We’re continuing on with our showcases, and we got to speak with Curtis Sheldon, CFP®, EA, AIF® at C.L. Sheldon & Company for our “Financial Advisor Website Showcase” series blog. We did a showcase blog with him in 2018 and wanted to see how his website traffic and his marketing strategies had changed in the last two years. So, read on to find out more about what went into their design process, their marketing strategy and a lot more!
1. The financial industry is constantly evolving and as we spend even more time online, marketing strategies are changing, as well. Since launching your website in 2018, can you talk to us about how your marketing strategies have evolved and discuss three of the biggest changes you’ve implemented that have made an impact on your business?
I’ve always done my networking online rather than attending events. I started out before Twenty Over Ten in WordPress with a blog, so that was my very first website, so you could say that I have been online for quite a while.
- From a strategic level, I don’t know if it’s changed that much, but we’ve worked on going deeper. I would say that a strategy change is that we commit even more to online marketing.
- We started a podcast that we did for a while and I’m going to start that back up again in the near future.
- We added short 2-minute video clips covering things that are for our specific niche, such as transition tax topics, the transition from military to civilian and we did another series on executive acronyms since military officers don’t grow up in the business world, they don’t know the acronyms. We strive to provide relevant content to potential clients and the niche at large, but we’ve added other tactics, such as video and podcasts
2. We always encourage advisors to blog regularly as it is a crucial part of any successful SEO strategy, and we noticed that you have consistently kept up with your blogging from the beginning. Well done! In fact, HubSpot found that marketers who prioritize marketing efforts are 13x more likely to see positive ROI. Since launching your website:
What have been the highest performing blog posts on your website?
I have three or four blogs that are consistently on the top that are very military-focused. One is about contributing to an employee for a savings plan, the employer-sponsored plan for military and federal government and another is about deploying to combat, which is a very “nichey” problem that people in the military have.
Another blog that performs well has to do with how much taxes change for retired military officers once they change their careers.
The last one is if I get a chance has to do with survivor’s benefits to the military pension. I check it every other week or so and those seem to be consistently the highest. However, my highest performing page is the home page.
What type of content have you noticed performs consistently well?
We have a series of three blogs on a very specific tax that releases to Strickland Decisions that are consistently in the top seven highest performing blogs.
Can you elaborate more on the engagement you see your audience has with your blog content?
I own the web when it comes to Strickland Decision, as I am number two or three for that search, while the Government is highest on that topic.
How do you keep up with regular content creation for your blog? Are there certain tools you rely on or leverage?
One of the last blog posts that I wrote was a question that a client had asked me, and that became a blog post. My sources can vary, so it might be what my clients are asking, or I also get information from Investopedia, where I look through the questions here for ideas. Another way that I find relevant topics is that any time Congress changes tax law, then I can get one or two blog posts out of that, as well.
The other source that I use is Content Assist, so I try to write on Tuesdays and on Thursdays, I do a post from Content Assist, which I then modify and add in keywords that pertain to the military.
3. No matter what industry you are in, the effects of COVID-19 are being felt everywhere. Advisors have had to get creative when it comes to their marketing strategy, so what are some changes that you have had to make during this difficult time to ensure consistent communication with your clients and prospects? Is there anything that has really worked for your firm that you plan to continue doing?
I used to do a bit of seminar marketing through presenting at some transition seminars sponsored by the military. However, due to military budget cuts and no longer doing in-person seminars, that has dried up. I have done a couple of webinar versions that I have marketed through LinkedIn and Facebook, and have been posting to groups with some success.
We have done those webinars and will probably keep doing them, and as you can see, that is our current pop-up on the website. We will keep using that but will remove the COVID-19 tag once things return to normal and see how that works for our firm.
I did a couple email blasts at the beginning, and I do at least one newsletter every month, but I haven’t done a lot of Constant Contact with clients to keep them from panicking just based on the niche. We have not had any issues with that, but if they have a question I will answer them.
4. In 2019, we conducted a survey of 166 advisors using Twenty Over Ten and found that 26% of advisors convert 1-2 leads generated from their website into clients every month. Since launching your website, what is a typical conversion rate and how this number has changed since 2018? Additionally, is there a particular page or blog post that you’ve seen tends to generate the most leads for your business?
We track and ask new prospects where they found us, but they aren’t often very specific. If I look at the level of contacts page and RedTail, the internet referral for clients is at about 20%.
My main source used to be the seminar presentations, but we’ve had a bit of an uptick in the last week or two, and they all indicated by the internet. So, in the last seven days, there have been 122 page views on the homepage.
5. It’s important to show that you are a thought leader in the industry, so it’s great that you have included an “In The News” section on your website. Has this section helped you in your marketing efforts? Have you had any leads come to your website because they said they saw your firm mentioned in a certain publication?
I think including this section adds to my credibility, and while, it’s not exactly “In the News,” once a year I do a paid article for MIlitary Officer Magazine where I write about taxes which has led people to the website and eventually to becoming clients. This is a magazine for a membership group of military officers, that has 150,000 to 200,000 subscribers. I have been doing an annual article for about 5-6 years for them. I just did one with MarketWatch and I got contacts from that, which is a pretty recent one.
6. We noticed that you are using pop-up forms on your website. When these are used strategically, they are great for lead generation! How has this helped with your lead gen and what types of success have you seen since incorporating pop-ups?
We have run about three or four white pages or checklists or the video, and we get a fair bit of response from them. When people sign up, we put them on the list for a campaign that runs for about 6-7 weeks, then we circle back after about a year. I have one to two clients that have come from that, so this is just another way to get people to engage with the website and the company.
If the seminars are any indication, some of these contacts may wait a year or two and then come back and say they are ready to come work with us. For the newsletter that goes out monthly, all the campaigns have the ability to allow them to opt-in to the ongoing email. We are getting people into the funnel where they are engaging with the company. I am fairly passive in my marketing, but people still engage with it.
7. What would you say has been your biggest marketing success since launching your website over 2 years ago? Conversely, what has been your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Some of this has been producing content for a while, but the real reason we moved our website to Twenty Over Ten was because of the blog, and we’ve been pretty consistent bloggers. One of my other team members writes posts occasionally. The biggest success was that we saw a big increase in clients in 2018 when we basically had to start metering and saying only so many posts a month. I credit that to consistently providing valuable content. We were pushing out material every month until March of this year, but we are seeing a pickup now, which is interesting. I also usually see a pickup after tax season, so I don’t know if that is contributed to this or COVID.
Time management and getting blog posts out at least once a week isn’t easy for me. I overcome it the same way I make myself run every morning, you just have to get in the mindset that you have to get your work done and put your nose to the grindstone. It’s something I believe in and commit to. Even when time is tight, I will get a blog post done.
The design team was really easy to work with and responded quickly to my inputs. But what has been even better is the support I’ve received to make small “tweaks” to the site after it went live. The support team always helps me get the changes put into place.
Curtis Sheldon, CFP®, EA, AIF®, C.L. sheldon & Company
8. You serve a very unique niche, offering financial planning and wealth management for active and retired military members. We often stress the importance of serving a particular niche when it comes to growing your business. Do you feel as if catering to a specific niche has helped you with your marketing and lead generation efforts particularly in the time of COVID-19?
Serving a particular niche definitely helps with marketing and it helps with being able to connect with potential clients or prospects. I could write a million articles on how great Roth IRAs are, but for example, I land on page one of Google on the Strickland Decision.
When military members do ask a question on Google that is very specific to the niche, my website is the one that I see, which shows that I know what I am talking about. I have read enough marketing books before retiring from the military, so I realized that a niche would work for marketing. If someone without a niche comes to me, I won’t turn them away, and I would say that approximately 10% of my clients don’t fit my niche. It also helps with time management, so I don’t often have to look up a topic, because I have been working with the niche for over ten years now.
In COVID-19, I don’t think it is different from what I can tell. I have clients literally all over the world, so because of that, I have been virtually focused, so I don’t know if it has changed lead generation that much.
9. Looking ahead to the next 2-3 years, what are your biggest marketing goals?
I hope in 2-3 years or longer, I can continue to come up with content that people want to read. The good news is that with the military and Congress, they keep changing things, so there is always something for me to write about. I don’t know if these are goals or tactics, but I want to do more video, as I’m convinced that this is effective. I do two-minute videos in front of a whiteboard, so I wouldn’t mind doing some more video content that is more professionally produced, as we need to create content to effectively reach our niche.
I would say my top three goals are:
- Continue to provide written content
- Continue to produce video content
- Support growth and bring on an associate planner
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About the author
Blair is a digital marketing assistant at Twenty Over Ten and has a passion for uncovering what drives online traffic and the highest engagement. She follows more animals on Instagram than humans and her greatest achievement is her daughter, Grey.