Rafi Rodriguez is one of FMG Suite’s super-users. He has used marketing tools, like Elevate, to establish a unique and compelling online presence.

Rafi Rodriguez is an RICP who runs Rodriguez Financial Strategies. He specializes in working with retirees, Department of Defense professionals, and business owners. He is also a huge believer in the power of online marketing.

From engaging social media to a powerfully designed website, Rafi takes advantage of FMG Suite’s tools to establish his online presence.

In this fascinating conversation, Rafi will explain how he:

  • Stays up to date on new marketing offerings 
  • Uses content to deepen relationships with clients
  • Harnesses the power of automation to simplify his marketing process

Rafi has been with FMG Suite since its inception and has enjoyed tremendous success by utilizing our tools and services. This podcast is a must for anyone who wants to understand the far-reaching
capabilities of digital marketing.

Mike Woods: Hi everyone, and welcome to the Market in Motion Podcast for Financial Advisors. Today, I'm excited to be joined by my old friend Rafi Rodriguez, who's the founder and CEO of Rodriguez Financial Services in Beavercreek, Ohio. Hi Rafi.

Rafi Rodriguez: Hello Mike. How are you?

Mike: Just great today. Thanks for joining us. Rafi. As I like to do with these podcasts, let's set the stage for everyone. Tell our podcast listeners a little bit about your firm and the unique market that it serves.

Rafi: Okay. First of all, I'm a retired Air Force officer and I got to learn a lot about planning for weapons systems, which are virtually the same steps that we use in financial planning. I retired right outside Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio and I start serving friends of mine that were on active duty or soon to retire in civil service.

Still, our primary market is people that are in the federal service predominantly in the Department of Defense, not only military, retiring military, civil service and defense contractors in the local area, but we do have clients in different states throughout the United States as well.

Mike: Got you. That is your unique market really, it's the federal employees and really the unique issues they have with their pension programs and how they retire and when they retire and how it works with their other plans and, you help them put all that together.

Rafi: Absolutely. Part of things that are kind of unique to our practice here, because I have a fellow advisor in my office as well, is the fact that we have a market affinity and that's really important when you develop a business.

We have the affinity because I've been there done that, extended benefits, and a lot of people like to work with somebody that is not only trying to sell them a plan or retirement product, as somebody that's been there and understands the unique situation, and that's a niche we serve here in the Beavercreek and at Dayton, Ohio area.

Mike: Got you. I can't imagine just the ins and out of the federal benefit package, you having gone through and it helps people to--You've been there you've done that you can show them the way.

Rafi: It also helps that my wife works at the Wright Patterson Air Force base and I need to understand those benefits because soon enough you will be asking me which option should I take? I need to know that because of my own home front.

Mike: [laughs] Rafi you're an Elevate customer for FMG Suite.

Rafi: Yes. Actually, I've been an FMG customer for a long, long time and every time you folks have a new program I'll take a look at it, and I'm pretty much a subscriber to just about everything you have to offer.

Mike: You have. You are one of the first people on board with us. You were on an advisory board with me several years ago and you recently did upgrade to the elevate package, which is one of our newer packages which assigned you a marketing rep or a marketing coordinator and you work with Hannah.

Rafi: Absolutely. I think that was a very smart business decision for me to go and subscribe to that program. I'm very pleased.

Mike: Yes, we were talking just before we went on the air just about Hannah and all she does for you, and really the trade-off for you is the cost of hiring an office admin help versus the cost of Hannah and Hannah is the most cost-effective method hands down I take it.

Rafi: Yes. When I look at running my practice as a business first and foremost, I take a look at the overhead costs, not only the rent but I mean a location where we have some ladies answering the phone and they serve as the gatekeepers, they don't work for me directly so that keeps the cost down, but the most important and the core of the business is marketing.

I look at how much it would cost me to hire a marketing person plus the benefits, plus the Social Security, plus, the hourly rate and so forth, I looked at what you folks offer, then looking at Hannah, she's on my team, she is my marketing advisor and we meet once a month, we review the marketing plan and sometimes she recommends something on Target and some things that sometimes I tweak it but we work very well together. It's been the best addition to my team, not only from a cost-effectiveness perspective, but she's very good at what she does.

Mike: Yes. Hannah has been with us quite some time as have many of the marketing coordinators, so it's awesome to hear you're seeing a great benefit from that. Rafi, as you mentioned, you were one of the first people to embrace FMG on this platform. Give listeners an idea about your daily and weekly marketing routines. As you and I have talked over the years, you've really perfected that in the sense that you're committed to pulling time out of each week to put your marketing efforts together and on a week you're pulling stuff together, on a day you're pulling stuff together. Give everybody an idea of what that looks like.

Rafi: Well, the activity stems from the fact that we do have a business plan that I review with my advisory board, and part of the business plan is to have a marketing plan that includes prospecting as well as client servicing obviously, and then I shared with you earlier my marketing plan for the whole year that breaks it down on a monthly basis.

From calling clients on their birthday to taking them out to lunch and different activities, but typically I do set aside sometime early morning to do some research, not only in the market but also what's in FMG that is going to be posted because I have an automated posting program with FMG.

I take a look at what's coming out, I take a look at the birthdays, celebrations coming out from FMG and I also take a look at, what are the market insights coming out of FMG so I could then tailor the messaging to my clients. Now, the way I look at the website and the program from FMG, it's really predominantly for my clients. Of course, I share through social media, but all the very rich content that's available through FMG, I look at it, I evaluate it and there's something that triggers an email to a client based on specific content that guy just published in FMG.

I spend, I will say an average of about, maybe 45 minutes in the morning, maybe less, maybe half an hour and then the afternoon I spent about an hour going through the activity for the rest of the week. I take advantage of the automation that FMG offers because that way I don't have to post it. However, there are some plans on a monthly basis that Hannah and I get together, "Okay, this month we're going to promote the following topic." We hire the content or whether it's checklists or guide document or a video, whatever that may be. We set up a posting on that in addition to whatever FMG is posting on my behalf.

It's a pretty-- Once a month, we plan the rest of the month and then I activate it all the way down to a daily basis. I spend, I will say between, say an hour, an hour and a half, maybe two hours max on a daily basis looking at the content so I could then share that with clients and friends and then I post through my approved pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

To be honest with you, the one that works the best is LinkedIn. These are actually a business owner or people in business. Facebook is very social but I'm getting some really good results through posting on LinkedIn, which is all part of the posting through FMG anyway. I would say an hour and a half to two hours max on a daily basis and once a month, with Hannah to review the marketing plan, not only how well we did, but also going forward.

Mike: Got you. As you and I have talked over the years, LinkedIn, you've always had a special passion for that and you've worked with that and cultivated the people on it, cultivated your networks and it sounds like it's paying off.

Rafi: As a matter of fact, it's pretty rewarding when you haven't seen somebody that's connected with you on LinkedIn say, "Rafi, haven't seen you posting. Are you available the first week in December? Let's meet." That's pretty rewarding because it takes a lot of time and effort and dedication to do what I do with your support. When it starts paying off and people start calling and getting back to you that they want to meet because of-- After a while, you get so much content out there, it starts resonating on people's minds and they eventually call you back and it's paying off.

Mike: Yes. Well, I'd encourage everybody to go and check Rafi's site out too, it's ask, A-S-K Rafi, R-A-F-I.com. Rafi has a site and there are several areas where there's gated content that he's talking about with the white papers where someone wants to go grab that information, we ask them their first name, last name and their email address and then the content open up to them and, as you can hear from Rafi, it's a great part of his program and how he puts it all together.

Rafi, I wanted to touch too on that calendar you're working with. Hannah sent me a copy over and it coordinates your communications, what you're doing on video, email, social media with client events with prospecting and business development, and I saw as you put this together, you estimated costs for the various areas. How has that shaped your marketing efforts over time now?

Rafi: Well, what they've done if you're looking at-- First of all, one thing about Hannah is as my marketing coach, she's holding me accountable for the actions I did that did agree to do for that particular month. Let's not just say that she's just advising, she's holding me accountable. From a cost perspective, what that has done, it's actually helped me focus on the things that I believe are of most value. For example, I don't do newspapers. I focus predominantly on client events and social media posting. It's helped me manage my marketing budget quite well. It's something that I really enjoy seeing that firsthand with our marketing schedule is that you know what, now I know exactly what goes out and that will measure against what comes in. It's a great tool. I really, really like it.

Mike: As I glanced at your calendar here, I can see you're spending quite a bit of time with what you call the intimate events, client events, and the advertising. That's on the lighter side. It clearly shows in your calendar where your focus is.

Rafi: Well, a lot of it is the content that gets pushed out to social media with your support obviously from FMG, none of the content that I create, but then again, by the time we do a client event, and the people fired up, and they'll have a great time, and Hannah keeps giving me some good ideas about some new events I have not considered in the past. I believe that the best clients will always come from your best clients. That's what we might focus on. We do have some websites, we got a presence that deals with the retiring federal employees but it pays out because it's really economical. The main thing is to focus on your best clients. They're going to give you the best referrals.

Mike: Got you. Rafi, as you look at your book, what percentage would you say are connected to the federal employees and what percentage are connected to just outside the federal system? How does that break down just so everybody can get a perspective?

Rafi: I didn't look at a number but probably 80% to 90% of folks that have been either associated with the military or the federal government. What's really growing is the Department of Defense contractors from someone who retired from the military, they open a company and then I'm doing their 401k, their health plan and so forth. These employees for this particular company I'm thinking about, they're not necessarily military or civil service, but they require financial planning services as well other than the 401k and the health and dental insurance and what have you.

People are referring us to business companies that are not associated with the Department of Defense. What's really interesting is if you focus on the core, that core business or that core market will expand because people refer you to people that are not necessarily in your core market. I will say it's 85% to 90% Department of Defense, and then the rest is just growing based on the fact that we're getting referred to new clients that are not in the Department of Defense realm.

Mike: Sure, makes perfect sense. Ever since I've known you, you've had a leg up on that niche, but it sounds like servicing that niche well leads to other business. The other thing I wanted to explore with you was definitely the types of events you hold for your clients and prospects. As I poked around your website, I see that you're getting into golf events that you hold for charities. Give everybody an idea of what-- I see also hold a state of the market seminar, you're doing special events for women. When you look out, how do you break all that stuff down? How do you break it down for clients and prospects?

Rafi: Let's talk about the first one, the golf outing. What you see on the website are the ones that have been approved, and they actually mirror the marketing schedule. There's a one to one correspondence between the planning and the execution. In the case of the golf outing being military and being a veteran, I just want to give back to my community especially my fellow veterans who have fallen in hard times. Through my association with the board of directors of the United Way of Greater Dayton, and I'm not implying that that's the only way to go, but this is the way I go.

I'm on the board and then I see that they have programs for veterans, so my company subsidizes pretty much all the overhead from the golf outing and 100% of the proceeds go through United Way to this program called VetsLink, which is a 211 referral phone number which is unique to the Dayton area, and veterans can call in and get referred to services. Sometimes they need money for rent or electricity, what have you, those monies are available for them as well. It's a giving back to give to my own community predominantly because of my market affinity again. It works well.

Then I've been creating a community of sponsors and players that eventually, I'm going to go after, have a coffee talk to see if I could be of service to them. It's very social, very laid back and people like that. Especially in our community, this is a very veteran-friendly community and it is something I really enjoy doing. That's for clients and then friends of the community.

That's pretty much, that's a broader community event. The other ones are specific for clients. We've done webinars and we're exploiting the GoToMeeting. People that are not in the Dayton area, we just go and people love the GoToMeeting. It's amazing how much positive feedback we've been getting by using that technology. We do webinars, we do the GoToMeetings with clients. We do social events. We do panel discussions with experts in the industry about the state of the market. Right now I'm going to focus in 2020 in doing a little more of that because the more I engage with clients and friends of clients, the more trust I build with my own niche and the highest probability of getting new clients.

Right now we have two events that are approved, the one about retirement for women. It's actually a retirement readiness for women. It's in February. I only have 20 slots for that event and 7 seats have already been reserved and this is November. Things are happening. Then it's funny, you mentioned that because today I got the first set of golf balls donated by a wholesaler from my event in May of 2020. I just got it early today, so things are moving in the right direction. Again, Hannah gives me some ideas on a mother's day event. The one in February was Hannah's idea to do a Valentine's Day and it happens to be the topic on retirement readiness for women. It happens to be on February the 14th which is Valentine's Day here in the local area.

I guess I'm connecting the marketing calendar with the actual activities, and I pick up on Hannah's brain and she's good at it. I try to mix it up and make it creative. There's always a wine tasting and things of that nature. I like the panel discussion because bringing experts from the different wholesaler companies to come in and give them their view of the market in a panel discussion is very, very enlightening and people realize that's an event exclusively for clients. We're doing really well with that one.

Mike: Got you. You mentioned webinars, I wanted to just take a minute on webinars. Some advisors still believe that seminars where people actually come together is the best route but you're having success with webinars, are those primarily for existing clients or prospects or how does that work?

Rafi: Well, right now we're focusing on clients. Going into 2020, we may open up the gate a little bit and the reason why I say that is because my GoToMeeting subscription is limited to X number of people. It's like 59 people, something like that. I got to take those slots first for my clients. As we go forward, we may promote it to non-clients and let's see if that generates some interest. Going forward, the main interest is with clients because, again, I'm counting on the trust continue to be built so we could get the best referrals.

Mike: You've already demonstrated that rapport and integrity and now you're getting them on the phone and you're persuading them. Yes, I get it. All works really well hand in hand. Another section on your website is for scholarships. Explain to the listeners your role with scholarships and how they fit into your overall marketing efforts.

Rafi: Well, as far as the scholarships, I opened a scholarship to The Dayton Foundation here in Dayton, Ohio, predominantly for students going through a local university studying engineering which is my background, finance, financial planning, financial services, which is what I do now. Just as important, students that are pursuing a degree in Special Ed. That's just in memory of my mother who was a teacher mentally retarded kids back when I was growing up. Again, whatever I do in the community, it's tightly connected to my heart and not to be cursory with it like that. I believe in what my mom did, she was very gifted. I want to get forward by offering a scholarship for students pursuing that kind of career. I could see that especially in Dayton, Ohio, which is a highly philanthropic city. I just do it to pay it forward and it-- And the money goes in every month through The Dayton Foundation.

Every year, we donate money to the local university for students pursuing either financial services-- I do one a year, but sometimes if I have enough in the coffers, I do two a year in any of those three areas of engineering because I was aerospace engineering, financial services or Special Ed. It's something tied to my heart.

Mike: Yes, it really shows. If you go to Rafi’s website at askrafi.com, open up the section on scholarships, there's a half a page intro, and Rafi as I read it, I could feel the passion and the connection in what you wanted to do with it. I'm sure that as people read that, they latch onto it as well. Let's finish up with one more thought for the listeners. We kind of touched on it but I want to aggregate it here altogether at the end. As you're looking out now into 2020, what type of new ideas will you be working on with Hannah? Give us an idea of maybe just the top one, the one that you're looking most forward to.

Rafi: Well, I will say that working with Hannah, it's what are the main topics that we're going to push forward in 2020? For example, we picked a quarterly theme and we're going to market to that. As far as our quarterly theme goes, we try to tie it to one of the client events. The marketing piece, as we market it on a quarterly basis, could be monthly but let's say quarterly for now, and then we tie an event to that quarterly marketing approach. For example, in the first quarter, we're going to push the women topics, and then we follow up with the February 14th retirement writing that for women. That's a unique approach and I feel comfortable, we're going to have some great results out of that.

Mike: Yes, grabbing the themes by the quarters. I think that's awesome because then you can tailor your events, your marketing, your social media, and it really helps focus your marketing efforts. Awesome, great to hear. Well, Rafi, any other thoughts?

Rafi: Mike, I have one last thought to share with the audience.

Mike: Yes.

Rafi: Somebody that was trying to sign up with FMG called me and asked me, “Rafi FMG talks so highly of you and you seem to be an iconic person for what they do. Are you are a paid actor?” I answered, “No, I’m not a paid actor. I don’t get remunerated for what I do with FMG. I am a raving fan of the work that all the men and women at FMG have done for me and for my business. I don't get paid, nothing like that.” When you ask me to do something, I gladly do it because of my high level of satisfaction and commitment to my business. I want to make that clear. I don't get paid. I just do it because, Mike calls me, “Rafi, can you support me in this?” I say, "How quickly?" It's from the heart. There's no financial benefit of me doing this for you and I gladly do it.

Mike: Well, Rafi, as I mentioned, ever since day one that we brought you onto the platform, you've had a tremendous dedication to using the tools, which is something that we can urge, we can push, we can cajole people to do, but if you don't really roll up your sleeves, get involved with the tools or work with someone like Hannah who can show you how to use the tools you don't get the full effect, but just-- Like I said a couple of years ago, you were really pushing on LinkedIn and it's so great to see the benefits of that being reaped now.

Rafi: Absolutely. It takes time and dedication, especially in this business. Nobody is going to come see you with a huge bag of money and say, “I saw your article on social media.” Now, that takes time and effort, especially the engagement factor. Especially in this highly regulated industry that's going through all kinds of updates and changes. Trust is a big thing and that's why we do what we do and again, not to praise Hannah again, but she's just a phenomenal asset and a phenomenal team member. I really enjoy working with her.

Mike: It's great to hear. Rafi, well, thanks so much for spending part of your day with us here at the Market in Motion Podcast for Financial Advisors. We appreciate it and I'll stay in touch.

Rafi: Okay, Mike. Well, this has been a pleasure. Thank you, guys.

Mike: Thank you. Bye-bye.