6 tips for writing great financial advice articles for your clients

It’s great to see the amount of top quality content being produced by so many Financial Brokers in Ireland today! These Brokers have really grabbed the opportunity of staying front and centre in the minds of their clients and prospects, by sharing valuable, useful content on a consistent basis.

For some this is a relatively straightforward task. For others, it fills them with dread! They get cold sweats at the thought of producing a regular stream of content to share out.

Yes, this is a task that you can always outsource (I’ll always be happy to have that conversation!), but it is also one that you can do yourself if you are willing to invest the time. So here are some thoughts to help you with the challenge.


Be Organised & Committed

We’ve all faced that looming deadline to produce an article we’d promised for a newsletter or as an update on the website. It’s tough when you’ve no idea what you’re going to write about! This is the single biggest challenge faced by everyone tasked with writing content.

To avoid this, set up a “Content Calendar” for the full year. Get all the potential contributors into a room for an hour or so and brainstorm loads of article topics. As potential subject areas come to mind, drop them into the calendar with a few bullet points of what the article might cover.

What will this achieve? First of all, it gets you started each month – you know what you’re going to be writing about. Secondly and as important, as new ideas come along over the year, they get inserted ahead of other articles that mightn’t be as strong. So now you’re driving up the quality of your topics. You’ll actually find after a while that you’ve too much content and now can actually start being selective about what you write. Hard to believe but it happens, every time you have a Content Calendar. Now you’ve just got to commit to actually writing the articles each month.


Be Relevant

Stand in the shoes of your audience – they are far more likely to engage with your content if it is relevant to them. So as you develop out your content topics, spend time thinking about them from your audience’s perspective. What are their pain points?

They want to know about topics that will impact their lives, so develop your content with them in mind. Of course you need to know who your audience is before you can do this. Are they business owners, professionals or are you focused on personal protection etc. for families? If you have very diverse audiences, you might need to target specific content at specific people. All pretty straightforward to do with the wonders of modern technology!


Be an Educator

Your audience will quickly switch off if you simply push sales messages at them. At the end of the day, they will see your content as simply an ongoing sales campaign and will disengage.  Add value by writing about financial issues or challenges that affect them in their lives, in which you can exhibit your expertise. Aim to be seen as an expert, an educator, someone with valuable insights that will help your clients.

You see the world of marketing has changed. Rather than trying to constantly interrupt people with sales messages, successful advice businesses are establishing themselves as thought leaders, as educators and as experts. So then when potential clients at their own time of choosing have a financial need, they will naturally gravitate towards these advice firms that they already see as valuable.


Be Alert

Great topics to write about will emerge from a range of sources. Presentations you attend, conversations you have, comments from other clients. Once your antenna is up, you’ll start to identify nuggets from what other people say – their challenges, their areas of interest, the issues they want to read about. So write about these!

Also when reading a newspaper or surfing the web, you’ll come across loads of topics of potential interest to your audience. Put your own spin on these topics and write about them too.


Be Brief

Be expert but also be brief. The purpose of your content is to engage your audience, not to demonstrate that you know every intimate detail of a topic. Typically an article of 750 to 1,000 words can be read (and written!) quickly and will perform well in search results. If you only have 500 (good) words though, go with that – don’t pad it out to get to 750 words.

Make your content easy to read too. Use headings and/or bullet points to make it easier for the reader. If the topic is just not capable of being explained in anything close to 1,000 words, break it out into a series of articles. And now the challenge next month has just got easier…


Be Found

What has this got to do with Content? Well, one of the key drivers of strong performance in Google search results is original, good quality content. While this might not have been a driver behind your efforts to produce a regular stream of good content, it’s a very valuable bonus!

At the end of the day, I reckon the initial thought of producing a lot of content is far more daunting than the reality! I hope these thoughts help you with your challenge.

Trail or Retainers – which is right for you?

Last month’s issue contained an article titled “Is Trail the right Financial Model for you?” which drew a lot of feedback! After all, this is naturally an area that is close to the hearts of a lot of financial advisers today.

So it has prompted this article, which compares two methods of payment of ongoing adviser remuneration – trail commission and retainers. Of course there are others – time based fees, renewal commission etc.. But retainers and trail are two methods being used by many advisers to link their ongoing remuneration back to their proposition. So which one makes most sense for you?


The case for trail

Trail commission is far and away the most popular method of ongoing fee collection today. First of all it’s relatively easily explained. Clients understand it. Then of course trail is very easily collected. Clients don’t have to write another cheque, which is always a potential hurdle. And clients also see a level of alignment of interest too – if the portfolio sees strong growth, both the client and the adviser win. And finally there is no VAT payable on trail commission, this will apply to retainers and fees if the turnover threshold for VAT of €37,500 is exceeded. This is good news for personal clients.

And for the adviser,  trail makes a lot of sense. It’s the most used factor in advice firm value calculations and trail tends to naturally increase each year in line with portfolio growth and as new contributions are paid into investments and pension policies. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t tend to dominate review meeting conversations, as let’s be honest, it tends to slip under the radar a bit with many clients.

But trail is not perfect, as set out in the previous article…


The case for retainers

Many advisers today are trying to clearly link their remuneration to the advice that they are giving, rather than the products that they are selling. Retainers make a much cleaner break between advice and products. After all, trail commission levels are ultimately driven by fund values, retainers are not. So an adviser can be absolutely explicit about retainer levels and not have to link it at all back to the investments being managed.

And then regular retainers also address one of the biggest challenges associated with fees – getting clients to write a “big” fee cheque each year. As Ian Mitchell of Eighty20Focus commented after last month’s article, “One thing I would recommend though is charging quarterly fees – a) they’re smaller and feel less onerous to pay b) they’re much more regular and the payment habit is quickly embedded and c) it offers a real opportunity for more regular contact and contributes to building the relationship.” Of course, some advisers are moving towards monthly retainers to really embed a payment habit.

There is probably no doubt that selling a retainer is much harder than introducing trail at the outset of the relationship. But once value is delivered by the adviser, the retainer makes an awful lot of sense to clients, as the payment is linked directly to that value, rather than the products.

Ian also raised the point about trail potentially becoming a race to the bottom too. There will always be another adviser who will promise your clients all that you do, but for less. This will particularly apply when client funds become quite sizeable. And of course trail commission levels will potentially really come under the microscope when robo-adviser propositions land on our shores, as will inevitably happen. Advisers had better be ready to face price challenges with tech savvy clients, who will view these robo-advisers as offering comparable services for a fraction of the cost.

Retainers also address a lot of the issues that apply to trail (see previous article). They remove the potential conflicts of interest associated with trail and cross-subsidisation by high asset clients of lower asset value clients. And what if the investible assets are low? Retainers may be the viable solution to ensure you are fairly paid for the services you provide. And finally retainers are also very transparent, which makes them extremely regulator-friendly!


So there are lots of options available. Trail is not perfect, but is easily explained and operated by you. Retainers are more transparent, but pose a greater challenge in terms of justification and actually getting paid. It’s great to see advisers today looking at both and even road-testing them. They merit a lot of thought and consideration by you – after all getting this piece right will be a major determinant in the future value of your business.