Michael Kitces, has been sharing his industry wisdom with the consultant community for over a decade now. The self-proclaimed nerd covers everything to do with financial planning, from going down the hole of tax law, esoteric trust scenarios, return risk streak, behavioral finance and everything in between.
But the lessons to be learned from the management strategies and practices used by Kitces to run his own business may be lost in this mix. They are, I would say, applicable to businesses of all flavors and they have certainly been helpful in my AIR consulting practice.
So, in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, here are six lessons from Kitces that I have applied to my own business. I encourage you to consider doing the same.
1. Perfection is not synonymous with persuasion. Although he has since adjusted the frequency and distribution, Kitces’ weekly âOffice Hoursâ segments were once a mainstay of his blog. They consist of 15 minute videos of Kitces giving his point of view on a topic. Those who have seen them know that they are not filmed professionally with fancy graphics and transitions. Indeed, the quality of the production is basic, bordering on the amateur.
However, what they do effectively is portray Michael in a very authentic light. None of us live in a perfect wardrobe, with perfect hair, in perfect lighting, and with a perfect camera in front of us. I’m much more drawn to someone who appears as Kitces than someone who appears out of their natural state through a sophisticated video production process.
With my videos similar (and similarly contested in production), viewers have met me in person or via a Zoom, and countless times have told me how I look and sound the way I do. do in my videos. Yeah, exactly!
2. Content marketing works. Kitces has built his business primarily using content or inbound marketing. The idea is to create and distribute informative content that, for the most part, is devoid of any selling point. It might seem counterintuitive, but if you put out high-quality content that demonstrates your expertise, people will be drawn to it, and by extension, drawn to you. No sales pitch needed.
Content marketing is a long game, however. You won’t see results overnight. But it’s an evergreen strategy where, if done right, months or even years after creating a piece of content, it will still attract customers.
3. Long content marketing works. A Kitces blog post is long, often thousands of words. This compares to typical articles in industry publications, which are typically 750 to 1000 words long. Who’s ready to sit down and read a blog post that is maybe over 4,000 words? As Kitces noted, most people won’t. But those who want to learn more about a specific topic will digest every word of it – and once they do, chances are they’ll see it as the subject matter expert.
Kitces typically posts a detailed (as he would say, cheesy) analysis of a wobbly financial planning topic once a week. When someone searches for that specific topic on Google, can we guess if their long articles have a good chance of appearing at the top of the search results? There is a reason Kitces spend the time to write them down as he does.
4. Give (almost) everything for free. This is another counterintuitive point. Kitces has proclaimed that his business model is based on maybe giving 99% of what he does for free. The strategy is to give a lot of content to attract potential customers to you in the first place. Do-it-yourselfers who find your content and use it will never hire you anyway. People willing to hire someone like you need to know you exist before they have a chance to onboard them as a client.
Use free content to attract potential customers, demonstrate your expertise, and show them why you are the best person to help them solve their problems.
It doesn’t matter how good a hitter you are if you never get the chance to step in.
5. Differentiate yourself from the competition. Anyone who follows Kitces knows he is a strong believer in creating a differentiated brand for your practice. In one of my favorite “Office Hours” videos he said of stand in front of a prospect room alongside two other advisers from other firms. All three had the same time to speak.
The first counselor basically said he could help everyone in the room. The second echoed this, but explained how his company’s investment philosophy differs from the first. So Kitces then stood up and said, actually, âWe’re working with this specific group of people who are a few years away from retirement. Here are the specific issues we are helping them with. If these are the kind of issues you have, we would love to talk to you.
As Kitces explained later, he knew his message would only resonate with a small minority of people in the room. But after the session was over, he said, no one approached the other two advisers, as a few prospects, with the exact needs Kitces had described, followed.
The moral of the story: it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.
6. Try something new. When Kitces first launched his podcast I remember (naively) thinking it was too late to play. When it debuted in 2017, there was already no shortage of podcasts focused on financial advisers. Plus, he seemed to do very well with his blog posts, videos, lectures, etc. Why try to add another podcast to an already crowded domain?
Kitces has since produced over 200 episodes and shows no signs of slowing down. This demonstrates that while things seem to be going well in your practice, you should always be looking to reinvent yourself and find ways to expand your reach and adapt to a changing market.
Brad Wales is the founder of Transition To RIA, a consulting firm that aims to help established financial advisors move their practice to the RIA model. He uses his nearly 20 years of industry experience, including direct RIA-related roles in compliance, finance and business development, to provide independent advice on how advisors can benefit from the advantages of the RIA model.