A Study in Disruptive Marketing

JD Carlson’s LinkedIn profile photo looks like a mug shot; long hair, lots of facial hair, no smile. The hero image on his profile is a photo of him surfing. In the world of same same same, he is different. In fact, he is unforgettable.

I’ve followed JD and his firm for some time. Obviously when someone’s profile photo is radically different it stands out. (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a mugshot for everyone, but for JD it works.) More importantly, I’ve admired his use of the social world from afar. His firm, Plan Design Consultants, is a content creation powerhouse with a video series, an ongoing blog and a very active social media presence.

Several weeks ago, while at the Excel 401k Conference, I had the opportunity to see JD and his team in action. Video camera, microphone and lights in tow, they marched into the opening night cocktail reception with a ready-made quiz, filming contestants and awarding tickets for winners as a way to drive traffic to their booth. (1. Great idea for some fun content. 2. Great idea to drive booth traffic.)

Their booth was also set up for video – somewhat like an Ellen DeGeneres set – cozy couches, lights, cameras. During the event, they filmed interviews advisors and industry influencers about various topics; likely their favorite one, “Why Your TPA Sucks.”

Here’s the interesting bit, many folks at the conference asked me, “What do you think about them?”

“Frankly,” I said, “Guess what? They’re disruptors. They’re conversation starters. They’re asking different questions. And you’re talking about them.” “That is exactly what marketing should do.”

Marketing should make you unforgettable.

Obviously I’m a fan. But, let me outline, from a marketing geek perspective, what they’re doing right.

Authentic Branding: Dr. Seuss said it best, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Their brand is true and unique. Absolutely JD could show up in a suit and tie. But that isn’t who he is – or how he chooses to move around in the world. (Note: He did wear a stylishly hip jacket and jeans at the event, he wasn’t in-your-face surfer.)

Tribe Clarity: They are uber clear on their tribe. Financial advisors. They aren’t trying to be all things to all people. They aren’t marketing to advisors AND CPAs AND employers. Nope. Only to advisors. And their content and singular intention shows.

Thought Leadership: In his book, Influence, Robert Cialdini lists six ways humans influence other humans. Authority, consistency, two of his principles that come into play with a thought leadership strategy. Rather than simply saying they are thought leaders, JD and his team consistently show up in a teaching and smart-sharing capacity; bringing useful information and new ideas to their tribe. (Oh! FYI: There is nothing worse than a singular blog from 2014. What does that say about one’s ability to be consistent in their business dealings?!)

The content they create is valuable and insightful. It isn’t just for show. It is helpful, thoughtful, and credible. And smartly, they distribute their content through a completely separate website, 401kAcademy.com, focused entirely on the most important link in their distribution chain, financial advisors.

In addition, their consistency helps builds upon Cialdini’s similarity principle. Similarity is the “know-like-trust” principle or my favorite word, propinquity; the more you’re around someone, the more they like you and trust you.

Multichannel Approach: In a nutshell, they are creating content in a variety of formats, a website filled with hands-on resources, videos (which also speak to the second largest search engine in the world, YouTube), a blog and social media activity. Social activity not only in the form of pushing their own content, but supporting others. Their video series, Retireholiks, is equally as authentic and disruptive. The team gathers on a couch, discusses issues facing advisors and the retirement plan industry and drinks beer. (Along with a bit of additional fun and games.)

Sure they could create white papers and webinars. (Yawn.) But those aren’t disruptive or innovative in any way! Sure their efforts take time and energy, and likely a bit of bank. Are they serving their tribe?Are they creating buzz? Are they having fun? Are they appealing to their ideal client? Likely so!

What might you do to shift your marketing to the status of unforgettable? How might you step out and be bolder with your brand and your messaging? Or, how might you show up more human and authentic – as a full person, beard, surfboard and all?

I Believe

One of my favorite movies is The Matrix. For a variety of reasons: The issue with the red pill, the thought that we create our own reality, and of course Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss); a strong, powerful woman who knows how to harness the matrix.

In fact, The Matrix is one of the movies that is watched at least once per year in our house. And, each time I watch it something else stands out as a marvelous metaphor for business or life. (If you haven’t seen it, may I suggest giving it a shot?)

Fast forward to the scene where Morpheus, Lawrence Fishburne, is being held hostage by Agent Smith and his colleagues. Neo, Keanu Reaves, wants to head into the fray alone. Trinity lets him know that’s not going to happen. She begins,

Let me tell you what I believe. I believe Morpheus means more to me than he does to you. I believe if you were really serious about saving him you are going to need my help. And since I am the ranking officer on this ship, if you don’t like, I believe you can go to hell.

There is so much in that scene about teamwork, the dynamic of women in the workplace, what it means to truly stick up for someone, and more.

But what it stirred in me was a memory from December 2012.

At that time, I was launching ShoeFitts and beginning to create our brand. To begin that work – to share with some awesome creative types – I wrote out a list of my beliefs. I shared it with them at the time. And, I’ve been encouraged to share them publically, but never have.

Who knows why I’ve decided to do that now…perhaps because I believe in transparency and connection when creating a powerful brand and personal brand? Perhaps because I believe in sharing the good stuff right now is important? Or is it that I made a commitment recently to practice what I preach about branding and boldness?

Here is what I believe…

I believe in the power of small steps to create big results

I believe in learning something new everyday

I believe in looking people in the eyes

I believe in thinking the best

I believe my red hair get the best of me sometimes

I believe in the abundant nature of the world

I believe in cleaning up after myself (even though I habitually pile)

I believe challenging people always teach us something

I believe in flannel sheets in the winter and the summer

I believe in honoring the people that serve us

I believe in serving others

I believe in giving, hugging and telling people I love them

I believe in being as close to my true self as possible

I believe in the rain and the sun and the sunrise

I believe in getting shoeshines

I believe in trying to see the other side of an argument

I believe in listening and asking questions

I believe there are always interesting people around

I believe in epsom salts, lavender and candles

I believe in the value of having a good tailor

I believe in me

I believe in giving spiders safe passage from my house (Note: this is no longer true after I cracked a rib trying to save one.)

I believe in singing along even if I don’t know all of the words

I believe in the graceful flight of pelicans, the determination of kingfishers and the strength of hummingbirds

I believe in laughter and bifocals

I believe in building bridges

I believe that the world is small

I believe in radical forgiveness

I believe in saying please and thank you

I believe in tipping the car wash guys

I believe in my friends, even when I don’t see them

I believe in using my blinker in traffic

I believe in helping

I believe in saying the “f” word about 10 times per day

I believe in fresh herbs

I believe in paying it forward in the drive thru Starbucks

I believe in celebrating success

I believe that my mom taught me to dance, and hug, and smile, and cook

I believe that my dad taught me algebra, how to grow corn (knee-high by the 4th of July), how to stand on my head, to be a speaker and to be strong

I believe that God exists in some form (I just don’t know which one)

I believe in fresh apples

I believe in taking deep breaths and ritual

I believe in feather pillows

I believe in sharing

I believe that hard work pays off

I believe in the power of creativity

I believe in pursuing patience

I believe in opening doors for people and giving back

It’s Not Business. It’s Personal.

I’m sure you’ve seen them. Posts on LinkedIn where folks admonish the individual to move their comments to Facebook – or another more ‘appropriate’ social platform. “LinkedIn is a business to business (B2B) platform,” they write. “Personal content belongs somewhere else.”

Surprisingly, the B2B world should be more personal and create more emotion.

In a recent research effort brought together by Google and CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council, marketing research firm Motista surveyed over 3,000 B2B buyers looking for insight into whether they purchase in a logical manner; a manner driven by process and devoid of feeling. The research offered up very interesting results:

B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.

This actually makes perfect sense. B2B buyer’s jobs or organizations may be on the line with a purchase. They may be taking on enormous personal or professional risk. (B2C purchases are rarely career ending.)

Over the past six months, I have been speaking on the subject of branding. Specifically how the power of an emotionally connected brand brings real value to a financial advisor’s bottom line. “A well-executed brand and brand experience increases the perceived value of the services one provides,” I tell them. Well-executed brands garner love, trust and respect. They shift clients from static to ecstatic, who are now willing to talk well of you, and even pay more for your services.

The financial services industry is obviously a challenging place to build a brand. Put simply: we are in a PR meltdown. And the recent fiduciary rule underscores the underlying lack of trust. (In fact, the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that financial services continues to remain the most mistrusted industry in the world.)

People buy from people they know, like and trust.

We’ve known for years the value of a personal introduction or referral. Unfortunately this approach to sales and marketing is simply not scalable. Advisors wishing to move from an organic growth mode to an intentional growth effort must tackle the trust issue head on. This effort begins with a deeper look at their brand and brand experience.

In an upcoming book, Brand Admiration, the authors define brand admiration as “the psychological state of mind of customers who develop a meaningful connection with a brand.” They write that, “an admired brand maps to customers’ own needs, goals, and sense of self.”

Unfortunately, that’s difficult for most financial advisors to translate. It seems that they most often focus on the F word; forms, facts, figures, funds, fiduciary and fear! This approach does not translate into trust. In most cases, it creates a disconnection. No one comes to a conversation with an advisor begging to discuss fiduciary issues.

What to do now?

  • Back up and start from the beginning. Spend time remembering why you’re an advisor in the first place. What piece of your heart sings when you work with clients?
  • Consider your brand from an alternate perspective. Walk outside your office and walk back in as a prospective client. What might you feel and do?
  • Build a foundation of messaging that embraces an individual’s emotions and stories about money—ultimately building trust. We are our stories and feelings, not forms, facts and figures.
  • Get brave and courageous. Be willing to step outside of what you ‘think’ people want to hear from an advisor. Step into what you want people to ‘feel’ about you.
  • Know that we are also visual beings. Stop using imagery that makes no sense to your target market. Considering reaching out to Millennials? Skip the compass and map. Give up on the bank columns. And, avoid Cialis commercial models at all costs.
  • Believe and trust that a well-executed brand will bring value to the bottom line. This effort will take time. In the interim, read the research! An admired brand has deep resonance—that translates into real brand equity—with a direct impact on a company’s bottom line.

Learn more ways to create an unforgettable brand

P.S. Still don’t like those personal posts on LinkedIn? Instead of being annoyed or complaining, simply click the drop down arrow in the upper right corner of the post and select hide.

Easy Ways to Build Your Blogging Muscles

Are you like many business professionals who are afraid to write? Afraid to share their smarts and blog? In the February Digital Institute broadcast, only 17 percent of attendees said they blog on a monthly basis. Moreover, over 70 percent have not blogged in the past year and/or don’t have any plans to blog. Yikes. Blogging is one of the best ways to show your clients and prospects you are an expert in your financial services niche — something advisors need to do out of the gate!

Discover the Simple Secrets to Deconstructing Digital

Do you ever feel like the basic principles of the digital world are sitting on shifting sand? One day you think you’ve got it all figured out, and then the next, you’re completely confused and overwhelmed.

Boost Your Centers of Influence with Social

Finding and cultivating referrals is an ongoing and necessary part of your business development strategy.

How to Create a Killer Digital Brand

What does your digital brand say about you?

If someone Googles your name, does the real you show up on the first page? Your digital brand is an integral component of your complete brand positioning, and must tell your clients and prospects why they should work with you and what you stand for in today’s competitive marketplace.

Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what others say about you. This means your brand must go beyond just words; it needs to encompass all of your clients’ and prospects’ experience with you.

Learn How to Create a Killer Digital Brand and walk away with the ability to:

  • Know why clarity and positioning win the day
  • Nail a powerful brand voice
  • Tap into the magic of meaningful visuals
  • Identify low-cost, high-impact opportunities for brand engagement
  • Exploit the uninspired turtles in your region

My Ultimate Digital Gear Guide

Yes.ShoeFitts Marketing - My Ultimate Digital Gear Guide That is a picture of me. And yes, that is my dog aBoo. We are soaked. Quite soaked. We live in Portland, Oregon. So, of course we must navigate the rain on our morning walks. But, you’ll never find me with an umbrella. By birthright, Oregonians do not carry them. They are a sign of wimps; people afraid of a little bit of water. And, yes. It is blurry. (HA! You try to take a selfie with a wet 110 pound Newfie in the pouring down rain.)

What you won’t find me without is my rain gear: layers of waterproof and water-resistant jackets, pants and shoes. In fact, that is why keeping my morning walk ritual isn’t hard. The right gear makes getting out the door much easier.

The right gear makes all the difference.

Recently, I’ve been offering individual coaching on the world of digital marketing, helping people understand and harness the intersection of the web, marketing and the social world for their business or personal brand. Many times, after our three-hour session, people ask, “OMG! How do you know all of this stuff?” “Where did you learn this?” My answer? “Marketing is my hobby. I love creating. I love experimenting. And frankly, I have a genetic predisposition to tools. I love tools. (Thanks, Dad! This is likely why I have a belt sander and sand blaster in my garage.) Again…

My Ultimate Digital Gear GuideI know the right gear makes all the difference.

If you head out into the digital world with only an umbrella, you may look foolish – you may simply get soaked, or you may be tempted to give up and head right back inside. To help make your digital efforts a bit easier, I’ve created My Ultimate Digital Gear Guide. The guide lists some of my favorite resources for scheduling social, finding sharable content, building websites, creating visuals and quite a bit more. (Get your guide by downloading via the image to the left.)

 

How to Make Digital Marketing Work for You

Whether you do your own marketing, or you have a team of professionals supporting you, poorly planned or executed social selling efforts could be costing you clients and sales. In 2016, you cannot overlook the opportunity to outsell your peers. You need a workable digital marketing plan that is easy to follow and just takes minutes a day.  In this rebroadcast of the ShoeFitts Digital Institute, you’ll learn ways to:

  • Scale digital marketing to meet your sales efforts
  • Create a sustainable digital marketing plan
  • Discover ways to monitor and measure
  • Avoid antiquated practices that no longer produce results
  • Execute a digital marketing plan with the confidence and tools you need to succeed

How to Love LinkedIn: Five Reasons to Get Passionate About Social Media

Can you really grow to love social media? From the outside, social media appears to be a struggle. Too many compliance headaches. Too much time. Too few clients online. Too little return.

Many firms have shared with me they don’t know what they don’t know. Therefore they don’t do. This approach leaves many firms sitting on the sidelines, letting the digital world pass them by.

Newsflash! The Internet has disrupted the way we acquire information and interact with the world. It is shaping an entirely new idea of what’s possible in marketing, sales, business and our world of financial services. Responding to the digital demand is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

Have you lost that loving feeling where social media is concerned? Do not despair. Just in time for Valentine’s Day I offer five reasons why you should stop being a wallflower and start dancing. The social sphere allows you to:

  1. Easily develop a personal brand: An optimized LinkedIn profile is a sure-fire way to solidify your personal and professional brand. The time it takes to optimize your profile will immediately pay dividends in better Google search ranking for your name and your firm’s name. And, don’t forget a professional headshot. Adding a professional photo makes you 14 times more likely to be found on LinkedIn.
  1. Be where your prospects are: LinkedIn reaches 37% of the U.S. population. It is particularly popular among college graduates, those in higher-income households and the employed.
  1. Accelerate connections: When I speak about using LinkedIn for financial advisors, I often say, “LinkedIn is the largest rolodex in the world.” Imagine the ability to tap into the power of nearly 400 million people worldwide? With a bit of ongoing effort to grow your network, you’ll begin to notice the connections within connections.
  1. Scale your top-of-mind efforts: Active profiles – those that share updates and interact – are more likely to be viewed. Think of it as a super simple way to stay top of mind with just the touch of a few strokes on your keyboard. Consider this tip from LinkedIn, “To be seen, you need to move, if you are camouflaged in the crowd, you will stay well hidden.”
  1. Lead the conversation: 74% of prospects chose the company that was first to help them along their buying journey. By consistently contributing helpful content on a particular subject, advisors can begin to lead the conversation rather than follow.

Need help creating an optimized LinkedIn Profile? Or are you ready to take the social world by storm? Stay tuned for news about my social selling bootcamp. Coming later in March!