How to Stand Out and Get Prospects Online: A Conversation with Barbara Kay and Matt Ledoux

Barbara Kay, FPA Coaches Corner coach, recently sat down with Matt Ledoux, digital marketing expert of Captains of Content, for a conversation on how financial planners can stand out and get prospects online.

What’s the reality advisers face these days in their marketing?

You are who Google says you are. Which is pretty scary.

What does that mean? 

It means that the only impression that prospects are going to have about an adviser is what Google presents. And honestly many advisers aren’t putting their best foot forward online. They either have a poorly crafted website or no social media presence. Or they just look like every other adviser, so they don’t stand out at all.

Yes! It’s very hard to stand out in a crowded field. What should they do about it?

They should create a compelling value prop. And dare to sound different and unique so they can stand out from all the noise.

“You are who Google says you are. Studies show that prospects are deciding if they want to work with you based on your online presence.”

How specifically can an adviser do that given the compliance restrictions?

You don’t need to overpromise or push the limits of compliance, you just need to think about how you’re unique. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It might be something that other advisers just aren’t talking about. Then, once you find that thing, exploit the hell out of it.

If they just have to find a little thing that’s different, why is it so hard?

They get confused about who they are or who they want to be. I get it, it can be difficult. But they need someone who can help pull out their distinguishing value.

Yes, it’s a conversation I have a lot with clients. We have to dive deep to get past the generic. What’s your experience? What’s one thing all advisers want to say in their marketing?

“I’m a really good listener.”

Well, actually that’s a very important part of what client’s value. So, is that a good message?

No. It’s not. It’s a great characteristic, but it’s not distinguishing enough and it’s not a value prop. 

Well, then what can advisers say to attract more clients?

They have to ask themselves, what’s their thing? I have some clients who were math or computer science majors, let’s dig into that. Because not many advisers can say that. Or some had a parent who was an adviser, let’s go with the family angle. Some who believe in an overall balance, so let’s go with a “health and wealth” angle. Every adviser needs to find their unique thing. Then say it louder than everyone else.

I know that the word “trust” is really important, and they like to say that they are trustworthy. Can they use the word “trust”?

It’s not a believable word. Because every used car salesmen also says it. So you have to be very careful how you frame it.

If you can’t say I’m a great listener and you can’t say my clients trust me, what can you say? How do you talk about it?

One way we’ve done it with advisers is to say: “Most of the clients who started with me are still with me. And many have even become friends.” That kind of messaging implies trust. Without using that overused and under-believed word.

Does the CFP® certification help an adviser standout?

Yes, it does. And it’s a difficult designation to get. It definitely should be something that you lead with. But you also have to be careful to explain what it means in a simple way. Because many people don’t know. So, at Captains, we explain what it means to the investor in a non-jargon way that they not only understand, but see the benefit in.

What other tips do you have about good marketing language?

You want the adviser to be relatable. Because so much of the decision to work with an adviser is based on the human element. So I like to show an adviser’s human side—even in their language. We want them to sound more conversational. Less stiff sounding with less financial-speak. That way the prospects looking at their marketing materials can feel a connection.

You’ve given some great tips. Tell us your most important tip. What’s the one thing advisers need to do to ramp-up their marketing?

This is difficult with compliance, but get on Instagram if you can. The baby boomer population is aging and advisers want to get in touch with a younger crowd. That crowd is on Instagram. And not a lot of advisers are on Instagram yet. Get your name and your value prop messaging out there in a channel where young people are. Of course other social media channels are a must as well.

Thanks for bringing up social media. How important is it for advisers to have a strong social media presence?

It’s incredibly important. A huge amount of people are going online to learn about you. Even if it’s a referral, studies have found that 72 percent of investors say that an adviser’s online information is extremely important. In fact, the study also showed that 45 percent of prospects have eliminated an adviser based on what they found online. So your digital presence is everything.

You reinforce exactly what I say to clients, as well. They have to look good online.

Yes, it’s just part of your brand these days. The problem is, many advisers don’t know how to maximize their presence online. They don’t have a voice on social media. Or if they do, it sounds just like all the other advisers. It’s not unique.

Yes, many are too bland, but sometimes you see things that are frankly surprising. What is one of the craziest stories you’ve ever encountered when working with an adviser?

One that comes to mind is an adviser who had a picture of his dog for his LinkedIn profile. He’s a dog fan, I am too—I get that. But it’s not professional enough. In fact, a study done by Wisdom Tree had 7,000 high net-worth investors look at adviser profiles on LinkedIn. Using eye-tracking devices, they discovered that investors look at an adviser’s LinkedIn profile for an average of just 11 seconds. And of those 11 seconds guess how many they’re looking at your photo for?

Eight seconds. So a prospect is looking at your face and determining if they can relate to you or would want to work with you. The takeaway? Get a professional photo taken because a lot of decisions are being made based on that.

If you had one tip on LinkedIn profiles before we wrap up what would it be?

I have three tips: first, use a professional photo and smile big. That was another outcome of the eye-tracking study. Investors prefer it when advisers smile big. Also, on your LinkedIn profile, speak in first person, not third person. Lastly, don’t talk about yourself the whole time, talk about what you can do for your prospect.

Editor’s note: A version of this interview appeared in the July issue of the Journal of Financial Planning. Also, discuss this article with other FPA members in our Knowledge Circles.  

Barbara Kay, business psychology and productivity coach, helps advisers and firms maximize potential. As a member of the FPA Coaches Corner, Barbara offers a free consultation to all FPA members. Visit:

Matt Ledoux

Matt Ledoux of Captains of Content helps advisers and RIAs create powerful branding that helps engage prospects. FPA members get $50 off at



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