Imagine being so famous in your community that you don’t even need to appear at your own seminars.
Or, what if you didn’t even need to attend client meetings in your office?
Sure, you might have to add employees to handle the many prospects and clients eager to do business with you. And when you did make an appearance at a client-appreciation event, people would bring friends to meet you because you are a celebrity.
Yes, that dream could be your reality. That was one of the cases that Nick Nanton discussed with Publisher Paul Feldman in this month’s interview.
Nick is a branding expert, but he is not one of those “experts” who shows up with a little advice and a shot of motivation. He is a branding implementer and a three-time Emmy-award-winning filmmaker who has reshaped careers in many different categories. He helps develop and publish books and consistently gets them on a best-seller list. He will help find the special something about a client’s agency, help name it and get it trademarked. He can do that because he’s a lawyer, too. Then he’ll help monetize it all with marketing.
He’s done this with countless clients, especially in the insurance and financial advisory field. When people come to him for help standing out in their community, they had better hold on, because life is suddenly about to become a whole lot more interesting.
FELDMAN: You say that the media landscape has totally shifted to what you call “The New Media.” What do you mean by that?
NANTON: The old lines of media are getting blurred. It used to be with a news station or a magazine that everything was pored over, or supposed to have been pored over, by interns and news directors who searched the world to find you the best, most relevant content in a totally editorial system.
Now it’s just become much more commonplace to see branded content or media. It’s just a much more open marketplace. I would say product placement really has driven a lot of the openness on this, probably due to regulations. If I’m Apple computer and I want an Apple computer featured in a movie or a TV series, I would pay so that when the laptop was open it wasn’t just a generic laptop. It was an Apple.
Now this is happening all around us in everything. Certainly it’s really hot in movies and TV, but even in magazines and The Wall Street Journal and USA Today and on the networks. Everybody is looking at how they can get more of what they want out of these media formats.
The questions I’m answering are: How can we work together to figure out how the companies that want to use the media for their benefit can also be beneficial to the media outlet? How can we do it ethically to make sure the media outlet doesn’t become irrelevant because it’s just pandering to its advertisers?
Everyone is trying to figure it out. We’re certainly ahead of where we were five or 10 years ago. And now there’s a whole slew of ways we can do this — video, tweets, Facebook, you name it.
FELDMAN: Have you seen advisors using public relations agencies, and are they getting what they want out of the effort?
NANTON: There are advisors who will pay a PR firm to get them on the news — whether that’s the national or the local news piece — as a financial expert. But I think a lot of people have gotten frustrated with the fact that paying a PR firm and maybe getting on TV might not be returning what they expected. It’s not exactly a 10 times return on the dollars that you spend.
FELDMAN: How do advisors make PR work for them?
NANTON: I have a concept called the “Business Trifecta” that I teach my clients.
So, here’s the deal. When I turned 16, I had a car called a Daihatsu Charade. You might remember this “hot rod” on the road. It was a hatchback. And it had three cylinders. So I used to have to turn the air conditioning off to get on the interstate, which was not a lot of fun in Florida.
So one time I was getting my oil changed and the guy goes, “Hey Nick, do you realize your car is running on only two cylinders?” I was like, “Wow, I had no idea this thing would still run that way.” I paid him to fix it, and then I’m running on all three cylinders and I can actually get on the interstate with the air conditioning on. I’m happy. Life is good.
The reason I tell that story is because most businesses are running the same way. A lot of them are running on just one cylinder as opposed to this trifecta of three cylinders.
And the three cylinders are very simple. They are media, marketing and PR. The problem is, most people think they can do just one of them. That’s where people get disgruntled with PR and media, because they don’t understand the interconnectivity between these things.
Media is using any medium you can to tell your story. And by telling your story, you’re talking about what led you to where you are, what you’re doing to help people now and what your vision is for the future.
And it should be told so uniquely that a client or prospect in a marketplace can’t even compare you with anybody else because your story is so different because of the way you’re telling it.
FELDMAN: How important is PR to consumers?
NANTON: It’s important to remember that if they Google and they can’t find you, first of all they’re going to ask if you’re in the witness protection program. Second, they’re going to wonder how relevant you are because they can’t find you. If Google doesn’t say you exist, you don’t exist.
PR online is a validation of who you say you are, when people Google you. Also, all the PR you get from being in media, from being in USA Today or Forbes or The Wall Street Journal or Newsweek, frame that stuff and put that up on your wall.
You’re going to put the logos on your website, as in, “Have you seen it?” Now there is a validation of who I say I am in my story from my own media.
FELDMAN: How does marketing figure into the “Business Trifecta”?
NANTON: That’s where the rubber really meets the road. It’s the only one of these things that monetizes consistently. If you want to accomplish any task in the world, if you want to move the needle on anything, it’s through marketing.
I have clients in multiple industries who will say, “Hey, I want more speaking gigs, I want to get a speaker’s bureau, I need to get …” And I say, “NO, stop right there. You need to mount a successful marketing campaign. Who do you want to speak to? Who controls those audiences? And what do we need to do to market to those people so they know you exist?”
It’s a very simple equation. But everyone shies away from the marketing because it’s kind of hard.
And I’ll share one other little secret we call the secret of media success. When you really want to make money, there are two types of media that you want to use: mass media and direct media.
Mass media doesn’t generate revenue. When was the last time you saw someone in USA Today or The Wall Street Journal or a local paper or on TV being interviewed and you stopped what you were doing and said, “That person is so brilliant, I’m going to Google them and I’m going to hire them right now”?
We don’t do that, because we are getting educated, but as a form of entertainment. Mass media does give you amazing credibility. The best thing you can get out of it is to say later on, “I was on Good Morning America. I was in USA Today.” But it doesn’t move the needle.
Direct media, on the other hand, is the opposite of that. It is media that you create and send to a list of people you’ve put together who could actually hire you.
Direct media can be emails, postcards, sales letters, CDs or DVDs, movies, audio courses, books, all that stuff. Direct media is awesome at moving the needle. It’s a great way to spend the amount of time and money you want to reach the audience you want. The problem is, it lacks credibility because they know that you created it.
The key to media success is taking mass media credentials and credibility and inserting them in your direct media. I have a client who sent out a seminar invite recently that said, “Come see national bestselling author X, who has been featured recently on NBC, CBS and ABC, and in Forbes magazine and Newsweek.” Now this guy’s seminar invite looks totally different from anybody else’s. It looks like there’s a rock star who happens to be in town holding a seminar and if you don’t get in there, you’re going be locked out.
So that secret formula is taking the mass media credentials and inserting them in your direct media. That’s really the secret to making media work for you.
FELDMAN: PR and media attention are always a great shot in the arm, but it fades quickly and most of your clients and prospects are bound to miss it when it’s run. I always say it is what you do after getting media that counts.
NANTON: I tell clients all the time, “Don’t hire me and do this stuff if you’re not willing to come up with a plan for what is going to happen when you get that box of books that I’ve made a best-seller for you. Or you get those DVDs from being on my show on CNBC and Fox News. If you don’t have a plan, aren’t willing to come up with a plan or aren’t willing to pay someone else to come up with a plan, you might as well not even start.”
FELDMAN: Very true. What do you think about newsletters in particular?
NANTON: My favorite media on earth. E-newsletters are great because they’re basically free and a great way of keeping up with people. But they’re not nearly as effective as physical, hard-copy newsletters.
There are a couple reasons for this. I like to call it the mailbox effect. I can have a newsletter that has the same content and I email it out or I mail it out. Any good newsletter should be the equivalent of sitting down to have a cup of coffee with a good friend.
In 99 percent of scenarios, it should not be talking about technical stochastics and market forecasts. People can turn on some financial network to see that. What they want to know is, are you someone they can trust? Is this someone who is like me?
People always laugh when I say, “Well, you should actually talk about your family vacation — or your new car.” But if you took your family on a vacation to Washington, D.C., and you were excited about teaching them all this stuff, which led you to the U.S Treasury, which led you to think about your clients, well, not only did you tell a much more interesting story than posting a bunch of market diagnostics, but you’re building a relationship because they are starting to see that you are like them.
You show that you’re not some guy running from town to town, taking people’s money and not coming back. You are someone who has a family; you live in a community; you went to the recent Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. These are things you talk about because they build anchor points for people to know you’re a real, trustworthy human being.
I can take all that content and put it in an e-zine or an e-newsletter or I can put it in a physical newsletter. Here’s the problem with email newsletters, even though I think they’re great and I use them. We get a bunch of sales e-mails and newsletters we signed up for, and things we didn’t sign up for. I’m just trying to get through my inbox so I can go home.
You can take the same content and put it in a physical newsletter and mail it out. Not many people these days get regular, personalized, person-to-person correspondence in their mailbox at home or their office.
A well-written newsletter that is at the bottom of the stack of email in the inbox moves to the top of the pile in the mailbox because it becomes the most valuable content they receive in the medium of their mailbox.
FELDMAN: What about people who would say that my clients wouldn’t care about personal details like where I went on vacation?
NANTON: It’s not because we think the audience really cares where you went on vacation. But we want to make you relatable and a real person who is top of mind.
I’ll give you a real quick principle, which is Dunbar’s number. Dunbar’s research showed the average person can comprehend having relationships with only 150 people. So, your mom is probably there, your dad, your family, your spouse, your kids.
But as you start getting further down that list — over 100, let’s say — then your brain starts to play with you, because if you watch Oprah every day, then Oprah takes one of those 150 spots. If you watch a movie or a TV show regularly, like if you’re binge-watching House of Cards, then Frank Underwood might creep into that.
If you are showing up in their mailbox monthly and hitting them with other media, you are taking over one of those 150 relationships. Now you’re not just a financial advisor in the community; you are a friend in the business. And when you can hit that status, it’s an unbelievable change in the way things work.
How many people do we call for quotes when we have a friend in the business? If our car breaks down, we call our buddy who owns a mechanic shop. We don’t call for four or five different quotes on something that is egregious and wrong. You can do all that by telling your story and showing up once a month, by clicking send or by printing your newsletter, putting it in the envelope and mailing it out.
FELDMAN: In order to get media attention and even to do a newsletter, you have to have a brand for yourself. How does one need to think about their brand to get more media and capture more people’s attention?
NANTON: Branding is a really misunderstood subject, and there are many people who will swindle you out of all sorts of dollars to try to tell you what your brand should be.
I try to make it really easy for people. Your brand is simply your story — that’s it. So, branding is storytelling. Having a great brand is simply a story that the public likes to hear over and over and tell other people about.
Your brand is your wrapper that helps people understand who you are very quickly and accessibly.
One of the tactics I love in that sense is creating language that is only yours. Starbucks has done it very well. They have their own names for sizes, and now it’s really easy to tell when someone is trying to rip them off — and how deeply they penetrate the market, when someone goes to Coffee-R-Us, the other coffee store, and asks for a venti or a tall or a grande.
When it’s part of your brand, name it and trademark it. That way, even if you’re selling the exact same thing as 3,000 other people, your client can’t compare it because no one else is allowed to sell this product.
We had a client come in for a private consult a couple of weeks ago. They have their own spin on how they do life insurance and annuities. But we put a name around it that sounds really good, really catchy. Now we’re going through the process of trademarking that, creating logos and expanding that. They’re going to make some videos explaining why they’re different.
FELDMAN: You talk a lot about the importance of having your own book. For those of our readers who don’t have a book, why should they start now?
NANTON: A book will take you places you could never take yourself. First of all, in our subconscious, it’s the most credible thing you can find on a subject. When we want to learn how to do something, we find a book on it. Or better yet, if we can afford it, we hire the guy who wrote the book on it.
When we were kids, we were taught that the person in the front of the room is the expert — that’s the teacher, the professor. And the book is where we get the knowledge. That’s where the professor gets the knowledge to teach us from. The book must be the most credible thing there is.
FELDMAN: What is your favorite way to market a book?
NANTON: We use them when a client calls in and asks for more information. We’ll FedEx him an autographed copy of the book along with another thing to kind of build that reciprocity. So now they’ve called three other branding agencies, let’s say. They’ve probably got a bunch of PDFs in the mail as opposed to an autographed book — that’s a best-seller that was written by the guy who signed it for you, the person you inquired about working with. Those are just a few ways. But there are hundreds of ways to use books.
FELDMAN: Another type of media that you use very well is video. What are some strategies that you see as effective for financial advisors?
NANTON: I’m personally sick of actors and fake commercials. What I like is to know what is working for somebody else who is in the position I’m in now, somebody who didn’t know where to turn and they found the solution.
I like using short commercials. Three- to-five-minute videos of short documentaries. I’ve even done three 30-minute documentaries for a financial advisor that helped them tell their story. Weave in a story of how they’re different and where they came from.
It helps to tell their story in a cinematic way — I mean, there is no better word for it than epic. Now you are honored to meet this person.
And then in the commercial format, if we can use testimonials, it deepens the story. Of course, that depends on the licensing and compliance. But if we can use it, I love letting clients talk about how the financial advisor helped them sleep better at night. And then back to the advisor: “If you want to be like the Joneses, come visit me.” We got all three of them playing golf — the advisor and the Jones family.
Now, I also recently did a documentary for an advisor and he actually couldn’t make his own seminar for a medical reason at one point. We advised him to just run the movie and have his staff there. It worked so well he doesn’t go to his own seminars now.
So you can do an awful lot of stuff with the format of video and film if you know what you’re doing. The problem is, the 14-year-old kid down the street or the local video production company probably doesn’t know how to sell in video without looking like an infomercial.
So if you want to utilize this strategy where you’re capturing their hearts and minds, it takes a different skill set from just shooting a commercial or a “documentary” where you’re barking at a camera and it looks bad and feels bad and the music is not right.
FELDMAN: Did not showing up to his own seminar perpetuate his celebrity status?
NANTON: Yes, and now he typically doesn’t need to show up for his meetings, because the advisors in his office will handle them.
But when he hosts his client appreciation events and other events, then everybody wants to meet him and everybody wants to bring their friends to meet him because they know this celebrity guy.
So, here is a guy who went from advisor to celebrity with one video.