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Video Killed the Radio Star but Can Give New Life to Advisor Practices

Technology is advancing at a breakneck pace yet many advisors are failing to adapt, creating an enormous opportunity for those nimble enough, and hungry enough, to seize the opportunity, says Mike Byrnes, founder and president of Byrnes Consulting.

By leveraging technology, advisors can become more operationally efficient and “wow their prospects and their clients,” asserts Byrnes, who specializes in business planning and marketing strategy consulting services. 

On this The Way Forward podcast, Byrnes discusses several ways that advisors can embrace technology at little cost to grow their business. He also talks about:

  • The untapped power of YouTube. “I do a show of hands sometimes when I present and ask them (advisors) if they have a YouTube channel and you get one or two hands out of a hundred and they kinda half raise their hand. That is really scary in a world where Google has about two thirds of all searches. They own YouTube.”

  • Videos as referrals. “If I’m a client and I’m allowed to share that, you give them permission to share videos and they know five other people this year that are kind of going to go through something similar. Wow. They share that video and guess what? It becomes a referral.”

  • The power of ‘comment marketing.’ “If you went to a major publication and there’s some discussion on an article and you say, I really like this point of view, but here’s mine and you link to your article, that back linking and exchanging links can create this flow of traffic that’s off the charts and nobody talks about it.”

  • Why advisors must stay current with technology. “They’re a little numb to the rate of change that’s happening. And the ones that are ahead of the curve, there’s really going to be a competitive advantage there.” 

  • How Covid made geography less important. “It’s not Main Street USA anymore where you had to be on the corner and people drove by your sign and that’s how you get business. Now your sign is on the internet and people can find it anywhere.”

You can also read the transcript below:

This is Greg Bartalos for Barron’s The Way Forward. My guest today is Mike Byrnes, founder of Byrnes Consulting. His expertise involves helping advisors with business planning, marketing strategy, business development, client services, and management effectiveness. And today we’re going to talk about a topic that’s near and dear to most advisors, how to gain more clients in the future. Mike, welcome.

Mike: Hey, thank you for having me.


Photo Illustration by Barron’s Advisor; Courtesy of Byrnes Consulting

Greg: My pleasure. Thank you for joining us. Before we tackle the subject at hand, tell us a little bit about you and your firm, and then let’s talk about how to drum up more clients.

Mike: Sure. I’ll keep it short and sweet because the listeners don’t want to hear about me. We have a small consulting firm. Really it’s to help advisors grow and I’m really passionate about it. I write a lot in the industry and speak a lot, so some people will be familiar with me and for other people it’s nice to meet you virtually through a podcast.

Greg: Excellent. Okay. So now how are things going to change in the future? What’s your crystal ball showing?

Mike: So for the people that are listening, you can’t see it but we have a crystal ball in front of us. I really think that we’re gonna see this rapid pace of change like we’ve never had before and people have heard about Moore’s Law, about transistors and circuits and how there’s this compounding rate of change coming at us. I really believe that. I like to give this example. If people had a time machine and went to the grocery store 10 years from now, they would get the groceries and check out and they’d be like, where’s the teller? And when they walked out of the store, either on their phone or maybe the chips embedded in us they’d compute all the different prices of everything more accurately than when it was a teller back in the day.

And you know what? The driverless car delivered the groceries to the back and oh, by the way, the internet of things saw through this unbelievable computing we have and how fast it is and saw you didn’t get the milk. And so they told the store and the drone is dropping it off on your front step before you get back. And oh, by the way, you use cryptocurrency to pay for it all. And you know what? You probably got a pill there that’s gonna help you live to 150 years. I can’t tell you for a fact if any of that’s gonna happen, but I know that a lot of those things are being worked on right now. And so when we go back to our world, the financial services world and financial advisory firms, I just want them to be aware that this pace of change is coming and it’s gonna look very different 10 years from now.

Greg: Okay. So let’s accept that premise, because it does seem likely, if not certain, that that change is going to continue apace rapidly. What’s the takeaway then? What is the practical advice for that? What does that mean for advisors?

Mike: You can’t get in that comfort zone anymore where you say the old quote of “oh, I’ve never done anything like that and I’ve been successful without it” because you will get left behind. Right now I know there’s technology that is replacing some of what advisors do and they’re like, ah, we’ll never be replaced by a robot, but the reality is it will probably take away some of their day to day jobs. So how they differentiate themselves is no longer going to be true. And so they’re gonna have to reinvent why they’re important and why they’re better than the other advisors. So back to your question just looking at things and the pace of change. You’re great because you have a series of wonderful Barron’s conferences. That’s a great place to learn and read about what things are happening in the industry. But really getting out of your comfort zone and going to ask people that you normally wouldn’t talk to I think is another important thing.

Greg: And how will the communication aspect of the business change and how does personalization play a role here?

Mike: I really do believe that some of the business will be commoditized and so the way that people differentiate themselves right now, it’s gonna be kind of common stakes. And so if you look at the future to me, the relationship part is why they won’t be replaced by robots. The robots can do certain things. You can ask Alexa and they’ll give you a full update on what your portfolios are and how you’re diversified and all that stuff. That’s probably already there. So back to the relationship part, if you break that apart, what does a relationship piece really mean? And part of it is personalization and because you’re not talking to the masses, you make that person feel very special. And the other part is communication and sometimes financial advisors are terrible at communicating. I don’t want to paint them all in the same color, but if you look at the way that they blast out emails and do different things, they’ve lost their audience.

We have the benefit of looking at some of the different software that they use and see that the open rates are abysmal and the click-through rates are even worse. And that’s just their email blasts. I do a show of hands sometimes when I present and ask them if they have a YouTube channel and you get one or two hands out of a hundred and they kinda half raise their hand. That is really scary in a world where Google has about two thirds of all searches. They own YouTube. If you took YouTube out of it, it would be the second largest search engine in the world. And just to know that one little statistic about how popular videos are and you could communicate in a different way where people can see you, et cetera. Why is the industry so far behind on it? Some of it is compliance related. Some of it is that we never did business that way, et cetera.

Greg: Talk about the video aspect and how advisors can harness it effectively.

Mike: When we talk about the mass video, first of all, everyone hates the way they look and sound and I think part of it is they’re so afraid of the production and the cost, but they also want to be perfect. And there’s a good quote. I’m not sure who came up with it, but ‘perfection is the enemy of marketing,’ but it’s especially true with videos. So they really have to have a video strategy. But it can’t be one size fits all. So you have to know your target market really well. I like to use widows as a really good example because there’s this transition of wealth that’s happening to the next generation. And everyone talks about that. But what they don’t realize is that there’s this transfer happening to the other spouse.

And many times men die younger or they married younger people. And so in most cases widows are getting that wealth and sometimes the industry’s been terrible at marketing to them and servicing them. So, wow, if that’s a potential target market for you and it almost is for everybody just because of those trends, why not have a video that says here are five things you need to know if your spouse is about to die or five things you need to know if your spouse did die? It could be before or after. And that is a good example of taking a mass communication but personalizing it to your target market. So you’ve segmented basically. 

And that’s the type of thing, if I’m a client and I’m allowed to share that, you give them permission to share videos and they know five other people this year that are kind of going to go through something similar. Wow. They share that video and guess what? It becomes a referral. And so, the person sees that. Like, wow, I really need help from this person. I like the way that they carry themselves in the video. I like their personality. They seem smart. So that’s kind of step one is personalizing the YouTube type of videos that then get embedded. You can also upload on


Facebook

or whatever, but then they get embedded to your website, et cetera. I can keep going further if you want.

Greg: Well, what’s interesting is you’re selling through the video, but it’s hardly a traditional sales pitch. You’re not coming on in any way. It’s a friend recommending it. You could watch it whenever you want. You’re not asking for business. You’re educating the consumer. And then in the spirit of the rule of reciprocity, they’re learning and they’re disposed to give back in a way. So it seems like very little downside and the ROI is great. Once it’s recorded, you’re done and that can live on. And it’s kind of evergreen too. In general, it’s going to be just as legit five, six, seven, eight months later, et cetera., absent changes in the law, but in general, it’ll hold up.

Mike: And it was funny because I even dealt with this as a consultant and creating content. And I’ve been published so many times and I questioned another person I looked up to as a marketing speaker. So he did all industries and he’s wonderful. And I said, I’m giving away this stuff for free. And he goes, you know what, you’ll always give away stuff for free. And the thing is they can never know everything that you know from a video, right? So you’re demonstrating that expertise and they’re going to want to know more. It’s actually nice that it’s not a sales pitch because like you said, it’s an indirect sales pitch in some way.

Greg: Tell me more about how granular you can get with these niches? I mean there’s that sweet spot, right? If you go too niche, it’s gonna be a tiny amount of people. If it’s too general, it’ll be too watered down.

Mike: Right. And for the people that are scared to do it, I recommend that they maybe try three and just see how it goes when you’re starting out. If you’re starving and you go up to the McDonald’s drive through, you’ll eat anything on the menu, right? So same thing with your business. It’s hard to be disciplined early on, but if you are established long enough, there’s a whole bunch of ways to figure out what the target market would be. If you know your target market better than anyone else you start to think about not just what video content is sent to them, but you also start to think about what strategic alliances or centers of influence can introduce you, what different services can you provide? So it all starts to come together.

Greg: Let’s say I’m an advisor and I decide, okay, let’s do this. In terms of the actual filming, what are your more kind of brass tack recommendations? Go to a professional studio? Have it done in an office? Who films it? How do you film it? Editing, sound, all of these things. What would you recommend? And perhaps this is different from a one or two person office as opposed to a firm with a hundred people. What can you say about the actual creation of it?

Mike: I like to think that the right type of personalized video doesn’t have to be perfect. Your welcome video, maybe spend more money on that to make that look snazzy and professionally put together. But if you’re doing these things on a regular basis, you can’t allocate that many dollars to spend a lot. So one of the baby steps is maybe to get an intern. They can create long shelf life type content over the summer. And they know the technology like the back of their hand. If you dedicate a half day to do a bunch of videos, and if it has a long shelf life, you have five minute videos that you can roll out the rest of the year. You don’t have to do them all at once.

I always liked the wedding videographer idea in that they are paid really well, but there’s a seasonality to it. Or maybe even like in the week, they’re terribly slow on Tuesdays or whatever. So you say I’m not going to pay the full rate, but I would love to have you come in a half day when you’re really slow and they give you a discount and then you have a much more professional looking video than even an intern could do. The thing that scares people a lot is that especially for the bigger firms compliance is a hurdle. 

So when you send out an email, they can search for a certain word and say, oh, he mentioned a guarantee or she said something about returns and it flags it and it gets put over and they can search and look to see what’s being said. In videos they can’t do that. So they are more time consuming, compliance hurdles are there, whatever. So the one thing that I really recommend is stick with more of the financial planning topics as opposed to investment management because anything around education, the SEC or Finra, they love that type of stuff. And so those are some really good content ideas to think about. And they just naturally have a really good shelf life.

Greg: Okay. And here’s a question in terms of who actually gets in front of the camera, presumably, ideally, it would be the CEO, the head advisor, et cetera. But what if that person, for whatever reason, is just really, really uncomfortable with the idea or just doesn’t want to do it? What is the next best alternative, assuming there is one? What would you recommend in a situation like that? And/or how would you win over that person to say, look, I understand that. It’s human. It’s natural. But they really don’t care what you look like or if you have a tiny stutter or whatever. They want to get the information and feel that you’re speaking directly to them.

Mike: I like where you started, but I actually would say anyone can be a brand ambassador. You basically go have media training. What you can say and what you can’t do. And then part of it’s compliance. And part of it’s like protecting your brand. But if you have a big enough firm or big enough team, you might have different people working on different target markets. So you really want them to be creating the content so it’s part of their own business development.

Greg: So, get them to play to their respective strengths and expertise.

Mike: And they get to know the lingo. So, stick with widows, for example. They might say something like, we’re here to help you get through the stage of your life so you don’t have to go it alone. That type of stuff resonates with that target market. But an executive might be like, we’re here to coach you through this. We’ll teach you everything we know so you can make smarter decisions. They’re two totally different audiences. It’s really good when one person kind of specializes in a team to be that brand ambassador.

Greg: Let’s talk about getting even more niche or personalized on the videos. You can have a video of five things to do, A, B, C, which speaks to a segment. What about actual short clips with personalized, individualized advice, like, hey Joe, blah, blah, blah. You email it. And then they could read it when they want. Tell me about the pros and cons of that.

Mike: It’s wonderful. So we went and found a service that will do it because right now you could flip over your phone and do a video and send it to any of your clients, but it might be 20 megabytes. It might not get through. So we went and found this firm. And so the capabilities there can tell you who opens the emails and who watches it—different than Microsoft Outlook, which sends you the read report. But the thing that is really, really amazing with that is it helps to that relationship side where they feel like they’re in front of you. I think all advisors know they’re better in person when they’re sitting across from somebody, whether it’s a client or a prospect or working with strategic clients.

The video makes them feel like they’re seeing their clients. They actually feel like that advisor’s really paying attention to them. It’s a little bit different than a YouTube video. Recently I asked, how long would it take you, this financial advisor, to have the same five-minute conversation with every one of your clients? He had 150 clients. He’s doing the math. He said two weeks. And I said, yeah, but what about all the missed calls and the rescheduling? And then when you’re talking to them, they’re lonely. They want to talk for a half an hour or hour. And like all of a sudden you’ve lost more than two weeks of time. So I said, what about this scenario where you say, hey, such and such, because you’re connected through social media, you see that they just were in Florida or their grandkid just got a home run in little league or whatever it might be.

And, you ask, how was that? And you share that part. So it’s personalized, but then you go into kind of the same message for most of your clients. Like here’s what we see that’s going on in the world with Russia and Ukraine or whatever it might be. And this is what we are kind of expecting, and this is how it’s going to impact your portfolio. Now, mind you, they don’t know that that message is pretty much similar to what’s going to every other client. But then you send that off and that person now has this level of service that most financial advisors aren’t doing. The thing I will say too, and that was an example of a client service thing, on the prospecting side, it is a little creepy to get a video from somebody that you’ve never met before, but it works.

And especially if you already have the prospect in the lead funnel, but you’re having a hard time to get them to conversion. It moves them there way faster. And so you can follow up with them. The hardest part is to get that face to face meeting, to get them to conversion. Now they’re gonna get to see you. They like you. If you use it the right way, there’s this huge wow factor to them. Because like I say, marketers are gonna ruin this technology, and you will hate getting these pretty soon, but right now, most people haven’t received them.

Greg: Right. The window is open, because it does seem pretty rare. Given that so many people are understandably reluctant or cautious about entrusting their money with someone as there are so many options and things that can go wrong, it seems that video has a very strong disarming aspect to it, right? I can see you. I can hear you. I’m getting a sense of you. Am I comfortable with you or not? And that just seems to go far further than some blurry black and white headshot on an About Us page.

Mike: I’ll give you two examples. One’s a client, one’s a prospect. So one team, a four-person team, started using it. And we hadn’t really had a lot of time to talk about it. They were like, we don’t know how to use it. But it just happened to be their top client’s birthday that week. So the four of them got in the room, not good singers. They sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and sent the video. Well, they checked a little thing for the read reports and they saw that he watched the video nine times. 

Greg: Wow.

Mike: You kind of don’t want to tell them that like Big Brother’s watching, because then they’ll never watch a video again because they know the reporting happened. But he was a friend. I think they were out at a restaurant or something and they said, I just want you to know, we saw that you watched it nine times. He’s like why? And he said, well, I thought it was the coolest thing. I watched it three times myself. Called his wife in to watch it. And then every time his kids came over. It was just way better than the industry. If they’re good, they send a card now and they sign it. But this was one step better. So that’s a client example. Can I share a prospect one? 

Greg: Of course. 

Mike: So I spoke at TD Ameritade’s LINC conference and I gave an example of this. And two people were sitting with me at lunch the next day. They were attendees and they were talking, asking me questions, and there was a guy at this round table. I never even met him. And he sent me a note two weeks later and said, it’s the best thing ever. I had no idea who this guy was. He said that he went and did the trial and he had a prospect with $10 million. And he tried and tried and tried to get a hold of this guy. Well, he sent one of these personalized video emails and the guy wrote back, ‘this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll meet with you next week.’ And it was I think $300 to $500 for the tool for a year and the ROI was off the charts on winning that business. There are thousands of examples, but I thought those are kind of two interesting ones.

Greg: This is definitely interesting. And as you said, at least for now, it seems like very few advisors are pursuing this and using this. What other trends do you think advisors should be paying attention to aside from video?

Mike: Really interesting, outside of my expertise, is that AI aspect and what can advisors not do. They can leverage technology to make them, one, more operationally efficient, and, two, wow their prospects and their clients. And that could be something that’s scary to let go of. I think from a technology standpoint, we should be past the, oh, you don’t want to have paper in your office anymore, or you want to make sure all your different technology outputs talk well together so you don’t have to manually enter things twice. If you’re still using Excel spreadsheets, you’re way way behind now. You need to catch up. And I would say Moore’s Law, too. They’re going to find they’re really at a disadvantage. The other learning, I would say just from a marketing perspective, and I was saying this before Covid, but now advisors’ eyes are open to it. They had to work well in the virtual world.

They had to start to use Zoom-like technologies. They then started to do webinars because they couldn’t do their ‘bring a friend’ in-person events. What’s really interesting is that now a lot of them were limited geographically and now they’re finding, at least within the United States, they have this huge reach that they never had before. So the ones that are really good at it are getting business from sources that they never had before, at least geographical sources. It’s not Main Street USA anymore where you had to be on the corner and people drove by your sign and that’s how you get business. Now your sign is on the internet and people can find it anywhere.

Greg: And what are some effective ways advisors can market themselves online? I mean, in terms of which platforms might be best for ROI, drumming up new clients, et cetera.

Mike: Like social networks or websites? I’ll start with the website really quickly. It really has to be the hub. You have to have really great content. I think you want to drive people back there. There’s a thing called bounce rates. So if you use a tool like Google Analytics or something, a bounce rate is if you throw a ball at a wall, it bounces off, right? So you don’t want your website to have that effect. You don’t want them to come right there and then bounce right out. So what you want them to do is get in and get this experience. You’re cross-selling other pages. They’re seeing your bio, they’re seeing your expertise, and hopefully going to your Contact Us page, but you also want to have a website that has a freemium. That’s marketing lingo for a giveaway. There’s one trade off. It’s free, but like, you know, nothing’s free in this world.

The free thing is they’re gonna trade their contact information, whether it’s their email or phone number. And that has to be something that speaks to that target market. Like I have to have it. A freemium could be a book, an ebook, access to videos that no one else can get. And it could just be a two-sided flier. Like, back to the widows example, five things you need to know if you’re going to lose a spouse. It could just be like a little article. Right. And if you do it in the right way, you drive traffic to your website. You’re gonna capture those leads because it’s not a real lead until you actually know who they are and you capture them. So the first part of your question really about social networks is it depends on your target market.

But I would say all of those opportunities out there could potentially, depending on your target market, drive traffic into that lead funnel. One thing I will share is we do research and we are working with our clients’ clients. We’ll ask the question, if it’s part of the research, what social network do you use? The number one answer across the board every single time is Facebook. And so Facebook, whether it’s 80% or it depends on the age of the demographic, but whatever it is, most advisors do not have a really good Facebook strategy. And if they do have a strategy, sometimes they just are all business and they call it the social network for a reason. They’re missing how to use it. But the one thing that doesn’t come through in that research, when you ask what’s your favorite social network? Which ones do you use? Most people don’t think of YouTube as a social network. And so if you ask the question, do you watch videos, 95 to a 100 percent of clients say yes.

Greg: Exactly. It’s a perception disconnect. And the thing I find amazing is how some real random pieces of videos can get enormous traffic. There is such a ground swell of demand there that you’re right. It’s a very easy opportunity. I mean, at least for branding, I don’t know about conversion.

Mike: I’ll give you one that no consultant talks about in our industry, it’s called comment marketing. You can have all these sources go to your website, but if you only can get 400, I like to say fish in your pond, and then you’re trying to capture them. What if you went to the ocean? If you went to a major publication and there’s some discussion on an article and you say, I really like this point of view, but here’s mine and you link to your article, that back linking and exchanging links can create this flow of traffic that’s off the charts and nobody talks about it. There’s a little bit of a compliance loophole about what you can do and what you can’t do, but wow, like just to feed off some other really, really popular site or even personality. I think in different industries, they have things like celebrity marketing and all that. That’s touch and go, you can’t use …the SEC would crack that down with testimonial rules and all that. But just to think about where you could get those fish into your little pond is something that most people aren’t considering.

Greg: And what are some of the most common mistakes that you see in this area?

Mike: Can you narrow it down a little bit more?

Greg: I guess in terms of maybe money poorly spent, or energy and time where people are just squandering their efforts.

Mike: One of the things that I see is that they try to swing the bat and hit the home run the first time and they’re not experts. I’m not tooting my own horn, but I’m a consultant. I do this all day long, so I can kind of tell them what will work and what won’t. But a lot of them will try something. I’ll give you a real specific example. I did a panel with a client at a Barron’s conference like five years ago. And it still holds true. We found out that this company was going to let go of all their executives. So I talked to the marketing director who was pretty junior, but a really great guy and could carry out all the stuff. And I said, go do a targeted ad campaign that says there’s two giveaways, a free consultation or a free lunch and we’ll do a little seminar on it. 

Here’s what to think about if you’re going to lose your job and what to do with your executive comp and all that stuff. They spent like $400 and they got four million-dollar clients out of it. The way that people think about advertising, it’s so scary, so much money, I can’t see the ROI. Well, that was such a great case study of really knowing your target market, really knowing what would work from a messaging standpoint, not spending a lot of money, and guess what, they now are more experimental in different target markets about how to bring in that lead. Most people I don’t give digital marketing advice to around advertising until the end, because they’re not doing the free stuff first of getting publicity and sharing the right types of content.

Greg: What are some other ways that they can get PR, let’s say without an agency, to be really resourceful?

Mike: I think that knowing your authentic audience. I’ll give you one example, because we could talk about it for a whole hour. The media needs sources, right? There’s more demand on them to push out content than ever before. But you need to cut through and build that relationship. One really great way to pitch an idea is to say, hey, I believe my clients or prospects are very similar to your readers or your viewers or listeners. And I really think that this topic would resonate because of what I see in surveys or whatever it might be. Would you be interested? And it’s a little bit less of a sales pitch because it’s more like you’re trying to help them on the other side of the phone call or email or table. And then pitch it with the reader in mind or the person that digests the content, not from that marketing throw up basically. No media person wants your brochure. They want to know what’s kind of the hot topic of the day.

Greg: That’s a good idea because most news organizations don’t want to rely on the same sources over and over. You want to expand your source pool. Importantly, that person has to be authoritative. Credible. But you’re right. That’s a very good approach because you’re saying, I can help you. The reader can learn and everyone wins in that scenario. 

Mike: One interesting idea is that I think advisors should survey their clients at least every other year, but hopefully once a year, and one question you can ask is what keeps you up at night? And you might get some responses, oh my husband’s snoring or whatever. But a lot of them will say, I’m really nervous about X, Y, and Z. It’s great to help service them and work with them. But there is so much meat for published content right there. If you need a good idea, that’s a good one to start with.

Greg: We’re just about out of time and we’re actually at the Barron’s Advisor Teams conference. What was a key piece of advice that you took from the attendees you saw today?

Mike: You know what? It is really amazing how people are a little bit numb to how things are changing. Have you ever heard of the analogy of the frog and the boiling water? 

Greg: Certainly.

Mike: Yeah. Right. So, in case someone doesn’t know it I’ll say it. If you put a frog in boiling water, they jump out instantly. But if you put them in the water and you slowly raise the heat, they don’t jump out. I don’t know if this is true, but it’s a good analogy. And I think there’s a little bit of that in the industry that the advisors, not to say that they’re frogs, but they’re a little numb to the rate of change that’s happening. And the ones that are ahead of the curve, there’s really going to be a competitive advantage there. And the last part of that, just from a marketing and growth standpoint, is we’re the most interconnected we’ve ever been with a tool like LinkedIn or whatever. So now in a client referral driven industry or through strategic alliances, you can really know who other people know and how you use that information can vastly increase your growth efforts.

Greg: Excellent. Well, that’s all really great advice. My guest was Mike Byrnes. For more advisor specific podcasts, please check out Barrons.com/podcasts. For The Way Forward, I’m Greg Bartalos.


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