Don’t miss this jam-packed episode with Liz Kasha, Director of Marketing at Herbert Financial Group, in which she discusses all the marketing strategies she uses to generate new prospects and grow stronger relationships with her niche auto industry client base.

Discover the advice Liz offers to advisors, including:

  • How to use branding, events, and content to reach a niche audience
  • The impact of charitable efforts on marketing
  • Suggested social media frequency

This episode is a must-listen if you’re curious about what other firms are doing to take their marketing to the next level. Whether you’re a team of 1 or 10, all advisors will benefit from Liz and Mike’s conversation.

Want to get the next episode in your inbox? Subscribe to get the Market in Motion Podcast delivered to you. Please share this episode if you found it informative.



Mike Woods: Hi everyone and welcome to the Market in Motion Podcast for financial advisers. Today, I'm excited to be joined by Liz Kasha who is the director of marketing for the Herbert Financial Group in Auburn Hills Michigan. Hi Liz.

Liz Kasha: Hi Mike, how are you today?

Mike: Great. Thanks for joining us. What I'd like to do first is help set the stage for everyone. You're the director of marketing for Herbert Financial Group. Give everyone your elevator pitch of what your duties are. What do you do as director of marketing?

Liz: Of course. Well to begin, I absolutely love my role here at Herbert Financial. Marketing and PR is something I'm so incredibly passionate about. I received my degree in Journalism and PR from the University of Michigan, so go blue.

Mike: Go blue. Great weekend for them in football, not that anybody didn't notice.

Liz: Right. Yes, it was great. I've been in this role for about eight years. As you know with so many shifts just in the communication industry, my job is really ever evolving. Just some areas of focus for me really involve overseeing the marketing department, research and demographics for our target audiences, branding the firm, internal and external communications, events, press releases, media work, content creation, social media strategies and of course, the strategic and tactical annual marketing plan.

Mike: Oh boy, that's a lot.

Liz: Lots of jobs.

Mike: That's a lot. As I went on your website today, I noticed there are 13 people in your office. You're not a one-person show, you're actually supporting quite a good-size office.

Liz: Correct. We have a wonderful team. Yes, it's definitely an honor to work with all of them. Everyone definitely plays a significant role in just the success and growth of the firm. Yes, it's wonderful to work with all of them.

Mike: Got you. I'm trying to recall that list. Give me that list one more time, just of what you do as director of marketing. I want to make sure that everybody sees how rounded it is again.

Liz: I oversee just a marketing department in itself and everything that goes into it, which would be like the research and demographics for our target audience, of course. Branding the firm in the public sphere, internal and external communications. All of the events and everything that goes into the events from the inception to the logistics, to the data and just looking at how the event did and what we could do better, and then, of course, following up with hopefully a lot of prospects that we got from the event.

Mike: Sure.

Liz: I'm writing press releases and getting those press releases into the public sphere so that we can be featured in different media outlets. Content creation. A lot of original content creation like writing blogs and different things like that, creating videos. Social media strategies and then I put together a strategic and tactical annual marketing plan. That's really my document. I start writing that in November of each year to go into effect come January basically, first of the following year, and then that document is--

It's a working document of course, it's fluid because things can always change, but its definitely hits every single aspect of marketing and PR with all the plans for the year, and then I try to work right through it through the year.

Mike: I think what was striking to me about that list is I'm sitting here and I'm thinking "Boy, any financial advisor that's working in a small shop, you just can't compete with Herbert Financial who's doing so much of that stuff." You're either a financial advisor or you're a marketing person but oh my goodness, the amount of stuff to keep up with that is as tremendous. Thanks for going over that again.

Liz: Well, of course, of course. I've talked to a lot of people at different conferences and other advisors within our broker-dealers, and I always try to impart different ways that-- Like you said, the one-man show or two people in an office, different ways even that they can take on a lot of different areas of marketing and PR. Maybe not to obviously the extent, but that's one of the best things about you guys and about FMG is that there's so many fantastic tools and automated programs of things like that that if you just get into them, it sets the stage for you to be able to do so much more than you probably thought you could. I'm really thankful for that.

Mike: That's what we want to do. We want to make extraordinary marketers out of financial advisors. Liz, give us an idea of the profile of your ideal client. As you look at your current client base, what are the commonalities? Are they teachers, business owners, professionals? What are the common denominators of your clients?

Liz: Sure. We definitely have a really diverse book of business. For us, our really strong niche and the main commonality across the board is we have a pretty strong reputation in the industry and especially here, we're in the Metro Detroit area, so with the Big Three as being the automotive financial planning experts. When you look across our books, that's definitely our niche. We've been in business since 1985. It's definitely been our bread-and-butter.

The founder of our firm, Tim, he was born and raised in Metro Detroit. His father and both his grandfathers actually worked in the auto industry. After Tim graduated from college, he also worked in the industry at General Motors. While he was there, he was really able to build his clientele, learn everything he could about the auto industry and then that's when he went on to launch Herbert Financial Group and then had that real niche in specializing in financial planning for General Motors and automotive employees across the Big Three.

Mike: Sure. I would imagine Tim's expertise has to span over the pensions and how pensions are administered and has to navigate through. We're doing this podcast and the General Motors strike was just resolved. I imagine he has clients and employees that are concerned about how that affects their whole financial plan. It's a very dynamic part of the industry.

Liz: Extremely dynamic. We definitely try to stay on top of all of the changes that take effect in that industry, obviously, and also with the strikes and all of that but earlier in the year too with the buyout packages and involuntary and voluntary severance, having so much of your clientele book and everyone just needing guidance an what do I do and can I do this? We try to really cultivate our automotive niche.

We hold so many specialized events for our GM people and our auto people. We have dedicated sections on our website. We do timely blogs. We utilize a lot of SEO techniques to really enhance our search results just to build that repertoire with GM and especially the executives and the leaders because that's our referral chain. Like I said, we definitely have a diverse book of business, but our deeper and niche will really always be automotive.

Mike: Got you. Well, it makes sense especially if Tim has such a strong family line there and he's actually worked there.

Liz: Right.

Mike: Did I read on the website that Tim was in the HR department, or how is he connected to the firm?

Liz: Correct. He started in a couple of different positions but then moved into his main position which was as a human resources manager.

Mike: Perfect. Boy so he was actually-

Liz: That he knew the ins and outs.

Mike: Yes, he would definitely know the ins and outs. That really fits like hand and glove. Understanding a niche like that certainly helps drive business. As I talk with financial advisors, many of them struggle to find that niche and some people when they do find that niche, they want to break out of that niche because they think it's too narrow but it sounds like where you guys have arrived is a nice sweet spot for the firm.

Liz: Most definitely. That's one of the biggest-- Especially for newer firms that are starting up, that's something that I always try to really give advice on is to find that niche because that's something that can then define the firm. It doesn't define it in its entirely. We always get prospects from all walks of industries but to have that specialized niche really gives you a huge value-add.

In this day and age, with just the competitiveness of the industry, it's so important to be able to really have that strong niche, that strong recognition, and then when you have something like this, it just enhances your branding so much because there's so much that you can do with it.

Mike: Yes, and I would imagine from the Big Three's perspective, there's a lot of-- Tim understands things that don't necessarily need to be explained, which is probably an awesome advantage for them as well.

Liz: Exactly.

Mike: All right. Let's transition. Let's get into the fun stuff, the marketing side. Let's talk about the type of events that you help coordinate for Herbert Financial.

Liz: Sure. We definitely do a large array of different types of events. We do large-scale movie events to very intimate dinner parties to online events. but our large-scale events are really geared towards thanking of all of our clients, really, for their loyalty and support of our firm and of course, continuing to grow and foster our relationship with them, because I feel like sometimes with doing so many just targeted events, bring a guest, bring a guest that works, so we definitely do a lot of that in our marketing and event mix.

I really think it's important to also have one large event where you're just thinking that people, like, "Hey, just come. Don't worry about bringing anyone. Don't worry about anything. Just come have fun and enjoy your time, get to talk to us one-on-one in a different setting." We always have about 400 or 500 people that come to an event that large and we actually rent out an entire movie theater. [chuckles]

We premiere a newly release like blockbuster movie. We do popcorn box, we have candy wheel, soda machines, and the people absolutely love it, so they have a blast. It just really helps to solidify our relationship with them. We're not really asking for anything, we just come have a good time. It's a great event with wonderful results. People ask this every year, "When is the movie event coming up?"

Mike: Wow, that's great to hear.

Liz: It's one of my favorites, and then of course we also do our smaller more intimate educational type of events, and those are really for a targeted purpose. What we were just talking about with the recent like GM severance packages, what we'll do is our advisory team will put together a really detailed presentation and then we hold some really intimate dinner events just for our GM clientele. We allow them of course, bring your co-workers, anybody that needs help, that facing this huge decision.

We do a presentation, nice dinner, and then the follow-up is always get that presentation in an online form and then the next day we always send it out to them right away because I always say, with events like that, especially your smaller intimate events that's going to be also your time when you're going to get your most strong referrals, I feel like, especially your guests that are there, follow-up with them the next day.

"Hey, it was so great to meet you. Thank you for coming. Here's a link directly to the presentation. Here's some guys, here's some checklists." Anything that we can do just to reinforce everything that they heard at that event and to reinforce our specialized knowledge and our value, and then we include share with a friend so hey, they can just forward this along, refer other co-workers. We have a lot of different foreign fields built into our website that we integrate with all of our emails so that's been extremely helpful for our event follow-up and people use them all the time.

We've gotten a lot of referrals from people that didn't even attend the event that one of the attendees forwarded our presentation to them, so that's been a really great source for us for new referrals.

Mike: Sure. I can imagine at that time when those severances go out, it's a very vulnerable time for the people at the firm and as you provide that information, they're going to take a little bit of comfort at it and it's great to understand that someone knows the life event they're traveling through.

Liz: Correct. Definitely. It is a very, like you said, vulnerable time for them and we always try to be that person that holds their hand throughout. That's why we work really, really hard to always make sure that we're providing the most timely information that we can, that we are always there for them. Our advisors will stay till nine and just get in as many of these GM people as they can right away just so that we can help them through the process, so we'll always definitely go above and beyond especially during times like that.

Mike: Awesome. That's great to hear. Let me throw a curve ball at you here. Let me ask you, what types of events would you like to try that you haven't yet, or that you've maybe tried once or twice that you think are getting a lot of traction? What kind of a twist are you putting on these corporate events that you do with the clients and prospects?

Liz: I've thought through this a lot as far as some different types of events. One area and this falls on for our niche but with General Motors they have a large executive following into the GM executives, and they're just extremely busy individuals, of course. Sometimes it's really difficult to be able to have them even carve out a couple of hours on a Thursday or a Tuesday to come to these events.

I thought about doing a couple of things, one is being able to do a live broadcast where they can join in remotely and be able to watch the presentation live and see what's going on, and then also looking into doing some virtual type shows. That's been a medium that I've been looking towards doing to really work with our niche and make it as easy for them to attend as possible. That's been some new areas.

Mike: That's interesting. You're trying to make the firm available on the client or the prospect's terms, not the other way around. That's fabulous I think, because if trying to herd together 10 or 20 general motors executives is no easy task for a Thursday night dinner, I would imagine that's a tall order indeed.

Liz: Correct. Yes.

Mike: All right. One area at the website that I wanted to go into was HFG Cares. Explain to listeners what that is and how it plays into the overall marketing efforts?

Liz: Sure. I began the HFG Cares campaign when I first started really as a way to project the positive impact on the communities we serve. It was extremely important to us to partner with charities that we really had a personal connection to, with like our Cystic Fibrosis Foundation connection. We started that in support of a young girl named Kate who the daughter of one of our very long time great clients.

We also partner with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation to support our founder's brother who was diagnosed at age five, and then we launched our scholarships with Northern Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University, which are the colleges two of our advisors graduated from. I would really say that the best and most rewarding aspect of HFG Cares is that we're really able to energize and include our clientele base and really encourage their support of these charities as well.

I write press releases about our efforts. We've been featured in a lot of various local papers and media outlets regarding the campaign. We keep our clients informed about all of these efforts via our website, custom emails, social media posts, custom videos, newsletters, blog posts, and it's really rewarding to see the positive feedback. I'll tell you because I deal with all of our prospects, well, the prospect in a networking, any prospects that call into the firm, so I hear from-- and I'll get it every couple of months, but I'll get that prospect that calls and they're like, "Oh we were checking at your website and oh my God our niece has cystic fibrosis or my brother has diabetes and I just loved the work that you guys are doing."

It almost sets you apart from a lot of the competition because it shows people that you care and that you're taking that extra step and it's just a great way to brand your firm's public image, like when you Google our firm a few of the articles that we've been featured in for our charitable efforts, they'll come up in the search results. For new prospects, of course, the first thing they all do is Google the company.

Mike: Absolutely.

Liz: Right, and then for them to see a headline, "Oh Herbert Financial Group is walking to save the life of a little girl or Herbert Financial because launching a new scholarship.” It’s just a great way to show prospective clients how much we care. The HFG Cares campaign is a huge part of our PR effort. When you're fortunate enough to have a public platform with a significant clientele base, why not use it to help make a difference? I always say good PR earns the type of credibility that just paid advertising can never buy.

Mike: it’s true and it shows you care. It shows you're connected to the community because that's the feeling I received when I saw it on the website and then I Google it. I said, "Wow, this is a firm that is actively involved with the community in Auburn Hills, has connections with some of the universities, and through those relationships I'm sure of all sorts of stuff evolves for the firm."

Liz: You got it. Definitely. It's a win-win. We're helping to change lives and to make a difference. It shows not only our existing clientele base, but it shows prospects that we're also more than than a financial firm. We use this platform to help make a difference and we bring our clients along the way. We have clients that join us for these walks and come and hang out with us and donate and write us letters of support. It's very rewarding to be able to have the clients be included with us.

Mike: I'm sure. Now I'm wondering, does it attract more to your older clients, ones that are more in the pre-retiree stage, ones that are in the accumulating? I imagine you have some millennials as clients, but does the HFG Cares, does that connect with one demographic more than the other or is it spread out across the board?

Liz: Sure. It's spread out across the board, which we did purposely. In the situation with the Cystic Fibrosis, a lot of people are diagnosed at a younger age for that. A lot of our clients that are in their like 40 age range, they have a lot more connection to that because a lot of younger children tend to be diagnosed with that early, and then for the Juvenile Diabetes, I do tend to see a lot in the retiree. When I look, I look at all the different letters and donations from our clients that come in from it and just do a quick qualitative look at it and see the areas and the trends of how it's divided in our clientele base.

We launched the scholarship because we're working on a niche with next-gen, like next-gen financial planning offer that age group. This has been a huge, a huge factor for them because we're trying to show that, hey, we want to help you get scholarships and get your education at a Michigan University and help grow the local economy and stay here.

Mike: Sure, absolutely.

Liz: That was a targeted marketing approach at that demographic because we're really building out a new niche for us that we're focusing on the next year.

Mike: I would think with the different foundations you support, you actually are making it easier for your clients to support groups that they may otherwise not have supported or they may have looked for a way to support, but they didn't want to reach out to a national organization. They really feel like they're making a local connection and then they're connected with that larger group through your firm.

Liz: Exactly. With the Juvenile Diabetes, the Detroit Faction for a year, they held their huge walk which was thousands of people. They actually held it at the General Motors Tech Center, so that couldn't have been better fitted with us in our niche because we take the whole team, the whole HFG team, and we'd go down to the tech center and we'd run into our clients left and right because GM was a big supporter of it obviously, having the Juvenile Diabetes walk held at the tech center.

That was fantastic for us and we were able to get into the General Motor's main newspaper that they are for the thousands and thousands of employees when they come in every day, so it was a great marketing effort.

Mike: Sure. Great connection with them. We're getting near the end of the podcast. I was going to ask you about what types of marketing events and marketing tools have worked over the years. As I look at your firm, as I look at the website, I can see that you've tried a variety of different events. You've tried some seminars, you've done some press releases, you've done newsletters, you've done this type of connection with the community through HFG Cares. What marketing tools are working best right now and which ones are you putting on the shelf?

Liz: Sure. To start, I can definitely tell you one thing. Our marketing campaigns and efforts would really not be where they are today if not for FMG today and for you guys because, in my opinion, I just think you guys are literally changing the marketing game for financial advisors. A lot of what I've been focusing on in the last year or two has really been taking the different tools that you guys are continuously releasing and coming up with. What is probably the best piece of advice I could give to any financial advisors right now in regards to a marketing tool is to really use their website as a central hub for all of your marketing efforts.

For example, when you send out email campaigns, just make sure you have a call to action. Click here to continue reading, click here to learn more, and just makes sure it links the reader to something in your website, whether it be an article, a press release, a blog, but basically you're driving traffic to your website and you really also giving yourself a quantitative way to measure the effectiveness of your email.

Mike: Sure.

Liz: On that note, I would say too that anyone that has an FMG website, I just strongly encourage them to utilize the mass email program. It's definitely been a game-changer for us because not only are there so many pre-written emails about timely topics, but I love that you can create custom emails, and it's so user friendly the creation tools, you can do multi-content emails, you can include widgets and images, and I love that you can create custom content groups. You can segment everything and that's the best way to do your targeted marketing.

With the email tool, you can track how your emails are doing. I just loved the history tab. You can see what emails were sent, how many opened, how many people click through. I just think it's so important to use the data to create custom content strategies because sometimes you can blanket like a-- I like to call it blanket marketing. It's great sending, let's say you have a thousand contacts in your CRM, so sending them blanket marketing is great, but I also am a really big proponent of creating target marketing group, because of the tools that you guys have and the ability to now drill down and say, "Okay, did John Smith and his wife open this email about social security? Did so and so open this email about retirement planning?"

Now I can then create these custom groups and say, "You know what, all these clients tend to really go towards marketing and any content about social security, so I'm going to start target marketing them with this type of information." You guys with all the great analytics and reporting tools in there, you're just really able to drill down and do that type of target marketing.

Mike: It's great to hear how much you're taking advantage of those because our development team spends an inordinate amount of time coming up with those derivations but most financial advisors when they upload one list and darn it, that's the list that gets everything.

Liz: That's it.

Mike: That's it, but when you explained to them that, just let's separate your retired clients from your pre-retired clients. Even that simple split, you can be much more targeted with your email, so it's awesome to hear that you're taking advantage of that. Now tell us a little bit-- You mentioned briefly about social media. How are you using that with FMG?

Liz: Sure. I've got our social media sites linked up with FMG via the dashboard for the website, and it's absolutely fantastic. I definitely take advantage of the automated marketing campaigns that you guys have launched, and that's been such a great way to continue to have social media content posted. We get so many views and click-throughs on a lot of the automated marketing campaigns, especially the stuff that gets posted to social media, and I just love that you can sit back and just click to activate these campaigns and post it directly to your social media sites and you don't really have to worry too much.

Of course, you can view the performance of the campaigns. That's wonderful for the busy advisor too and someone that maybe doesn't have a lot of time to sit down and create all this custom content and then go to each of your social media sites one by one and post it and think of your hashtag, so you guys really just thought of everything and [crosstalk] good.

Mike: When I checked on your social sites and Tim has you post to his LinkedIn and the good number of followers there. You've got a number of followers on Facebook. Have you seen your numbers of followers increase with the posts? Is it due to marketing or is it a combination of the two?

Liz: Yes, I would definitely say it's a combination of the two. I've noticed that posting pretty consistently is really starting to isolate people. With social media, its trends, it's what they see come up in their newsfeed, so you want to make sure that at least two to three times a week, your brand is showing in your follower's newsfeeds. That's just such a great reinforcer. Sometimes I feel like with advisors because, and even with myself because we're so busy, sometimes social media can fall off a little bit on the high priority list.

I feel like it's almost detrimental because we forget that in this day and age, social media is such a game-changer in branding and marketing. That's so much of the way people communicate and connect these days, so I think it's so important to have a strong social media strategy. One of the areas that I've been moving into a lot with social media is custom video creation, so using Animoto and a lot of different third-party quick creations and even with the GM, the severance packages that was going on, I made these quick 30 seconds, "Hey, we're here to help you if you're facing anything like this."

These quick videos because video content on social media is just everything right now. You're able to see the views and did people watch it, and I think it can send a really strong message. That's definitely the direction that I've been going to with social media and something that I think for FMG too maybe in the future in developing, but maybe even having a really cool video app like Integrated where you can make these quick social media type videos would be awesome.

Mike: Yes, I'll put that in front of the developers, they'd love to hear that because I think firms like yours go outside to do those and it is so darn easy to pull off a short video these days. I did a podcast a couple of weeks ago with Brandon Brown who is our VP of Creative and UX. I asked him, "Video camera or phone?" He said phone and do a one take. Do it till you get it right. Just keep doing the take till you get it right.

You upload the video to wherever you're hosting it, and away you go. It's definitely top of mind here at FMG and it's a very powerful tool when it comes to people to understanding and comprehension.

Liz: Yes, yes, I couldn't agree more. I know we're running a bit short on time but the last, one of the last things I wanted to just mention is blogging, huge, huge, huge tool that we use. I can't even begin to tell you just the great results that we've got from it. I just really think for showcasing your industry knowledge and especially for your search engine optimization, it's so key.

If you're a financial advising firm and you're not really liking your search rankings or you end up on the second page of Google search results, I just really think blogging will be key. I just say this because it's really your chance to create custom and original content. The thing is, obviously, the system generated FMG content is so fantastic but because it's across the board on multiple financial advising websites, sometimes that's not going to really be the best way to get all your search rankings up.

If you create this custom content and make sure in your blog title do you say things like top 5 or top 10 because you're basically-- you're addressing a topic people are searching for. If someone's like, "Hey, what are top tips for millennials, financial tips for millennials?" That would come up. I just think it adds so much value to your practice and it really helps bring your website and your name up in your search results.

We've had such great experience with that. I'm also a huge proponent of guest bloggers, so maybe if you're a financial advisor, you don't really have time to write all of this. If you're a holistic firm and you work with a CPA or an estate planning attorney, just shoot them an email say "Hey, can you write a guest blog?" Post it on there, you guys make it incredibly easy to post blogs.

Mike: Yes, that we do.

Liz: Yes, and they just add so much value and we get amazing feedback, and then you take that blog and you create custom email, send it out. You make a quick social media video or social media post in relation to your blog and then again, using the blog as your central hub, everything comes back and then you can measure the effectiveness of that campaign so huge, huge proponent of it.

Mike: Liz, you really have taken that page out of FMG's playbook because what we tell people to do is have FMGs content on a regular schedule but definitely augment it with material that you create because that is going to set your firm apart, that's going to help with your branding, if you're going to be able to put keywords in on it. I think what you said there was very interesting, the 5 top or the 10 most, I've never searched for the five worst or the five least- [crosstalk]

[laughter]

Liz: I just saw the release of that awesome marketing calendar. I'm actually super excited to start keeping track of gadgets, what content-- You guys have schedules but now I can keep track of all my original content that's scheduled. That's fantastic. I'm really excited to use it.

Mike: That's great to hear. Well, Liz, you've been a fantastic guest today. Thank you so much for giving us the great detail. I think the firm is well-positioned and give us the website one more time so everybody can go check it out.

Liz: Sure. It's www.hfgllc.com.

Mike: hfgllc.com.

Liz: You got it.

Mike: All right, everybody. Thank you so much, Liz and thanks, everybody for listening.