Discover proven strategies from best-selling author and marketing expert, David Bradley, that will help you reach new clients more efficiently.

Tune in for insights including:

  • Why your marketing strategy should start with getting to know your clients
  • How to delegate marketing tasks that help you run more efficiently
  • How much of your budget you should dedicate to marketing

David works directly with businesses that want to develop a more sophisticated growth strategy by understanding their clients. He has helped over 11,000 students use target-based strategies to profitably present themselves in the job market. Don’t miss his incredible insights!

Mike Woods: Today I'm excited to be joined by David Bradley. Hey, David.

David Bradley: Hey, Mike. A pleasure to be here.

Mike Woods: It's great to have you. David is the managing director for the Bradley Business Group. David is an expert in digital marketing strategies, and his firm helps companies focus on what marketing efforts are effective, relevant, sustainable, based on the company's unique value-- a unique market in a situation.

Boy, that's a handful, David, right there. I pulled that one from your website, focus on marketing efforts on what's effective, relevant and sustainable based on the company's unique market and situation. Then when I read it again, I go, "Boy, that really is right on the money."

You are also an accomplished speaker and written a couple of books. Your most recent one is the Digital Marketing MBA. We're excited to have you here. Let's kick it right off.

David Bradley: Absolutely. I'm excited about this.

Mike Woods: Yes. Awesome. As I mentioned, I was checking out your website yesterday, and I chuckled when I read one of your case studies that said, that was a quote from a financial adviser saying, "We have no strategy behind what we do, we just do it." As I talked to financial professionals, many of them just do it. They're making sociables, combining traditional and digital marketing, but too often they don't really have a target in sight. They have this ready fire aim mentality, and aiming comes last.

How do you help financial advisers improve that marketing game? How do you harness that desire, but really put a strategy behind it?

David Bradley: Sure. Well, the issue in marketing today is that there are so many things that you can do. So many trends and ideas and a lot of hype behind it, and for some good reason. Marketing really comes back to the customer. How deeply do we know the customer? Do we understand how they behave, what they're thinking, how they feel at different stages of their life or their experience with us?

Mike Woods: Sure.

David Bradley: In regards to the aim, it's really pulling back to that, who is the customer, how do we understand that? You might take that into a very finite focus in niche marketing, who is my niche audience? You could also just say, well, I'm working in this community. This is the neighborhood, the community that I work in and live in, and I'm going to understand this customer as long as I can. That sets the tone for everything that comes after. The messaging, where you get your out outreach done. It all begins there.

Mike Woods: Got you. I've had financial advisers tell me that as they work on their marketing, they struggle with what platform, they want to do social media. They don't know what platform to do well. They struggle with what type of traditional and digital marketing to work with. They tell me that they're looking at their database of customers, and it seems like they have a lot of teachers as customers, and they want to work on that but they don't really know how to get the marketing to them. It seems like that aim is something that is elusive. What I'm hoping is, is they can put a strategy behind it.

David Bradley: I think when you want to think about strategy, the first step is really to take a very non-digital approach. Just go offline, sit down with your customers, get to know them better. What I like to do is, everyone wants to talk about big data, I sit down with my clients or my clients' customers and ask them what their experience was like when they were looking for a financial adviser, how did they approach that.

Mike Woods: Got you.

David Bradley: That forced slowing down makes us be much more thoughtful throughout the strategy process, I find. It begins there, and you can start to identify, all right, who is my market, and where do they go naturally? Instead of just trying to force myself to use Facebook, because I heard other people do that, let me start with where my audience already is. You know what they say, fish where the fish were swimming?

Mike Woods: Yes. [laughs]

David Bradley: That's a lot easier.

[crosstalk]

Mike Woods: It sounds easy. If I look at my book of business and I see that I like to work with engineers, how would I go about finding where all the engineers are? Is there a methodology or, I guess I'm looking at that and thinking, boy, that's a great plan, how do I execute something like that?

David Bradley: Sure. Let's run with the engineer's idea. I like that. With engineers in mind, if you want to study them more, you can do market research, but I can let you know, doing your own market research is super expensive and very time-consuming. Shortcuts are always nice. Shortcuts usually come from the other consulting firms, the agencies, the associations that serve engineers and do market research on them. A little savvy searching, you'll find out that the answers there are probably free and readily available, and you can start to hone in on who that audience is. If you can't come up with something there, the best next step is usually finding some communities online, see what people talk about. It could be a message board, it could be Reddit, just one of the biggest websites. That's basically a collection of message boards. Get your hands dirty and start getting involved in the community and see what they talk about, see what they're thinking about, and learn firsthand that way.

Mike Woods: Got you. We're down here in San Diego, and I think about Qualcomm and the copious number of engineers that work over there. Yes, I think if you found that you worked well with that type of analytical personality, you just would find out where you can get in front of that whole group. Certainly, talking to your customers and seeing how they came to know you, is a great way to start.

David Bradley: Yes, absolutely. There's a tremendous amount of value in the current clientele, so it was good to tap into that market. That drags into referrals and keeping them aligned longer. Relationships are big.

Mike Woods: When you think about digital marketing and the process of that, when should a financial adviser reach out for help? I guess, more to the point is financial professional wear so many hats. They're in charge of sales, they've got the operation, perhaps accounting. They're certainly accountable for their compliance staff, customer service, they've got a whole host of other jobs. Do you find that financial professionals can be that person, that chief marketing officer too?

David Bradley: Well, there's two breakdowns we can look at here. There's the organization itself, which generally focuses on the brand awareness side. Then there's the individual financial professional that's going out there and building their book of business. As part of the profession, you are going to have to enjoy learning about marketing a bit. We're an all in a marketing or sales role in some way, but there's a distinction to make there too.

One thing at the start of our talk today, you were going through my reader and I mentioned about effective, relevant, sustainable, marketing?

Mike Woods: Right.

David Bradley: The keyword there I find is sustainable for the individual professional because that means it's something we can do consistently. When you're an individual trying to build your book of business, if you pick a couple of those marketing tactics that you absolutely hate executing, it's going to be tough to be consistent.

Part of being that chief marketing officer for yourself is, I've got to make sure that I find the right tactics that are going to work, but also that I enjoy that I can grow along with as time goes on. If you stretch yourself to then at some point, it might be a good idea to start looking for some assistance. Typically, again, the consistency sense, the first strategies that are offloaded to some freelance help, probably are the things that you don't really want to do each day, and they might bring in business, you might not like them too much, but that's typically where to begin.

Mike Woods: Fascinating. Yes, I think the whole notion of sustainable, the whole notion of recurring, that that is really the track you would want to be on if you're going to be, as you spend time in that CMO position, you want to be investing time to create something that will recur, that will be sustainable with really, the word you touched on was enjoyable, that you enjoy doing as a financial professional, and as a marketing person.

David Bradley: Yes, I think that's key. I refer to it as personality-based marketing. It's really about the personality of yourself. You have to hit whatever the customers are into, but it does come back to do I enjoy this enough to do it every day? If the answer is yes, you're going to be an expert at it, much faster. You will be much more effective, and you'll stick with it longer.

Mike Woods: Yes. Boy, I know when I come in the morning, I tackle the stuff that I really don't want to do, because the stuff by the end of the day that is on the list is the stuff I like. It's less work and more just doing what you're doing.

David Bradley: Yes. I'd love to say I do the same thing every day, but I break down and avoid when I need to.

[laughter]

Mike Woods: Funny. In one of your blog articles, you talked about forming a marketing team. You talk about someone in the organization who gets that whole digital marketing idea.

I've worked with a few small businesses, and it's almost impossible to find someone who really, I think, gets digital marketing. I think they're good at creating Snapchat stories or posting on Instagram, but they don't really embrace that concept of digital marketing. Help listeners understand what it really means to be good at digital marketing.

David Bradley: Well, I don't know if this will console anyone at first, but I will say I've worked with some nine-figure organizations that couldn't find a soul in the organization that really understood digital. It's a widespread issue. It's understandable if you're the individual trying to build your practice, digital could be a lot to handle.

What does it actually mean to know digital or to have a digital asset on your team? That's really someone who can first sniff out if someone is coming in and pitching you on an idea. Do they really know what they're talking about? Are they effective for our industry?

If you're working with vendors, it's good to have someone who can validate that. You really want to focus on the strategy side as far as having someone on your team who can identify this is where our customers are and this is what resonates with them, this is an experience that they can feasibly work through so that you don't have people that are too tied into the tactical, the nitty-gritty.

Mike Woods: Got you. Interesting.

David Bradley: At the big picture, are they connected? I think that's really vital to getting the right atmosphere around how you do your marketing.

Mike Woods: Got you. It's interesting. In some ways, it's much easier to find someone who can do the tactical than someone who can direct the strategic.

David Bradley: Right. I think another factor, if you're trying to filter out your options of who you might work with, is I like to find people who are vendor-neutral, who is channel-neutral, so that they're not just telling you, well, you have to invest in Instagram advertising just because they have the background in it, and they're not telling you to use certain tools or tactics or anything like that, but just coming in with an open mind. It's really a lot of characteristics, as well as experience.

Mike Woods: When you talk about someone who knows the strategic, how well would you expect them, or how fluent would you want them to be on really the data gathering aspect of it, how they're going to be testing markets, looking at the effectiveness of different campaigns and being able to incorporate that into their strategic thinking? How important is that as you would evaluate someone's ability?

David Bradley: Well, you mentioned about testing, which is a big area. I think just asking someone how do they run tests, what's their methodology behind it, is important. It really comes down to the simple scientific method I have a hypothesis at the standard hypothesis, and I have the test variant. That variant has one variable that's different so that I can trackback is that version better or is that version, if I have multiple variables that are different.

For example, if it's an advertisement with a different headline, image, and body text under that, versus another with all different information, I don't know, is it the headline that's working? Is the image? Find someone who can naturally understand that. I'm only going to change the headline from here to here. Then you can trackback which one is working exactly. I like to use that as an early filter, because you'll find that narrows the field down by 70%, and it really comes down to having that scientific mind too. You get the strategic piece.

Mike Woods: It can be as simple as doing an AB test. Try in one headline here and one headline there and see which one draws the best.

Mike Woods: Right. Really getting that simple focus, is what's important. As long as people understand that testing and tracking are key, that's a huge part of digital.

Mike Woods: Sure. I think about an individual who's running their business and they've got access to a few people, but, when should they really almost throw in the towel and decide that they need to get help on something like this? Is there a specific time, is there a specific expense? Is there a level of frustration? When do I wave the white flag and say, I can't get the right combination here, I need to call in a professional?

David Bradley: Well, there's a couple of different ways to tackle this. I think as a firm grows larger and larger, we'll start on that end, it makes sense typically to have more of an in-house team. Typically, you'll see more of a transition as a company grows to have a more in enough staff than agencies.

Mike Woods: Sure.

David Bradley: There will be a mix, of course. If you're starting out on the other end of the spectrum where you're just the individual running your own marketing, I think one of the first metrics is, do I have sufficient time to handle the full sales process and to handle my clients to make sure they're serviced well?

Then you have to figure out what's leftover from marketing. Those are really just the three levers of a service business like this. If you hit a limit where you can't maximize your sales, your client service anymore, you need to really offload that marketing on the front end because that's where all the growth really can come from. You need marketing to feed the sales to have more clients.

You have to feel it out for yourself. Some of it comes back to when we were talking about the consistency and the sustainability of what you do.

Mike Woods: Right. Again, as I was poking around on your website, I saw you talk about a marketing team, and how a marketing team would work together. I wanted to break down what that would look like for a small firm, say, well, one producer with maybe a support staff, maybe a mid-sized firm and a larger firm. How should they envision a marketing team?

David Bradley: Sure. On the starting point, typically you're going, to begin with, someone who is more on the coordination aspect of taking care of the basic marketing operations to make sure that you have the consistency behind what you do. One aspect is, you probably have a list of clients. You need to make sure that you're not only serving them well, but you're also communicating with them.

Source of referrals keep them happy, communicating at any of the highlighted points in their life. At birthdays that come up and reaching out and so on. It's helpful to start there. Typically, you could get by with a freelancer in addition to working whatever marketing activities you do yourself, but starting out with a freelancer is efficient.

As the team grows a bit, you'll start to make a transition where if you're spending a few thousand dollars a month in marketing, it's probably going to make sense to shift away from the freelancer who might have some limitations on their availability into having an agency. You can be more full service, but still reasonable within your budget. You're working under a boutique agency to support you.

As you expand and the company grows, a couple of hundred thousand into the marketing budget, that's where you're really making the shift to, okay, we need an in-house marketing team who can handle this work. That looks like typically if you have a marketing category, such as if you want someone who's a media buyer, an advertiser, if you can keep them busy for 70% of the Workday, that's going to be more than enough for them to be working full time because there's always meetings and extra activities going on.

Then as the company grows larger and larger, I try to keep direct reports and marketing to less than seven per manager, so you start to build out from there. It can build different divisions within the marketing team, but it really scales out over time in different ways, depending on the overall company culture.

Mike Woods: Sure. I think it's fascinating. Boy, when you get to that point where you can have a marketing team and direct reports that you really have where you can work with people. I think that challenge, I would imagine, is that the break making that jump between using a freelancer, and then working with an agency when you're transitioning between a very small shop and one that's a little bit larger.

When a firm would move, say, from a freelancer, someone who just helps them put their social post together, maybe does some outsourcing design work, those types of functions, what should they look for when they start to work with an agency?

David Bradley: That's a good question. I think some aspects we spoke about before, so if the agency is pushing you towards a certain product and they say you have to be on HubSpot, wonderful program, but not everyone has to have it. If they say you have to be on a certain channel, it's always some red flags like that.

I look for industry experience, but not always specialization. They should have worked with a company like you before, but I think there's a lot of value of working with an agent who has a wide view of different industries because they can take in some different ideas and tactics and strategies and just ways of thinking from completely irrelevant areas otherwise. That's the ideal view, and as I said, I look for the boutique agency big enough that they can support all our needs, but not too big where we're just another number.

Mike Woods: Right. Now I think you touched on something that's very fascinating there with the concept, the idea that you may not want to work with a firm that only works with financial professionals. You may want to work with a firm that works with financial professionals, insurance professionals, maybe a small gym where maybe it may be a variety of places, and they can bring to the table a variety of experiences and backgrounds.

David Bradley: Yes, I think that's helpful also in the fact of thinking about who are your customers as a financial professional, all different types of people, so you need an agency who also understands the common consumer and not just their consumer.

Mike Woods: Got it. Okay, I've saved the big question, because this, I think, was one I want to really fool around in, is to talk about, how much you should spend, or give us an index of what a marketing budget should look like. You can really break it down any way you want, but I think as I talk to financial advisers, some of them are comfortable with them being the marketing budget that's peeling off their time, and then they seem to graduate up to the fact that they think their time is better spent, so they want something new, and then many will come to FMG and use our elevate platform where they have a marketing specialist dedicated to them that can help them during the course of several hours during a week.

How do you break it down? How do you strategically look at it with someone about how they invest their capital to get the best rate of return?

David Bradley: Sure. There's a couple of ways to attack this. First, think about a simple metric, a common benchmark is using company revenue. If you look at the total revenue over the course of the year, best practice is typically saying we'll take 5% to 10%, somewhere, and dedicate that to a marketing budget. The business to the consumer side, it tends to be more on the 7% to 10% range. This does a couple of things for us.

One, it allows us to be unemotional and figuring out what that budget should be. That's particularly hard when you're a smaller business or an individual. If you're a business owner, it's always difficult to say how much you're going to dedicate. This is a data-driven way, choosing numbers, letting them lead.

You can also consider doing I want to consider my overhead, or is that just a media budget? And again, that goes back to your own take on it, but I think about for the financial professional, we have a lot of individual financial professionals that will be listening in, and they might hear 5% to 10% of what? I don't know if I'm going to do that.

You have to put some value on your time, and I think you alluded to this. Within that budget, think about what your hourly rate is, and think about how much marketing effort you put in on a given weekly, monthly basis, and calculate that into your marketing budget as well.

That's where it might start to make even more sense to say, "Oh, maybe moving to the elevator platform with FMG is going to actually save me money, because I'm realizing how much time I put in." Or let's look at a freelance option, an agency, and taking those numbers into account as well is important in structuring your solo practice, your individual practice.

Mike Woods: Got it. It's fascinating. We've got, as I work with individual advisers, one that I know quite well, a gentleman named Rafi Rodriguez. Rafi works in a very niche market in the defense industry, and he really loves the whole idea of marketing. He spends quite a bit of his time, but I think that he knows as looks at it, it's more just part of his day, and it's the extra hours he puts in that makes the marketing work.

If you're working on such a niche area as Rafi does with the people that are associated with the defense industry, do you have to look for anything special in your marketing budget or your marketing resources, or is it something that you would expect of a boutique firm or a freelancer to be able to pick up on pretty quickly?

David Bradley: There's a lot of intricacies that come into play. Some of that, you just have to fill out based on that niche market that you're working with. What I find most common, and it's completely understandable, but the budgets that we might be using, our budgets, we just made up randomly or we don't really have any set budget. We just take things as they come.

I mentioned these figures in this data-driven way instead of the emotional way because even if you want to start conservative in what you think the right budget would be today if you can set that figure, you can always reach higher and giving yourself the option to reach higher to grow into something more, is a positive way to structure your business, even at an individual level, looking forward.

Mike Woods: Got you. I think that's important for people to understand, that the time-- sometimes it's--[chuckles] I hate to say it, but sometimes spending time on marketing is a little bit of work avoidance, but you hope that it doesn't go in that direction.

One final question before we sign off. I wanted to ask you, are there any online tools that you would recommend for financial advisers, or something they could look at that would coach them or take them in the right direction, or any that you've come across in your practice?

David Bradley: Obviously I'm very familiar when it comes to tools with FMG suite, and you have a lot of options there that are great. I think what I would like to say is, I think giving yourself the right education is important as an individual practitioner. If you're going to jump into using some of these tools, you need to make sure that you have the right education behind you, and we spoke earlier about strategy and where strategic thinking comes into play.

I think it's great to follow a blog or a podcast and get information in that way, but taking some time to read a book and have more long-form content, helps you to get a full perspective on different topics, whether that be marketing strategy or some specific area. I think that is the trick you need that you can combine with some of these tools that are out there to really make the bigger impact. Instead of jumping around with different newsletters and blogs all the time, carve some time out so you can really dig into long format topics.

Mike Woods: Got you. Get the long format augmented with some of the shorter material, as you said, the blogs accommodate in with your strategy, or what you think your strategy should be, and hopefully, you would come out the other side with a good approach to what you want to do on a digital front.

David Bradley: Yes, exactly. I know that is a sidestep to the question, but I'm remaining relatively neutral on the different tools. There's a lot of options out there.

Mike Woods: No, I think that's good. I think they know there's I think it's wise for people to understand that the tools that are available, they all have an agenda, they all are looking to do something some way. Educating yourself makes you a better consumer, and makes you really a better-- will make you ultimately a better marketer.

David Bradley: Yes, absolutely.

Mike Woods: All right. All right, David. I want to thank our guest, David Bradley. David, it was awesome having you on today. I think we covered quite a bit of ground, so thank you again.

David Bradley: Awesome to be here. Thanks, Mike.

Mike Woods: Great. That's it. We're going to sign out for this episode with the market emotion podcast. Spread the word.