SAN DIEGO - Tired of running his financial planning firm in Michigan, Jason Wenk made a radical change to his planning practice a couple of years ago.

He sold a portion of it, moved his family and his company to Laguna Beach, Calif., and began to grow his practice entirely through blogging.

“I get 100% of my clients over the Internet,” Wenk, 32, told attendees at the TD Ameritrade Conference. “I don’t do Facebook. I don’t do Twitter. I don’t do Linkedin. I’m on [those sites], but I don’t use them. But what I found worked really well is … using a blog or a website where I could write a post and see exactly how many … people read it. I developed a process to turn those people into clients.” Wenk’s firm is Retirement Wealth Advisors.

Wenk’s process centers on his independent reviews of annuities that his retirement-age clients are contemplating buying. A former programmer for Morgan Stanley, Wenk maintains more than 40 websites that attract people who enter specific search terms seeking information about annuities. Once they land on his sites, those customers who find his analyses useful end up sticking around to learn more. Enough become clients that, Wenk says, his firm brings in $2 million or more in new AUM every month.

In a far-too-small meeting room at the conference, Wenk spoke about the power of blogging. An overflow crowd strained to listen from outside in the hall.

Wenk offered some of the following advice for building a successful blog:

1. Send out a survey via SurveyMonkey (or another service) to find out what keeps your clients up at night and what would make them really happy.

2. Begin writing content around those answers in a blog that you update about twice a week. Wenk found that four and five times a week was too much for clients and once a week was too infrequent.

3. Keep it up and be consistent.

4. Produce content that is relevant and engaging. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do your prospects want?
  • What are they searching for? Often what they want is more information about your competitors, says Wenk, adding that his competition was commission-based advisors.
  • What are your competitors offering that you do better?
  • Are you an expert they can trust?

5. Create a “call to action,” by putting a form or a link on your website that prospects can fill in or click on if they want more information. This, Wenk says, is key to his strategy for building relationships with potential clients.
6. Never use language that sounds like a sales pitch. Wenk has found his prospects respond well to his independent research and then to his saying that he’d like to help “guide them in the right direction.” He and his colleagues use this language with the 10 to 12 leads that his websites produce daily.

7. Invest in compliance and legal help to ensure you are marketing your blog in a legal and compliant manner. Wenk says he keeps a full-time compliance officer on staff and an intellectual property lawyer on retainer.

“You always have to finish every post with a question,” says Wenk, who responds to every comment on his sites. “Ask, ‘Do you have question or comments or feedback?’ Always, at the end, you have to give them a way to reach out to you.”