As solo advisors, resources are scarce. There’s only so much time and money available. Often, we outsource tasks that don’t produce revenue to free up more time for tasks that do. I have spent the last 18 months outsourcing most of my marketing activities — with varying degrees of success.
When I started my RIA in 2013, I knew I wanted to focus on inbound marketing. That would involve producing my own content — text, video and audio — and communicating with personal finance media outlets. My goal was to provide content that could be consumed at any point by people who found me. And once produced, the content would generate business without needing further effort. But as my practice and other business ventures have taken up more time, I’m not able to focus as much on these marketing activities. So I decided to outsource them to other professionals.
Finding a writer: I love writing. Currently, it’s an additional income stream for my business, but it takes time and energy. But I’m not arrogant in thinking some of my personal finance writing cannot be done by someone else, and this allows me to keep producing pieces that create revenue.
In looking for someone to write my RIA blog, I started looking at places like Upwork.com and Freelancer.com. Freelance writers on these sites have feedback from past clients, so I made sure to choose those who were highly rated.
In all of the U.S.-based freelancers I considered, I found some who were CFPs and others who were seasoned writers. I then gave each of them the same blog post to write.
It’s amazing how the same content can be so different when various people tackle a given topic. Some tackled it from an educational aspect, others looked at the technical parts of the subject, and one turned it into a humorous piece.
After review, I went with a writer who wasn’t trained in personal finance but had a mesmerizing use of language in her explanations and charged a reasonable price. I worked with her for a year in producing various pieces of content.
After 12-months, though, I knew I wanted my content to go deeper into specific retirement topics, and she wasn’t the right fit. I found a retired CFP who was writing to supplement his income. He was great at technical writing, but after unsuccessfully trying to get him to soften his tone, we parted ways after a few months.
I then decided to go into the personal finance community itself. I wanted to find someone who had the knowledge for these issues — or knew when to ask for guidance. For the last year, I’ve used Zoë Meggert at Perfectly Planned Content. She works with other financial planners and knows the topics I want to cover. Plus, she also found my “voice” very quickly.
Content design and distribution: Another time-intensive task is creating graphics for all of the pieces and creating a distribution framework. While social media scheduling tools like HootSuite and Buffer can be used to do the job, maintaining a social media presence requires a continual loading of content.
Distribution was one place where I struggled. The writing was a joy, but when it came to consistently creating images and setting up distribution schedules, I did not follow through. This became a major barrier to distributing content. Who’s going to see the content if it’s not distributed? Zoë took over this process. She would source images, upload content to my website and implement a distribution schedule through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. This was not only done for written work, but also for video and audio pieces.
Lead generation: Generating leads has always been a work in progress. While I have various sources for them, I am always looking to increase their quantity, quality and frequency. I decided to put some of my marketing budget into lead generation programs to understand how they work and what value each of them provides. Initially, I looked at four platforms — Brewer Consulting, CoPilot, Smart Asset and Castor Abbot — before narrowing it down to two.
They all had different approaches. Brewer Consulting’s approach spanned various social media platforms and specialized in attracting niche leads using content and cold introductions via LinkedIn. CoPilot automatically connects you with people on LinkedIn, specifically down to job title, location and the company they work for. It automates introductions and an automated follow-up message for you and notifies you of any potential conversations. Smart Asset uses their own website and lead funneling to provide qualified leads for up to three advisors in a certain zip radius, and the advisor is then charged with attempting to contact the lead and start conversations. Castor Abbot uses automated video seminar marketing, along with social media advertising to generate qualified leads into your funnel.
They also had very different minimum price points. Castor Abbot wanted a $10,000 initial fee, while Brewer started at $3,500, and both stated there were ongoing costs for software platforms needed for their campaigns, and ad budgets needed on various platforms. These costs started at $400 per month, but could go above $1,000 once advertising budgets were accounted for. I also had philosophical differences about marketing with one of the founders of these companies, so it became obvious I wasn’t going to use one of them. In addition, I did not want to commit that much capital upfront, so I decided to go with Smart Asset, which let me set my budget at $500 per month, and CoPilot at $200 per month.
After three months, I no longer use either program. I discovered the underlying software platform that CoPilot was using and now use a similar platform called JetBuzz.io for a fraction of the CoPilot cost. It also includes more features than CoPilot initially offered, so I feel like I’ve got a good system in place.
I liked the idea of focusing on LinkedIn. It’s a good place to start conversations with people who fit my target demographic. Smart Asset delivered good potential leads, but the conversion rate of connecting with these people via phone or email was very low. Out of 15 leads, I was able to connect with two of them for a brief discussion, which resulted in no business. All of these leads stated they were interested in finding and working with an advisor, so this was disappointing. I don’t regret spending more than $1,500 on this lead generation experiment as it given me a good idea of what I want to focus on in the future.
What I couldn’t outsource: Unfortunately, I couldn’t outsource everything. I wanted to keep producing video content and a podcast. I looked into the costs of using a video studio and hiring an editor, but it went beyond my budget. Plus, I had already built up a mini-studio at home and had learned to use video editing software, so I decided to keep all of the production in-house.
To compliment the video and written content, I decided to repurpose this content into a podcast. It led to the name “The Five Minute Financial Plan podcast.” When I can’t keep to that time limit, I have to donate money to charity. It becomes a game for myself and listeners to see if I’ll stick to it.
The process of getting content ready for a podcast, recording, editing and converting the file typically takes about 90 minutes. I record the podcast in batches and can get three podcasts recorded and produced in three hours, at no out-of-pocket cost to me.
When it comes to my marketing strategy, the only thing that remains on my plate is to record these videos and podcasts, which takes me about 10 hours per month. I distribute multiple pieces of media each week, but the amount of time I’ve freed up by outsourcing my writing, content distribution and lead generation is extensive. The cost is well worth it. If I can then spend this time generating revenue, it quickly pays for itself now and into the future.