Michael Kitces Q&A: Being a generalist is digital marketing suicide

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Considering the $30 trillion of wealth expected to transfer to the next generation over the following 30 years, the competition among financial advisers looking to align themselves with younger demographics is greater than ever.

For wealth managers, the use of technology will play a crucial role in reaching the right clientele. That’s why hundreds of financial advisers gather with bloggers, reporters and digital experts each year at FinCon – the world’s largest Financial Content Expo – to discuss new ways of communicating with the public.

It only takes a few months for the techniques used by financial advisers to connect with their clients to be replaced by something fresh and new. With the constant growth of digital advertising and increased sophistication of social media targeting, many of the strategies that worked for financial advisers last year are no longer relevant today.

To find out what themes may be discussed at this year’s FinCon, we caught up with Michael Kitces, a CFP and publisher of one of the most popular financial blogs, Nerd’s Eye View. Kitces will be a featured speaker at this year’s conference, so we chatted with him to get a sneak peek of what he will share with this year’s crowd.

Be sure to check out his presentations at FinCon 2016 and be on the lookout for Gregory FCA’s Tony Catinella and Jen Diehl at the show in San Diego.

What will you be speaking about at FinCon and why?

Michael Kitces

Michael Kitces

Kitces: My session at FinCon is going to be around digital marketing for advisers and how you actually measure success. If I’m an adviser trying to get into the world of social media, there’s a lot of discussion around “starting to go do it” and not a lot out there about “how you measure what’s working.”

We tend to see people focus on what I call “the vanity metrics.” These are the number of followers, likes and shares. These are interesting and fun stats but they don’t necessarily translate into the best business results. In fact, a lot of the best business results come from having a clear focus when your audience is more limited. For instance, you may not have a lot of followers and likes, but you may have fantastic engagement with the people who you are reaching and who you can do business with.

We’re going to talk in some depth about how you can actually measure “what’s working” with available tools like Google Analytics.

What suggestions or advice do you have for financial professionals looking to boost their social presence?

Kitces: Figure out who you want to reach first. If you just broadcast broad financial messages into the world of the internet and social media, you will be drowned out by much larger publications that have more reach than you. You are never going to outdo Kiplinger, Money Magazine and CNBC on generic personal finance content. The opportunity for advisers is to have a specific focus on some specialization where you can not only reach your audience, but where other reporters come to you for research. Being a generalist is hard enough in the financial services industry; it’s business suicide in digital marketing.

How do you balance your time between being a CFP, blogger, and on social media?

Kitces: You have to separate some of that out. It doesn’t take a lot of time to type 140 characters and hit send. I Tweet and produce social media content during the free moments I have throughout the day. It’s a couple of minutes a day most of which you can do in your spare time when you are sitting in line on your smart phone.

Writing and producing content is definitely time consuming, but the place that I find it is pretty straight-forward. I take all of the traditional things that we are told to do for business development as financial advisers, such as going to networking meetings, and I throw all of that out. Instead, I take all of that time to do better, more scalable marketing online.

If you can’t find any time to produce content, what you are really saying is that you can’t find any time to market your business. And if you can’t find any time to market your business, your business is not going to grow and that’s a problem. That’s not a social media or blogging problem, that’s a “your-business-doesn’t-have-time-to-market-so-it’s-not going-to-grow” problem.

What do you think makes for a great blog in our industry?

Kitces: Anything that has a targeted focus to a particular group and clientele. The trap  most advisers fall into is that they think they need to have a really wide audience and reach in order to be successful. The reality is the complete opposite. If you write a blog that is so specialized in one area and only 1,000 people on the planet actually care about it and 10 percent of them become clients, you have a wildly successful business with 100 A-level clients. All you need is a small audience. Most advisers get themselves in trouble when they come up with ideas that are radically broader than they need to be.

What are you most looking forward to at FinCon16 in San Diego?

Kitces: I don’t know if there’s just one thing for me. The highlights for me tend to be the community of the blogosphere and seeing how the online and digital marketing space is shifting and changing. Years ago, the big focus was on affiliate marketing strategies and how to get more traffic. Now the focus is on sponsored posts and how to get more targeted traffic. To me, it’s interesting to go to FinCon and see how the business models around blogging shift in general. I’m excited to get the latest.

I’m also exited for the keynote speakers, especially Noah Kagan. I admire the work he has done and I am a huge fan of all the companies he has built.