So You Want to Be a Star? Here's What It Takes

Have you ever pictured your name on the cover of a book—or your podcast at the top of the iTunes charts? If so, this is for you.

Years ago, it felt like pulling teeth just to get advisors to write a simple personal finance article in the local newspaper. But that was before Youtube, iTunes and Kindle Direct Publishing gave everybody a shot at stardom. Today, advisors see The Reformed Broker Josh Brown everywhere—on blogs, in top tier publications, speaking at events, on broadcast television—and acknowledge what his notoriety has done for his career. They think, “I can do that, too.”

Maybe you can. But should you?

Don’t get me wrong. I love to see advisors sharing their expertise. The American investor could certainly benefit from it. I’m also a huge fan of advisors taking their public presence more seriously.

But for many advisors, I question the real value of becoming an author or podcaster. Writing a book or recording a podcast requires a big investment of time and money. Remember:

  • Just getting to launch day is a major effort . It’s not just filling up pages with your thoughts. If you go the traditional publishing route, plan for rounds and rounds of inquiries, rejections and revisions. If you self-publish, you will need to hire your own editors, cover designers, and formatters. Do you even know how to use voice-recording equipment? Are you familiar with Audacity or GarageBand?
  • The work doesn’t end there. After you create your opus, you have to market it. We’ve managed book launches for numerous advisors. In my opinion, juggling the press releases, contacts and engagements is too much for an advisor to handle alone. Plus, you’ll also need to build an online platform—at minimum a dedicated microsite created just for your book. If you go into the podcast world, the marketing never stops. Each new episode requires a new Tweet, a new post, and new downloads.
  • It’s very hard to get noticed. A new book appears on Amazon every five minutes. The number of podcasts on iTunes now exceeds a quarter of a million—and they average just 4 subscribers each! How will your audience find you? To stand out, you need something unique to say. Sometimes, you can succeed by being the only advisor to occupy a particular market space—such as running the only family planning office in Albany. It’s still a very tough climb.
  • Here’s a question: If you’re going to put all this time and money into marketing your book or podcast, why not just cut to the chase and invest the same effort in marketing your business? Isn’t that the whole point anyway?

    I’m not trying to scare you off, though I realize my rationality and honesty may make you hold your breath sometimes. I just want you to pause and think about why you want to do a book or a podcast. Don’t do it because an agency told you they could make you an instant celebrity.

    Are you trying to increase your credibility with your clients? There are cheaper, easier ways to do it. Are you trying to reach a larger mass-affluent market? Are you trying to monetize your content? Those are reasonable goals. But to pursue them, you’re going to have to build a whole new business separate from your existing practice: you can’t just bolt a publishing empire onto your existing advisor business model. I doubt industry influencer and prolific content creator Michael Kitces is worrying about drafting client financial plans in between writing his blog posts and recording his podcast . His content business is his business. Either step back from your advisory duties and dedicate yourself to your content, or hire a senior marketing person to do it for you.

    I don’t want to discourage you from reaching for the stars. I just want to make sure you stay grounded in your business plan while you do it.

    If you decide that it still makes sense as part of your well thought out marketing plan, how do you introduce your new book or podcast to the world? Here are 9 marketing tips based on lessons learned from all the book and podcast launches we’ve managed at FiComm.

  • Understand your goal. Your launch strategy will look radically different if you are, say, writing a book as an engagement tool for existing prospects and clients, versus acquiring mass affluent clients to grow a regional business.
  • Define your target. Sharpen your firm’s ideal client profile by adding as much detail and specificity as possible. Your target audience definition will tell you which media contacts are most important, as well as what message you should convey to them.
  • Find your “hook.” Shopworn clichés and vague generalities aren’t enough to attract attention in a massively overcrowded market. Find a specific, catchy topic that plays up your specialized expertise, and stay focused on it.
  • Start early. Plan your launch at least 3-6 months in advance. Everything needs to be ready to go on Day 1, and it really does take at least that much time to build a media list, contact reporters, set up interviews, create supporting marketing materials and more.
  • Follow a two pronged strategy. Combine PR with a detailed content marketing strategy. The two work in harmony together, so you can make the maximum impact on your audience.
  • Use PR to create a massive splash on launch day with earned media. It’s your publisher or book promoter’s job to get you reviews. But you’re the one who needs to create a media list tailored to your subject matter or location. Consider local media, niche trade publications, and the broader business and finance publications and sites. In New York, set up a media tour focused on your specific areas of expertise, using your book to validate your credibility.
  • Use content marketing to target more precisely and to keep your audience engaged. Your work is unlikely ever to rank number 1 on iTunes or sit in a display at the front of Barnes & Noble. But you can draw people in virally by offering small, “snackable” bits of content: tools, worksheets, quizzes, in-depth case studies, top 10 tip sheets—whatever you can think of to help your audience interact with your message. Developing these smaller items can also be great practice if you’ve never written a book or audio script before.
  • Build a platform. Launch a microsite where your fans can download your book, your podcast and all your content through one portal. Through this central hub, you can capture contact information and continue the conversation with your prospects. Promote the URL everywhere, and include a very prominent link or footer on your main firm website.
  • Follow up. Launching a book or podcast isn’t a one-time deal. Follow up on your PR efforts so that your name remains top of mind whenever reporters need an expert viewpoint on your specialized topic. Build relationships with people who sign up on your microsite by continually providing value to them. Stay on top of your social media.
  • Advisors are so talented, and have so much to share with the world. Just make sure you share it in an organized, disciplined way, so your expertise can benefit your business as much as it benefits investors.