Welcome, everyone! Welcome to the 73rd episode of the Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today’s podcast is Sheri Fitts. Sheri is the founder of ShoeFitts, a marketing consulting firm for financial advisors, and is the Chief Marketing Officer for Sheridan Road, a Chicago-area advisory firm that works primarily with qualified plans and has nearly $13 billion of assets under management.
What’s unique about Sheri, though, is her particular focus on how to craft “unforgettable” marketing strategies to really differentiate yourself… right down to the fact that, as the founder of ShoeFitts marketing, she gives away colorful socks as a gift. Because it’s unique. And that makes it hard to forget.
In this episode, we talk in depth about how to leverage and maximize marketing ideas, from the importance of trying to craft your own memorable and distinct marketing initiatives, why it’s crucial to align the marketing of the firm with the kind of business you want to grow towards in the future, the importance of systematizing your marketing processes so that you can measure and refine them, and why it’s so important to have a staff member who is formally responsible for marketing in your firm, even if that means 75% of your “marketing costs” are actually staffing costs, and only 25% of the budget actually goes to a traditional spend on marketing itself.
We also talk about Sheri’s own path as a marketing consulting, how she decided to make the leap from a traditional corporate job to going out on her own as an independent consultant because she didn’t want to be buried in managing people, the ironic challenge she faced when her independent consulting firm grew so quickly that she once again found herself in the position of managing people, and how she restructured her firm yet again to allow her to focus her time on the tasks she enjoys the most. Which I think has parallels for most of us as advisors, too.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Sheri provides her own perspective on the fundamental difference between sales and marketing, and why advisory firms need to cultivate both in order to succeed.
So whether you are interested in learning how to craft an unforgettable marketing strategy, what you can do to systematize your marketing process so that it can be measured and refined, or are wondering how you can best structure your firm so that you can focus on the tasks that you want to, I hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast!
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- Why Sheri loves to give away socks. [2:33]
- Sheri’s current role. [14:20]
- How Sheri made the leap from working a traditional corporate job to going out on her own as an independent consultant. [19:35]
- How to craft memorable and distinct marketing. [33:38]
- Why it’s actually a good thing if you find that some people don’t like you. [36:32]
- Techniques for staying focused. [1:02:12]
- The key difference between marketing and sales. [1:12:07]
- The crucial thing you should align with your firm’s marketing. [1:12:07]
- Why it’s so important to systematize your marketing processes. [1:18:16]
- Why you should have a staff member who is formally responsible for marketing. [1:25:12]
- What 75% of your marketing budget should go toward a marketing professional. [1:25:12]
- How Sheri defines success. [1:32:39]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Sheri Fitts – ShoeFitts Marketing
- Sheridan Road
- Women Rocking Wall Street Podcast
- FAS Podcast Ep. 069: Interrupting The Pattern With The Philosophy That Each Client Is The Only Client with Barry Glassman
- Donald Miller – StoryBrand and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
- Greg McKeown – Essentialism
- Gary Vaynerchuk – Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook
- Burning Man
- NEV Article on Walk-and-Talks
- Focus at Will
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Full Transcript: Why Successful Advisor Marketing Is More About Staffing Than Spending with Sheri Fitts
Michael: Welcome, everyone. Welcome to the 73rd episode of the “Financial Advisor Success Podcast.” My guest on today’s podcast is Sheri Fitts. Sheri is the founder of ShoeFitts, a marketing consulting firm for financial advisors, and is also the chief marketing officer for Sheridan Road, a Chicago-area advisory firm that works primarily with qualified plans and has nearly $13 billion in assets under management. What’s unique about Sheri, though, is her particular focus on how to craft unforgettable marketing strategies to really differentiate yourself right down to the fact that, as the founder of ShoeFitts Marketing, she gives away colorful socks as a gift, because it’s unique, and that makes it hard to forget.
In this episode, we talk in-depth about how to leverage and maximize marketing ideas, from the importance of trying to craft your own memorable and distinct marketing initiatives, why it’s crucial to align the marketing of the firm with the kind of business you want to grow towards in the future. The importance of systematizing your marketing processes that you can measure and refine them, and why it’s so important to have a staff member who is formally responsible for marketing your firm even if that means 75% of your marketing costs are actually staffing costs and only 25% of the budget actually goes to the traditional spend on marketing itself.
We also talked about Sheri’s own path as a marketing consultant, how she decided to make the leap from a traditional corporate job to going out on her own as an independent consultant because she didn’t want to be buried in managing people. The ironic challenge she faced when her independent consulting firm grew so quickly that she, once again, found herself in the position of managing people, and how he restructured her firm once more to allow her to focus her time on the task she enjoys the most, which I think has parallels for most of us as advisors, too.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Sheri provides her own perspective on the fundamental difference between sales and marketing, and why advisory firms need to cultivate in order to succeed. And so, with that introduction, I hope you enjoyed this episode of the “Financial Advisor Success Podcast” with Sheri Fitts.
Welcome, Sheri Fitts to the “Financial Advisor Success Podcast.”
Sheri: Well, what a great way to spend some time. I’m looking forward to this, totally.
Why Sheri Loves To Give Away Socks [2:33]
Michael: I’m excited to have you on. I was trying to remember when I first crossed paths with you. I think it was probably some conference we were both speaking at, like 10 plus years ago somewhere. So I was probably doing some really nerdy tax law topic, so I was doing a lot of that stuff then, like, I guess I still haven’t, but I was doing a lot of it then. And you were speaking for marketing. And I wish I could remember more clearly. There was some reason that you had to follow up with me. And you did by sending this box, and I’ve never forgotten this like. You sent this box, and I think it’s just a thing you do that had, like, some care package goodies and a pair of socks because your name is Sheri Fitts and the business is called ShoeFitts. And so, you know, if the shoe fits, you’ve got the right socks for it. And it was this cool pair of socks. And I was, like, I have never walked away from a financial advisor conference with a care package that has goodies and socks. This is cool.
Sheri: I love socks. Well, I love giving them away. They’re surprising. People find them delightful. And I’ve made them into kind of a collectible situation. So if you see me year over a year, sometimes you get collectible pair.
Michael: Oh, because, like, mine were blue with, like, some white lettering and stitching. So is there, like, a color assortment? Is there a color assortment now?
Sheri: There is. So the first kind of pair were bluish with brown polka dots on them. That was the first iteration. Then the second iteration was brown with blue polka dots. And then, interestingly, you got a pair that we’re supposed to be kind of a little bit different, but I can’t believe that after continuing to tell my sock guy, “Make sure you get the yarn color right,” he keeps making it wrong. So you have a special runt pair.
Michael: Oh, is this like when you find, like, a coin and it was minted wrong. It has an error that makes it exponentially more valuable.
Sheri: Exactly. Exactly, because there’s only 200 pair of those versus 1,000 of the other pairs, yeah.
Michael: These are, like…How do you end up going down the road that your financial advisor marketing kicks off with socks? They’ve stuck with me for 10 years. Like, this was a very memorable experience.
Michael: Which, I guess, like, literally it’s part of the point of good marketing, right? Like, it was a memorable experience. Like, how do you get to I want to do more to market my business supporting advisors with marketing, I’ve got an idea, socks.
Sheri: We both are speakers, so that is definitely how we touch base. And I actually feel like the first time I met you was on Twitter.
Michael: Oh, that’s possible.
Sheri: I think I was stalking you on Twitter, which, note to people listening, social media works. We’re kind of examples of that, right? So I speak. And one of the things I love to do when I speak is actually get people to learn things. And the way that you get adults to learn things is to get them to kind of talk about it, try it on, etc. So when I am working to and engage an audience and get them to answer my questions and/or offer up an idea or whatever, you’ve been there. You ask the audience a question, and it’s crickets. And then the trick is to not say anything and, finally, somebody says something, and I gave them a pair of socks. And then all of a sudden, everybody’s like, “Oh, there’s a reward here.” And that’s how the socks happened.
And when I named my business, I named it ShoeFitts Marketing not because I have a thing about shoes, although I do, I like boots. But it’s because I didn’t want to name my business Sheri Fitts Consulting because that’s kind of boring, right, for a marketing firm. And I said to my friend, “Well, besides that nobody knows how to spell it,” so every time I call a place, I’m like, “It’s ‘Your ShoeFitts with two Ts.'” And he’s that, “There’s the name of your business.” And I went, huh, rather curious. But it’s playful, and there’s a lot of metaphors. If I were in your shoes, you know, Kickstart stuff, hit the ground running. There’s so many metaphors for shoes and, you know, whatever. So the sock thing was just a natural fun little progression.
Michael: Once the shoe fits, the socks just come into play.
Sheri: Play, exactly. Yeah, and they’re fun. I feel like if you’re going to give somebody’s a tchotchke, give them something that’s good. Give them something that they will actually use. I am not, and I have a blog post floating around in my head, Michael, about pens. Why are you giving me a pen? Because if I’m enough of an office supply geek, because I am, I have pens that I order by the, you know, carton from a place in Japan, but I’m not much of a geek. Giving me a pen is not delightful or surprising. And then, if it’s not delightful or surprising to me, then the average person, this is just a throwaway anyway. Why do you give him a pen? So, anyway, I’m a big fan of making sure that tchotchkes or gifts are actually really used.
Michael: Yeah, we have a guest on a couple of weeks ago named Barry Glassman. He’s an advisor actually here in the D.C. area, not far for where I am. And he kind of has a similar thing that he loves doing gifts but, like, he hates, he has this thing, he hates doing gifts that have the company’s logo. His whole philosophy is, like, send something a thing that is so, like, that’s so meaningful or cool or need or just interesting and different that they’re going to keep it in, they’re going to remember us from you because it was just a unique thing that they kept and they’ll remember it was you. And if it’s that powerful and they want to keep it and use it because it’s useful and valuable, like, you don’t have to slap your logo on the coffee mug or the pen or all the other stuff. So he goes and buys, like, stuff off of Kickstarter that he thinks is neat and sends it to people just to create those kinds of distinct sorts of gifts rather than just all the logo stuff that we tend to do. I know our firm, Pinnacle, has pens. We joke sometimes on Pinnacle pens, but, like, working some new. We have Pinnacle pens. It’s very alliterative but it’s not very popular points.
Sheri: That’s, ideally, I also love to read, and oftentimes I have a stack of books that I give to people that is not my book, and I give it to people because it meant something to me. And I do think that giving a gift, one that is valuable or thoughtful, is so much more impactful than a tchotchke. Beer koozies, really?
Michael: Unless it’s, like, a really good fit for a particular niche that you’re serving, then maybe it’s okay/ your niche are Green Bay tailgaters, okay, but short of that, probably not on the beer koozies.
Michael: Favorite books you like to gift to people?
Sheri: Well, there’s one book that’s by Donald Miller. And I know you’re going to ask me what the name is, and I sent the last one.
Michael: Oh, it’s story brand.
Sheri: He’s the story brand guy.
Michael: He’s the story brand guy. So I guess his book is something else. He’s the story brand guy.
Sheri: The book is A Million Miles in a Thousand Days or A Thousand Days in a Million Miles, I forget. But, essentially, before he got into the story brand thing, it was way before that. It was the second book after “Blue Like Jazz.” And the backdrop is that he wrote this book, “Blue Like Jazz,” which is actually based upon his experience at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, woo, and he was writing the screenplay of that. And essentially, he was sitting there on his couch, you know, fat and lazy, and “yabababababa” in a way, and he was thinking to himself, what’s the deal? I’m writing the screenplay of my life. I can pretty much write a screenplay of the life that I want.
So what he decided to do was ride across the United States on his bike. So he just started to use this idea of writing a story and started to write his life. It’s extremely lovely book. It’s very moving. And it just kind of goes to the power that we have of recreating yourselves or you may as well write the story that you want to live kind of a thing is the shtick.
Michael: Very cool. I’ll make sure we put a link to in the show notes as well. “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.”
Sheri: Something like that, yeah.
Michael: For folks who are listening, this is episode 73 of the podcast. So if you just go to kitces.com/73, you just scroll down to the show notes and the resources mentioned in this podcast section, we’ll make sure we’ve got a link out to Donald’s book as well. You know, it’s funny. I found myself in a similar path that. Yeah, I mean, I read lots of business books and Industry books and such as well, but the one I find myself sending to a lot of people lately is Greg McKeown’s “Essentialism.”
Sheri: Ooh, yeah.
Michael: Which is another one around this kind of themes of the personal journeys and transformations that were in. I don’t know if there’s something there that, like, we’re gifting books that help people reshape their lives as opposed to just, like, you talk about marketing but you didn’t give specifically a marketing book. Like, I talked about advisor stuff but I tend not to actually give away advisor books, although there are a bunch of really good ones. There’s something about that, like, trying to give a book that helps to transform someone. I don’t know. Feels good just to giver, like, this had a lot of impact on me. I hope it has a positive impact on you too.
Sheri: Yeah, I love “Essentialism.” I had that stack, the Donald Miller one, “Essentialism,” and then what’s the Jay Baer, Jab, Jab, what’s the one that he wrote.
Michael: Oh Jab, Jab, Right Hook.
Sheri: Yeah, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is really kind of about, like, a really great book on social media, whatever. It’s a little dated but the thoughts are good. I like that one a lot as well. And then anything by Seth Godin.
Sheri: Just random Seth Godin book, you can have that. But, yeah, I like to give things that mean something to me.
Michael: Yeah, and hopefully means something to the, as impact to the person who gets it.
Sheri: Yeah, yeah.
Michael: So tell us a little bit more about just your world. We’ve kind of talked a little now about all things marketing and socks, and the speaking you do around marketing and handing out socks as a gift, which I really like. I’m now, like, riffing on this theme myself thing. Like, so, if I call on people in my audience, like, do have to start handing out blue shirts?
Sheri: Oh, see, that would be so cool. Or you can do some shirt-shaped post-it notes. People would die for those.
Michael: Because, yeah, that’s a little bit easier to throw than, like, an actual blue shirt. I mean, yeah, shirts are light. It’s not quite as light as a sock, but, like, you can cram that in your suitcase, take it home with you.
Sheri: You should totally get, like, one of those online shirt places, right, to have your brand of shirt.
Sheri: Right, you know, it’s like your color, like, exactly that, because there are those kind of…
Michael: Well, apparently, I have to not use your socks guy…
Sheri: Yeah, the color will be off. It will be green.
Michael: You can’t mess the blue shirt color. It’s not going to be working. So, okay.
Michael: Just people, let us know if they’re listening this, like, if you think I need to start giving out, like, kid’s blue shirts as party favors and speaker gifts, let me know and we’ll figure this out.
Sheri: Anybody who can get into the post-it note thing and get one that’s kind of like the square, lovely blue square post-it note thing, I think that’d be cool too. I think I might have to do it in Georgia.
Sheri’s Current Role [14:20]
Michael: All right. That’s fine. Just, you know, send me a big stack of them and a bill. I’ll pay you.
So can you tell us a little bit more about what do you do? We’ve always said you do a little bit of marketing consulting stuff, you do a little bit of speaking…actually, no, you do more than a little bit because we cross paths with some regularity on the conference circuit. But can you just talk to us a little bit more about who is Sheri Fitts and what do you what do you do these days. How do you describe yourself?
Sheri: Well, I will say one thing. How I got into the world of marketing was because I had a sales goal. And I say that because I’m not the standard kind of marketing person who has come at this from being, like, a brochure warehouse kind of a thing. And that speaking was a piece of me working to try to meet my sales goal way, way back when. But now, where I am in my kind of career, is that I do speaking and training around the idea of marketing and branding and digital, and I’ve been doing a lot around client experience. I’m really passionate about the fact that, in financial services, we spend a lot of time in our heads and think that that’s how we’re going to convince people to work with us when we need to be in our hearts because that is the place that will help move people to make decisions and change behavior.
And so I feel like our brand and the world of our brands needs to evolve. And so I see myself sometimes, and I’m sure you feel this way, too, sometimes that I am preaching. Like, I have the word of, you know, brand, and I am preaching, “Please change the way we brand, because we have got to be more accessible, because we have more Americans to help.” So I do a lot around that and client experience and how it all kind of connects together. And then I’m known for this digital stuff. I mean, I started training people on using LinkedIn back in 2006. But I don’t think…What I’m trying to get my world of financial services to understand is it’s not just digital. It’s everything. It’s how you show up. It’s even down to your little tchotchkes.
So I do a lot of speaking. I love to speak. What’s that book, “The Big Leap” or something, there’s some term called the zone of genius. Have you heard of this?
Michael: I think I know this one, the zone of genius.
Sheri: Yeah, there’s the zone of competence where you’re good at something. There’s this zone of excellence where you’re pretty darn good at something. And then there’s a zone of genius. It’s what you were built to do.
Sheri: And I believe that I was built to be a teacher in our world, right? And to quilt these ideas of marketing, and branding, and financial services, and client experience, and try to quilt them together to make it meaningful to an advisor to kind of get them to do something different with their brand or their messaging. I really believe that’s true.
And so I do that, and then I also, I kind of think of myself as like a marketing coach in that I’ll spend three hours with an advisor or an advisor shop, and I tell them what I would do if I were in their shoes. And I make them start with, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And they’re like, “I just wanted to talk about marketing. I didn’t want to get all ‘woowoo.'” I’m like, “Sorry, we got a start here. I need to know what you want to be when you grow up.” And so I do that.
And then, you know, I have…I pivoted a while ago. And I think, you know, before we turned on record, you asked this question. So my firm started out as a creative services firm to serve the financial services marketplace and help with a variety of things. Our clients were broker-dealers. We built huge portals full of content galore for advisors to use. Advisor shops, websites, articles, white papers, whatever kind of the financial entity needed, we did it.
And then a couple of years ago I was sitting there and my email was piling up worse than it had been in corporate America, and I had a staff, and I had an office, and I had, you know, obligations, and I had, you know, credit card debt, and I was looking at this going, “What have I done?” I just wanted to be a speaker but I think I was not brave enough to just leave corporate America and say, “This is me.” I think I had to hide behind this marketing thing. But, regardless.
So I stopped doing that creative services part of my practice. I have a ton of people that I love and adore who do that, and I can help people do that. My expertise comes in strategy, messaging, understanding where the intersection is with digital, and really kind of knowing how advisors think, and talk, and, you know, know their world. So I kind of blew up my business, and now I just do speaking and training. And then I’m also Chief Marketing Officer for a firm out of Chicago. So they get me most of the time, and I get me the rest of the time. So I negotiated to still keep my speaking practice and my coaching practice.
Michael: Sure. And what’s the name of that firm?
Sheri: That’s Sheridan Road, financial. They’re an institutional consulting firm out of Chicago. They’re in the Midwest predominantly.
Michael: Like, big 401k plans employer retirement plan, that kind of investment consulting institutional business?
Sheri: Yeah, $13 billion in assets. They’re big, smart group of folks, yeah. Really fun, yeah.
How Sheri Made The Leap From A Corporate Job To Going Out On Her Own As An Independent Consultant [19:35]
Michael: All right. Sorry, I’ve got to ask, like, the story you were telling of, you know, I was in corporate America making a good salary but having all this stuff piling up and all this work and all these emails and, you know, meeting to death and all the things that we tended not like about corporate world. I think a lot of people find themselves there at various points. Frankly, I know a lot of advisors that were there. And part of the reason why they went became an independent advisor was because they wanted to get away from that and be able to control their world and their destiny a little bit more. I’m just curious, like, how did you actually make the leap? Like, was there some precipitating moment that was just, like, okay, I’m done. I’m, like, this is it right here. I’m going out on my own. Or was it just more gradual? Like, how do you actually make that transition for yourself when you’ve got the job and the salary, and there’s some downsides but it’s stable, like, how do you make that shift?
Sheri: Yeah. You got the job, the salary. I ran the marketing channel for LPL’s retirement plan effort. It was fun. It was right after they acquired another big RIA and there was a lot of change, and there was a lot of opportunity, and I had a big sandbox, and it was delightful. And I’d flight out to San Diego every Monday and fly home every Wednesday, because I live in Portland. I still live. So I have been saying, even before I started at LPL, even before I started at the place beforehand, I’ve been saying that when I grow up, I want to be a speaker and do my own thing. I’ve been saying that. And, you know, granted, yeah, that takes a lot of hoots but I kind of make it happen. It’s one thing to say it, and the other thing to do it. And so I got my AARP card. And I went, “Well, I guess I’m grown up.” So that was one.
The second thing was, you know, this is hilarious, but I went to Burning Man.
Michael: After you got your AARP card?
Sheri: It was the year I got my AARP card that I also went to Burning Man. I was, like, well, this is the year. I mean, it’s a big deal. You get your AARP card when you’re 50. If you don’t know yet, you guys, this what happens.
Michael: They are preparing you for retirement so they send you the card. You know, you have to admit, like, it’s quite a testament to the whole institution that just there’s this thing now. You get your car, like, you used to say, “I turned 50,” like, just, I got my AARP cards. Oh, okay, you’ve seen some things.
Sheri: I know. I do that as a subtle way to try to, like, let people know what my age is. Anyway, so I got that, and then somebody asked me. So I went to Burning Man, and everybody’s like, “What?” For the first time. I’ve been there now…
Michael: I feel like for our advisor world, like, our clients get a AARP cards, we probably know that one. You may have to explain Burning Man for a few people though.
Sheri: Burning Man is this festival in the desert in the summer. So it’s the last week in August. It’s an art festival in the desert. When I first started going, there are 40,000 people. Now there’s 70,000 people. The project for lighting of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco was a Burning Man project, as an example. They do, like, big, huge art installations. You go out there, and some of the art installations are, like, three to seven stories tall. And then some of them they burn down. So imagine 70,000 people going to a 3-square-mile area and creating a city for a week, and then leaving, and leaving no trace behind. There are no garbage cans there. None. Like, there there’s all these kind of ethics behind. In fact, Larry Harvey, the guy who started Burning Man just died this past week, but there’s 10 principles. And one of the principles is radical self-reliance. And the other one is radical creativity, and radical acceptance, and there’s a variety of other ones. And, you know, it’s in the desert in the summer. It’s hot, and it’s actually in a desert that’s very basic. It’s playa.
So most of our world, we live in this acidic environment, but this is really basic. It’s really dry, and sometimes windy and you have to kind of wear, you know, masks. So think Mad Max, Star Wars, Star Trek, Museum of Modern Art, let’s see, what else, and maybe, I don’t know, a food truck place all together in one place.
Michael: In the desert?
Sheri: In the desert. Yeah, in the desert. So you can’t drive a car unless it looks like it’s an alligator, or an octopus, or a squirrel, or, like, my camp is a snail. I don’t know why we have snails in our camp but we have several snail cars. So you can’t drive that, like, you can’t…So everybody rides around on their bike. Anyway, it’s really kind of…some people say it’s life-changing. I will say it is. I know. Because when people first started to tell me, I was like, “This is ridiculous.” But it is life-changing, at least it was for me, in that I finally got to just be myself, exactly myself all day long every day for a week. Like, no emails. No, yeah, nothing. You just sit there and you watch creativity go by all day long. You ride your bike around. You can’t buy anything. People think there’s bartering, and it’s not bartering really. It’s like people show up with an intention to give.
So, as an example, I always end up doing hot dogs, like, five times where I stand out in the middle of the desert and hand out hot dogs to random strangers. It’s quite hilarious. Anyway, la la la. Look it up. If you want to know about it, I need to do a webinar I think for people who want to know.
Michael: An advisor who want to know Burning Man, you can put a whole little village of it for yourself.
Sheri: And then, you know, I could write that off. I mean, taxes, right?
Michael: There you go, if you can get advisors to come up with you at Burning Man. So take me back to this. So, like, you are running the marketing channel for LPL’s retirement plan business. Like, you are crushing it in corporate America broker-dealer world. You get your AARP card and go to Burning Man. And then…
Sheri: And then…two years later, I leave. So somebody asks me, “Well, what’s Burning Man like?” And I said it’s kind of like life, whatever you want it to be. Like, however you want to make it, that’s the way it is. So when you wake up at Burning Man, you can plan your whole day. You can go, “You know what, I want to go to the French Quarter. You know what, no, I want to go listen to a TED talk.” There’s TED there. “Oh I want to go, like, go out to this art thing,” or “I want to go to this steel thing.” You know, they have an ironworks out there as an example. So I just got to a place where I was like, I can’t say when I grow up, I want to be a speaker and do my own thing one more time and live with any kind of, you know, credibility or whatever, just self-respect.
So I said to a girlfriend when she said, “Well, when are you going to do this,” because it was July. And I said, “Well, if I haven’t given my notice by December 1st, 2012, tell me to shut the hmm up.”
Michael: If I keep talking about my dream and I haven’t done it by this day, then you’re allowed to tell me to shut up, dear friend.
Sheri: Yep, exactly, exactly. And then I went and got a business coach. And I said, “Vicky, this is scary. Just get me through the fear. I’m doing this. Just let me get through the fear.” And so December 1st, 2012, I started my own firm.
Michael” And how did you get rid of fear? Lots of prayer? Like, how…Like, you did it. You made the leap. Like, Vicky is amazing. Like, how do we contact Vicky, and what did she tell you? I mean, that’s a leap a lot of people never actually make, right? We think about it. We talk about it. A lot of people never actually make that leap.
Sheri: Okay, so dear, advisor, dear, financial advisor, here’s what happened. My financial advisor told me how I could do it. Take my 401k balance, transfer it into a solo K and lone myself $50,000. So there I had my budget for the for the first year. I took my part of the house payment, because my husband still kind of split everything 50/50. And it’s hilarious. We still split everything 50/50. I gave him my part of the house payment for a full year so that, one, I didn’t have to stress, and two, neither did he about at least that major part of our life together. And then I had the rest. And then I made a silly little website. And then I…it’s kind of like what those silly little Vistaprint things where people are sitting there waiting for the phone to ring.
Michael: Oh, yeah, and, like, the visitor comes to the website, there’s a little blip, and then another one, and another one. It’s like, okay, I think we’re going to make it.
Sheri: Well, I already had, you know. I mean, I had some visibility in the industry, in the 401k industry because I was there. So, thankfully, I had some good friends and somebody said, “Do you want to come,” you know, “Hey, we have this advisor thing? You want to speak and da da da da.” And then there was another broker dealer that was really kind of pushing their 401k side, and I knew somebody who knew somebody, and they brought me in and my team in to build the whole portal there, and then wash, rinse, repeat, and then, you know. And then when I speak, obviously there’s an opportunity. People are like, “I want me some of that.” So there was an opportunity for people to reach out that way. So, yeah.
But fast-forward three and a half years later, and I was like, “I’ve just recreated my corporate job. Yuck.”
Michael: Because it worked?
Michael: You started getting clients. And all of a sudden, there were a lot of emails and things to respond to.
Sheri: I had to be a boss, and then I had to manage clients.
Sheri: Right? And then, you know…So a couple things, one, I don’t want to manage people. I’ve never aspired to be a manager. I would say I’ve aspired to be a leader. I think there’s a difference, you know. I’ve aspired to be a servant leader, but I’ve never aspired to be a boss.
Michael: Yeah, I’ll admit, I’ve gone through a similar path that, early in my career, I was kind of on that growing manager track, and had this department of people, and had to learn to develop them and give them reviews and all the things that you need to do to be a manager, and I didn’t like it at all. It gave me a much, much deeper level of respect for good managers and a very clear reflection that I was not one. And they like, I’ll admit it, I think, for me, that was part of what led me to make a transition that I decided I wanted a shift almost ten years ago to say, “All right, I’m going to keep one foot in the advisory firm, because I like doing the technician stuff, I like doing some of the strategy stuff that I’m good at, but I don’t want to be responsible for managing all these people.”
And so, you know, that, for me, was the transition of, like, going out on my own and being a writer and speaker. And now I’m involved with a lot more businesses, but I do all of them with partners. And one of the reasons I do with partners is I find partners who are ready to help manage people, because I don’t want to do that part. It’s just it’s not my skill set. Other people are much better at it so I try to find other people who are better at it. Let them do that part.
Sheri: Thelma and Louise, Batman and Robin, there’s a reason why. I think if I were to do it over, if I were to rethink the creative services portion, obviously, I would get a partner. And creative services is an interesting thing to kind of do, also because it’s very subjective as well. And I have very strong opinions on things. As an example, no pens, no holiday cards.
Michael: Wait, wait, no holiday card? We already killed the logo pen, why are you killing my holiday cards?
Sheri: Well, because I would prefer to celebrate holidays like today. We’re taping this on. What’s today?
Michael: Star Wars Day, May the Fourth be with you.
Sheri: May the Fourth be with you. So I sent out an email blast about happy Star Wars Day, right, or happy Chinese New Year. It’s the year of the dog, of course, I sent pictures of my dog. But those things are memorable and unforgettable. But is a holiday card really remarkable and memorable anymore?
Michael: And is that kind of the theme and the angle for you, you know, we’re not sending the holiday card we’re sending a Star Wars Day card and, you know, we’re not sending logo’ed pens but we’re sending socks, like, the whole angle for you is about like the distinctiveness and the memorable nature of it?
Sheri: Yeah, I also think it’s the surprise of it, and the delight of it, and the difference of it. And I think, you know, if we were thinking about this from a financial advisor perspective, from a marketing perspective, I think that’s the hard thing is that they’re, like, well, we need to send out a holiday card, and then we need to send out, you know, this kind of thing and we need to do this, because that’s what everybody’s done. We need to show up in a suit and a tie, you know, and a red tie with a black suit or whatever it is. And I think yeah what I’m trying to say is the reason why, when I talk to people, Michael, and ask them what do you want to be when you grow up because I really want to find out what you want to be when you grow up, and how do we take that to fuel and energize your marketing versus what you think it’s supposed to be.
Michael: Sort of like an expression of authenticity. Like, I don’t want to go and give you another marketing strategy. I want to help you figure out what you want to be when you grow up and let’s just help you better market that.
Sheri: Yup, exactly, exactly.
Michael: I guess I have to hope the thing I want to be when I grow up is actually marketable, right? I mean, like, is there sort of fear of that? Like, well, yeah, if I’m just naturally really marketable, sure, let’s market the thing I want to be when I grow up. But I don’t know how to market that depending on what it is I really want to do, right? I mean, matching…Well, I mean, I guess even in your case, although, obviously, you work through this, right? I don’t imagine all the people saying like, “What I would want to be when I grow up, I want to have more freedom and go to Burning Man and let’s make a financial advice or marketing business.”
How To Craft Memorable And Distinct Marketing [33:38]
Michael: But you did. So, clearly, like, there’s a way these things bridge when I think some people would probably feel like they’re counterintuitive. I feel like I’ve heard a lot of advisors, either I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up or, like, I know what I want to be but I’m afraid no one wants to pay me for that.
Sheri: Right, okay. So, exactly, and I think that that is kind of one of the challenges. And so I will say this, is that I’m not for everybody, because I’m certainly distinct and different, and I do have, you know, an edgy, hippie Portland side to me. But I also know that people really crave…I hate to say this transparency and authenticity because those are overused words, but people really crave, like, realness and real human conversations, and, you know, that’s why they like this podcast. Because you get to have something more than, and on Thursday, send out your 200 emails, and then, you know, Friday, follow up with a phone call.
Michael: And next Thursday, prep your holiday card.
Sheri: Exactly. I mean, the thing that there’s so much space in our world of financial services to be able to really get, this is me preaching, to get to the heart of the matter. People are scared. They are hopeful. They’re afraid. There are all these things. They have all these emotions associated with it. And, then, unfortunately, what we do is send them a holiday card or a form to fill out when really what they need is, you know this, is they need they need a therapist. They need a confidant, they need a consigliere, they need a counselor, they need a pastor, they need somebody there to say, “All right, I got you when it comes to this money thing. And we got this. And I’ll take this challenge.” I feel like I could figure out…it’s not really a spin, but I could figure out an authentic brand or just about any kind of advisor even if they were the geekiest of the world.
Michael: They’ll just do a lot. Well, I mean, I guess we do worse than this. I think of myself as a fairly geek guy. So we just celebrate Star Wars Day and Pi Day, March 14th of July. And, like, you just kind of embrace it and have fun with it.
Sheri: Right. And you wouldn’t believe, because I sent out, I have about 7,000 people on my email list, and I sent out my, you know, happy Star Wars Day, and there was a picture of Yoda and my favorite Yoda quote. What is it? What’s the best Yoda quote?
Michael: “Do or do not, there is no try.”
Sheri: See? I send it out. You would be surprised how many people responded, and they’re like, “Rocket, I will.” That’s what somebody said that somebody said that’s what they say to themselves before they jump on space. Kathleen wearing skis berry, she’s like… I mean, there’s so many people who are geeks just like us. There’s a lot of geeks.
Why It’s Actually A Good Thing If Some People Don’t Like You [36:32]
Michael: Look, the geeks rule the world. But, yeah, I mean, I think there’s something more fundamental even to that. I don’t know. Like, it’s one of those things that takes us a while in life to get to, that if you’re going to get to your authentic self, you have to get to the point that there will be people who don’t like your authentic self. And that has to be okay. Yeah, I think that, to me, is at least the blocking point I see for a lot of us is, I think particularly in the advisor world, because it’s like we’re always in the mode of prospecting, we’re always in the mood of trying to find clients, which means we’re always in the mode of trying to watch out for what we’re saying and that we’re not going to say something that offends someone. And, you know, and kind of forget, like, unless you got some just really radical views, like, anything you say that offends someone, there will be someone else who completely agrees with you, who likes you more than they ever did before, because we tend to like people who agree with us.
And so when we try to equivocate and go down the middle the road, to not piss off anyone, you may succeed in not offending anybody, but you also fail to connect with a lot of people as well. Because you just kind of comes across as a boring person that has no particular views about anything, which is sort of computeration, not very engaging. And, you know, like, when I look at a lot of people who are just really successful at kind of building brands and building connections, you know, one of the striking things about them is they do not equivocate with middle-of-the-road views very often. Like, they take strong views around something, and, you know, it becomes polarizing, and it means some people won’t like you, but it means some people do. And, you know, if you’re advising with those people who do business with you.
Sheri: Yeah. So, as an example, I sent out this email, and the subject line was “WTF,” and it was “What the Font.” Now I did do an A/B test, so in marketing shtick right now. So what I do sometimes is when I send out my newsletter, I’m not sure really what subject line will result in the most opens. And, you know, I’m desperate. I do want to be loved. And I want people to open my newsletters because I spent time writing them.
Sheri: And so sometimes I test my subject lines. And so I tested WTF, and then I also tested What the Font. Now, What the Font to me was a little chicken as far as I’m concerned because it was really clear what I wanted to do, but I tested them both, and then WTF actually won. And the open rate by the way for that particular email newsletter was 25%, which is pretty fantastic.
Sheri: Yeah. And I guess, just know that the open rate of a newsletter if it’s anywhere between, you know, 8% and 13%, you’re doing good. And I think people think that that’s bad. I’m sure that yours are probably higher than that because your content is so quality, that people are used to the quality content, you know. So my average is around 16%. Anyway, somebody emailed me back and said, “I would never use such a ploy to get people to open my email, and I would never hire a marketer who even try that.” And I was like, “Thank you,” because I’m not your person.
Michael: That’s much better than you having hired me, and then we would have worked on this, work together for a while, and then we would have found out we really don’t get along. So this saved everybody a lot of time.
Sheri: You’re not my person. I think when I was looking for a job a long time ago, and this was before it was online stuff, and I remember sending in my resume. This was sort of, like, one of my first graphic design jobs. That’s how I got into this industry. But sending in my resume, looking in “The Oregonian,” sending my resume, and then I get this lovely little postcard that was back, like, “Thank you very much, we’re not going to hire you.” But I called those the Thank You Bleep You Thank You postcards.
Michael: Thank You Bleep You Thank You.
Sheri: So Thank You Bleep You Thank You. Thank You F You Thank You was kind of what I was thinking, right? So I used to say, “Well, the more of those that I get, the fewer that I will get.” But it was fine with me. I kind of was, like, fine. So when I when I was at a place with my copy and with my stuff that I was sending out that I started to get trolls coming back to me being grumpy about what I was writing. I was like, “I’ve made it.” I have a big enough reach, I have a loud enough voice, I have a position that some people don’t like, and that is really actually good, because I’m out there doing something.
Michael: So you said you went down this road for a couple of years. You broke away from corporate world, you made your independent business. Then the doggone thing grew. I hate it when that happens. Then suddenly you had people to manage and a high volume of emails again. And I’m presuming then you were starting to get unhappy since that was kind of the whole point of what you were leaving in the original transition. So what happened next? Did you retool the business again?
Sheri: Yup, I did. So I blew it up in that I got rid of my beautiful office with brown walls and Asian lanterns, and then I, you know, got rid of my employees, and my, you know, standable desk and everything, and came back home to my, you know, solo office and focused solely on my speaking and training, solely on my speaking and training. And I was in. So that was, like, July, and I was in New York in that December time zone when I was out there, you know, doing business development whatnot, visiting a variety of financial services firms, because they’re usually the ones that hire me, are, you know, the mutual fund firms or the retirement plan platforms or the insurance people or whatever, those are the ones I usually hire me now. And so I was out there doing…I always try to work to get to New York for a sales week right after the trees lit up in Rockefeller Plaza, because I like New York then. So if it’s my job, I asked my boss, and she said, “Fine, go.”
So, anyway, I was there, and I got a call from one of my former clients that said, “We think you should come to work for us.” And I was like, huh, because then, I felt, like, in a way, and you can understand this, then I felt like, wow, I’m admitting defeat as an entrepreneur. Like, you know, I’m admitting defeat. And I still, you know, they’re a great firm. I have a ton of respect for them. They are really at this place in the 401k world where they are leading the charge in so many things, and I am so much a geek in that world that that is what got me, was that the organization and what they were doing seemed so appealing to me that I needed to…And I also thought, frankly, that being embedded in an advisor shop like that from a career perspective would really serve me well, you know, because I could see from the inside.
I’ve always worked in corporate America, consulting to and for advisors, but to be inside an advisor shop and do some things, like we’re starting our own RIA right now, right, and, you know, that’s not anything I’ve done before, and so I’m learning an awful lot. And then, I mean, there’s, you know, who cannot want to spend a day with Jim O’Shaughnessy. He’s like the Seth Godin in my 401k world, right? I have like that kind of a brain crush on him.
And so I decided to give it a shot, but I also said, “I got to keep my ShoeFitts stuff going because it really is, like, I really feel like I have a purpose in what I need to bring to the marketplace and how I can’t just not do this. So they were cool. It worked really well. They, you know, they were cool. They couldn’t really have all of me anyway.
Sheri: It’s the polite way to say it, right?
Michael: Well, it’s cool to be able to get to a position in your career in your business where you can make that call. Like, thank you for the offer. I don’t want your offer. I’ll do a version of your offer. Here’s what it would have to look like. Let me know if that works for you.
Sheri: Yeah, and it does. And, you know, yesterday I got up. When I’m in town, I walk five miles a day. I get up really early.
Michael: That’s a good way to get through 10,000 steps.
Sheri: Exactly, but they’re in the Midwest. I’m on the west coast. And I get up early. So I am having conference calls at 6:30 in the morning when I’m walking and it counts as work, right?
Michael: Well, granted, I usually don’t make five miles, but I do the same thing. I literally call them walk and talks, like that’s what I’ll tell my wife. Like, I’m going up for a walk and talk, and any time I’ve got a longer conference call, and I’ll just turn on the headset and kind of wander around in our neighborhood, you know, you can Wi-Fi, wander all up and down the side streets. I can get in a couple of miles and just talking, hour or two of talking in a comfortable stroll. You’ll still do, like, a good two, three, four miles of walking, if not a little bit more. And I just have to accept that there are probably a few neighbors in my neighborhood that just think I’m, like, a weird guy that walks around the neighborhood and talks to himself for hours in the talk for hours at a time.
Sheri: I know. Me too. And I don’t care. So, in Portland, I’m at the base of this extinct volcano called Mount Tabor. And so if I go I have a…and I try to race the sunrise up the hill in the morning when I can. And so I have a five-mile loop. And then, like, yesterday was my workout with a Pilates trainer. I have a bad back. But I have time, to me, I have to work out because my back, if not, my back will win, and my back cannot win. And so I am addicted to Pilates. And so when I’m at, I work out with a Pilates trainer three times a week. So I walk over. She kicks my ass. And then I walk back. And on those walks over and back, I’m talking, I’m doing work, I’m texting or whatever. And then yesterday I had a lunch meeting and it was lovely in Portland, 72, and I had a conference call on the front side and a conference call on the back side. So when all was said and done yesterday, I got 13 miles in. And all of it while working, right?
Michael: That is a good series of phone calls.
Sheri: Yes, so it worked out. I mean, I count my blessings that I am at this place in my career where I do get to kind of figure out and make it work. And I really do count myself really fortunate that I am working in an industry that I love, that I’m doing stuff that I love, that I still get to keep moving, you know, all that kind of stuff.
Michael: So I have to ask. Did it, like, that shift…and I guess I’m thinking more…well, both having grown the consulting firm larger and then kind of dialing back to say no, I really just want this to be built around me. I’ve written about this theme on the on the blog more than once as well that there’s this phenomenon in the advisor space that I called the accidental business owner, which is I think, particularly in both the RIA channels and even the BD channels as we go in more and more fee-based, you know.
In the past, like, advisory firms never really grew all that large, because every January 1st, you woke up, your income was zero because you haven’t sold anything yet we were all in commission, and, like, maybe had a little bit of trails from a prior year so you could pay your sales assistant. But, like, we never really built up big businesses as independent advisors because you don’t have very many staff when your income is zero every year and you can only make so much money based on just how many people you can see and the average size of the thing they buy from you.
And then we created this AUM model. And the cool thing about the AUM model is its recurring revenue. So after you’ve been doing it for a couple of years, you wake up on January 1st, and there’s a pretty good number of clients who are going to pay you a pretty good amount of money as long as you just give them awesome service, keep them around.
So you hire some service advisors, so you give them awesome service to keep them around. You go get more clients, and then you hire more service advisors to help serve them, and, like, you can build and scale of a business until suddenly you’re managing a whole bunch of employees and you don’t actually get to do very much financial advising anymore because you’re mostly in the people management business, which, as we said, you don’t like doing and I don’t like doing either. And I know a lot of advisors that don’t like doing that. We did this to be advisors, not to manage people. And the point that I think most of us gets stuck, though, is it feels like a failure to go backwards.
Michael: Like, I don’t know how to let go of some clients. I can sort of figure that out. I guess I can sell them someone or just refer them out. But I think even harder pieces, like how do I take employees that I’ve worked with for years and tell them, like, you don’t have a job anymore because I’ve decided I don’t want to do it this way.
Sheri: Well, I’ll tell you that, a couple of things. I remember driving by my office. It was in this really cool co-office space but we had our own office inside, and it was this place called Hatch, and really high ceilings, and really bright, and it was a B-corp thing. It was owned by a woman. It was really hip, you know. It was on the beginning of the Green Mile in Portland, Oregon, which is another kind of interesting conversation to have. But, you know, and I felt really proud of myself. I’d done all the things that I thought I was supposed to do. You know, I had a sign, and I had a cool office, and I had business cards, and I had employees, and, you know, I had done all that stuff that, from an expectation perspective, I thought this is what you’re supposed to do when you’re an entrepreneur.
And I remember driving by my office, I don’t know, maybe a month later, and pulling over…My husband had never been in there, which is interesting. But, you know, pulling over and going, you never came in here with me, which is, you know. But the other piece of it was is that it’s, like, it was sad. It was very sad for me to kind of like, yeah, I felt like I was a failure, and I really felt like there were a lot of people that were counting on me, you know. And it was really great for them that they got this wonderful flexible gig with this, you know, person who didn’t manage them at all, you know. And they were great people, and I respected them a ton.
But, you know, I could have done it two different ways, you know. And I and I think that there could have been another way where I could have said, “What I need to do is get an ops manager, you know. I need to get a CEO. And I need to just me be that Chief, you know, Strategy Officer or whatever, you know. I’m going to be that creative, you know, person and they’re going to run the business, you know. I think that there’s certainly a way to do that when I look at like as an example.
Sheridan Road is…Jim is like the brains, and then Daniel is like the dude who’s running the business, and they figured it out, you know. But I’d always said, “I’m already married. I don’t need another, you know, husband or wife.” And I was really scared of that. And I think that limited me in a way. But I’ll say that everybody is on their feet. They’re talented people. I still keep sending business to a variety of different writers and designers I worked with. And I feel like I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now, you know. And I still kind of keep thinking, though, and I’m sure you’ll ask this question, like, what does all-in look like.
I know we were talking about my podcast, and it’s going to kind of go through an iteration. It’s going to be reinvented and all that stuff. And I think about my podcast, and I think about, as an example, what does all-in look like when it comes to that particular project. I kept asking myself that as it related to ShoeFitts. And I kept thinking, well, all-in looks like an office, and all-in looks like employees, and all-in looks like a sign. And then, you know, website redone and, you know. And maybe that’s not really true. Maybe all-in looks like something completely different for me now.
Michael: How are you defining it at this point?
Sheri: Yeah, exactly. I have no idea. I mean, it sounds good.
Michael: It sounds great.
Sheri: But it’s something that I asked myself regularly, yeah. And I think as, you know…and I can kind of get a little carried away with it but, you know. I think right now, for me, all in looks like trying to continue to find time so that I can create four ShoeFitts so I get up earlier, so that I can write in the morning to create four ShoeFitts before my job starts then they get all my creativity, which they deserve, frankly, but I still need to carve a piece out for me. So, lately, what I’ve been doing is really trying to carve a piece out for me earlier in the morning where I can write.
Speaking of that, I’m sure you’ve talked about this, but I haven’t heard it. What’s your ritual around writing? I want to know.
Michael: So ritual around writing for me, so I became a fan of kind of the concept of time blocking of, like, specifically carving out chunks of time were you literally write on your calendar like, this is creative time, because, otherwise, just particularly in my world these days and all the businesses, like, the emails never ever end. They never ever end. And that’s after the fact that I’ve shipped a lot of that email to Slack, so the Slack messages and email really never end.
So the only way I could carve time to write is I started by kind of blocking off multi hour chunks. And what I actually ended out doing, and it’s kind of been my guide for the past probably two and a half years now or so, is I literally make a calendar for myself for the year. And I said, one primary thing on my calendar each day. So this kind of comes from…there’s a famous analogy, I first heard it as a Stephen Covey analogy. I don’t actually know if he originated it or not. But the idea of it is, you know, so if you envision like a big jar in front of you, you have to bear with me since we’re audio only here. So visualize with me. Like a big mason jar in front of you. And next the mason jar, there are a couple of, like, big rocks that are almost the size of the jar. There’s a handful of pebbles and a big pile of sand.
So the big rocks are the few big things that we typically have to get done day-to-day to week-to-week to make sure that our business is growing and succeeding. Pebbles are the fairly sizeable things that come up from day-to-day and week-to-week in the business that you have to deal with, that you have to solve, that you have to address. The sand is basically all of, like, the email and the continuous chatter that happens in our world that’s just this, like, steady drumbeat of stuff. The pile of sand alone is larger than the entire jar. So you can never deal with all the same.
And the point that Covey makes is the way that most people do it when they manage, their time the jar is supposed to represent the amount of time you have. We all have the same 24 hours in day, 168 days in the week. Most of us, we take the jar, we fill it mostly with sand, then we deal with a couple of the pebbles. And by the time we get to the big rocks, there is literally no more room inside the jar, so they just sit on the side and they never actually get done, because I got drowned out by all the sand and pebbles.
So the right way to do it…I guess the right way. The right way to do it is you put the big rock in first when the jar is empty, because now there’s room. Then you put in the pebbles. Pebbles will kind of fall to the side around the rock because there’s some room in the jar. And then you pour the sand in last. And by definition, the sand will still manage to fill every single crack and crevice around the big rock and the pebbles. But you’re only going to get it in as much sand as you can after the big rock and the pebbles have filled the jar. And you’re not going to get to everything because you can never get to everything, because there’s always more stuff than there’s time to get to. But if you always place the big rocks first, then kind of by definition, you will always be getting done the things that are most important to actually move the business forward.
And so I fell in love with this as just like an analogy of time and time management, how to think about your day. And so I literally have a calendar for the year, and every day is marked with the big rock for the day. So Friday is my big…Well, Mondays, my big rock is team meetings. I try as hard as I can not to take any speaking engagements on Mondays. So I don’t do any writing on Mondays. Occasionally, I’ll do a podcast or a consulting call. But most of the time, Mondays are all just all of our internal team meeting days. So I have, like, as the team’s grown now, like half a dozen meetings just lined up with people I interact with both my personal team and some check-in meetings I have to do with some of the related businesses.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are then a little bit more variable big rock days. Sometimes, they’re client days because I still have a couple of client things I need to go out to from time to time for Pinnacle. Some of them are speaking days. If I’m on the road traveling for speaking that day, yeah, I’ll still get some emails down the side. Maybe I’ll hop onto a conference call or two. But, like, the one big thing for that day is I’m just going to get the speaking engagement done and survive the travel, which was not good some weeks. So, like, it’s just a speak and survive day. We’ll fill in the rest as we can.
And then a bunch of those Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday days when I’m not traveling, those become writing days. And so I simply say, like, this is a day when I’m writing. So I’ll answer a little bit email on breaks. I’ll check in with team for a few minutes at a time because, you know, you can only sit in front of a computer writing so long before you need a breather. But this is a writing day, and that’s my one big rock for the day. So I’m going to get started the beginning of the day, and I will finish this article by the end of the day. And that’s the deal.
Sheri: Yeah, exactly.
Michael: And that’s how I manage my whole calendar. Fridays are generally set for weekend reading. Most people who listen to podcast, listen, also read weekend reading, like, I do that live real time on Fridays. Occasionally, I have to write it a little bit earlier in the week, or partially write it because I’m going to be traveling. But I tried very very hard to only make Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays big rock days for speaking, so that on Fridays, I can be home, I can do weekend reading in the morning. I do some wrap up team meetings in the afternoon, or, occasionally, a podcast recording, or like a short client meeting or consulting call, and then and then I wrap up.
You know, setting those big rock days for me was really powerful. As the metaphor kind of goes, I truly found it’s true. You know, when you set that one big task for the day, you tend to make sure you get that one big task done. And it’s amazing how much gets done cumulatively through the year when you actually make sure you get one important thing done every day. And conversely, it’s kind of depressing when you think about how many days go by where you look back on the day and, like, I did not actually get any substantive thing done. I was like answering emails, and in team meetings, and committees, and all this other stuff, and I feel like I did not have a productive day. So, you know, the system is designed, I always have one productive thing, one big productive thing for the day.
And it usually doesn’t dominate the whole day. It’s not like I spent eight hours writing one article. But, like, there’s always one big thing to make sure that I get done every day. And cumulatively, over the year, if it moves the business really really far. And, for me, as someone that, you know, likes doing stuff for people, I don’t like saying no, it actually became a really effective way for me just to manage total capacity after a couple of years of over committing myself more than I should. So I just pull out that calendar, you know.
Someone says, like, “Hey, we want you to come out and speak for this event.” I’ll pull calendar, I’m like, “I literally have no big rock days left.” Like, I just can’t. I cannot say yes to this engagement. Or, you know, “Hey, we want you to come out for a client meeting for this or consulting meaning for that.” I’m like, “I cannot do a meeting that day because I have a big rock. I have to get done that day. There’s not enough time left in that day to do it.” And so, you know, it kind of became like, “I’m sorry. I can’t do it. Blame my calendar.” But, for me, as someone who’s really bad at saying no, it became a way I could say no. It’s been very very helpful.
Sheri: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. I use this metaphor all the time. So marketing is a succession of projects, even something little, whatever it is. I need to do this. I need to do this. I need to do this. And even thinking through, as an example, a brochure. Well, the brochure is a bunch of little baby steps along the way, or even a marketing plan, or even like writing a speech it’s just a bunch of little steps. I have to have a conversation with the meeting planners. And then I have to kind of do this. And then I have to kind of do this. And when I think about it, I always think about the fact that I’ve just keep moving the rock up the hill.
So I use a rock metaphor, which is hilarious, but I just kind of moved the rock up the hill. I think, for me, for writing, I tend to…and I know this isn’t really ideal. I wait for the muse to strike me. And people who are as prolific at it as you, you don’t wait. And, you know, like your Friday thing could be that the muse doesn’t strike you for the rest of the week, but you’ve got this ritual embedded with your audience that they’re expecting it. And, you know, I mean, the industry almost expects it from you, right?
Techniques For Staying Focused [1:02:12]
Michael: And I’ll admit, in a world where, yeah, you know, I’ve got this content calendar I’m committed to. So, you know, God willing, I got to keep my fingers crossed every time I sit down at that desk for a writing day. I really hope the muse is hanging out with me today because we have to get this done by the end of the day, because it’s the rock. The flip side, though, is that, you know, when my schedule is structured that way, my brain, like, I don’t even think about it consciously, but my brain starts prepping for that stuff. Like, I was traveling today, but tomorrow is a big rock day for writing. I know it’s coming. Like, my brain won’t be germinating on something I’ll probably write tomorrow through the rest of the day today. Like, I just kind of know it’s out there because I’ve set the routine. And the brain starts prepping for it.
And, you know, same thing like if it’s tomorrow is a day of client and consulting meetings, it’s like my brain just starts queuing up the stuff that I’m going to be working on tomorrow, right? I mean, we all tend to look, I think, look at our calendars like, “Oh, God, what I have coming for the week, and what stuff do I have to do?” But the challenge for most of us is we so scatter it all together, it’s actually really hard to mentally prepare for much because it feels like everything changes every couple, you know, seconds, and minutes, and hours throughout the day. The nice thing about giving more structure to your day and week is it really does, like, it lets your brain get into more of a pattern and a rhythm, and it makes it much easier to keep track of things.
So I know advisors that do this just purely on the client side that do a very similar structure. In fact, I got this from an advisor. He was, like, does base the same thing. Like, Mondays is all of our internal team meetings, and financial planning stuff and prep for the week, I only meet with clients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. It’s, like, that’s it. I meet with clients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. And if they can’t meet on Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, I ask them if there’s one next week that would work instead, and that’s the only option.
And Fridays is basically his wrap-up. You know, go back in with the team, all this stuff that got done for the week. Make sure everything is getting wrapped up the way that’s supposed to. Start a little bit of prep work for next week. And, you know, those three days, like, his days are packed. He runs just basically, like, eight or nine hours and meetings all day long, but he knows everything is prepped and in place. It’s actually much easier to package in the meetings when he knows he’s just going from one meeting to the next. Like, he doesn’t have to check in with the team during the day of, like, did we do this thing or did we do that thing, because we worked on a Monday, well, we’re going to wrap it up on Friday. He doesn’t have to think about the rest of the stuff because the only purpose of that day is that is a client meeting day.
And it’s amazing how much easier it gets to work through just some of the mental prep, you know. We have all this research coming out now of why multitasking is bad, but I don’t even think it’s just a short-term, real-time multitasking thing. Like, don’t check your email while you’re writing up a financial plan. It’s not good to flip back and forth between the applications. But I think it holds through the whole day that, when you schedule too many different types of things in the day and you keep task-switching yourself through the day, it takes a similar mental toll. And the more you can line up common activities to a single day into a consistent routine, the easier it gets and the more productive you get.
Sheri: Yeah, and that’s why I work on attending to the writing before the noise of the day starts.
Sheri: For that particular reason. And as an example, also, for me, I block Fridays from my podcasts for that particular reason, is so that I can at least chunk some of the things in my life. You know, obviously, because I’ve got two things going on. I can’t control everything. Just as a side note, one of the things that I used, when I was doing it actually before we hopped on today, because I had 20 minutes, and, you know, 20 minutes, it’s like, we’ll have to get one more thing done. For me, the problem is diving into one more thing. I’m afraid that I’m not going to be back out in time. You know, you forget. So I use something called Focus@Will. Have you heard of that?
Michael: No, I have not. Focus@Will.
Sheri: Focus@Will. So Focus@Will is an app that’s developed by some neuroscientists, and it’s music. And it’s music actually created to help generate alpha waves so to help you focus. There’s also a channel for ADHD that people have told me has really been successful for them. It’s like a cacophony, but yeah.
Michael: I’ve heard a similar thing called, I think Brain.fm. That’s maybe a similar kind of system. It’s supposed to be like, just, it gives you background music but it gives you background music that’s supposed to help stir up the alpha waves.
Sheri: Yup, there’s a couple of different…So there’s channels. There’s like, you know, there’s like focus spa, there’s like classical, there’s like…and I like alpha chill or whatever, and you can create kind of what kind of…you want low medium or high intensity. The thing that I like about Focus@Will is that I can go, I’ve got 20 minutes, and then that’ll give me 5 minutes before I jump on the, you know, on the phone with Michael.
So what I was able to do was there’s this project I’ve got to invoice somebody for a speaking gig two weeks ago. That’s not good. That should happen two weeks ago. But I keep putting it off. And I was like, I’ve got 20 minutes. I’m going to get that invoice done. So I set my little Focus@Will timer, I stayed focused, and I got it done. I love Focus@Will, though.
Michael: So when you Focus@Will, can you set the timer, like, give me the give me the concentration juju music for exactly 20 minutes and then stop it?
Sheri: Yup. So it goes “ding” to start it, and then it goes “Brr,” whatever music happens. And then when it stops, it goes “ding.” So I can do, you know, like as an example, this afternoon, when I start working on a presentation that I need to deliver in a couple of weeks, I can set it, and I usually set it for like 75 minutes, and I make this commitment to myself that I will stay focused on whatever that is as an example.
Or if I’m writing, and I’m, like, I’m going to write for this period of time, the thing that I tell myself is that I’m not going to stop writing when I keep writing. And if I feel like I need to research something right I have to add a web address in or whatever that is, I just put like “XXXXXXX,” right, to hold the space, and I keep writing. And I just like keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. I don’t let myself jump out and go, I got to research this. It’s like, no, you got to research that later. Right now, what you’re doing is writing. To your point about kind of task-switching and stuff, I love it. I love it. I use it a lot.
Michael: We will definitely put a link out to in the show notes. So, again, this is episode 73. If you go to kitces.com/73, we will have a link out to Focus@Will. So it’s on your computer, it’s on your smartphone?
Sheri: It’s an app. I can access the site on my computer, or it’s on my smartphone. The only thing I wish I could do is get it so that I could download it so I could do it when you’re on the plane, you can’t get it off, you know…
Michael: Oh, because it’s, like, they need an offline mode.
Sheri: Right. Focus@Will is a freemium, meaning to give you some stuff free and then you can pay up to get other stuff. I liked it so much. I actually bought a lifetime membership couple years ago. But don’t fast-forward through the songs like you’re listening to a playlist because what that tells the algorithms is that that song distracts you. So then you have to kind of go back in and reset, which is fine. But read about the science of it. It’s remarkable and I love it. And it, you know, allows me to block and keep noise, keep myself focused and to hold myself accountable. Like, you cannot go check your email until this 65 minutes is up.
Michael: So I’m curious, you said. I mean, you had this full career of doing marketing work, running marketing for advisors. You did it in large firms. You did this independent consultant. And then going to Sheridan Road was the first time you kind of had to…you had to do it from the other side. Like, you have to actually be on the on their side on the implementation end of the process rather than being on the consultant side of the table. So I’m just wondering, now that you’ve lived some of this from within a firm, are there, like, reflections you have looking back of, like, how marketing in an advisory firm is different than what you thought it would be when you were outside?
Sheri: Yeah, totally.
Michael: That distinction makes sense? Like, does it look and feel different now that you are on the other side of this divide?
Sheri: It was the inside and outside was different. I think that when I was on the outside, like…So, as an example, either when I was at LPL or even when I was, you know, running these creative projects from ShoeFitts, the way that we sold ourselves is we sold ourselves as your back office marketing department. So there was a full team involved. So the full team would be myself as a strategist and, you know, kind of creative manager, and then I’d have a project manager, and a writer, and a designer, and, you know, even web thing or whatever. So we would be able to tackle a project, like, full-on like, you know. I could get a white paper done in, you know, five weeks.
The thing that’s different about being on the inside is that I don’t necessarily have that creative team right there. So, you know, I have to kind of navigate, you know, and budget, right? As an example, I’ve got to navigate some of that stuff internally to make some of that, you know, happen. So it doesn’t happen as fast as I was thinking it was going to happen. I was really, like, I’m used to making stuff happen really fast. In fact, I’m known for getting, you know, stuff done. And now I feel like I’m, like, it’s almost like a little bit of molasses because there’s so much…it’s a growing firm, and we’ve got a lot of grow, you know, we’ve got about 50 people, but we’ve, like, growing things and, you know, I’m just one of many people. You know, marketing is just a piece of the puzzle of serving clients and, you know, all of that kind of stuff. It feels a little bit slower than I anticipated. That’s, you know, one thing.
I also think that, you know, we have multiple advisors who have all kind of different approaches to their clients, and so it’s a bit how do I bring that message together as one unified message. Still thinking that through.
The Key Difference Between Marketing And Sales [1:12:07]
Michael: And the insights so far, like, that…because I want, in particular, I think is a challenge for a lot of advisory firms. Like, we either get it because the firm grows, you got multiple advisors, and advisors do things different ways, and you can’t figure out how to bring the marketing together. Or even just for advisors if we build solo businesses at some point, like, you got a bunch of clients of a bunch of different types, and you can’t figure out how to do the marketing in a way that isn’t going to feel weird or alienating to some subset of the clients that aren’t that, really. I know it comes up most often when people are thinking me, okay, maybe I want to actually start specializing in this particular direction or build a niche. But I don’t want to clients who aren’t in that niche. So, like, what do I do? That, you know, that how do I…we’ve unified marketing when I have different advisors and different clients is a struggle point for most of us. It’s like how do we do that, or what are you thinking, at least? What’s the working hypothesis you’ll be testing?
Sheri: Right, well, you know, I think, for me, I continue to try to take it down too. And this is not really the best thing but it’s like the lowest common denominator. And that’s, I mean, I that’s a mathematical term. It just means that trying to find the underlying consistent game throughout everything. And it’s taken me a while. Because what is that underlying theme that works both from a wealth management perspective and a 401k perspective and an executive benefits perspective and all of that kind of stuff, it’s like what is that.
And so the one thing for me, and I’m sure this is the way it is for you, is that sometimes I have to just let stuff marinate. Sometimes I have to just establish a creative question for myself, and then I just have to let it marinate. And then I’ll be walking, and I won’t be talking, and I’ll be, you know, wherever or whatever. Or I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll be like, “That’s the answer. I got it.” But it takes kind of marinating and sitting with it. So I’ve been looking for what is it that our wealth management folks do, and what is it that, you know, our retirement plan advisors do. Where’s the consistency there? So I’m trying to get down to the kind of the consistent thing from a messaging perspective.
And then the other piece of it is that now that I’ve kind of got that, now how do I build back up the marketing piece? And it’s not, you know…For right now, our newsletter every week is pretty much just an economic update, because I’ve got so many different kinds of advisors.
Michael: Right, right, right.
Sheri: And so what I’m working to do is teach them how to use social so that they can begin to create their niche in their area. They’ve got, you know…I’m providing them content and whatnot so they can go down their niche through their specific folks so that…It’s like any kind of thing. I’m going to provide the foundation, and I’m going to teach them how to kind of build their own rooms is where I am right now, you know. And I’ve been there, what, a year and a half, and it feels like I haven’t gotten anything done, and then I’ve gotten a lot done if I look back, but it’s still not as much as I wanted, if that makes sense. It’s like, yeah.
Michael: Was this a new role for the firm to create like a…
Sheri: Yeah, Chief Marketing Officer.
Michael: …a chief marketing officer position?
Michael: So how is that transition? One of the challenge I know even that we’ve struggled with in our firm for years, you know, our founding partners at Pinnacle, we’re all originally at Signal Life, which, back in the ’80s and early ’90s is kind of one of the very financial-planning-oriented life insurance companies. So taught lots of insurance agents how to be financial planners, and then some of them, like, our founders decided they actually wanted to just be financial players, not some life insurance anymore, so they left the insurance company and started an RIA, and started just trying to get paid for advice and investment management and other stuff and not selling insurance products.
And, you know, they were all pretty good at sales. They were succeeding the insurance world. That was how they got as far as they did. They were good at it as we got growing in the early years. That was how we survived and grew because we had some founding partners who were pretty good at sales and business development.
But I know, for us, you know, like, much loved to our founding partners, like, we’ve struggled with sort of the difference between sales and marketing and how to make those distinct. Because for us, like, sales was selling and marketing was getting yourself out there, to be in more positions to be able to sell a prospect and get a client. And, like, even when we weren’t selling products. We were selling ourselves in the firm. It was still kind of, you know, selling is what you do to close the client and marketing is getting yourself out there, more opportunities to talk to prospects who you might have a chance to sell. That’s how we come at it from the sales world. So from the marketing world, how do you distinguish the way advisory firms should think about sales versus marketing?
Sheri: Well, I’ll say a couple things. So, you know, kind of as I said way back when, I got into this world of marketing because I was a salesperson with a sales goal. And I had a national footprint. I sold 401k education and communication materials that I had designed. And the curriculum that I created is part of actually an investment consulting firm in Portland, Oregon. That was back in 1998. But, you know, my thing is that marketing is supposed to sweep the path for sales.
The aha moment I believe for the firm was that hiring a Chief Marketing Officer doesn’t mean that marketing is going to get done. And I say that because there are many components that make up marketing. So the first thing I did, I created, because I tend to be visually-driven at first, and my job, as far as I’m concerned, is to make Sheridan Road look as smart as they are, because they are a gifted group of folks and really kind of driven and creating different kinds of things in our industry, in the 401k industry. But their brand was dated, very dated. I mean, it’s very very common when I look at other advisors’ shops where they created a brand back in the ’90s, and all of a sudden, it’s almost 2020, and that brand is the same.
Michael: Well, it worked.
Why It’s So Important To Systematize A Marketing Process [1:18:16]
Michael: What was it you said, $13 billion. So, like, I can’t knock that too hard after the first $10 million, you got to give them credit, right.
Sheri: Exactly. So, you know, what I did was I came in and I did a couple of things. I worked to kind of uplevel our RFP responses. If we’re going to spend time on it, we may as well make them better. And then the next thing I did was create a style guide. That’s, like, the investment policy statement for visuals. So it’s the visual policy statement. This is how so that all the materials that I’m creating from here on out will look and sound the same, consistent, you know. Do we use an Oxford comma or not? We don’t. And we use the AP style guide as an example. So, started with some of those kind of underlying things. And then slowly, I’m chipping away at this rock. So, now, we’ve got some series of white papers where, right now, I’m working on a YouTube channel.
Michael: People by institutional 401k consulting from YouTube?
Sheri: Yeah, exactly. No, we don’t, but we’re going to educate people about things. So, you know.
Sheri: Because YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, you know. I’d love to have a firm full of Michaels to write. That would be my dream. But these folks are all up to their eyeballs and institutional plans. And so I can do the YouTube channel on my own, right, aligning with our partners and creating kind of content there that we’ll be able to distribute to our clients and/or prospects. So that’s what I’m working on right now.
We had this event. Daniel Bryan had a strategy before I started, so he’s the CEO, he has a strategy of doing events. So I’ve kind of been that. So when professionalizing our events, what does that experience look like. And now what I’m doing is if we’re going to spend all of this energy on doing events, educating, plan sponsors, hosting, retirement income, education things for clients and CPAs and all that kind of thinks, we have all that kind of going. But now what I need to do is marketing isn’t about the onetime thing. It’s about the ongoing thing. So what am I going to use to follow up?
And so my YouTube channel is what I’m creating to use as an avenue to follow up with prospects and clients. By the end of the year, and I keep saying this, by the end of the year, we will have that expertise embedded in our organization. So we just started it. We’re recording, you know. And then, next year, I’m going to start fiddling around on the participant side, either the individual side, so now, I’m just focusing on the institutional stuff. Yeah, so that’s kind of where I am. Like, underlying foundation of our messaging, and then add on, helping advisors build their own rooms.
Then, now, what I’m doing is we’ve got these events going. We’ve up level debt event experience, registration, the follow up, the, you know, the agenda, the signage, all of the stuff that when you go into event, you don’t even notice it. But if it’s missing or awkward in any way, you do. So we’ve got that locked in now. And now what I’m focusing on is, okay, we got that done. Now how we’re going to follow up? And how am I going to give advisors things to use to follow up? So we have a series of, what, 10 white papers we’ve done. We got a couple of they’re in the hopper. So, yeah.
And, again, though, it’s not nearly enough. But, you know, I’m a one-man band. Well, I’m not a one-man band. I have a colleague, and she manages a lot of kind of the day-to-day stuff as far as the events goes. But when you hire a Chief Marketing Officer, don’t anticipate that market is going to get done. There a lot of…there’s writers, there’s designers, there’s web people, there’s editors, there’s, you know, printers, there’s a whole marketing department that we were able to provide to clients because that’s how I sold it. But now that I’m inside, I don’t have right now. So I’m being really creative.
Michael: It strikes me, though, that just…I mean, the stuff that you’re listing around just what essentially is being systematized around your marketing, and all the things you do in every step of the marketing, and then you’re doing the process improvement about how do we do it better and try better results is, like, you know, that level of detail is not something most advisory firms have time for our capacity for to do the all the stuff that you said. But indirectly, to me, it’s sort of, it makes the point around, like, the value of hiring staff for marketing, the value of having a team member who owns marketing. Like, you know, most advisory firms, if you just look at industry benchmarking studies, most advisory firms spend 2% of their revenues on marketing or a little bit less, which is really low.
Like, software companies often do 10% to 20% of revenues in marketing, even, let’s see, like even manufacturing businesses typically do 4% or 5% of their revenues in into marketing, and we do less than half of that. Most of us don’t spend much dollars on marketing, and so we don’t tend to build much staff infrastructure around it either. And so marketing usually falls back to either being the responsibility of each individual advisor, you know, go market yourself, or, you know, a partner who has a little bit more of a penchant for marketing, who’s kind of the person who does it on top of what usually is, like, seven other things that you’re doing as a founder or a partner in a small to mid-sized firm.
And, I don’t know, it’s interesting to me to sort of reflect, like, all the stuff you are talking about right down to, you know, wouldn’t it be powerful for a firm if we actually had a standardized style guide so everything went out the same way? Because you know you’ve got a couple of detail-oriented clients who noticed these things, and you can’t keep track of it all as one advisor in a larger firm. It’s amazing what happens when you can just have a team member whose job is to focus on this. And, you know, we tend to do that with operations, and with investments, and maybe in a separate planning department. But so few ever have, like, a standalone full-time employee, much less a senior one at the level that you’re working that is just responsible for thinking about marketing things and how to do the wealth system advice.
Sheri: I know. And Jim O’Shaughnessy reminds me about that regularly when I’m like, “This isn’t moving fast enough.” He’s like, “Remember that we are one of maybe, like, two advisory shops in United States or whatever.” So, you know, it is interesting to have somebody wake up every day and go, “All right, how am I going to move the needle on our voice and our stature in the marketplace, and this and that?” And I will say that, you know, like many aggregators, when I talk with the advisors that are thinking about joining us in one way or another, it really it doesn’t go unnoticed by those advisors that Sheridan Road has made an investment in a commitment to marketing, not just me, but my colleague, right? It doesn’t go unnoticed. They’re like, “Wow, they were smart enough to figure out how to get, you know, Sheri Fitts or whatever,” yeah. It helps, yeah.
Why 75% Of Your Marketing Budget Should Go Towards A Marketing Professional [1:25:12]
Michael: Well, and, I mean, I think the message as well for firms who are thinking about this the, growth rates are slowing for a lot of firms across the industry. And it’s leading to, I think, at least more interest from a lot of firms and spending money on marketing. And he goes, “Well, what are you spending on? What works.” And the idea that instead of just trying to spend dollars on marketing stuff, you spend dollars on a marketing person whose mental energy can actually be focused on making this work in your firm, and then giving them some budget because they need something to work with. But, like, splitting your dollars between marketing spends and marketing staff as opposed to just spending on marketing things, which I think is where most advisory firms tend to go first, I think is really powerful. Because, otherwise, you get the kinds of effects you’re talking about.
Like, yeah, we spend a much money on marketing, we did some events. They went okay. It’s like, well, did you execute them systematically? Did you have polish marketing materials? Was someone responsible for making sure the presentation materials look good? Did you have someone that was managing the venue to make sure that everything executed well, and that the people who came to your event had a good experience? Did you have a follow-up process, and someone to make sure that happened, to hold you accountable? Like, you just go through the whole list of all the things actually for an event to go well. And, you know, usually, it comes out to be like, oh, you know, we spend a bunch of money to get butts in the seats for the marketing event and not a lot of attention on how to make sure their marketing event was actually run well with effective follow-up because no one owned that part.
Sheri: Right, yeah. Well, and the other piece of it is that, okay, so you decide that, as an example, something simple as executing, revamping your website. Who is going to be the project manager internally to do that? So you may want to pay a firm externally to do that. And then external firm, if it were my firm, right, we would have a project manager on our side. And we started to notice that our more successful clients and projects was this needs to be assigned to an individual internally to manage the project from your site. We can’t have multiple people. We’re not going to manage you. We’ve got to have somebody manage this from your site. So even if it’s just a project manager, because if not, then, frankly, what happens is your cost goes up. Because the spin starts to happen, and then the, like as an example, you know, we get, like, edits back. And then, oh, but wait a minute. The CFO hasn’t looked at it. Then we get that in his back, and da da da.
So, you know, even if you, to your point, if you have…and, frankly, if it were me, I’d say at this particular time, it should be 10% or more right now. But if you have a budget, yeah, I think a wise thing to do would be to kind of go three quarters of it spend on a marketing professional. And then, you know, for the first year, 25% on the projects. If that person, you know…I’m lucky, you know, my first three months, which is kind of silly, was spent doing design. Now that’s how I grew up in this industry. I was a graphic designer. So I’m comfortable in that world. It’s not ideally what you want your CMO to do, but the thing about it is that when you go to work in a smaller organization, you have to be able to wear a lot of hats. So I can write, and I can design, and I’m lucky that way, which also helps me when I do all my speeches and write do my content because I can do that stuff.
But, you know, if you’ve got a professional that has some experience in one way or the other, that will just serve you well. And that’s what I would do I would say, you know, three-quarters to the person, 25% to the budget to start out.
Michael: Which is a big shift, right, to say, like, you know, “I was about to spend X dollars and events,” and you’re coming saying like, “No, no, spend 25% about on your event and 75% of it on a person to run it, make sure it goes well.”
Sheri: Right, yeah. Because even if all you do is two events a year, and they’re executed, like, awesome and great and fantastic, and you’re like, well, wow, and then you think, well, no, I got five clients out of that. That’s so good ROI.
Michael: Yeah, I mean, for most advisory firms, our typical client, you know, if you’re going to retain them and they’re going to pay whatever they’re going to pay you for multiple years over time, like, it doesn’t take very many clients to get an absolutely enormous return on investment in your marketing.
Michael: So what’s next for you personally? Like, is this your new stable point, one foot in an advisory firm and then one foot out doing speaking and training? And I guess still some consulting, you said, like, you’ll do strategy sessions with people for a couple of hours, but just you’re not could be their implementation person because your Sheridan’s implementation person now. Where does it go from here? Are you at a balance point that works?
Sheri: Yeah. I think, you know, who knows. You ask me that, you know, a couple of days, it’ll be different. But I think, you know, we are talking before, we push record. The next kind of thing that I have on my plate is that I have a podcast. It’s called “Women Rocking Wall Street.” It’s been on vacation for a while. I’ve got some really cool things happening. It’ll relaunch this September.
Michael: And what’s the focus of it? I mean, I can cut it in fur from the name “Women Rocking Wall Street,” but…
Sheri: So, essentially, you know, I think that we need more women in our industry because women are slated to, obviously, inherit a lot of the boomer money. And, unfortunately, you know, we’ve got women and some pieces of the industry but not in product development or strategy. And if we want more women to engage in our industry or with our industry, then we’ve got to create products that serve them and are meaningful to them, which means we’ve got to have women sitting in places that can have an influence on that.
You know, I was thinking about this even just kind of geeking out for a second. I was thinking about this. I was talking to a friend of mine about AI, okay? An AI. And while all of the voices of AI are female, all of the programming is done by men. Imagine AI coming into our industry and thinking about how we could change that wealth experience with just a portfolio experience or client gathering experience, like, the questions that would be asked by that AI, if that AI is solely designed by a man, are going to be significantly different than what a woman might need. And that’s going down a little kind of. So I am really committed to doing what I can to be that kind of person to say, “Come to financial services. Stay in financial services.”
I mean, it was a result of me sitting on a plane with a woman who said that she’d been tapped on the shoulder to come in and work as an analyst. She’s got great insight into the medical devices community. That’s where she works. And this firm went, “We want you to be an analyst for our firm.” And she went in there to interview and there were no women. And she’s like, “I don’t think I can do it.” I said, “You have to do it. You have to do it. You have to work there.” And so that’s kind of what started my podcast.
And I have guys on the podcast. I mean, you know, we need more women on boards. We need more women in leadership. We need more women in product designs. So I’m really passionate about it. So that will be relaunched this coming September, and we’ll see what happens. You know, honestly, it’s kind of scary because I don’t want to just be in this, I don’t want to be typecast in this now I just get to speak to women’s conferences. You know what I mean?
Sheri: I’m like, I’m not that person.
Michael: Yeah. Unfortunately, our industry has a wee bit of a tendency to do that.
Sheri: Yeah. But I think I’m, you know, I’m pushing it, you know. So that will certainly change things for me a little bit. I think it’ll make my circle a little bit bigger than, you know, where I am right now, I hope to. And then, you know, I’m going to keep speaking, whatever it is, and I’m going to keep, you know, walking, and I’m going to keep running it to you, and, you know, all that stuff.
How Sheri Defines Success [1:32:39]
Michael: Well, very cool. So, as we come to the end here, this is a podcast about success, and one of the themes that always comes up is just the whole definition of that word success means different things to different people. And even different things to us at different stages of our own lives, which I think you’ve pretty much kind of lived and shared that journey here of being successful in the corporate environment and then deciding you wanted to go independent. And then being successful independent aside, you didn’t like what that created, so rewriting a new definition of what success would be for you and what would make you happy in the business. And so, you kind of intimated this a little bit, but I do want to just ask you, like, as you look forward from here, like, how do you define success for yourself?
Sheri: I really think success means having space, space in my day, space to create, space to think. This is, you know, interesting but I had a conversation with my husband last night. He’s like, “You should make more money.” And I said, “I choose to live in Portland, Oregon, and I’ve created a career for myself from Portland, Oregon, and I’m staying in Portland, Oregon.” I’m an Oregonian, you know. And I can walk up an extinct volcano. And I can, you know, get good coffee every day, and people actually know what a Cortado is, you know. And then I get to go out and play, you know. I get to go to Boston, and D.C., and Austin, and, you know, to your point, the side of the road somewhere in Indianapolis to talk or whatever, you know. I mean, I get to…So I think success just means that I get to have a space to create.
Michael: Well, very cool. I hope you’re getting the good balance now. It sounds like you have. You’ve kind of found that balance point. You get your space to create in the morning and get to apply some of it with that firm in the afternoon.
Sheri: Yeah, yeah.
Michael: It’s a neat balance to have.
Sheri: I like it. I feel really lucky.
Michael: Well, thank you for joining us and just sharing that story in that perspective on the “Financial Advisor Success Podcast.”
Sheri: I love it. I love it. Thank you for having me.
Michael: Absolutely. Our pleasure.