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If you can’t be bothered to dedicate significant time or money to marketing, let me teach you a step-by-step way to get new clients in fewer than two hours a month.
The lesson I learned from Mr. Minimal Effort
It must have been 20 years ago. I had this bad boyfriend. He was so lazy. But I love attention. We were a terrible match.
Example: There was one day when Mr. Minimal Effort and I were supposed to go out, but I had to push the date back an hour. It was too much of an inconvenience for Mr. Minimal Effort, so he canceled the whole *@#$ date!
But here was the intriguing thing about Mr. Minimal: He was very exacting in the sense that he always did just enough to string me along, without managing to disturb his bothered existence.
Well, I eventually grew tired of Minimal’s indolence, fell in love with Antonio, had four children with him and rode off into the sunset with our battalion of kids and rescued cats.
But you know how Facebook is: The past is never the past for long. The other day I thought to myself, how can I replicate this minimalist courtship strategy for advisors who don’t want to spend more than the bare minimum amount of time on marketing, yet still want to get new clients?
Here’s what I came up with, with credit due to my bad ex-boyfriend.
Only the essential materials
Email software with your clients, prospects, and COI names and emails loaded
Stack of thank-you cards (preferably made of recycled, compostable paper)
See, I told you this was bare bones.
Write monthly newsletter: 30 minutes
Once a month, produce a minimal-effort email newsletter to send to clients and prospects. And how would you do that in 30 minutes or less?
- Open Microsoft Word.
- Create a new file.
- Save it as “newsletter notes.”
- Keep it open on your desktop.
- During the month, every time you have a meeting with a client or prospect and they ask a great question, write it on the “newsletter notes” sheet.
- At the end of the month, pick the best question.
How do you write the newsletter in 30 minutes or less? Use this template.
Before I get into it, let me explain why this is going to take only 30 minutes. You are not going to blather on and on about your virtues, great achievements, proprietary investment methodology, etc.
Get ready for a shocker.
It’s going to be about them, not about you.
“Grillo, that’s ludicrous!” you say.
What you are going to do is clarify and provide transparency to a concept in their mind that is opaque, confusing, or shrouded in falsehood. You can never over-clarify things, especially in this profession where confusion is the #1 sales tool.
Use this newsletter template
Copy this template and modify it to whatever concept you choose to discuss. My two-sentence rule applies:
Here’s what everyone gets wrong about _____.
People think: (2 sentences)
Why it’s not true: (2 sentences)
Here’s what everyone gets wrong about tax rates.
People think: Being in the 32% tax bracket means a single person earning $100,000 a year pays $32,000 in taxes. (Blah blah, write one more sentence)
Why it’s not true: (Blah blah, write two sentences)
Use this subject line: “What everyone gets wrong about taxes” and send out the newsletter to all your clients and prospects using email software.
Caveat: You have to say something super insightful here. No fluff or nonsense. Provide valuable knowledge. If you can’t, then leave everybody alone and don’t write a newsletter that month.
But Grillo, it’s too short, you say?
Let me tell you candidly that the other day I had to change the ring tone on my phone – literally – after I became pressed by my kid’s preschool teacher calling me with mishigas about her snow boots. Pazzo, as my nonni used to say. The next time somebody calls me with some nonsense, I’m throwing the blasted thing out the window. Any time you are presented with the option to remain silent, do so.
Newsletter follow up: 30 minutes
Do something nobody does, and review who opened and clicked on the link in your newsletter. Constant Contact and Mail Chimp produce those reports.
Open: This means somebody paged over the newsletter text long enough (20 seconds or something) for the images to download, which is interpreted as them “opening” it.
Click: Somebody clicked on the URL you provided in the text. Clicks are more important than opens because they imply that somebody acted. It indicates high interest in the subject if somebody clicks on something to read more.
Take everyone who opened and/or clicked on the tax newsletter, and send them an email with this text. Bonus if you call:
I wanted to send you this PDF about the difference between marginal and effective tax rates. Is this useful at all?
Yes, it will take some time to follow up with everyone personally. But in this fast-paced world, nobody does this. Taking the time to pay personal attention to someone is rare. Even better if you can say something in the email that 1) makes them laugh; or 2) makes them feel special.
Social media post: 5 minutes
Take the newsletter copy and boil it down to a one-sentence social media post. No images, no carousel PDFs, no nothing. Just one sentence.
People absolutely love these one-liner postings on LinkedIn.
How come everybody thinks the 32% tax bracket means you pay 32% of your income in taxes?
Post and watch it fly!
Follow up with anyone who comments or likes it using the follow up strategy described for the newsletter readers.
Handwritten cards: 55 minutes
Nobody is thoughtful anymore. It is especially rare to see someone express gratitude. Defy the norm and write thank-you cards.
But Grillo, you say, can’t I just send out an email? Or have my admin do it?
No! That would be conforming to thoughtless modernity. Be a traditional, thoughtful person who follows the “old way,” the code from the days when people weren’t “busy.” And stop whining about not having the time. The total of all your marketing for the month is going to be two hours. If you can’t manage that, stop playing Candy Crush or Fortnight and you’ll be fine.
Sit down for 55 minutes a month with your quill pen and some papyrus and write thank-you cards to five people who did something nice for your business. If you can’t think of those five people this month, marketing isn’t your problem:
- CPAs, actuaries, consultants who are working the other side of a client relationship;
- Anyone who did something nice for a client of yours;
- Community leaders;
- Head of the Chamber of Commerce;
- Prospects who came in for a meeting; or
- Anybody who referred a client or make an introduction to a networking contact.
Think of something to say that makes them feel special. It is about them. It should be so overwhelmingly positive they should think you are literally “on something.”
Nagumi, I sincerely appreciate how you took the time to do such thorough work on Elvira’s tax return, especially given her realized gain on the house sale. It makes a world of difference when somebody takes the time to address all the contingencies.
Gratitude is very transparent. When you look at what someone is thanking you for, it tells you what they value. Common values are what build relationships. Don’t just say you value something on your website (that’s called marketing); show it through a random act of kindness (that’s called character, a rare find these days).
I make a point to send out at least three thank you cards a week, just sending one whenever someone does the littlest thing. I just keep a stack of cards and stamps on my bureau. Not only has it been helpful in building my business, it feels amazing.
Express gratitude the old-fashioned way – retro is coming back into style, party people. And now I have to go because my kids are driving me nuts by playing with a train in the other room (I hear a rattling sound) instead of going to bed so I have to go have a “discussion.”
It may take you a bit longer than two hours, but minimal-effort marketing is effective when the time is spent on sincere, thoughtful communication that earns respect instead of the usual nonsense.
Here are some of my marketing resources that can help if you are looking for a tiny bit of guidance.
LinkedIn messaging ebook
Marketing plan ebook
Social media training program
Thanks for putting up with me. I know it must be exhausting.
See you next month.
Sara Grillo, CFA, is a marketing consultant who helps investment management, financial planning, and RIA firms fight the tendency to scatter meaningless clichés on their prospects and bore them as a result. Prior to launching her own firm, she was a financial advisor.
Sara Grillo. (2023, January 11). [Post]. LinkedIn. How come you need a securities license to sell options.