Ep. 200: Finding the Whitespace in Advisor Marketing Strategy, with April Rudin

Come on in and sit back relax, you’re listening to Episode 200 of the WealthTech Today podcast. I’m your host, Craig Iskowitz, founder of Ezra Group Consulting and this podcast features interviews, news and analysis on the trends and best practices all around Wealth Management Technology.

That’s right. It’s our 200th episode. Feels like only yesterday, we started this podcast back in 2019. It’s been a blast talking to people all across the wealth management industry. If this is your first time listening, welcome.

For those of you who have been regular listeners, thank you very much for bringing us to this momentous occasion. Here are a few stats from our podcast going into our fourth year. So far we’ve seen over 82,000 downloads of the podcast, and 80% of those listens are impactful plays, which is a measurement of how long people are listening, which means they’ve listened through at least 75% or three quarters of the episode. So thank you for listening all the way through.

WealthTech Today has global listenership. The top country is the US that’s where we get most of our listens. However, it’s closely followed by United Kingdom, Canada, India, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Germany, France, and even Singapore. Thanks for everyone all around the world who are listening to WealthTech Today.

We regularly chart in the top 100 in the US for FinTech news, which is tough to do considering how many hundreds or even thousands of podcasts are in the FinTech news space. Now we also have episodes that chart in the top 50 and even the top 10 in some global markets. We’d love to hear from our listeners, so please send me a tweet on the X app formerly known as Twitter @CraigIskowitz about an episode that you happen to like.

Speaking of episodes, you’re going to love this one. My guest for this momentous 200th episode is drum roll … the one and only April Rudin. April was a first choice to help us mark this milestone, and I was excited that she could fit us into her busy schedule. Quick overview of April in case you are not aware of her accomplishments. She is the founder and president of the Rudin Group, and is widely acknowledged as a top marketing strategist in wealth management sector.

April is distinguished by her ability to forecast and leverage critical trends and her expertise in digital and traditional media. She leads the Rudin Group which is now in its 15th year that designs bespoke marketing campaigns for some of the world’s leading wealth management firms, fintechs, family offices, building campaigns that strengthen brand value and drive client acquisition.

April was recently named to the Top 10 Wealth Management, Marketing and Communication Agencies by Wealth Solutions Report. She is also recognized by Onalytica as number one social media influencer in wealth management (read her interview with Onalytica here). April is a prolific writer and articles appear regularly in the biggest media outlets including Forbes, Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, and others. April has been a guest on our podcast two previous times, Episode 26 and Episode 90. So if you have some time, please go back and give them a listen.

But before we get started, if you are an executive at a broker-dealer, enterprise RIA, family office or a TAMPs, your tech debt is holding you back. Your old software platforms are rusty and falling apart and they need either a complete overhaul or to be replaced entirely. Your disparate systems don’t communicate with each other and it’s driving your operations staff and advisors crazy with manual processes and other errors.

If this describes your company, you should run, not walk to our website, EzraGroup.com and fill out the Contact Us form on the home page. Our experienced team can evaluate your technology ecosystem, deliver targeted recommendations, optimize your existing systems and operations, or run an RFP or RFI to help you implement new software to help take your firm to the next level. Please subscribe to this show wherever you listen so you don’t miss an episode. Now let’s kick this thing off!

Topics Mentioned

  • The Attention Economy
  • Data-Driven Marketing, Using Analytics for Success
  • Crafting Engaging Headlines and Avoiding Clickbait
  • Standing Out in a Crowded Market

Episode Transcript

Craig: So the attention economy April, what does that mean to you?

The Attention Economy

April: I think it’s no secret as a result of the pandemic as a result of social media channels as a result of so much news and the availability of opinions all over the place, that there’s a lot of information for people to consume. The attention economy is about how to create content and how to create the right amount and the right kind of content and just in time content so that it helps the reader rather than just simply producing content for content sake. You’re competing everyone, I don’t mean you but everyone is competing with so many different outlets and so many different places where people can get information. How do you differentiate yourself? Why should you differentiate yourself? What should you differentiate yourself with in terms of content, to make sure that you’re getting the attention at the right time? And on the right to topics that you want as a content creator or financial advisor, or marketing department?

Craig: Any of those. I know advisors are complaining that it’s becoming more difficult to get clients to read whatever they’re sending them. Besides just regular content, just white papers, investor communications, what is behind this, what’s the cause and how can advisors reverse this trend?

April: I think we need to ask ourselves, why would a client read a white paper?

Craig: Why would they?

April: Why would they? I mean, I think that the whole idea is kind of flawed. I think the idea of financial advisors feeling like they must be content creators, they must write long they must write, have a podcast, they must be content creators, to me is flawed. Now, on balance, they have something to say to their clients, but it’s not the same thing for all clients. It’s not the same length for all of their clients. It’s not the same topic for all of their clients. Again, just in time if it’s not the right time. For example, you might, your advisor might create a white paper on sudden wealth, but if you are not suddenly wealthy, it has no relevance to you.

April: Creating one white paper by a financial advisor by a marketing team within an organization by anyone doesn’t resonate. anymore because it’s competing in the attention economy with all different sources of the same information from varying people. Why would one financial advisors content, the up against you know everything else? That you’re competing against? Should you even spend your time I think is the fundamental question here. Should you spend your time on content creation and if so, what is the reason behind it? Is it for your region? Is it because you’re trying to create sticky relationships with clients? Is it for educational like maybe it’s better to just point them to other sources of educational material that you didn’t spend time creating, but that you have evaluated?

Data-Driven Marketing, Using Analytics for Success

Craig: You mentioned you have to have the right amount of content the right kind of content and at the right time, how can an advisor, wealth management firm, broker dealer that’s putting out content marketing department, figure out the right amount, the right kind, the right time?financial advisor marketing strategy

April: So thank goodness for digital because digital gives us all of the data and analytics that you would ever want to see. You can look at the opens you can see who’s opening it. You can see the number of times you can see how long they’ve spent reading something. There are a ton of analytics that you can look at that will validate or invalidate your desire or your distribution of content to let you know what topics that resonated, what form of content resonated. Should it always be a video should it always be a white paper? Do people read blogs all of these questions go into what I call the vegetable? I think you and I have talked about the vegetable soup. Your marketing strategy is like a vegetable soup. It’s got carrots, it’s got potatoes, it’s got whatever you want thrown in it, and then you taste it to see what else it needs. Each time you do it, it could be different because it might come out differently, but that doesn’t mean it’s turning out poorly. It’s based on what the need is at that particular time.

April: Time of the year is important. So content for Giving Tuesday, let’s say or for tax savings toward the end of the year, it’s all about time and it’s about how people want to consume it. But I think it doesn’t mean that as an advisor, you need to create your own content yourself. There’s plenty of great content on the internet that you can feed to your clients. Every time I see someone saying all advisors must have a blog, or all advisors must have a podcast. I just think to myself, why?

Craig: They shouldn’t?

April: No. Why? You have to spend time creating the content building the audience, that is a real marketing function. That takes away again from your time advising clients on the matters that you should be advising them on.

Craig: What about advisors who want to grow their business and in growth mode, marketing is a key part of that we’ve seen advisors who are small and in the lifestyle business don’t need to market so much. They grow mostly by word of mouth and referrals. But advisory firms that are growing fast or want to get to a billion or more need to spend a lot on marketing. So isn’t that true and then why wouldn’t a podcast or other content be useful?

April: It might be but it’s just again, one piece of the puzzle. I’ve operated my marketing firm for 15 years and serve tons of clients so I’m not advocating against marketing. What I’m saying is that individual RIAs may not have to create their own content and if so, aren’t they just competing with other content from other advisors in market already. So it’s one RIA is creating content on retirement, and another one is creating content on retirement. You’re not going to make a decision on which which one to hire based on the content that they created. That I think is fallacious. Now at the end of the day, everyone’s marketing adds up to something. But I think, given the fact that again, as I mentioned before, in digital, you can run digital ads. There’s so many other ways of reaching more people and having more targeted and focused marketing rather than just creating content for the sake of having a blog or having a podcast. I mean, I would ask you how long it takes a while to grow your audience.

Craig: We’re not advisors, right,, we’re a consulting company to advise our clients RIAs, so we started the blog in 2009 but it took years to take off.

April: Exactly. So do advisors have years to spend growing their blog business or growing a podcast business? How what other marketing tactics can they employ that are more effective, quicker, more targeted than just content creation? So I think that there’s not a, a must have there. That’s not to say that occasionally, they shouldn’t be creating content. So around certain market conditions or business news or things that require an explanation, then it might be that that they should create content, but just creating content, for content sake to throw it into the ether just doesn’t work and seems like a big waste of time.

Financial Advisor Marketing Strategy

Craig: So you mentioned tasting the soup. I’m assuming that’s using your tools or Analytics, Google Analytics or other analytical tools to know to monitor what prospective clients or your clients are clicking on what’s which content is resonating. Should they double down on what resonates or expand into other subjects, what’s your recommendation?financial advisor marketing strategy

April: I think it’s always good to survey or talk to people. I mean, there’s no reason why you can’t as you’re talking to clients, just ask that as a question. Is there some kind of content that you’d like to read? Is there something that you have a question on, and then just anecdotally, advisors can add that to the data and analytics that they’re getting to find out if they’re missing the mark. So again, just because something’s in the news, or they think something’s important to them, it may not be of interest or of interest at that time. Like I said, so many people will say to me, Oh, we did a white paper on retirement and it’s on our website. Well, I don’t think clients are going to be going back to your website, searching through all the content that you’ve created to see if there is content that’s relevant to them at that time. To me, it just doesn’t hold water. Just in time card is also important as your clients are aging as your clients have different situations, going through a divorce in transition. You might think to yourself, I’m not interested in that and then suddenly, you might find yourself interested in the death of a spouse, divorce. All of these things that are lifecycle events may be timely but not of interest to you now or important until they are so urgent.

Craig: When you’re talking about timing, do you recommend targeted content? Should I use my CRM and say this this family is getting divorced, I want to target them with divorce content, or just send out divorce content in the newsletter every so often to see who it hits.

April: I think it’s better to be targeted. Like I said, you’re able to be targeted. But then again, people going through a divorce may not want to read that content, right? So maybe they’re inundated and they would rather spend their time reading about travel content or something like that, that comes from their advisor how to budget for a vacation because they want to take a break from their divorce. I think all of these assumptions in terms of content, calendar, topics and things are fungible. Because we don’t know the real answers to these questions for every individual advisor comes from the data and analytics behind their opens their click rates, and it’s all their Google Analytics, their website, which parts of the website are being looked at, by whom and how long so I think it’s all right there.

Craig: It is all right there. There’s a lot. There’s a lot available. I guess you could also overanalyze because there’s so much data available on what what your everyone is doing who comes to website you can use it to like hot jar and watch them move the mouse around the screen? I don’t think you should be going to that level or just keep it high level.

April: No, just keep it high level. I mean, overall, the two pages that people frequent the most on websites are the homepage obviously so that needs to be super compelling, that needs to have a great emotive image and I don’t mean the conference table that looks like the UN with all people around as a stock photo. Something that’s more emotive inviting and using represents yourself and it’s unique like Ezra Group purple. Then the next page that gets the most traffic generally, is the About Us page. So spending time on the About Us is also content that converts so the About Us is taking your skills, your experience and your knowledge and tying into the work that you do so that people understand that so just saying for example, some of your qualifications or your designations may not be enough because individual prospects may not know what a CFP is versus the CFA, for example. Tying your skills and experience and that content on your About Us page is critical to communicate to prospective investors have what you’ve done fast to them.

April: Let me add one more thing to that, which is that you’re not going to appeal to every person and I think that’s important for everyone to understand in marketing. When I first started my business and I told people I was going to be in wealth management marketing, that sounded so narrow to most people, they just couldn’t even fathom it. Without thinking that the more narrow the slice, the better you are, and the more you’re going to be known as best in class and that narrow slice. My hairdresser asked me asking can I do her website for her salon, the answer is yes. Wouldn’t it be fun that we bring you there and give you an afro and a goatee and do whatever we were going to do except it’s just not in my wheelhouse. So it’s better to stick to your knitting and think of who your target clients are and the best fit and just be very narrow without thinking that your message your language and everything needs to hit everybody that’s coming to your site.

Craig: Speaking of being successful in a niche, congratulations, Wealth Solutions report just named you in the Top 10 Wealth Management, Marketing and Communication agencies.

April: Thank you. It’s kind of exciting because this is our 15th year in business and I just read a statistic that 96% of businesses fail before tenure. So happy to be in the 4% of that.

Craig: Congratulations. Join the club.

April: I’m thrilled. I sort of had no idea, I mean I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur. I knew I was going to start a business but when you start it you don’t know exactly where you’re going with it. We’ve morphed over the years. We’re in the middle right now of our own brand relaunch, which will be coming in September. So excited about that. And by the way, just another tip for people so even though we are a marketing firm, and we could certainly do our own marketing, we hired an outside firm to help us do that because they’re going to take a better view, and have new ideas and new information for us and see us in a different way. Again, important not to be a DIY shop, but professional advice and professional services are just that they’re worth it.

Craig: I would agree as a consultant. I agree wholeheartedly. Alright, so whether you’re doing marketing, are you doing your tech stack, bring someone in who is an expert, and we hear this all the time, Well, we can do this deployment of CRM, you know, I’ve got my staff they’ve been using the CRM for 10 years. Why can’t they do it? Well, because they’ve never deployed a new CRM. This is the first one they’ve done with the last one they did was 10 years ago, where we do a bunch of every year so we’re experts, and we’re going to do it quicker, faster and better for you. So say with marketing, you are looking at thousands of firms and hundreds of firms are working with them, you know much better than their internal staff what’s going to work and what’s not going to work.

April: I think yeah, we could pause that for a minute to just the benefit of outside advice, I think is huge. People will inside an organization and both of us both of our in both of our areas of expertise we work with inside people so it’s always you know, important to work with great inside people too, but respectfully, it’s sometimes insular to be inside an organization you only know what you know. In financial services, many times people have been in the same job as you mentioned for a long time.

And so no matter how many conferences they attend, or whatever they’re doing, they cannot possibly be as nimble and up to speed and have ideas that actually drive growth and drive business as people who are doing that one thing every single day. Sometimes I tell people, it’s sort of like when you have a flat tire and you have a mental breakdown because a flat tire, maybe you don’t, but I do I have to call AAA to come and save me and then some guy comes in some little car and you know five minutes changes my tire, because that’s what he does every day so it’s easy for him you know what to do. And so that’s how outside services work.

Craig: I got flat panel TV installed, right I’ve got a technical person I’m hands on, I could do it. But it will take me a lot longer than people who come in and it’s all they do is install flat panel TVs and they had it set up in under an hour and I didn’t have to do anything. In some cases you have to know when it’s worth it to outsource, we tell our clients is it part of your value add? Is a reason why clients hire you because of your CRM, right? No, they don’t know what your CRM is and they don’t care. So why are you building one?

Why are you building a proposal generation tool? Your clients don’t care whether it’s from you or from one of the vendors out there. They just want to see what you’re proposing for them what their current versus proposed target portfolio is they don’t care what software develop that. So understanding where those particular areas of value are, if you want to spend money on customization and making it unique, do it with the areas where the client has direct access.

April: Exactly. I mean, there’s no coming to market quicker and getting things in order in your tech stack and similarly in your marketing and what makes a difference is the measurement right the clients that you onboard, not the number or amount of time that it takes you to deploy your own CRM or create your own marketing campaigns. For example, I mean, the people that we have and we use as a Rudin Group are all very experienced financial services marketers, so we always joke and say, we don’t have the Ashley’s and we don’t have the Aiden’s, you don’t hire us and then you get junior people who are coming in to do your job. We are thought partners, I know your firm is like that as well. We are partners, with our clients. We sit side by side with them and help them to create and deploy and refine marketing programs.

Craig: We’re the same way we work with RIA broker dealer clients as partners. Everyone we work with has 20 or 30 years minimum experience in the industry either hands on as a COO/CTO or operator or working for vendors in different spaces just in wealth and asset management. And that pays off. Because when a big five consulting firm comes in and brings them army of MBAs, newly minted MBAs, they’re our best lead gen because we get calls from firms like XYZ or I mentioned the name just came in charged us X million dollars and dropped the deck and we don’t know what to do with it. That’s where we come in because we know what to do, we can actually execute whereas these other firms can’t because they don’t have the experience in the industry.

April: 100%, and then there’s that business model with the junior people too. Many different agencies will have senior people and then have junior people as the account exec and that person doesn’t know the difference between an IRA or an RIA and so they’re not adding any value. We have a team of many different people again, just like yours that can be put together that move clients forward in their marketing plan, instead of executing something for something say.

Crafting Engaging Headlines and Avoiding Clickbait

Craig: Indeed, okay, so we’re getting close to the end of our time here. I want to hit a couple more topics while repackaging so I know you recommend using attention grabbing headlines, what’s the best way to create these and avoid seeing being seen as clickbait?financial advisor digital marketing

April: I think the best attention getting headlines are things that an ask a question or tell a story, right? So they’re going to be the things like “four ways to afford things you need to understand before you apply for Social Security”, as an example, even though it’s pretty basic, but that way people know exactly what they’re clicking on. They know exactly what it is in the article. It’s not something cute and fancy, like, “what the show succession can teach you about succession planning”, that’s an example of, you know, clickbait that probably has no value in the article because it’s just clicking on something that’s timely or in the news, but may not be relevant.

So it doesn’t give you any indication of what in the article so that’s a perfect example of you know, the attention economy or fighting for people’s attention if you want them to read one particular article, just use plain English, tell them within the article, even a plain English name.

Craig: Are there tools that you recommend that can make headline creation easier?

April: I think that’s where people get hung up and thinking that there’s, you know, some headlines do better than other headlines for sure and more people click on them. But the question is in terms of the analytics and the metrics, does it matter how many people click on it? Or is there something that you want people to do after they click on that to add value, right, so we often counsel our clients to begin with the end in mind so when you’re creating content or putting together an article, focusing to think about what is the purpose or whatever we want people to do after this.

Craig: Let’s say you’re going to create, the four savings as I was mentioning before, and you’re going to follow it up with you know, an in person meeting, let’s say so, maybe at the end of your articles gonna say write down the questions or schedule a schedule a meeting with us to discuss your own individual situation. Just sort of a primer that is bringing people down the marketing funnel, and so some of the metrics are, you know, are more vanity metrics. How many clicks did you get another and by whom?

LinkedIn, I would say is a good example of that. We get a lot of clients and people will get excited if they have a lot of likes on a post. But the truth is, whoever the likes from if they’re all likes from within your organization, it’s not moving your needle, if their likes from your friends. I mean, I love it when you like something right? But since you’re not hiring me, we’re not doing business together. How important is that? I think it’s important to consider people look at the quality but quantity, but it’s the quality that you need to look at on balance.

Craig: Somebody was just saying to me the other day about some of the Forbes blogs that I do, and he said to me, I take each and every one and I send it out to my list of people. Those are not clicks that we wouldn’t necessarily see but that content is still being widely spread out, and it’s going to more relevant people than I might see.

Craig: So if I can summarize that conversion rate is more important than views and clicks. Absolutely. What are you getting out of how many meetings are you getting? Or whatever? Or how many downloads are you getting? Whatever your goal is more important than views and clicks?

April: Exactly. Those are you know what are called vanity metrics. In other words, they just make you feel good, but you know, if you want to make sure your mom your husband, your wife, that’s great, but otherwise.

Standing Out in a Crowded Market

Craig: Something you mentioned when we first started talking, differentiating yourself, should you look at your competitors and what they’re doing in marketing and copying. And if you do, how do you differentiate or should you do something completely different? How do you set yourself apart? There’s so many advisory firms are yeas are all over the place is 15,000. A stat from the SEC, in 2012, there were 10,500 RIAs, 2022 there were 15,500. So it’s almost a 45% increase is way more RIAs now. How do you differentiate?

April: I think great question. I mean, the services that you provide might be very, very similar. So the idea is to differentiate in your communications, so that when people are looking at your firm versus another firm, they understand the differences. So I am and we recommend to our clients that they begin with a competitive analysis. And many times it’s it can be on capabilities, but in our work more often it’s on communication. So it’s in finding the whitespace and how do you communicate and what you communicate that others may not be communicating? That’s the key to great communication, that breakthrough. It’s seeing somebody or doing something in a way that others haven’t done it.

April: All advisors should use video marketing that everybody has a video on their homepage. That’s not good. So and nobody’s gonna make a decision because your video was better than somebody else’s video. However, what they will pay attention to is how they felt about it. So many times we also tell people on balance that it’s the whitespace it’s a communications message which ensure messaging that should be differentiated, but it’s also a motive because we know that people like to do business with people that I like or feel comfortable with. So it’s just how you come across perhaps that makes people want to do business with you, as opposed to someone else, given that everything else might be equal.

Craig: Your recommendation is think about how your content is going to make your prospective clients feel.

April: How it makes them feel and how you communicate that so we call that like the whitespace, how do you occupy or locate the white space from your website, your marketing your content as opposed to whomever you feel your current your competitors might be and that could be worth broker dealers wirehouse other RIAs, it can be so many different people. Taking a look at people or firms that you think I should say, are your competitors and looking and listening and thinking about what they’re communicating and how you might find more whitespace and find ways of communicating what you do in a better and different way. That’s how they’re doing.

Craig: So you see whitespace you in the space that isn’t being communicated that you can fill.

April: Exactly, exactly. There’s no sense in doing the same website with the same tabs. How we were what we do you know, that that isn’t driving anything. So even thinking about what the tabs, you know, even something as seemingly minut is what the tabs might be. Or your images, the pictures that you use. You know, it used to be pre pandemics and everybody had to have a suit and tie let’s say in their photo, but more and more people today are not wearing a suit and tie and a jacket for a woman. So how do you come across as as being somebody that you want to work with or talk to every day because people want to do business with people they like.

Craig: I think I have cut the title for this podcast. How advisors can find the whitespace in their marketing strategy with April Rudin.

April: I love it.

Craig: Done. And we’re out of time April where can people find you?

April: They can find us at www.TheRudinGroup.com or LinkedIn, X, formerly Twitter, Threads we’re everywhere. Instagram, TikTok, which we didn’t get a chance to talk about which I want to talk to you on our next podcast.

Craig: Nest podcast, this is your third appearance. Congratulations, almost every other year 2019, 2021, 2023 So we’ll see you guys in 2025.

April: Okay, can’t wait.

Craig: Thanks, April.



The Wealth Tech Today blog is published by Craig Iskowitz, founder and CEO of Ezra Group, a boutique consulting firm that caters to banks, broker-dealers, RIA’s, asset managers and the leading vendors in the surrounding #fintech space. He can be reached at craig@ezragroupllc.com