Curious about content? Tune in to this episode with FMG Suite’s Rebecca Smith (Content Director) Raudel Enrique (Art Director). Their team creates over 250 new pieces of content every month, and they have a unique perspective on what works for advisors like you – and what doesn’t.

Get insider tips on creating great content and design, including:

  • What topics get the most interest from clients
  • How to start creating content for your website
  • How to approach the process of design – even as a non-designer
  • Why you absolutely need an editor when creating your own content

Plus, discover how we get feedback from real advisors and consumers on the content we create every month. Don’t miss this episode!

Mike Woods: Hi, everybody and welcome to the Market in Motion Podcast for Financial Advisors. Today, I'm excited to be joined by two key members of the FMG's creative team. With me is Rebecca Smith, who is the Content Director for the FMG Suite family of companies and Raudel Enrique who is the Art Director for the FMG Suite family of companies. Great to have you both here today.

Rebecca Smith: Great to be here, Mike. Thanks for having us.

Raudel Enrique: Thank you much.

Mike: The FMG Suite family of companies, and when I say that it includes now FMG Suite MarketingPro and Platinum Advisor Strategies, publishes more than 150 pieces of content each month. Whoa, sit down. That sounds like a lot. when I started to break that down a little bit, I said, "Whoa, 21 business days a month. That's roughly eight content pieces a day or once an hour."

I didn't break it down to words per minute, but it's pretty clear that we have a content-producing machine here and you guys are the ones behind the scenes making it all work. You guys are the ones that direct the traffic through FMG Suite's offices because we have offices in San Diego, we have them in Summerfield, Florida and we've got remote offices throughout the US.

We rely heavily on Slack and heavily on e-mail to get the communications out and together and keep everybody on the same page because a hiccup is costly. A hiccup slows us down quite a bit.

Rebecca: We never have those. Never.

Mike: Never have those things called hiccups. I wanted to set the stage first. I wanted to give everybody a good perspective of when we say content, what do we mean the content is? Rebecca, I'm going to give that one over to you.

Rebecca: Cool. That's a great question because content means different things to different people. Around here when we say content, we're talking about things like videos, infographics, e-mails, articles, social media posts, all that good stuff. When you log into your FMG Suite dashboard and you click the content library on the left-hand side, everything you find there is what we do and what our team makes.

Raudel and I work hard on this stuff, but we are just part of a team of people who are working every day to make amazing content for our members. We like to think of ourselves as the core defining feature of the FMG Suite product. It's cool that we offer websites but you can get those elsewhere. It's great we offer marketing tools, but those are also available in other places.

It's the content that we make that really sets us apart and the combination of all those things working together that makes us a perfect resource for financial advisors.

Mike: That's what our Chief Product Officer Dave talks about quite a bit when he does demos. It's a combination of the technology with the content, with the customer service that really helps FMG stand apart. Raudel, when you hear content, how do you think about it when you are directing all that content to your different designers?

Raudel: When I find myself describing what type of content we make and when we make a website with that comes preloaded with content, always gets me very excited to think that there's a financial advisor or insurance agent out there that is not even worrying about what's on their website because they know they have a hub that will educate their clients just by logging in to their site.

When we sit down and start ideating or strategizing content from my creative point of view, it's very easy to have the user in mind. We can create some set of rules and visuals and messages that we have to come up with first before even jumping to move some pixels on the computer.

Mike: I think that's important and for people to understand that we don't just give it to designers and say, "Go ahead. Have at it." There are rules, there are structures, there are processes that you have in place that you've built over the years that help guide them and help them be successful.

Raudel: Correct. Our message is more important, ultimately that makes a designed way easier to make at the end.

Mike: I wanted to talk about FMG. This is the time of year where FMG recently released its thanksgiving article. Next up on the docket is our holiday article and our new year's message. They are right in the queue. They're ready to be released. They've been completed. I've been working on getting them approved by compliance officers.

The $64,000 question for you guys is, Rebecca, how does FMG Suite create the proper tone and message when it's creating one message that's going out for thousands of advisors? It seems like it's a very big hurdle to cross.

Rebecca: Yes. It's fun. As creatives, we like to think of constraints as just things that make us more creative. It is definitely on our holiday pieces. They are, we get one shot for something like I think 60,000 people actually see these.

They're from all different walks of life. Making a piece that can work for everybody's something we take really seriously and feel really responsible for. When we make a piece for the holiday, our strategy is to just get at the heart of what the holiday is all about. It's hard to create an emotionally compelling piece about taxes or social security. You can and we do. We do fairly often create pretty entertaining stuff about some dry topics, but when you talk about the holidays, they're all about a feeling.

Those special days, they're just deeply personal and they're unique for people, but when we dig a little bit deeper, we always find that there's a core emotion or sentiment that everyone has in common, regardless of where they're coming from. That's really what we try to capture with those holiday pieces.

I think we do an amazing job personally [laughs] Not that I want to brag. I think that's something we pay a lot of attention to. We get a lot of feedback and then we'll talk about that I guess here in a little bit too about how here if something is working or if it's landing for people. We put a lot of thought into that and making sure that it's something really special.

Mike: I think when I talked to home officers when I go out with the compliance officers, the tax content, the social security context, that's really critical content for them to have as a baseline that it's factually accurate. That's important but what they really like to compliment that, is the peachy pieces that invoke that emotion, that emotional connection. That's the tricky part. That's the real secret sauce.

Raudel, when you are working with your graphic designers, how do they come in and Rebecca's team comes up with a concept for the holiday piece, for the Thanksgiving piece or actually I'm going to tell people about the New Year's piece. The New Year's piece was how New Year's is celebrated throughout the world.

It was fascinating. When I read it, it was awesome how we have different traditions in different countries, including, I think, Rebecca, what country do they pack suitcases and walk around the block so they have a successful year of traveling? I forget which one that was.

Raudel: I don't remember it.

Rebecca: I don't remember it.

Mike: One of the writers came up with the-- it was really-- I tell you how interesting it was, FINRA returned it in like a day or two. They obviously took a look at it and go, "This is pretty cool. I'm going to read it first." Raudel, how do your graphic designers compliment that type of idea?

Raudel: Rebecca put it very well. This is teamwork. There's a lot of collaboration. We do have our direction going on to these pieces, we wireframe it when we have to, we storyboard if we need to. In order for a content piece to be visually successful, we have to make sure the strategy and the research gets communicated at some point.

The collaboration is super crucial here to get the designers and copywriters in the same room and discussing what's picking each other's brain and it's like, "What did you find out in your research? Tell me. Help me visualize this message that we're trying to convert into colors or vectors or whatever you want to call it." That collaboration right there is super important.

We're always pushing our team members and I push designers to understand this research and to get creative in ways that the message will never get lost. No matter what you designed, make sure to always focus on the message. The message has been researched, has been ideated and this is going to be turned into content for our financial advisors or insurance agents. Turn that message into something that's visually engaging because if people click on it, that's a win but if people click and scroll, that's a huge win.

Rebecca: I'm glad that you mentioned that because we do put a lot of intention into-- we're talking about holiday pieces because it's that time of year right now. We put a ton of intention into some of these pieces and it really pays off actually. We throw around the phrase a lot "award-winning content" and you might see that in our marketing material, on our website or whatever. It's like, "Award-winning content? That sounds so cool." We're still learning more as we actually just won a Davey Award for this amazing piece that Raudel's team worked hard on, the data thieves from outer space.

Mike: That's fun.

Rebecca: It's a really fun piece. If you talk about data theft, it is a dry topic.

Mike: It can be dry.

Rebecca: It can be a little scary for people too to think about, like, "Someone's going to log into my computer and steal my stuff." It's a topic that people really want to hear about and it's very pertinent in the financial world as well. We wanted to make something that would be really cool. We ended up making this infographic that's in this pulp style that's very nostalgic and just has a really neat look to it.

It communicates a lot of great information. When we think about what are the topics that advisors want to talk about to their contacts and customers, either their longtime customers or their prospects who maybe are thinking about working with them, we try to present that in really compelling ways and it works.

We're excited about that award. I don't know. Maybe I just let the cat out of the bag a little bit. Maybe it hasn't officially been announced yet. That kind of thing it's one thing for us to feel like we do a great job. It's really fun to get that external validation too that we're making some of the best content in the industry.

Mike: I think with the data thieves specifically, that road has been traveled a lot about identity theft and things you need to do password protection. When you wrap it in, from outer space, it puts the concept over the top where people are just drawn into it. Raudel, one of the things you said that I wanted to touch back on and I think listeners understand that writers when they create something, go through a process. They do the research. They get their sources. Then they start to put the article together. The same with the videos. The same with the infographics. I think the listeners understand that there's a process that the writers go through when they finish it goes to an editor. It's a well-traveled path. I think what you're telling people is that creative people, the designers go through the same process. It's not as widely understood, but it's a very similar type of process.

Raudel: Definitely true. It might depend on the project because as creatives we're also in charge of creating landing pages or assets for a website. That process is slightly different than the creative or content piece. As far as content creation, it's super crucial to be able to understand how to translate into something visual and engaging as well.

We can just create something beautiful looking if someone sees it and they're totally confused about like what is this piece about? If we are trying to educate and that is the goal of this content piece is to educate, then that's in the back of our minds, and we do our best to make sure that is fulfilled through design.

Mike: I got you. It's not designed by chance.

Raudel: Correct.

Mike: It's designed by the process. I think that's a concept that people need to have driven home.

Raudel: I can't lie though, sometimes we do take chances.

[laughter]

Mike: Well, that's how you get data thieves from outer space. I wanted to next talk a little bit about the feedback loop. We have in place four content items. Rebecca, is there a group of advisors who you work with to give feedback on content ideas?

Rebecca: I'm so glad you asked. Yes, there is. We like to say that we make content for three different audiences. We have the compliance officer who, Mike, you're very familiar with those people. You have good relationships with many of them, and you get to hear feedback from them pretty frequently all the time about whether what we're doing is landing and whether it's within the rules and writing to compliances.

When I talk about constraints and fun creative opportunities, when you have a long list of words, you're not allowed to say. That's always really fun for us. We get feedback from compliance. We get feedback from our advisors, clients in the form of surveys that we do for people in those demographics, and we hear from them on how our content is working.

Then the advisors themselves, and we hear back from them as well. One of my favorite ways that we get feedback actually is from this group with what we call CAP. Our CAP group stands for Content Advisory Program.

Mike: Nice, fancy.

Rebecca: It's very fancy. It's really not. It's just a bunch of people who really care about our content. They're a panel of financial professionals who are FMG Suite users and they really care about what content we're making. They give us some pretty amazing insights. They often have a direct impact on how our piece turns out. We'll be in the middle of, let's say, that we've written a script for a video, and we haven't started producing the video yet, but we want to say, "Hey, is this script landing? Does this look like it's going in the right direction? Is this something that you would even want to talk to your customers about?"

It's really amazing to hear back from them and just have people who are actually going to be using the content giving us feedback on, "Hey, I wouldn't necessarily say it this way," or, "Hey, this is a little bit different," or, "Hey, have you thought about adding this piece or that piece to it?"

I'll just put this little plug and if I may, if anybody's listening and wants to learn more about that and find out how you can apply to join that program it's really easy. You can go to fmgsuite.com/cap and that's where you can learn more about it and apply to join us. We're always looking for more opinions. Advisors are an opinionated bunch, and we love it.

Mike: The CAP group, it's not limited to 20 people who have a term for a year. It's an open-ended idea that people can come in and come out. They can comment on pieces once in a while.

Rebecca: Absolutely. It's wide open. You can participate when you have time. If you're busy you may get an e-mail from us saying, "Hey, here's something to look at," and you can ignore it. It's fine and just participates next time. There are some really cool things too. We offer some fun rewards like free months of your subscription and stuff like that for participating. I think most of our members just find it really rewarding just to have an influence over the content that's going to be seen by thousands and thousands of people.

Mike: Would the CAP group have seen some of the holiday pieces we're preparing, would they have been in the know, maybe a month or two ago before they started to work?

Rebecca: Absolutely, yes. They'll see that stuff. We'll take that feedback in and can I turn it around? We have a pretty rigorous process for taking in feedback and then going through and applying it. We're not just paying lip service by saying, "Hey, tell us what you think?" We sit down as a team and go over every comment.

Mike: Got you. Now I believe there's a group also where we send it directly to individuals who could provide feedback to Raudel? I think that runs through more your group?

Raudel: It's a combination. It applies just as much as the CAP group. We love focus groups. We're very thankful for every single advisor that has to give us feedback on the content through CAP. We're very thankful for every single focus group that we reach out to on a constant basis that makes our content better every single time.

We like having the user experience mentality where we iterate on our designs to make sure we just don't miss something that we as designers or writers, as creatives, I'm going to say, we oversee. We send it out to focus groups. We get that feedback. That's when the fun starts because we have to in a way take that feedback, stop and collaborate and turn that into actionable items. It sounds easier than it is.

Mike: I can imagine.

Raudel: Being able to make sure we know what the feedback is actually saying or asking for and make sure we communicate that then too our designers and writers. Super thankful for being able to get feedback or input from just anyone is extremely-- It makes our content better every single time.

Mike: I think from what I've seen the CAP group is really looking at it from "we're working with this item" but the individuals that review it Raudel, I would imagine it's tough sometimes to draw a consensus because people will interject their own personal feelings on something and say whether they like it or they don't like it, but we may have to filter those comments from time to time.

Raudel: In a way, this is like user testing like a lot of web designers out there. If you have someone building a website the user tests it, they're like, "Is this working for you? Is this confusing? Do you get the message? Do you get the story of this page or content piece in our case? If they get it, we've successfully achieved a great content piece. It might just need a few tweaks to get it just perfect.

Rebecca: Another cool thing too, is that we have a pretty rigorous way of analyzing each batch of feedback that we get by comparing it to average numbers across. I don't know how nerdy you are. [crosstalk] I don't know if the listeners of this podcast would be really interested. We have average responses and we have a standard set of questions that we ask for every piece so that we can measure the success of any given piece against all the other stuff that we've asked for feedback on.

It's not random. Everything we're doing is very intentional. I think if there's one thing that I would love for people listening to know, it's that our team every single day is thinking about how we can make great content for them.

Every piece that we release and produce has been made with a lot of care, a lot of attention, a lot of intention, and thinking about what's going to make the advisor, the user of this piece, the person that's sending it, what's going to make them look smart and professional, and a great source of information, and relevant and timely and all of those things. There's a lot of care that's put into it.

Mike: Let's break it down now for an individual advisor who is listening to this podcast. I feel like, "Boy, I can't just write in. Should I feel comfortable creating-- I'm comfortable with my e-mails that I'm sending to people every day, but I wanted to create a holiday piece and send it out. I'd like FMG's, but I wanted to add something, a personal touch." What should they do? Should they travel a similar route? Should they get feedback from people in their office? What are good recommendations for advisors that are listening?

Rebecca: Absolutely. As a writer, I fully support anybody who wants to commit to writing. Let's say somebody's thinking, "Hey, it's the new year, a new decade. I want to start a blog." I think that's awesome. I think if you're an advisor, you got into the business because you want to help people. Along the way, your experiences have given you a lot of rich material to pull from and share.

I would encourage anybody, you're not going to be able to do it at the capacity that we can because we have a team. There are 200 people here working. If you're there and you're thinking, "How can I make my own unique content?" Absolutely. I would say, the first thing to do would be just sit down with a pen, January is the perfect time to sit down with a pen and make lists if you're a list-maker like me.

Sit down and write out all the topics that you really care most about. What do you wish more people knew about investing or about managing their money, about retirement prep, or social security? Whatever the things are that you really care about that you want to work with your clients on. What do you wish that you had known when you were younger?

Mike: Interesting.

Rebecca: What do you wish that your parents or grandparents had taught you or had known early on in their lives? I think you probably have more to talk about than you realize. Just like jotting all of that stuff down will give you a really good starting place and then just pick a topic and go for it. Just get started.

Definitely, in terms of editing your work, it's helpful to have at least one other person read what you've written before you post or publish it. It's one thing to do really quick social media posts, and that's great.

Those off-the-cuff social posts or Twitter posts or whatever can make your brand feel really accessible. I know we're not talking about branding today, but it can be a really cool thing for people to see, "My advisor's at this event, and he's tweeting about it. That's interesting." It doesn't have to be polished and perfect.

Different media and like a blog post, it should be really on point because you are representing yourself. Having somebody, at least one other person, look at it before you send it out that you trust is really good, and then definitely use spell check. Run it through a tool like Grammarly which is a great tool to check not only spelling but grammar and tone and all that good stuff.

There are tools out there that can help you take shortcuts when you don't have a whole team of people. We have proofers and editors and stuff here. If you don't have that in your back pocket, tech is here to help you. You look up some other ways to get that stuff done.

Mike: I think what you said, very interesting that social posts are so quick. They're a little more forgiving but when you have something, a blog that you're putting up on your website that's going to be there for a while that represents you, represents the firm, you don't want a typo in the first paragraph. People will read that as a lack of attention to detail and that's just-

Rebecca: Not the impression you want to send as the person managing their money.

Mike: Exactly. Raudel also, how about when advisors-- I'm coming into the new year. I've heard about this thing called video now. I've finally got my iPhone 10. I have taken cute videos around the houses of my cats and dogs.

Raudel: There's 11 now.

Mike: Is there 11?

Raudel: Yes.

Mike: Even better. I want to start sending out a video every couple of weeks to complement my blog. What do I need to do?

Raudel: It depends on the type of video that you're going to be shooting for. An iPhone or Android phone, shoots a great camera, especially with digital nowadays. You can carry your phone with you and shoot just amazing videos and it's mobile. You're going to be at a conference, you can shoot.

You can upload immediately and then you have super timely videos being produced with a little tiny piece of equipment. If you're actually going to start making a video at your house that you can invest maybe in a small mirrorless camera or something like that. Maybe a light. Maybe a handheld tripod or something like that. There's a bunch of pretty affordable items on Amazon and your preferred website.

It really depends on the type of video you want to make. The phone is totally acceptable. It shoots great quality video and has the immediate posting to your blog or social media.

Mike: I was going to say the ideal thing about the phone is you can shoot the video, you can upload the video and then you can link the video to your website and it's very seamless.

Raudel: There are some apps right now that you can edit your video too. If you mess up the shot, you just edited it, cut it-

Mike: Even better.

Raudel: -and then export it.

Mike: You don't have that pressure to be a one taken out.

Raudel: Yes, exactly.

Mike: Good stuff. All right. We're running near the end of the webcast. I wanted to talk about an off-site meeting. We had not too long ago, the creatives from FMG Suite MarketingPro and Platinum Advisor Strategies that came from around the country and gathered in San Diego for a two-day content summit. I wanted to ask-- Rebecca, I'll start with you. What ideas came out of those meetings and what should we expect in 2020?

Rebecca: Well, as for what to expect, you can expect more of the same amazing content that you're used to getting. One of my favorite conversations that we had at the summit was this idea of disruption. This is a word that is really popular in tech circles and people making software. It might be the opposite of what most financial advisors are used to thinking about. They do not like the idea necessarily of disruption.

I think for us as software people working in tech, looking for ways that our tools and our content can disrupt or innovate is really exciting. That's really what that word means in that context is just innovating and being really creative. How can we solve problems differently? How can we look at the problems differently?

For our team disruption just looks like pushing the envelope creatively just a little bit further than what traditional companies have done. Finance gets a bad rap about being this old, dusty thing.

Raudel: [crosstalk]

Rebecca: Yes. It's like this thing that never changes. Sometimes the content that has come out from some sources, like videos and articles and stuff, it can be pretty boring. It's just like, "This is dry material." Some of it, you can't be faulted for that, because it's like, the topic is a little dry. We're talking about figures and stats and stuff like that.

Keeping up with the changing markets, that's what it's going to be all about. As we're heading into, not just a new year, but a new decade, advisors are going to need to embrace new ways of expressing the same old stuff.

The rules of investing haven't changed. That stuff's probably not going to be changing anytime soon. The markets are still the markets. We do need to be aware of how we explain and understand those roles and help people navigate an increasingly complex world for advisors for their clients.

The world is changing, technology is changing. That's something that I really believe the power of good storytelling and good content can do. We're looking forward to doing more of that next year.

Raudel: In this industry creating content, it's a very beautiful challenge to have. How do we take a topic and make it the best possible content piece that we can message-wise, design-wise? It's a constant exercise that we have. Disruption, I'm glad you bring that up because the password piece was exactly one of those examples where we had this idea in mind that we needed to educate how to stay secure out there in the web world. Maybe we could have written an article with a bunch of headlines and paragraphs, but we went a step ahead. We wanted to create something that stopped your clients from scrolling, clicked on it and actually read the piece and came out with a very highly educated, mentality about how to stay secure out there.

We got a little creative there and we pushed it a little bit and we're very proud of the actual end result. What would make us the proudest is if we heard from you guys from someone from CAP and said, "You guys rocked that one. My clients are loving the content that you're making for me." That for us, it's like, yes, that's what we're looking for. That's what we're striving for.

Mike: Sure.

Rebecca: I love that you said that because it is sometimes, we're over here making content for thousands of people. Even though we do all of this research, and we do get feedback, and we do hear from clients, we always want to hear more. We're hungry for that, so anybody listening, if you have to feedback for us about any of our content pieces e-mail, Mike. Should we give them your e-mail?

Mike: Why not?

Rebecca: Yes, I know, I think it's something that we really care a lot about. We want to know that what we're doing is working. I think it is we've got a lot of good evidence that it is but we always want to hear more.

Raudel: Yes, also join CAP, C-A-P. We love hearing from you guys.

Rebecca: That's right.

Mike: What I'm taking from that is a similar concept like asset allocation. That hasn't changed since it was invented since the concept came up but Rebecca, how your team tells the story of asset allocation and Raudel, how your team then designs for it, makes it a fresh new idea. That's what FMG and the FMG family of companies are looking to bring to things. Fresh ideas.

Raudel: Totally.

Mike: Awesome. All right, everybody, we're going to stop here. I want to thank our guests today, Rebecca Smith and Raudel Enrique for your insights. Thank you, listeners and we will see on the next episode of the Market in Motion Podcast for Financial Advisors.

Raudel: Thank you so much.

Rebecca: Thanks, Mike.