Finding Your Field Guides: A Key to Entrepreneurial Success
Written by: Jon Sabes, CEO
Being an entrepreneur can be rife with challenges. It’s no wonder: you’re in the business of creation—of building something physical from an abstract idea. And no matter how innovative or timely or just plain “perfect” that idea may be, transforming your vision into reality is no easy task. One key to success is knowing who to ask for help. I call it “finding your field guides.”
Two of my passions—aside from my business—are endurance athletics and adventure travel (for more on this, check out my blog on Creative Destruction). Whether I’m running a race or climbing a mountain, the one thing that keeps me on track is the continuous direction and encouragement from coaches or guides. In fact, one might say it is even foolish to attempt these activities without trained, knowledgeable help. And yet every day, I see entrepreneurs plugging away at building a new company with little guidance at all. No matter how smart a person may be, and no matter how brilliant their idea, working solo is just as foolish. Here’s why:
Unforeseen challenges are a given.
A common misconception about starting a business is that strong preparation is all an entrepreneur needs to succeed. A well written business plan. A great education. Industry experience. Whatever. But just like a long-distance race, preparation is just the starting point. Throughout the race, you need a source of support, inspiration, and guidance to help through the challenging moments, and keep you moving until you reach the finish line. Building a business is similar. You are going to get challenged. And in those moments, you are going to need encouragement, guidance, and perspective. A trusted guide can give you the help you need when challenges threaten to derail your success.
You don’t have all the answers!
Picture this: you’re leading your team up a high, remote mountain. You’ve never been there before, and when you arrive at the saddle of a high pass, there are three paths to choose from. One path leads to a dangerous and potentially deadly cliff. Another descends into a valley filled with flesh-biting flies. Another passes through a challenging rock crag, but eventually winds its way down to a picturesque pool, complete with a waterfall and a stunning rainbow. How do you know which way to go? A guide who has been down these paths before knows what lies ahead. Your guide’s experience can save you and your team time, energy, and resources to be sure you not only survive, but thrive.
Multiple perspectives drive creative solutions.
Working in a vacuum rarely results in the greatest ideas. By seeking help from a variety of sources, you can gain multiple perspectives on the same problem, and then filter the information you receive to form your own creative solution. If the advice doesn’t fit, let it fall to the side. If it does, grab it and build on it. Look for mentors who have years or even decades of experience in the industry or specialty you are pursuing. Find people who mesh with your own way of thinking, and who challenge you constantly—without fear of retribution. These are your field guides for your personal journey.
The good news is that field guides are everywhere, which means all you have to do is start actively seeking the help and direction you need. Here are some great places to look:
- LinkedIn and other business networks: The great thing about LinkedIn is that the platform is focused solely on the business community. If you’ve built a strong network over the years, online or off, review your contacts and make a list of potential mentors. If you can find someone in your local community and can meet face to face, even better. Next, reach out and ask for their help. If they are willing to advise you —and most people will be if you just have the courage to ask—their guidance will be worth its weight in gold.
- Books: Look for books by entrepreneurs who have achieved success and share your values as a business leader. I’m constantly seeking out new inspiration, and my three recent favorites are Cheat to Win: The Honest Way to Break All the Dishonest Rules in Business (Bob MacDonald); Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Phil McNight), and Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson).
- Audio Books and Lectures: Don’t let your busy schedule keep you from soaking up the information you need to win. Whether you’re driving or flying, look for audio books and lectures to enrich your personal and professional development. Three of my favorites are Napoleon Hill (In His Own Voice), Brian Tracy (The Psychology of Achievement), and Grant Cardone (Be Obsessed or Be Average). These authors will give your mind the nourishment, inspiration, and encouragement it needs as you move along the journey to success.
- Historical Biography Videos: Look for videos from producers like the American Experience series that chronicle the stories of historical figures such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Nikola Tesla. Their stories and struggles are sure to amaze you and inspire any entrepreneur.
At GWG, my own journey of creating a finance company hasn’t been absent of challenges. From the credit crisis and regulatory scrutiny, to educating broker-dealers on how our product works, the challenging rocky crags of climbing the mountain seem to be around every corner. Luckily, I’m not alone as we navigate our path forward; our entire team is passionate about what we’re doing, and we’re in it for the long term. To help keep me on track to make continuous progress toward achieving our goals, I constantly turn to my own trusted field guides for encouragement, insight, and inspiration just when I need it most.
Building your business is a long, hard endurance race.
Don’t try to go it alone. Find and listen to field guides that work for you. Listen to their guidance, and allow them to help pick you up when you’re down and keep you moving forward through your most challenging moments. And most importantly, remember this: No journey is over until the moment you give up.
Capturing the Attention of Millennials: Be Relevant and Digital
I know Gen Y are stereotyped as being transient, digital natives who are impossible to capture, but that is just the world we live in today. Technology has caused a proliferation of advancements and the financial services industry is (or should be) feeling the pressure. We have seen the rise of the robos, fee compression, virtual advisors, and various regulatory changes, all culminating to challenge financial advisors to find ways to cut through the noise to demonstrate their value.
Developing an effective marketing and lead generation process that’s tailored to millennials is vital for two key reasons:
- It’s the only way you’re ever going to capture their attention
- It’s the only way your business can remain profitable serving this demographic
Let’s be honest; there is a bit of an over-hype and obsession with millennials right now (don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously a fan). Nearly every business is starting to ask itself, “How do we capture this next generation?” And they’re spending tons of time and resources devoted to this one demographic. So think about all the different emails, social media and digital advertising you’re competing with, even beyond just the financial services industry. Whatever you put out there will have to be niche to their needs in order to capture their attention – and will have to feel authentic if you want to build enough trust to get them to engage.
As you begin to assess your ability (or desire) to serve younger investors, the question about profitability will inevitably come up. The traditional marketing advisors do today for their HNW investors is just not an effective or profitable way to target millennials. No COIs, business networking, client events, newsletters – that takes up way too much of your time. Instead, you should take a more scalable approach using digital marketing and messaging that actually resonates with your intended target market. Serving millennials should not be a loss leader; that’s exactly why segmenting and tailoring your marketing will be vital with this demographic.
Bringing it back to our friends Marg, Chip and Drew
In order to assess what type of marketing will effectively capture the attention of our three millennial personas, we need to answer these questions:
- What are their aspirations?
- What are their problems?
- When is the best time (in their lives) to capture their attention?
Marg seems to be more reactive and short-sighted, only seeking advice when there’s a triggering event causing her stress. Chip and Drew tend to have relatively similar characteristics, which you’ll notice quite a bit throughout our research. Aside from income, assets and debt levels, Chip and Drew tend to have the same needs and preferences. This means that you can take a relatively similar marketing approach in terms of messaging, but you’ll need a slightly different approach for each party later on, when we get into fees and service models.
Chip and Drew tend to be a little more financially mature than Marg; they look at longer-term goals and aspirations. The only exception would be that, when it comes to how these three define financial success, they all answered, “Having enough savings to retire when I want” as their top choice.
With the goal of tailoring your marketing messaging and approach to effectively engage these different segments, here are our recommended approaches.
Marketing to Marg
Topical blog posts and social media are the way to go. Even though Marg might not be ready for or in need of your professional advice quite yet, you can still find scalable, automated ways to prospect her (with the long-term goal of eventually capturing her once she becomes more like Chip and Drew). The key is to identify those triggers that cause Marg to seek help and find a way to insert yourself into the picture through digital marketing.
Writing a blog with topical posts that address key questions or issues that Marg might Google or research in her time of need is a great starting point. Think of blog titles like: A 5-Step Guide to Building a Budget, What to Do When You Have Credit Card Debt, and How to Improve Your Credit Score. Even though blogging might feel like it takes a lot of initial effort putting together the content, once it’s written, it can be leveraged in so many ways that you can actually realize a return on that investment of your time.
One blog post can be broken down into 10-20 different social media posts, posted on many different social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), and can be used for months after the blog goes live. And, over time, that content will accumulate and improve your website’s visibility in search engines (that’s search engine optimization) to increase visitors and visits from people like Marg.
Marketing to Chip and Drew
Build a targeted marketing campaign focused on life event planning. Retirement is still a very important issue when it comes to emerging wealth prospects like Chip and Drew. Not only do they define financial success as the ability to retire when they want, they also cite retirement planning as the top financial issue they want more help with. However, big life events are the key trigger for Chip and Drew to take action on their finances. And so the key to capturing these millennials is by striking at the peak of their interest – when these life events happen.
But before you can market messaging and content specifically focused on life events like marriage, first-home purchase, first child, and change of career, you have to first address any potential branding issues. If you’re serious about wanting to engage this group, your brand and website cannot be hyper-focused on traditional financial advisor themes like retirement, investing and wealth management. Expand your current brand or create a separate brand geared to this demographic that focuses on financial planning for life events (which can still include retirement as one key component). Then build topical messaging and content that plays to each life event, like “3 Financial Musts After Having Your First Child.”
If you’re fully committed, you could even take it a step further by implementing marketing that specifically targets millennials going through specific life events. For example, you could pay to promote social media posts or ads that only target millennials between the ages of 28-30, the average age most millennials are getting married . Maybe you purchase ads on blogs or other websites like The Knot for newlyweds or The Bump for new parents. You could also identify social influencers who blog or speak about life events and other topics affecting your target market and look for cross-promotional opportunities. The more targeted your marketing and content, the more likely you are to cut through the noise and capture millennial attention.
This brings me to a key point
Marg, Chip and Drew are not niches; they are merely personas representing 3 key segments within the millennial cohort. However, niche marketing is a very powerful tool that should not be overlooked when discussing effective ways to market to Gen Y. The more niche your content and targeted your advertising approach, the more effective your marketing will become in grabbing their attention. Case in point: A 33-year-old dentist is much more likely to click on something titled “Dos and Don’ts of Tackling Debt from Dentistry School” than a generic title like “Dos and Don’ts of Tackling Student Loans.” You want millennials to feel your content to is talking specifically to them – and that you’re a resource who understands the needs and issues of people just like them.
To those advisors who still aren’t really interested in serving millennials, but are using this series as an opportunity to review industry trends – this niche thing is not just for millennials; it can be an effective marketing tactic to use with all generations of all ages. There are so many changes going on right now in financial services that can confusion among investors and muddle your value proposition as a financial advisor. Recent technical innovation has caused a proliferation of many different business models in our industry. You’ve always competed with DIY platforms, but now (whether you like it or not), you’re being compared to robo and virtual advisors who likely spend a lot more on digital marketing and targeting than your traditional advisor. That’s why niche marketing can play a key role in helping you to cut through this noise and grab the attention of potential prospects (no matter what age they might be).
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