If you have done what I have recommended in this blog, you have started on the road to becoming an expert in financial planning. You have set up the right business model and you are a fiduciary on the same side as your clients. Now what?
You need to get clients and get them quickly so you can stay in business. That is probably the hardest part of this business for 99% of those who enter it. So how do you get clients? By letting the world know that you are an expert that they can trust. So how exactly do you do that? You do that a couple of ways. You create content that shows that you are an expert and you get quoted in the press, showing that people who cover this area also consider you to be an expert.
You should have a good website (I use a Studio Press theme hosted by Bluehost) with a decent amount of content on it. You should send out E-Newsletters (MailChimp) and/or blogs regularly from it on financial planning topics in which you are an expert and in which you’d like the public to perceive you as an expert.
I originally used Andy Gluck’s company to do my website and then switched to a Yahoo site after a few years in order to take part in the link exchange started by NAPFA member Greg Phelps. I switched to my current setup 3 years ago.
When I switched to the Yahoo hosted site, I got the book Search Engine Optimization For Dummies out of the library and read it and followed its advice. It didn’t advise any “tricks” or “scams” and it said to avoid most companies that say they can help you immediately with it because they tend to be tricksters and scammers. The basic advice is to create a website with a relevant topic, update it regularly, and get other websites to link to it. It’s not rocket science, but it does takes a little time to do it and for you to do better in search results.
You should also spend a little time on social media. You don’t need to be on Twitter all day, but you should post regularly, engage with your audience and show that you know your stuff. It doesn’t need to take a ton of time and you can recycle all of your material. All of those blog posts and E-Newsletters should go out automatically on social media and once you’ve posted enough different things, you should use a plugin on your website (I use Evergreen Post Tweeter) to automatically re-post some of them at regular intervals.
It’s a little harder, but I published a book on finding a financial advisor to enhance my credibility. http://www.yardleywealth.net/IndependentFinancialPlanning/
I also used the services of a book publicity firm http://www.smithpublicity.com/ to help get publicity for my book. Am I selling a million books? Nope, but I sell some and I gave it to all of my clients and lots of prospects and I think it helps. It is not easy to put together a book and I think people respect that and it increases your credibility. You can also recycle the material. I had my intern take 300-600 word snippets from my book and we created blogs out of them and posted them regularly.
As for appearing as an expert, one of the great pieces of advice I ever received from my old boss was the power of the 3rd party endorsement. Mike Garry can shout it from the rooftops that Mike Garry is an expert in some areas of financial planning, and what does that mean? Not too much, really. What would you think Mike Garry would say about himself? But if Mike Garry is quoted in the Wall St. Journal or the Chicago Tribune or the USA Today, then that might carry a bit more weight.
Being quoted in the press will benefit you in two ways. Not only will people see you in a reputable publication as an expert answering questions and giving your opinion on important topics, but the online versions of the articles will almost always have links to your website from their sites which typically have lots of readers and great online presences.
You aren’t likely to get quoted in the New York Times on day 1. The first couple of quotes will likely take some time. After that, it gets easier. If you are a NAPFA member, NAPFA sends out press requests from reporters every day. There is a website called http://www.helpareporter.com/ in which many reporters post requests for experts in various fields. I’m sure there are other such sites. Sign up for them and then look at the requests every day.
If you see a press request for information that you think you could answer, do so. Respond exactly as the writer requests. If they don’t say exactly how to respond, send an email to the writer answering the question briefly and providing your cell phone number and tell them you would welcome the opportunity to discuss the topic and answer any follow-up questions. Don’t bother answering any questions you can’t answer quickly and concisely. Your time is valuable and you don’t want to look like a dummy if you really aren’t an expert on the topic.
It took me a year or two to refine the way I answered, but it worked for me. After a few years of working that way, it really starts to pay off and you get more responses back from writers, especially after you have been quoted a couple of times. I haven’t answered many press requests in several years now, but I get as much press as ever. I have developed relationships with some writers who will contact me occasionally, and on some topics, I have been quoted a bunch of times, so when a writer is doing his or her research they might find me and then reach out. Investing that time, in the beginning, has really paid off.
I also use an auto-responder on my website. James Garvin helped me create a short E-Course on retirement planning. If people see the box on my website they can subscribe by submitting a first name and an email address. Then they get content that goes out at regular times, as well as follow up emails. The content is both written and video. I think it has worked really well. James has a NAPFA webinar coming up on April 30, 2015, you should sign up for it. Better yet, give James a call now before the webinar.
The goal of all of this is to increase my visibility on the Internet. Does it work? Yes.
For the past few years, more than half of my new clients have said they have found me through my website. They do searches with keywords related to those on my site and enough of them like what they see when they get to the website. Most people will say that it was more than one place they saw me that made them decide to reach out. Maybe they do a Google search and I come up in the results and then they see me quoted somewhere.
I will have to expand on some of these topics later, but this post is already twice as long as it should be. If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments section and I will respond. My next post will be on getting some help. Once you start to get more than a handful of clients, you should. I waited too long and it was a big mistake.