Given that we live in what some call an “attention economy,” the adage “out of sight, out of mind,” especially resonates. As such, advisors should strive to not merely do great work but also ensure that clients and potential clients are aware of the work they are doing.
“We work in a referral business,” says Jeff Bradanini, financial advisor and director of marketing for Beirne Wealth Consulting. “All the social-media stuff, the digital stuff is great, but when you’re top of mind with clients, friends, centers of influence, you’re more likely to get a referral that way.”
Bradanini also recommends that advisors not shy from sharing personal details online beyond their professional personas. “People want to work with a human being,” he says. “They don’t want to work with a robot behind the screen.”
On this The Way Forward podcast, Bradanini shares several actionable ideas for advisors looking to improve their social media and digital marketing efforts, including:
The importance of a strong bio page: “When you look into Google Analytics to see what all the page engagement is and where people are spending time on your website, by far it’s the bio pages. So if somebody goes onto your bio and it hasn’t been updated in 10 years, or it’s an old picture, and it’s not giving that personal touch, you’re doing yourself a disservice as an advisor because people are coming to their website to learn about you.”
The power of short subject lines in email newsletters: “It’s really important in the email newsletters for your subject line to have kind of that hook, line, and sinker approach where it’s just one or two words to get the person’s attention, encouraging them to open the email.”
The best way to increase engagement: “We’ve seen the most success in regards to engagement in ROI is really featuring our staff and our talent within our firm…In this past year and a half or so, we’ve done a monthly feature called BWC Spotlight, where we highlight an employee within the firm.”
The best times to post to social media: “The research shows that you really want to stick between Tuesday and Thursday around like 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Each account varies slightly, but those are really the best times.”
Why you should reveal more about yourself: “My best advice is to just be yourself and be authentic. At the end of the day we work in a relationship business…We’re dealing with people’s livelihoods here and they want to be able to build that relationship with you. And it all ties back into posting things that should give people an inside look at your life and who you are as a person.”
You can also read the transcript below:
Greg: This is Greg Bartalos for Barron’s The Way Forward. My guest today is Jeff Bradanini, financial advisor and director of marketing for Beirne Wealth Consulting. Today, we’re going to talk about how advisors can break through the noise and clutter with social media and digital marketing to stand out in the attention economy. Jeff, welcome.
Jeff: Great to be here. I’m happy to be with you. I know when we first spoke just to give a little kind of background on me and where I come from, what I do. So, as you mentioned, I’m an advisor and director of marketing. I’ve been wearing both hats for a few years now. I was originally hired as our marketing director. Our firm is an RIA based out of Connecticut. We also have an office in Pennsylvania. Our founding partner, John Beirne, was at Merrill for 46 years. In 2012, we broke away, went independent. So we just celebrated our 10-year anniversary as an RIA, which gives us a lot of flexibility to do some interesting stuff from a business development marketing standpoint. And I look forward to sharing that with the audience today.
Photo Illustration by Barron’s Advisor; Courtesy of Beirne Wealth Consulting Services
Greg: Excellent. So, it’s in a way never been easier to get attention on one level in terms of reaching people digitally, but it’s also never been harder because there’s so much noise and clutter. We’re competing with so much. So, let’s start high level. What are some big points that advisors should keep in mind, accepting that we’re in this attention economy where it’s just really tricky. It’s not enough to do good work. You’ve got to do more to get noticed.
Jeff: For sure. Covid’s made it a digital world the past two years. Everyone’s online. Social-media sites are popping up in what feels like every single year. Now TikTok is a huge craze that advisors are just starting to dabble into. The thing that I tell a lot of advisors is that what we try to focus on at our firm is the content that we’re posting. You want it to be engageable. It should be a value-add that people really want to read and listen to because if you just flood their inbox with articles that aren’t timely, that they’re not too concerned about, they’re not going to read any of your material. You really want to build that credibility and share things that help people out in making decisions both about their financial impact and also just personal lives. It could be some pointers on budgeting or when it’s tax season to remind them of some key deadlines or contribution limits going up in a retirement plan.
It’s things like that. Being timely. Now inflation, everyone knows you go grocery shopping and everything’s more expensive than it was. And people want to know what’s going on in the market. So having that inbound marketing approach where people are coming to you to look for that material and representing yourself as an expert with that content is super important. And when you’re sharing that content, you want to make sure that you’re engaging with people. So it’s not simply just posting, like everyone asks, what’s the best time to post online? How often should I be posting online? It’s a good question. There’s no perfect answer to that. But what I will tell them is not only do you want to focus on posting things on social media, but you also want to focus on engaging with other posts. So if somebody posts something on LinkedIn that you like, comment on it, ‘like’ it, share it, tag that person when you share it, then you get exposure to their network, then you get exposure to their impressions. So it’s this whole co-opted networking online. Like you think about going to an event in person, when you walk around the room and you talk to people; it’s similar online, except you’re doing it from a computer screen.
Greg: Right. So many people who have one-directional communication they forget the social aspect of social media, right? It’s like they’re talking at you. They’re not talking with you. How much time should firms devote to social media? And I guess that’ll of course depend on the size of the firm.
Jeff: Every firm, every advisor differs. What I encourage people to do as well is look into the analytics of their page, the Google Analytics. It’s a free tool that you could have implemented on your website to see what’s working and what’s not. And then once you know what social-media sites are working, what content you’re posting is working, that’s what you really want to focus on. At our firm, we try to set together a content calendar every Monday that takes about an hour. And then it also helps with compliance to know that we have a plan of action. Nothing’s going to come by surprise. These are the things that are coming down the pipeline to post. So, getting your week on track at the beginning of Monday, you spend that hour and then you spend an hour or so a day trying to network.
It’s a good practice to go on LinkedIn in the morning and try to connect with five to 10 people that are in your circle, whether it’s a center of influence, somebody that’s in a similar industry, a target market, an ideal client for you. Just building that network organically is another great practice. There’s no real time constraint on doing it, but just making it part of your everyday routine. Like when you’re reading the morning newspaper, scroll through some social-media sites and engage in some content that you think is valuable to you. I think that’s a great first step.
Greg: And in terms of content creation, not just being on social media, but making your own blog posts, videos or whatnot, can you speak to the ROI on those? Which might have more momentum? Which are more in favor? Less in favor? Anything on that point?
Jeff: That’s a great question. And it’s the thing that a lot of advisors struggle with. Everyone writes market update emails, and there are a ton of great publications, Barron’s being one of them, writing about different things going on in the market. And I’m humble enough to know that I’m not the best investment guy in the world. There are a lot of professionals out there and there’s no shortage of material. But we’ve seen the most success in regards to engagement in ROI is really featuring our staff and our talent within our firm. At the end of the day, we’re in a relationship business, and people, clients of ours, prospects of ours, when they call the office or they exchange emails, they want to be able to put a name and a face to who they’re speaking with. In this past year and a half or so, we’ve done a monthly feature called BWC Spotlight, where we highlight an employee within the firm.
And it’s 15 to 20 questions with anywhere from your favorite type of food or where you like to travel the most, why you got involved in the industry, your favorite quote, just to really give that personal touch to it. And it’s not just text. We supplement it with pictures and videos. You never just want to be writing 500-word articles because it gets stale. I mean a tweet lasts 18 minutes before it disappears in someone’s newsfeed. So you want to have interactive content. And when you’re posting these things, you always want to have open-ended questions or encourage engagement, whether it’s to vote on something or what’s your feedback? What’s your point of view? Asking people to share that content, too. There are a lot of different ways and keywords that you put out there that, one, help from an SEO standpoint, when people are searching for you as an advisor and, two, they increase the overall engagement. Ultimately the goal is to increase your impressions, get exposure, and then hopefully turn a potential client or potential prospect into a client.
Greg: What social media platforms would you recommend on balance?
Jeff: It’s really up to the advisor and their niche market. Each social media account has kind of a different specialty. There’s no doubt that
the biggest, I mean that’s more of friends and family, to really have that personal touch, to humanize yourself. Sharing things about different events you’re at is a great practice. Following your clients to see if there was a baby born, they just became a new grandparent or they celebrated a birthday or an anniversary. Just to have that touch point and something as simple as that to reach out and engage that client. We work in a referral business. All the social media stuff, the digital stuff is great, but when you’re top of mind with clients, friends, centers of influence, you’re more likely to get a referral that way. LinkedIn is great for business owners. Over 70% of business owners in the U.S. are on Instagram. Now, it’s really an untapped market for advisors.
we like to use for public relations, to get in front of news, publications, writers, things like that. So each one has a different benefit to it. It’s really up to you to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish with that post.
Greg: Right. Twitter is probably not going to generate a lot of local leads. It’s serving a different purpose, for example, than Facebook, which is a little more local, who you know, and whatnot.
Jeff: Yep. Exactly.
Greg: How about the best times to post on social media, anything on that count?
Jeff: Those vary too. We shy away from the weekends. A lot of this ties back to your page analytics, too, to see what’s working and what’s not. We did a little research project internally posting at different times on different days throughout the week to see what was leading to the highest engagement. The research shows that you really want to stick between Tuesday and Thursday around like 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Each account varies slightly, but those are really the best times. LinkedIn is during business hours. You’re going to get the most engagement. That’s when people are on LinkedIn. Some of the Facebook, the more informal stuff, could go to the weekend. Tweets are great early on in the morning. And it all depends on the frequency that you’re posting, too. Some of the platforms, like Facebook or LinkedIn, one or two times a week is great. Tweets, you could be tweeting one sentence or a link to an article, literally five to 10 times a day.
Greg: Here’s a self-serving question. If you had, let’s say a podcast that runs 20, 30 minutes, would you still recommend that be promoted during that sweet spot that you mentioned or might it make sense to post it on a Friday or a weekend when people have more time, even though it’s not going to generate as much activity, to do a deeper dive on a long article or podcast, et cetera?
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a great question. I would say that podcasts are probably better towards later on in the day when people aren’t working, because if they’re going to engage and listen to a podcast they’re going to need 20, 30 minutes, up to an hour of time to be relaxing and listening. It’s hard to really cut out that during a workday. You could scroll up and down Instagram in five minutes and engage with 20, 30 different posts. Whereas a podcast you’re hoping you catch somebody on their couch at six o’clock or seven o’clock at night after dinner, laying on the couch and they have that time. Maybe you do it when somebody’s on the road driving home, their commute to, or from work. So like I said, every platform is different. It really depends on the audience and the media that you’re sharing.
Greg: Now what about virtual events? Tell me about that.
Jeff: We’ve done a bunch in the past two years. We’ve been forced to shift because of Covid unfortunately not being able to do face to face stuff. Our women-on-wealth team internally at the firm has really done a fantastic job doing virtual events. Last year around the holidays, they did a virtual wreath-making. After the new year they did a virtual charcuterie board class where we had custom charcuterie boards made with our logo on it, our slogan. And then we sent them out to every attendee. Then we gave them kind of a list of the different items that they could have to make the board. And then we had a professional coach everyone through it. Then to take it a step further, we asked everyone to post that onto their social media pages tag our firm vote for the best one.
We made a little competition out of it. We did a virtual wine tasting. Sometimes we do educational things. We have a speaker come in. We did an arts and crafts thing where everyone’s getting together, having fun. I think it’s more social that way. And that’s the kind of event you have. I mean the lunch-and-learns and things like that, they’re all great. It’s part of the business, but I think the most fun events, when you ask someone to bring a friend in, it’s something that’s a tangible thing that you could build and have fun with it. Those have been some of our more successful events.
Greg: And for advisors listening who might be thinking of doing something similar, would you recommend that they bark up a tree and do what’s kind of maybe an example or two something that works or try and find something even more surprising and different for the novelty dimension of like, huh, I’ve never heard or seen that. That’s cool.
Jeff: You don’t necessarily have to recreate the wheel with some of the events that have worked in the past. But every advisor knows their client base better than me sitting here. It really depends on your audience and what makes the most sense. That’s really up to them.
Greg: One thing I want to ask about is optimizing websites and I’m going to first start with the humble opinion that so many of these websites are quite just boring, look the same, are not differentiated and it’s so easy to dramatically improve them. More specifically, I don’t know if you agree with that premise or not, but what are things that people can do to optimize their websites in general?
Jeff: It’s another great question. I mean, step one is to drive traffic to the website through all your organic posts on social media, to email newsletters, things like that. So now once you get the person onto your website, the question is what do you do with it? So optimizing the website is making it easy to find things. You don’t want people to have a menu of 20 different things going up and down. Can’t find what they’re looking for. So we have some very simple call to actions on our website. We have some technology embedded in the website where someone could simply click on a button and schedule a meeting with an advisor that’s synced to all our advisors’ calendars based on their availability. And it’s just as easy as that to schedule a meeting with an advisor. We also have a live chat button.
So if someone wants to speak to someone, they could literally talk to an advisor. Most of the time it’s me. The texts come straight to my phone. Very, very easy to use. And we’ve gotten a lot of prospects from it. Because you’d be shocked how many people come onto the website and it’s much easier just to talk to a person besides trying to find it for yourself. So the website’s very self-serving. It’s also a great practice to have a resource library. It’s great for SEO. When you’re posting all this great content, you want to have a library that’s holding all of your content, and we’ve also broken it down by medium. We have a video section. We have a women-on-wealth section. We have a millennials-on-wealth section. We have it broken down by type of clients. So there’s retirement plan clients, there’s individual clients.
There’s a little bit of everything. There’s a BWC in the news. So building credibility, being at events, being featured in a great publication, like Barron’s, gives you that additional credibility when you’re on the website and it shows that it’s not just you talking about yourself. It’s that you are in other publications. And one other key takeaway from the website that I’ll mention is when you look into Google Analytics to see what all the page engagement is and where people are spending time on your website, by far it’s the bio pages. So if somebody goes onto your bio and it hasn’t been updated in 10 years, or it’s an old picture, and it’s not giving that personal touch you’re doing yourself a disservice as an advisor because people are coming to their website to learn about you.
I think the statistic is that something like over 75% of people look for their advisor on their website before making a decision to move forward. So when they come to the website and they go to the bio and they’re looking at you, they’re developing an opinion about you as an advisor and a person before they’re making a decision, potentially even speaking to you. So it’s super important to keep those things up to date. And as I was mentioning earlier about the employee spotlight too, that’s a fun way to kind of give that personal touch besides just the bio where it gives your background and your education and things like that. You want to keep it fun and really personalize it.
Greg: Wow. I didn’t know that, but I’m not surprised either that the bio is the most read. It makes sense. People obviously want to look at experience, accomplishments, academic achievement, all that and the sense that there’s an actual person who’s relatable perhaps. Can you speak to anything else about what people are looking for? I guess it’s holistic. You’re looking at all of that stuff at the same time.
Jeff: It’s hard to pull that information just from the bio because it has kind of a conundrum of different information. What I will say based on our other social media posts is the things that drive the most engagement are showing that personal touch. For example, two of my colleagues and I were at an event last week for the Boys and Girls Club. We did a virtual paint night and we posted a picture of the three of us all with our paintings. And then I asked my LinkedIn followers to vote on who the best picture was. I mean, it was unbelievable how many comments and impressions I got. Whereas if I posted an article about inflation, I mean maybe I got one or two ‘likes.’ So showing that personal touch on social media really transcends into the website and that’s kind of step one, but showing that personal touch and what you’ve been doing from an event standpoint, pictures speak a thousand words as the old cliche goes and it makes sense. And when you’re sharing that content with your audience and you’re tagging the charity or you’re tagging the other people that you’re with, they’re more likely to share it. And that’s when you’re getting more of those impressions that make a huge difference.
Greg: Do you ever find clients who might agree with that, but they’re personally uncomfortable doing it? How do you deal with those people? Do you just kind of say, hey, look, you know, you can do it if you want, you’re probably going to benefit from this.
Jeff: Totally. I mean, everyone’s inclined to do what they want on social media. Some people just like to scroll and go up and down and not engage with anything and other people like to share and comment on everything they see. When we try to encourage exposure with our posts, if it’s something important that I want our audience to see and cast the biggest net, I ask our internal staff to share it on their social pages and encourage friends and family members to share it, too. If it’s a valuable article, let’s say it’s about a retirement plan, I’ll send the link from the article directly to a plan sponsor, saying, “Hey, this would be something really valuable for your employees. It’s worth sharing with your team.” Same thing with individual clients, centers of influence. The more that you organically spread the word the more likely it is to catch fire and spread.
Greg: And let’s talk about email marketing and best practices.
Jeff: Email marketing’s another thing that people struggle with. It starts with the analytics to monitor when is the best time to send it. What we found internally is that Thursday afternoons are the best for us. That’s when we have the most open rates. What you really want to do is have calls to action within the newsletter and the email marketing to drive the click-through rates. It’s great when people open it, but if they’re not reading the material, that means they’re not finding any value in your email, so it’s not even worth sending it to them.
Greg: Or is it possible that they’re finding too much value and they’re not incentivized to click through because you kind of showed everything they already need to know.
Jeff: It’s possible. I’m more in the thought that if you’re spamming their inbox with stuff that they could read at a million other publications and you’re not differentiating ourselves and you’re the hundredth person that wrote about the Cares Act in the last week, they’re not really prone to do it. We’ve tried to find a mix in our email newsletters where we highlight our firm, we show that personal touch, and we also have value-add content that people are likely to engage with and not just articles, videos, infographics, different mediums. And we try to switch it up every week so there’s a different flavor going with it. It’s really important in the email newsletters for your subject line to have kind of that hook, line, and sinker approach where it’s just one or two words to get the person’s attention, encouraging them to open the email. And then within the email have a call to action, whether it’s to reach out to an advisor, if you have any concerns about your portfolio, please feel free to forward this along to your network. Simple things like that could really increase the engagement.
Greg: Email subject lines are, yes, extremely important. Tell me a little more about your philosophy about them. You mentioned short ones, one or two words, which are more likely to pique your interest. You’re not necessarily showing your hand, but it’s an enticement, right? You’re teasing. Tell me what you think works or doesn’t.
Jeff: We keep it short and sweet. Typically in a newsletter we’ll have three or four articles and I’ll take two or three words from each of those articles and start with one article, put a slash between it, then the next article with just buzzwords that are enough to get somebody’s attention. So it’s something like stimulus checks or inflation or where is the market going with an open-ended question, something like that to get someone’s attention enough for them to want it open. And it’s just like, oh, I’m curious about stimulus checks or I’m wondering what’s going on with inflation, just to spark their interest enough where you don’t want it to be a whole sentence long because you’re going to lose someone. Everyone gets hundreds of emails every day it feels like in their inbox. So if you’re not setting yourself apart you really want to be mindful of that person’s time, then keep it efficient and just try and get their attention. And they know if it’s not an article or an item that they’re interested in, then they could move on to the next newsletter.
Greg: And now widening the lens a little bit in terms of looking at all types of marketing for advisors, what are some of the biggest challenges that they’re facing right now?
Jeff: I think a lot of that ties back into generating traffic to the website. That’s kind of step one is getting the right content, being organic, adding value to people’s lives. And then it’s really what you’re doing with that traffic when it comes to your website. The content, like we’ve mentioned, it comes in a lot of different ways and we’ve made a makeshift studio in our office on a budget with a green screen, a camera, and a microphone. And we do our own customized videos, and the engagement rates have been great. One thing to keep in mind with the videos, too, is to make sure that you have subtitles. A lot of times people are in a place where they can’t listen to the volume, but they’ll still be watching your video and they’ll be reading along as they’re watching the video. So that’s a super important feature. And on top of generating the content or generating the traffic, it’s really leveraging that traffic once they come to their website and it’s things like I mentioned before, the live chat, being able to schedule a meeting with an advisor, having those calls to action, it’s kind of giving a web visitor direction towards. You’re coaching them through what you want them to do, which is essentially submit their contact information and build the relationship that you could potentially convert that lead into a client.
Greg: And I guess with the chat function, if someone writes and gets that immediate feedback, the vast majority of other competitors will not have done that. And you immediately have engaged them, so you kind of have a head start already at that point.
Jeff: Absolutely. It’s great as a prospecting tool. It’s also been great for us as a client servicing tool, too. We deal with a lot of retirement plans, a lot of participants that have relatively simple questions to access their account online, or looking to speak with an advisor and having that personal touchpoint from a customer service standpoint. We’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback from our clients about it.
Greg: We’re nearing the end and I want to ask you for a key takeaway or actionable item for listeners.
Jeff: We’ve kind of touched on this as we’ve been speaking here, but my best advice is to just be yourself and be authentic. At the end of the day we work in a relationship business. People want to work with a human being. They don’t want to work with a robot behind the screen. We’re dealing with people’s livelihoods here, and they want to be able to build that relationship with you. And it all ties back into posting things that should give people an inside look at your life and who you are as a person. I could say that the majority, if not all of my clients, are close friends, family members. Every holiday we’re in contact. And they look at me as a friend and someone that they could rely on. So it’s really just being authentic and being yourself and the contact they were posting is adding value to people’s lives and helping with that engagement.
Greg: Excellent. Speaking of bios, I was on your website. As a dog lover, I couldn’t help but notice that Reilly is the office mascot. Do you know what breed Reilly is?
Jeff: Reilly is a Chihuahua. And he just turned eight years old in March and he’s like a little brother to me. He’s our founding partner, John’s third son. And he’s a great guy.
Greg: I see he was born in Nebraska and then three months later he decided to take up and go to Connecticut to be the firm mascot. I also notice that Reilly won the Most Likable Award at the Focus Conference in 2013. And that’s totally understandable. Without even having met him, he looks incredibly likable. Any idea why he hasn’t won it since then?
Jeff: Maybe he entered retirement. I mean he’s a Chihuahua. He’s originally from Mexico. So he likes the warm weather down in Florida. He’s living both lives, Connecticut in the summer, Florida in the winter.
Greg: He’s living the good life.
Jeff: Yes. He certainly is.
Greg: Alright. Well thanks so much for joining us.
Jeff: Yeah, it was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Greg: Thank you. My guest was Jeff Bradanini. For more advisor-specific podcasts, please check out Barrons.com/podcasts. For The Way Forward, I’m Greg Bartalos.
Write to Greg Bartalos at firstname.lastname@example.org