Spring brings a magic all its own. The flower bulbs planted last fall have begun to sprout and many are in full bloom. Younger trees are sprouting new shoots as the mature trees bud and grow stronger still. A few weeds have taken root and will ultimately threaten the beauty of the garden if not quickly removed.

As I worked in the garden this weekend, planting seeds and trimming vines, putting down weed mat and watering the lawn, it occurred to me anew how marketing a financial advisory business is very much like growing and tending to a garden.

Everything, if properly cared for, matures in its own time. Even in the dead of winter, you trust that seeds planted and regularly watered with eventually bloom (Why? Because of your own past experience or because others that have practiced the protocols tell you it worked for them). Trimming and weeding can be essential to business health. And it’s not just about what’s blossoming on your marketing vine today – master marketers always look toward the future and implement a long-term, if not seasonal, plan.

Last week, we dug into Referral Marketing, the second of three funnels that can help you keep your pipeline full. There are really just three main ways that financial professionals generate new business:

1.     Event Marketing

2.     Referral Marketing

3.     Credibility Marketing

This week, I’ll share a variety of drought-busting tips that hinge on Credibility Marketing as a primary strategy.


According to Michael Lovas and Pam Holloway, co-authors of the best-selling book The Credibility Advantage, customers are bombarded with massive quantities of advertising and marketing, most of which they discount, little of which they trust. In this tangled mess, you must stand out as different and better. Establishing and continually increasing credibility is essential for financial advisors today.

Credibility Marketing, say the authors, answers the “Why” questions:

-- Why would people want to do business with you?

-- Why would clients give referrals to you? 

-- Why would people attend your seminar?

-- Why would people book appointments with you?

“The answer is simple – they probably won't – until you prove your value to them,” Holloway says.  “That means showing your knowledge and wisdom, demonstrating how you are relevant to them. That is the essence of Credibility Marketing.”

"Trust is the currency of referrals and few things build trust more than credibility. In fact, your organization's growth depends on it,” says John Jantsch, author of a popular book, Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Useful Small Business Marketing Guide.

Credibility Marketing could also be called Public Relations, or PR.

Wikipedia describes PR as the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics: “Public relations provides an organization or an individual with exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. The aim is often to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about the company, its leadership, products or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.”

Bottom line, PR is all about perception and reputation. As the old saying goes, it takes years to build an image and seconds to destroy it – kind of like gardening or caring for an old-growth forest, don’t you think?


Let’s take a look at a couple advisors who are using PR and Credibility Marketing to build the perception that they are indeed different and better than their competitors.

Anthony Petsis, CLU, one of Transamerica’s top financial advisors, is President of Philadelphia-based Anthony Petsis and Associates, Inc. The firm is a comprehensive financial services firm committed to helping its clients improve their long-term financial success. Anthony has a regular column in the local newspaper. He provides basic financial advice through a regular column. This builds credibility and visibility

In addition, Anthony is active in the community, hosting educational events, partnering with other local business owners or participating in charitable activities and civic good works. While he does run a recurring ad in the same local newspaper for which he writes his weekly column, he has also found a way to put a PR tilt into one of the ads that readers see.


DARE is an organization that teaches elementary school children about the dangers of drugs. This program is state funded but its funding was cut in the recent past. Petsis partnered with the newspaper and DARE. Together, they promoted a 5-week contest that appeared in every Sunday’s paper. The newspaper paid for the advertising, and Petsis provided the winner of the contest with an all-expense paid trip to Disneyworld. He used his timeshare points and paid for airfare and park hopper passes.

One hundred percent of the fee to enter the raffle was donated to DARE. This was a winning scenario for all involved. DARE got their funding, Petsis got free ad space (everything was free except for trip costs which came to about $2,500) and Courier Times got credit as well.

Here is a sample of the ad and some of the free publicity the firm received. One other intangible is the goodwill that Petsis created in the community – you can’t put a price tag on that type of positive perception. That is the essence of PR.


Thomas Nowak, CFP®, runs a Fee-Only financial planning and Registered Investment Advisory firm called Quantum Financial Planning LLC and is located near Grayslake, Illinois. As a member of The Garrett Planning Network, Inc., a nationwide network of professional Fee-Only financial advisors, he has been receiving a steady stream of marketing ideas from fellow Garrett Network members, the network’s marketing and business coaches, and media magnet Sheryl Garrett.

Garrett has written several books, including Investing in an Uncertain Economy for Dummies, which was published by Wiley in 2008 and contains contributions by fellow members of the Garrett Planning Network. Nowak contributed the section titled “Benefits Timing: Make Social Security Work for You.” Being associated with Sheryl Garrett, a nationally known consumer advocate and book author, built credibility for Nowak while being a “Dummies” book contributor added clout.

Last fall, while at the annual Garrett Planning Network retreat, Nowak stood at the microphone during the Rapid Fire Marketing Ideas sharing session led by me. He spoke about his passion for helping more people understand the high costs of investing and receiving financial advice under traditional non-fiduciary business models. He spoke about his acumen related to socially responsible investing. He said he’d been thinking of writing his own book but wasn’t sure that he could find a traditional book publisher who’d take a first-time author’s work on this subject and he didn’t want to give up control of the editorial content or the timing and look of the book.

After some coaching and encouragement from others in the room, Nowak declared to the group that he would indeed write the book he had brewing in his mind. Six months later, I am holding in my hands a very nice paperback called Low Fee Socially Responsible Investing: Investing in Your Worldview on Your Terms.  It’s available on Amazon as both a Kindle version and a printed book.

While only 95 pages long, the end product looks like a credible book. Nowak paid a privately hired graphic designer (not the built in cover development system that came with the Create Space “print on demand” book publishing package) to create an eye-catching cover design and interior layout.

The book has nine short chapters and can be used by other financial planners who share a similar worldview with Nowak but who don’t necessarily want to write their own book on the subject. Sheryl Garrett, “award-winning author and founder of the Garret Planning Network,” wrote the back cover “blurb,” which adds even more credibility to Nowak’s work.

Nowak is in the process of developing and implementing a PR plan that will include:

-- Posting information about the book on his company website

-- Sending a thumbnail of the book cover and a description in to NAPFA for inclusion on their member/authors page online

-- Sending news releases and copies of the book to local and national journalists

-- Using a paid newswire service to generate online visibility

-- Blogging and tweeting about the book contents

-- Encouraging strategic partners, clients and fellow Garrett and NAPFA Members to post positive comments on Amazon

-- Hosting an educational seminar (as well as a webinar version for people who don’t want to travel to the live venue) with the book as the central text

-- Keeping copies of the book on hand to give away to clients and interested others

-- Taking a digital camera and copies of the book (with a “compliments of Tom Nowak” sticker in the front of the book) around to the local libraries

-- Creating a scrapbook of photos for his Facebook page

-- Sending the best photos, along with a suggested caption, in to the local newspaper

In addition to hiring a professional graphic designer to give the book a polished look, Nowak had a professional editor, who happens to be his wife, proof and edit the manuscript. He also ran the manuscript by numerous financial planning peers and a couple clients and COIs (Centers of Influence). The process created stronger relationships and better conversations with people in his sphere, not to mention a better book and end result. Talk about building buzz on his own terms! Total cost (not including his time): $2500.


This article concludes my three-part series on Keeping Your Pipeline Full. If you missed either of the first two articles, you can access them via the links below. What’s ahead? You tell me. If there’s something you’d like to see in this column, I’m all ears. Simply post a comment in the area below right here on Financial-Planning.com or, if you happen to be on my Best Practices in the Financial Services Industry blog, post a comment there. This column is a labor of love. It’s my way of giving back to the community and sharing some of the advisor success stories I hear as I travel around speaking at industry conferences and dialoging with all of you. So don’t be shy; if there’s something you’d like me to address, I’d love to her from you.

Here are some of the places you can catch me in the coming months:

-- Tiburon CEO Summit, New York City, April 16 – 18, 2012 (my team will be managing onsite conference logistics and media relations)

-- Women Advisors Forum, New York City, April 26, 2012 (I will be speaking on social media)

-- Loring Ward’s annual advisors’ conference, Monterrey, California, June 6-7, 2012 (I will be speaking on Marketing That Works for Financial Advisors Today)

-- Securities America’s annual advisor’s conference, Denver, Colorado, June 9-12 (my team will be doing onsite media relations)

-- InvestaCorp’s annual advisors’ conference, Naples, Florida, July 9-11, 2012 (I will be speaking on Marketing That Works for Advisors Today).

-- Garrett Planning Network’s annual members-only retreat, Denver, Colorado, August 5-8, 2012 (I will be leading a two-hour Rapid Fire Marketing Ideas session)

-- Veres/T3’s Business and Wealth Management Forum, Denver, Colorado, September 13-14, 2012 (I will be doing onsite PR for the conference and serving as the team leader for the social media lab)

-- FPA’s national conference, San Antonio, Texas, September 29 – October 2, 2012 (my team and I will be providing PR support for institutional clients and advisory firms onsite)

 I look forward to seeing you at one or more of the above events. Meanwhile, start planting new seeds and watering those already “in the ground.” I can’t wait to hear about YOUR marketing successes and dub you a master gardener.