Editor’s note: In this edition of What’s Working Now, an AdvisorRADIO feature in which Horsesmouth members tell us about recent success they have had running and growing their businesses, we hear from advisor Jim Ludwick, who actively pursues new media, and is getting great marketing results with videos.
The following article includes edited excerpts of Jim’s comments. Or you can listen to the full interview by clicking the audio file below.
Advisor: Jim Ludwick
Years in business: 20+
Firm: MainStreet Financial Planning
What’s working now: A robust social media and video marketing plan
I moved to suburban Maryland in 2002, and didn’t know anybody. I had worked for a national money manager but that didn’t work out. So I was trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
Then I met a woman named Cheryl Garrett on the Internet, who said she could teach me how to give advice by the hour. That brought great success, as I joined two national fee-only associations, and people found me by searching for hourly advisors by zip code. I do only hourly or project financial planning. I don’t sell anything and don’t manage anything.
In the early days my strategy was to join a couple of local chambers of commerce and the estate planning council. Clients started showing up, and all of a sudden I had to expand into a second office in downtown Washington, D.C. Now I have six offices from the East Coast to California. Plus, I work remotely from Italy for two months of the year!
Building a personal brand
Today, my marketing includes radio, video on YouTube, 25-30 tweets a month on Twitter, and a monthly email that rounds up all those tweets. While my main goal in all of this is to get good ideas and content out to people, the marketing strategy is to answer the question, “Who’s Jim Ludwick?”
When you Google Jim Ludwick, it is easy to tell I’m not the anti-immigrant in Oregon, the animal rights activist in Albuquerque, or the surgeon in Houston. I’m the financial planner with good ideas. These days, people always check you out in advance on the Internet. So I try to appear in as many forums as possible. The more platforms you are on with good content, the more likely people are to ring you up and say, “Hey, I’d like to meet with you.”
An early adopter of video
In 2006, I was working with a woman in Italy trying to develop some ex-pat clients in Milan and Rome. She introduced me to Skype, which was a new medium at the time. I said, “Wow, what a way to go!” You can interact with people not only on audio, but the Internet was getting robust enough that you could use video, too, and people were starting to have cameras on their computers.
So I started doing remote meetings with people using video. It was readily accepted by those under 40, but those over 40 were a little more reluctant. This was 12 years ago; now that age barrier is not so present. Then a few years ago I started getting into YouTube and saw what other financial services professionals were doing, and thought I could use it too. I would say I started getting serious about posting content probably around 2012.
Great interviews on video—and radio, too!
Today, I do a video broadcast on YouTube, Swim with Jim, and also a radio broadcast called Swim with Jim. I interview different people for the audio and the video. I use a free version of Blog Talk Radio. I usually interview someone I think clients, prospects, and COIs will want to hear from. I’ve had on experts like Rick Ferri, or Jim Blankenship, who blogs a lot on Social Security. I find interview subjects primarily through my reading—I read all sorts of publications. You find something interesting and you just call people up and say, “Hey, can I interview you?” Sometimes they say “Yes” and sometimes they say “No.”
Recently I interviewed the president of an insurance company that only deals with fee-only financial planners, and I asked him questions like, “Why does it take so long to get a life insurance policy? What is the process? Where are the screw-ups?” I want to help people get their life insurance easier, faster. I interview elder law attorneys, estate planners, accountants, money managers, anybody the clientele might want to hear from. They aren’t able to ask these questions, so I’m their surrogate and ask the questions on their behalf.
The latest in video: BombBomb
Recently I’ve started using BombBomb, a service that allows you to create a mini video and embed it in an email. I received one from another Garrett Planning advisor and I thought, “Oh golly, this is neat. That sets you apart; it’s different.” I signed up for the free trial, and within three days I bought the professional version. We use it at our firm all the time.
I would say BombBomb probably leads to a new client every month. Sometimes we use it to follow up with prospects or people who were clients before who we want to return. It’s the personal attention that really brings them in. Anybody can send a newsletter or email, but a custom 20-second video is great. I say something like, “Hi Dick and Jane. Miss seeing you. It’s important to get back. You go to your doctor for checkups. You need to come back to MainStreet for your financial checkup.” Then you say more in the content of the email. We’re sending the message that we really care about people. We want them to make the decisions. I’m able to expand my reach of customization by using BombBomb. I’d rather do that then leave a voicemail.
Early adopter of Twitter
I was also an early adopter of Twitter. I had a nationally known client and he told me about Twitter. I was perplexed, because I thought it was a teenage thing, kind of like WhatsApp these days. One day this client posted, “I’m going to interview President Obama at 4 p.m. this afternoon. What should I ask him?” I asked him later what his response was, and he said about 400 people tweeted him back (this was in 2012). I said, “That’s amazing.” He had at the time about 15,000 followers, and now it’s about 2 million followers.
I thought, “He’s using Twitter for business. How could I use Twitter for business?” It occurred to me that I read a lot of articles and I would like to have other people read them too, whether it’s an article from Money magazine or another magazine that applies to clients, prospects, or centers of influence. I just started tweeting things I would find—a new Social Security calculator, a checklist of what to do when somebody dies.
Around the same time, I also started sending out a monthly summary of my tweets via MailChimp. At this point my mailing list is about 2,800, and I have about a 30% open rate. That’s been pretty consistent over all the years I’ve done it. Readers who open the email click on an average of 1.9 items. So they read about two tweets of the 25 or 30 I send every month.
So Twitter became a good platform for me because I can re-tweet other people. Most people know Michael Kitces, and I re-tweet him often. On the other side of the coin, sometimes I’ll post an item on Twitter and that gets his attention. The platform helps you contact leaders in the industry with new ideas or concepts you think they should look at or comment on.
Tools of the trade
In terms of getting started interviewing people on video, I got virtually all of my video training from YouTube, from a guy named Steve Dotto at Dotto Tech. He’s just a guy trying to help people create content, not related to financial services. I follow a half-dozen content creators on YouTube just to see the kind of things they do. One person I follow is Teacher Tech—he focuses on teaching teachers how to use video, but I picked up a few clues too. YouTube has been my greatest source of learning; there are hundreds of helpful training videos on the site.
I don’t think you need any fancy equipment. I use a MacBook Pro, and the built-in microphone. I use that for probably 70%-80% of my content. We have offices all over the country and I don’t know where I’m going to be. I do have a mirrorless camera called a LUMIX G7, which I bought fairly cheap a couple of years ago, and a boom microphone that goes on top of it, plus a tripod and a few extra lenses. Then I use iMovie for most of my editing, so that’s not difficult. You don’t need a huge investment.
If you want to get started creating video content, my suggestion is to look at what other people are doing and see if you can be a bit different and have your niche. On Swim With Jim, I interview people who are interesting and who I think other people should know about. Figure out what your niche is, what you have access to, and make your content a little bit different than somebody else’s. You use the same techniques as others, but make it “you.”