is Changing – Including You by Brad Stulberg
Kitces & Carl Podcast Transcript
Michael: Greetings, Carl.
Carl: Michael Kitces, you act so surprised to see me.
Michael: I know. It's just these random bumping into each other in the virtual Zoom room that we pre-schedule. It's always just a fascinating...
Carl: So good. It's like when you walk in and your dog, you know what I mean? Like, "You're back. You're back. This is amazing."
Michael: We're actually just getting something from the mailbox, but I'm so glad that you're excited that I'm back.
Carl: Totally. We all need that in our lives.
Michael: So, what are you working on these days, Carl?
Carl: Look, my favorite project right now, and has been for a couple of years, is the membership over at the Society of Advice. So, that's the thing where we have a monthly call. It's 90 minutes and I invite guests. And we have all sorts of crazy guests, but coming up is Brad holding up his book for those of you who can't see his new book, Brad Stulberg, who's written a bunch of great books, but his new one, "Master of Change" is amazing. So, he comes on, we have a 90-minute conversation, people join us, super fun. You can find out more at thesocietyofadvice.com/membership. Thanks for asking.
Michael: Friends with Carl.
Carl: It's funny. Early on, I thought...
Michael: I guess, obviously, is a version of this, but more indifferent friends than just hearing me as your counterpart because you interviewed...
Carl: That's exactly right. I have tried to build my life around this idea that Carl...Nobody knows this, so don't tell anybody. But I tried to build this idea around Carl talks with smart people. And you're one of my smart people. I started this in London. I would try to go on a walk each week. I started this little game I would play called Carl walks with smart people. And in London, the intellectual capital in that city, it was not hard. I looked back one time, and I had 7 weeks in a row with Ph.D.s through Hyde Park or whatever. So, I was like, "I'm going to structure my whole life around Carl chats with smart people." And so, that's what I do here. And then I have a collection of smart people over at the membership. So, that's what that's about.
Michael: That's pretty awesome.
Carl: Yeah, for sure. Well, when you're not particularly smart, you got to surround yourself with really smart people. Tell me what's going on in your world these days.
Michael: Oh, man, we're just gearing up for our financial planning value summit this fall. I guess this winter, we run in December, but advisors sharing things they're doing in their practices to show value to clients, to other advisors.
Carl: How often do you do those?
Michael: Twice a year. So, a marketing summit in the spring, April timeframe, and then a value summit in December, trying to avoid the rest of the conference season conflicts.
Carl: I've heard so many good things about those just in terms of the advisors sharing what they actually do piece of it, which I know is pretty intentional, right?
Michael: Yeah, it's part of a whole no consultants, no vendors...No offense to them. I have a lot of friends in both categories. But just advisors literally screen sharing what they're doing that's working in their practices like decide what you issue if you...not all of us want to do what everybody else does because we all kind of do this in our own style for our own clients, but it's nice to be able to share, see some of what other people are doing that's really working. And we try to go through and vet these are people that have actually been doing it in practice with clients for a period of time. This isn't I'm sharing the theory of the thing I want to do that might be cool with my clients. This is me sharing what I've actually been doing with my clients that's working.
Carl: So good. So good. Where do people find out more about that?
Michael: Try it. Just put one big website and have navigation at the top.
Carl: Exactly. Exactly. Amen. Well, what are we talking about today?
Is Doing Good Work Enough To Get Noticed? [04:05]
Michael: So, I wanted to talk about something you tweeted because I realized that's a theme now. I don't know. I'd have to go back and look. A good 10% or 20% of episodes basically have to be Carl, you tweeted something on the internet, now we need to talk about it.
Carl: What do you mean?
Michael: So, Carl tweeted something on the internet and now we need to talk about it. So, you put out this quote. And I'm going to literally read the quote. So you've been sharing interesting, famous, and sometimes not even as famous, and well-known quotes lately. And it's like this was in that category. So, this was the quote. "A man sitting in his house attending the way will be heard 100 miles distant. Work done truly and conscientiously in isolation calls unknown friends." So, it's a quote from Confucius and you kind of tagged into this with this comment of, "Maybe we don't need to run around waving our hands and making noise so much to change the world."
Michael: And so, you got this interesting response and Twitter thread that follows from this, as happens sometimes, where Lindsay...actual name only because she tweeted it publicly, so we're not divulging anyone's secrets here. Lindsay had said this comment back of, "I feel like self-promotion is increasingly essential for advisors. 99% of the time, I don't think monk style, good deeds, good content alone is the best path in today's world." And so, I thought this is an interesting conversation because I see this phenomenon. I feel like in the vein of what you shared happens a lot in our advisor world, like, "I'm doing amazing work for my clients. I'm a great advisor. I do the right thing. I give the good advice. My clients are happy and well served because it's like basically everyone stays with me. I have no attrition. They're all being served so well. And the world's just going to see what a great advisor I am. I just got to wait a little more and keep doing more good deeds for my clients and the world's going to notice." And I don't know how often it does. I have some sympathy for Lindsay's comment here that I know a lot of advisors, they do that. And I truly...they are doing the work. They are delivering the value. And the phone's not ringing. To use your quote, "The unknown friends are not calling.
Carl: Right. Right.
Michael: Apparently, they're supposed to call because I'm doing my work truly and conscientiously. And the friends aren't calling. So, what gives? So, I guess I just want to start, but I... Is that what you meant by this quote? Where were you going with this?
Carl: Yeah. So good. Let me just first acknowledge that 2 adults can hold 2 competing truths in their mind at the same time. Right? And I don't know. That's why I tweeted it, is like, I don't know. And I'm so interested lately in how wonderful it is to live in spaces where I don't know the answer and be open about that because I have a sketch that says...Well, in fact, the sketch was trying to illustrate this thing I've said all the time, which is, if you...You know how many people you will help if nobody knows about you? The answer is 0. Right? If nobody knows about you, how are you going to...? So, I completely get Lindsay's point, and your point, and my point. In the past I've made that point. And I'm still making that point. I literally told somebody yesterday...actually today on a webinar, we talked about the need to...that real financial planning is done in conversations and I think real marketing is done in conversations, and so the best way we can help people...the best way that the secret society of real financial planners can become not so secret is if we start telling stories about the conversations we're having like running around, waving our hands. And at the same time, I find that quote fascinating. I'm super intrigued by it.
Maybe I can give you a couple of stories. And these are not meant as models. They're meant to...I don't have a problem with talking about something that's inherently mysterious and full of conflict. But Confucius sort of knew some things. So, I'm hesitant to just dismiss it out of hand. But I have this friend who's a mystery. And by mystery, he's a mystery to me. I've known him 2 years now. And he does this really interesting consulting. So, he was running a company, you know, rather anonymous. It wasn't like a media or a personal brand company. He was just running a normal business and then had the feeling that he should stop at some point, that he was getting sort of eaten up by the machine, that he was just becoming the kind of person he didn't want to become, for whatever reason, and decided to stop. And he had a little piece of crappy property out in the middle of the country that's really close to us. And he moved out to this property, and he thought this would be like 2 or 3 weeks while he kind of figured out what to do next. And it turned into, I think, 2 or 3 years. And he spent whole days kind of just...He said this was very expensive, but it was just sort of this almost psychotic break. I don't know if that's the right word. But just this moment where he really needed to de-stress. And then he started extending these invites. He wanted to serve a small group of people. And he started extending these invites to basically just create space for people to make better decisions. He had no bio. There was no way to find anything about him online. And the invitations were really, really expensive, like $100,000 invitation, $20,000 a month retainers, that kind of invitation.
Michael: So, the thing he was trying to sell in the invitation was $100,000, not like he made a gold-laden envelope that was a $100,000 invitation.
Carl: No, no, that's exactly right. And so, to get...
Michael: $100,000 invitations...I just watched "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" with the kids. So, I'm seeing the most expensive golden ticket.
Carl: No, no. He was extending invitations to participate in something where the price for participating...and it was consulting, essentially. He was essentially saying like, "I have no answers for you, but I know how to create space for answers to emerge. And I know..." And these invitations were extended to really specific people who he knew were faced with some big challenges, their companies were faced with big challenges, but he did not know them. He had no cred at all in this industry.
Michael: So, he was from this...so, he's saying corporate leadership-y...
Carl: Yeah. He's cold emailing a group of CEOs and saying, "I know you have some challenges that you can't talk with anybody about, you can't talk with your spouse, you can't talk with your board, you can't talk with investors. I know you have some challenges. I know I don't have the answers, but I'm really good at creating space for answers to emerge." And then he made an offer like, "I'll interview you, I'll write a white paper, this sort of thing. You can't share it with anybody." And I'm being intentionally vague. The point here is that it was really expensive. The cost to participate was $100,000.
And then another version of this was a really expensive monthly retainer. And one of the monthly retainer clients who said yes, despite not knowing anything about what he was signing up for, paid for 7 or 8 months and then on the 9th...and never called. My friend would say, "I won't call you. I'm here for you. You call me when you need me." Didn't call for 7 or 8 months. On the 8th month said, "Hey, I need to talk to you." He thought for sure this was to cancel the retainer. He said, "No, no, no. I want to come out and visit you and I want to bring my second in command with me. And we want to just spend the day with you." They came out, they spent the day walking around the farm looking at cows, talking. And then when they went to leave, they leaned over and said, "That's the single most valuable day of consulting we've ever had." And in the conversation, my friend, he was like, "Look, I'm actually quite nervous about that statement because I don't know what I did." So, that's 1 example. Just hold that example as a mystery. I don't know what to make of it. He doesn't know what to...I don't know what to make of it. I don't even know if it applies here.
Michael: But I want to stay in this for a moment then. Is this your version of a man sitting in his house, attended the way, will be heard 100 miles distant, worked untruly and conscientiously in isolation calls unknown friends?
Carl: Yeah. He sent me that quote because I said to him, "Well, surely you got to start telling people about you." He had to extend the invite, yes. It wasn't like there was nothing, suddenly the phone just rang.
Michael: That's part of what I'm wondering. Because, to me, at least this quote is essentially like...
Carl: Work as a monk in a cave?
Michael: Do good work and the world will eventually notice you and reward you. That's the essence of this. And it's a fascinating story for what the dude is doing, but at the end of the day, he's literally sending sales solicitations for the service. Now, I appreciate he found a pretty interesting badass service that who knew you could sell that off a cold email to a CEO, however it is that he's mastered the ask. His outbound sales game is frickin' amazing.
Carl: But that's part of the mystery.
Michael: That's the opposite of do good deeds in isolation to have unknown friends call because he's sending frickin' cold emails...
Carl: Yeah. But it's all...
Michael: …out to find giant consulting opportunities.
Carl: Yeah. It's all just part of a giant mystery because those emails were like 3 or 4 sentences long. There's no proving, no grasping, no "Here's my bio. Here's my..." So, all I'm pointing at here is like, there's so much we live in the...Yeah. The golden age. I'm going to use...Am I allowed to use a farm word?
Michael: I don't know. What farm word are we talking about?
Carl: We live in the golden age of BS.
Carl: Right? And we all know this. Our audience specifically knows this because they've had to deal with all the TikTok crap. So, there's so much hand-waving. I've just been super curious about examples where people aren't doing that. Now, sure, the Confucius quote may be way out there, but it's at least worth thinking about. And my buddy, in this case, writing a 4 or 5-sentence email with no bio, no proving, the anti-proving, the anti-waving, then we can call that a strategy. But I've just been really interested when those things work, and I don't know what it means.
How Being Seen As An Expert Can Help Promotion [15:34]
Michael: I find it fascinating that it works, but I hear something like that and what I hear is when you're really crystal clear at solving someone's problem and show that you know and understand what they're going through, they don't really give a crap about your background or anything else. They just want the solution that you're putting forth, right? I'm assuming at the end of the day, he found some way in the span of 4 or 5 sentences that creates resonance and shows that he really understands some of their problems and that, for better or worse, when you email, I guess, CEOs of large corporations, there's a lot of money at stake. So, whatever their problems there are, there's a lot of money at stake to solve them, which is why he can charge them $100,000 and the average person off the street certainly cannot pay $100,000. When you solve very specific problems for people who have a lot of money, it turns out that it doesn't take much to get them to sign up if you are crystal clear that you understand them and their problems and how to solve them.
Carl: Yeah, that's beautiful. Yeah, I like that.
Michael: The fact that you understand my problem that well gives me all the confidence I need that you're going to be able to solve it.
Carl: Yeah. And keep in mind that it's that friend who sent me this quote. And so, they're only tangentially related, but the idea of truly and conscientiously attending the way. I think what you just described is he is truly and conscientiously attending the way. Now, he's not doing it in isolation. Well, he's pretty close. He's out in the middle of strange land.
Michael: Yeah. I think I get hung up on is this sort of implied, it calls unknown friends, right?
Carl: I know.
Michael: You do the work and the work itself is the call that brings people in. That, to me, is the part that I have challenge with looking at that. If at some point you don't explain like, "You know I manage people's life savings as part of the advice offering that I do." At some point you have to tell them, right? And even your friend, to me he's mastered the art of how briefly can you show someone that you understand their problems and have a solution for them?
And the answer is, yeah, if you're good enough at it, 5 sentences, $100,000. And that's a hell of a targeted outbound sales pitch success, but to me, it's the opposite of do work truly and conscientiously and it will call unknown friends. It's like conscientiously call people and they might do business with you. It does speak to the like, "Don't smile and dial 500 phone numbers. Make a really good pitch and call 1." In that industry's roots of cold calling, I think there's an interesting dynamic of what if you didn't try to smile and dial your way to as many prospects as you could, you just really meaningfully went after 1 prospect each day, or 1 prospect each week, or 1 prospect each month?
Carl: Yeah. I love all of that. I'm not entirely sure it's true. I don't know how to replicate it. And that's why I deeply empathize with...Who was the person that said it, was it Stephanie or...?
Michael: Lindsay. Lindsay.
Carl: Lindsay. Lindsay. I deeply empathize with that. And at the same time, I do know advisors who don't do anything at all anywhere close to marketing and people...And I've had this experience myself, not around clients, but I'm recently getting a lot of interesting requests for, like, "I just need your help with something. And I'm willing to pay for it." And I'm like, "I don't even know what your..." I didn't run around saying, "I can help you with the creative..."
Michael: You do a podcast like this or just all the various things that you do out in the world being...
Carl: I know.
Michael: People have perspective on what your expertise is because they've heard you talk about it and write about it and draw about it and do all the things that you do, right? The world's leading expert doesn't necessarily have to get out there and literally say like, "I'm an expert in brain surgery." You just do a steady stream of brain surgeries with people who are famous who talk about their successful brain surgeries and you're going to get known for brain surgery. And at some point, you don't have to literally advertise for it, but you do have, actually, a clear niche and focus that you're getting known for, which is an absolute marketing strategy and tactic. Visibility within the domain of expertise is marketing.
Why Mystery And Exclusivity Can Generate Word-Of-Mouth Referrals [20:48]
Carl: My sense is that you have more of a problem with this mystery than I do, and I have a big problem with it. And yet, Confucius said, "Work done truly in isolation calls to unknown friends." And I don't know what that means. I'm not proposing to know. I just think it's fascinating. And I know people who live in that world. And 1 of my friends that lives in that world calls it playing out-of-system games, out-of-game games. He's like, "I don't even want to be in the game anymore. I'm just over here doing my work. People will find me." And I don't know, but let me share 1 more example, which is interesting. And again, it's not addressing the exact challenge, but here's another example. And in fact, we're going to do something we've never done before. I'm going to screen share. So, don't worry those of you who are listening. I am a trained...
Michael: The hazard of being a video and audio podcast. So, those who follow YouTube, you're going to see something. Those of you who are listening on...
Carl: I'm going to describe it, though.
Michael: ...Apple Podcasts on the right and the...You're going to describe. So, we're going to do screen sharing by audio. It's going to be awesome to come with…
Carl: Yeah. I am a trained art on the radio guy because I used to have to do this all the time with NPR. Describe the sketches. So, here we go. So, what I'm pulling up here is a webpage. And it's alt, A-L-T, altgroup.net. So, altgroup.net, their homepage. And this has been over a decade. I don't know how much longer than a decade. I first found this over a decade ago and was just fascinated. So, Alt Group is one of, I think, the largest, most celebrated design and marketing firms in New Zealand and Australia and really Southeast Asia. I've done a bunch of research. If you go look, like, they win awards, they're celebrated. This has been their website since before they were winning awards.
So, what the website is, it's a blank page. Down on the bottom left, it's really small, like postage stamp size small. It says Alt Group. It has their address and their phone number and [email protected]. So, an email address. The rest of the page is blank, except for right in the middle, it says, "This page intentionally left blank." Now you used to be able to click that. "This page intentionally left blank" is a hyperlink and it used to go to a domain name and the page was totally blank and it was called onepixel.com. Now it looks like it goes to a domain called semipermanent.live, and right now there's nothing there. I've tried. I'm fascinated by this. Again, sure, they've won awards. They've had write-ups. They're getting clients not from unknown friends. But show me another marketing firm...They're a marketing firm. They're a web design firm.
Michael: How many advisors out there are like, "I'm growing wonderfully successfully with either no website or a horrific website because I'm well-known in my local community and I'm the go-to advisor in my community and all my clients come to me, my referrals. And who gives a crap about the websites and the internet?"
Carl: And that's kind of what I'm pointing is. That's beautiful. We see so many...I go to these conferences, and we have social media consultants and whatever. And everybody's like, "If you're not on the Tikky Tok or Snappy Snap, you're going to die." And you and I both know it was Facebook before that and it was whatever before that and LinkedIn before that. And then you've got these clients like altgroup.net that are just not doing that. And so, what I was pointing to with that quote, I think I said, maybe, maybe we don't have to wave our hands. And what I meant was maybe we don't have to wave our hands like everybody else. Maybe we can wave our hands the way we want to wave our hands. So, that's probably a better clarification.
Now, I say things all the time that I'm in process, I'm processing. So, I'm wrong most of the time. I'm super cool with that. But it starts conversations like this. That's my whole point. I don't know the answer, but I know that quote's intriguing. I know Alt Group is intriguing. I know advisors who are like this. My favorite advisors, well, some of my favorite advisors are like this. They're just like, "Look, when we said private client, we meant private client." Right? And so, we're not out there running around waving our hands. And we're growing like crazy because we do this other thing over here.
My buddy who...Let me just give you a couple more examples of just doing things different. I know an advisor who only takes meetings outside. So, you're hiking, skiing, walking, fly fishing, or you're not meeting with him. Fascinating. I know another advisor who bought a fly-fishing ranch, a small one, that sounds so grandiose, but bought a small little ranch, fishes all winter...sorry, all summer. All summer, inviting clients and their friends up, has no web presence. You can't find him. Business is growing like crazy. So, I'm just pointing at that idea of maybe there's other ways of thinking about this. And you don't like that. I can tell...
Michael: There's lots of ways to market besides outbound advertising or even just social media marketing in general. But to me, the striking thing, what I'm hearing in every single example you've cited is 100% of these firms have a conscious, deliberate, proactive marketing strategy. It happens to not be website-based. One guy sends highly crafted cold emails, highly crafted emails to his target markets. The next one wins awards and generates a ton of word of mouth so much so that without a website they're still known as the best design firm in Southeast Asia. Guess what? It's not their savvy, no-website marketing that's getting them. It's the fact that they're the best-known design firm in Southeast Asia. I'm pretty sure that kind of word-of-mouth probably works great.
Like the advisor who's outdoor only, okay, some subset of people are like, "I hate conference rooms and the stuffiness and all that junk. Oh, my gosh, an advisor who's outdoor only?" Talk about a trigger of word-of-mouth conversations. The advisor who invites all their clients for fishing, that's a word-of-mouth marketing thing. "We're private only, we're very exclusive," basically makes clients wants to tell their friends, "Guess the special exclusive advisor I've got. You can't even find them online." It's like that's been a marketing tactic since forever, right? It's the club that nobody knows about because it's not public, but it's the hottest place in town to go because everybody's in on the secret and loves to feel exclusive. And that’s fine…
Carl: Michael, hold on.
Michael: …but to me that’s all…
Carl: Let me give you another...
Michael: ...conscious, proactive marketing strategies.
Carl: Let me give you another example because I love this. And by the way, I agree with you, right? And I agree with Confucius. And I don't know what he's saying, and I love that. So, here's my question. If Tyler Durden in "Fight Club..." We all know...Let me ask you, what's the first rule of Fight Club?
Michael: Don't talk about Fight Club.
Carl: Did Tyler Durden mean that?
Carl: Or was it wink...
Michael: Fight Club grew by word of mouth.
Carl: Wait. Wait. You don't think he meant it? You think it was wink-wink? We don't talk about Fight Club. Go tell all of your friends.
Michael: Where did all the people come from?
Carl: That's what I'm asking you. That's exactly the mystery I'm asking you. But this is really fundamentally important to the mystery. I think Tyler Durden meant it 100%. And the only way the people ended up all...How did all those people end up in the garage at the end? Well, the only way that happens is if the person who starts the thing means it. If it's wink-wink, the people don't all end up in the garage.
Michael: Well, he says it genuinely, and everybody intentionally breaks it because that's literally how it works.
Carl: But he had to mean it.
Michael: Yeah. When you create exclusivity, it only works if I actually think I'm sharing something exclusive.
Carl: But Tyler Durden meant it. He didn't want anybody else to know about Fight Club. If Tyler Durden didn't mean it...And I might be wrong about this. In fact, I'm positive I probably am wrong. Maybe he was wink-wink, but I know another...I've got 1 more example.
Michael: You can play it out more Machiavellian. I don't think he said it wink-wink style, but I don't think he said it because he was literally hoping there would be no Fight Club.
Carl: I think he...
Michael: I think he actually really, really meant it. Look, if he meant it, then everybody who showed up would be barred at the door because the only way you could be here is if someone broke rule number 1, so I'm not letting you in the door. He let everyone in the door of Fight Club.
Carl: I know.
Michael: He clearly wanted people there or he would have not let them in because the only way you could have found your way to the garage, unless you were just randomly walking around in the garage without a shirt on looking for a fight, is someone told and broke rule number 1 and that was not barring anyone, it just added more people.
Why Increasing Referrals Begins With Cultivating Relationships [30:06]
Carl: This is exactly why I tweet things like this. So, we have conversations like this because...Here's my last example. And I've got to be very careful about this because he literally won't talk to me if he knew I shared this. So, I have a friend who is...Okay. How do I do this? I have a friend who teaches entrepreneurship after being a very successful entrepreneur. So, he's not just a teacher. He did the thing. Then he went and got his Ph.D. and became a teacher, a professor of entrepreneurship. And there's 2 things that are fascinating about this that I just want to tell you, and then we'll...Look, there's no answers here. One is my friend will tell you he knows the names of the 10 people in the world that he cares about their opinion of his work. That's so cool to me. It's back to your targeted 1 new client. You could build a business where you're like 1 new client a year. You know what I mean? That's fascinating work. And I think that's attending to the way, right? Truly and conscientiously doing the work.
Now, I know in isolation, we got a problem there. That's cool. But my friend started a little group, and it was like Fight Club. And he would just tap you on the shoulder in his class and just be like, "Hey, there may be a meeting over the deli at 7:00," that kind of invitation. And there were 7 people who joined this group. And they're responsible for...it's hundreds of millions of revenue 10 years later. And so, word got out and they started to...Other people tried to package this. And word got out and "Forbes," or "Fortune," I can't remember which one, called and wanted to interview him and they wanted to call him the something...I can't remember what it was, but it was like the something whisperer. And he said, "Not only will I not talk to you. If anyone that knows me talks to you, I will never speak to them again."
When you go to his class, it's taught against 3 other required courses in the MBA program where he teaches, the same time, the same day. And you go to his class, and he spends the first 20 minutes telling you why you should get out. "It's cute that you're here. You think we're doing this, get out. You think we're doing this, get out. You think we're doing..." He's like, "Here's how it's going to go. I'm going to tell you for 20 minutes why you should get out," on the first day. "We're going on a 15-minute break. So, all of you who are unhappy with where I'm going, you can leave so you won't be embarrassed." When you come back from the break, there's more people than were there before the break. Now, we can all argue that he's just mastered the game of marketing through exclusivity. And there's actually a phrase for this called...hostile branding is actually a phrase. And there's a great book called "Different," 1 chapter devoted to hostile branding, which I'm fascinated by. But I know him, he truly doesn't want you there. He doesn't want "Forbes" or "Fortune" to talk to him. He doesn't want me telling the story. If he knew, he would never speak to me again. I don't know what to make of it. I just know it's fascinating. And to me, it points to craft.
Michael: You can be one of the best exclusivity marketing geniuses on the planet...
Carl: I don't think he is.
Michael: ...and actually just really want to be exclusive. I'm not saying it because I want you to spread the word to make my business giant. I actually hate all of you and I don't want to talk to you people. But if you deliver it in an exclusivity marketing fashion, turns out it still works. To me, all the things you're describing, these are just all formats of exclusivity marketing, hyper-targeted, something unique that generates word of mouth, right? Maybe it's literally, "Don't talk about it and I'm in on the secret," which, of course, makes you want to talk about it. Maybe it's the fishing thing. Maybe it's the outdoor thing, right? The award-winning firm with no website gets talked about because they're an award-winning firm with no website. That's literally their marketing gimmick, and it worked. You showed their no-website website of the award-winning firm because it sounds so cool to talk about an award-winning firm with a no-website website. But to me, these are all...
Carl: Would you just...Listen...
Michael: ...good marketing strategies.
Carl: I'm with you.
Michael: There's lots of ways to market. You don't have to do it in an advertising broadcasting manner.
Carl: I'm with you, 100%. Amen.
Michael: But they're all marketing gimmicks.
Carl: Can I just get you to acknowledge and appreciate the mystery? Can you just give me just a teeny bit, like, "Carl, okay, I acknowledge it?" The Confucius quote causes a little mystery to me. Can I just get a little piece of it, just a little?
Michael: Yeah. Look, I will acknowledge there is a dynamic of there are folks out there that just do amazing, good work and good deeds and suddenly one day it gets discovered and goes and does amazing things and create amazing...
Carl: Calls to unknown friends.
Michael: ...connections and events happen. I will certainly acknowledge that happens.
Carl: Okay. That's all we need.
Michael: I think my fundamental challenge, though, is I don't think it's a strategy. I will acknowledge it...
Carl: Totally. Totally. I'm with you.
Michael: I guess people will read this and say, "Well, if I slave away in isolation, the world eventually will notice." And my fear is for every 1 story of someone who eventually gets discovered and all the good things happen, 10 don't, or 100 don't, or 1,000 don't. And my worry is, like, it's not the advisor who does amazing things and the word gets out and everything goes crazy. Kudos to you. It's all the others who don't have some way to cultivate the referrals and the ways that all these people have found triggers that make themselves more referable and actually creates the word-of-mouth events happening. They just slave away doing amazing work and no one knows. And the business does not grow to what they wish it would be and they don't get to serve the people that they want to serve. That's what I worry about when I see...
Carl: Now you've opened a whole nother can of worms because I also know thousands of advisors who do all the things that all the consultants say. They spend hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it doesn't work.
Michael: Well, maybe we can come to that as the next episode.
Carl: But I'm just saying there is no... So, I think what you've just pointed to is the reality of life that we need to embrace the uncertainty. We do great work. We talk about it in ways that work for us. Right?
Michael: And just hire consultants who've actually done the thing successfully.
Carl: You know what, though? I don't even buy that because we're really good at looking at what worked in the past, and then it changes. And so, I'm really, really, really cautious. In the golden age of BS, I'm really cautious about success porn and formulas. And are there things we can do? Look, I've had this conversation with Morgan Housel. Morgan told me he doesn't want to write a 2nd book. Now he's written it. Right? But at the time he's like, "I'm not sure I want to write a 2nd book because I caught lightning in a bottle." Morgan's a great writer. This is 1 thing that's different. I can point you to lots of people who actually aren't very good writers whose books have done really well because of a combination of events that you could never replicate. Morgan's actually a great writer. And there are people who have been better writers for longer who didn't get and did all the same things. And so, I'm simply saying work done truly and conscientiously calls to unknown friends. And I'm simply saying Confucius knows what he's talking about. How you apply that in your life, I have no idea, but the mystery is so beautiful. And it makes me so happy to see you so riled up because I'm in the same place. Amen.
Michael: Glad you're happy.
Carl: Amen. But this is why we use Twitter. This is why we toot.
Michael: This is why you toot.
Carl: Exactly. Cheers, Michael. So fun.
Michael: Thank you, Carl. Thank you.