Episode 55 : 05/30/2018

Modern marketing: From pro surfer to 401(k) YouTube personality

J.D. Carlson

President and CEO
Plan Design Consultants



Ben D. Jones
Managing Director, Intermediary Distribution
BMO Global Asset Management

Emily Larsen
Product Strategy Manager
BMO Global Asset Management

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This is the second in a series of episodes where we will take you “in the trenches” with financial professionals that are using different modern media strategies to build their businesses.

J.D. Carlson used to be a professional surfer with no intentions of taking over the family 401(k) business. When his first career came to an end, he changed his tune and ended up falling in love with financial services.

As part of his marketing efforts, he started the Retireholi(k)s YouTube series, where he and his team discuss topics related to 401(k)s in a fun way.

J.D. joins the show to share his experience leveraging video to educate and connect with potential clients while building his firm’s brand. You can watch the entire episode on the Plan Design Consultants YouTube page.

In this episode:

  • The genesis of Retireholi(k)s
  • Getting started with video marketing for your firm
  • Be yourself: Authenticity is key (and can help you stand out from the crowd)
  • Compliance’s role – and how to overcome their initial hesitancies
  • How J.D. measures the success of the series

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J.D. Carlson – Always focus on are you providing some value, you know.  If it’s empty of value, people are going to get bored of it real quick, and they’re not going to want to engage with it.  But you’ve always got to ask yourself, is this something that my audience would want, is this something my audience could use. That’s key. If you can check those boxes, you’re on a pretty good course.

Ben Jones – Welcome to Better conversations. Better outcomes. presented by BMO Global Asset Management. I’m Ben Jones.

Emily Larsen – And I’m Emily Larsen. In each episode, we’ll explore topics relevant to today’s trusted financial advisors, interviewing experts and investigating the world of wealth advising from every angle. We’ll also provide you with actionable ideas designed to improve outcomes for advisors and their clients.

Ben Jones – To access the resources we discuss in today’s show, or just to learn more about our guests, visit bmogam.com/betterconversations. Again, that’s bmogam.com/betterconversations. Thanks for joining us.

Emily Larsen – Before we get started, one quick request. If you have enjoyed the show and found them of value, please take a moment to leave us a rating or review on iTunes. It would really mean a lot to us.

Disclosure – The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates, or subsidiaries.

J.D. Carlson – Welcome everybody to another episode of the Retireholi(k)s. Thanks for tuning in.  What exactly is the Retireholi(k)s?  Well, we could create a PowerPoint.  We could host a webinar.  We could talk to you about boring 401(k) things as you click through our slides.

(Co-host) – We could put on ties.

J.D. Carlson – Ties.  Or.

(Co-host) – But instead.

J.D. Carlson – Or we can crack a couple beer, sit on a couch, talk about that same boring 401(k) stuff, and we prefer to do the latter, right?

(Co-host) – Well, we talk about it a little differently.  Come on, we get —

Emily Larsen – J.D. Carlson does things a little differently.  That clip you just heard was the opening to one of the Retireholi(k)s videos that J.D. and his team created as a way to market their firm, Plan Design Consultants.

Ben Jones – This is the second episode of several where we’re taking you into the trenches with financial professionals that are using modern media strategies to build their business. Now, you might recall in Episode 48 we talked with Rick Unser about how he created his 401(k) podcast, and how that’s helped his business and brand. Retireholi(k)s is the name of a video series that J.D. and his team, or cast members, have created and published on YouTube and several other platforms.  During the show, they discuss 401(k) topics, and have a pretty good time.  I like to think of this as taking their craft very seriously, but not taking themselves too serious.

Emily Larsen – Today we’ll talk with J.D. about how the video series got started, how it’s helped his firm, and hear his advice for advisors who are exploring modern marketing ideas.  We’ll attempt to answer questions you might have around how do you get started, how do you measure success, and how do you pick a format.  First, J.D. and Ben talk about the path that led to J.D. getting into financial services after spending years as a professional surfer.

J.D. Carlson – J.D. Carlson, president and CEO of Plan Design Consultants.

Ben Jones – And, tell me a little bit about Plan Design Consultants.

J.D. Carlson – Plan Design Consultants is a third party administration firm, so we do all the compliance and admin work for retirement plans, 403(b), profit-sharing, defined benefit, cash balance plans. We were founded in 1975 by my father, Paul Carlson. He’s retired now – transitioned the company to me, so we’re a second generation family owned business, corporate headquarters in the bay area, California, and just over 20 employees.

Ben Jones – And where are we recording today.

J.D. Carlson – We are at my home in sunny Carlsbad, California, San Diego if you will.

Ben Jones – Now, I do want to get into the business and then the topic at hand here.  But, before we do that, you have pretty interesting story, so, just tell me your story a little bit about how you came to be at Plan Design Consultants.

J.D. Carlson – Yeah, so the classic story is how do you go from being a professional surfer to a third party administrator.  When I define myself as a professional surfer, I want to be very clear; it was a very unsuccessful professional surfing career.  I was always at the very bottom of the rankings and struggling to get through heats.  But yes, I was a professional surfer.  As I mentioned, my father started the company in the mid-’70s, and, geez, when I was 15 he would talk to me about taking over the family business.  When I was 20, he would talk to me about taking over the family business, and I was like, you’ve got to be crazy.  Imagine me, the blonde surfer.  I’m not putting on a suit and tie and doing 401(k) plans.  You’ve got to be nuts.  We’ll, I’m 25, and I’m 30, and then I start to have my first kid, and I’ve got two kids, and I actually owned a surf shop down here in San Diego.  And so, the best way I could put it is, I feel like by bills started to exceed my revenue a little bit, and I went into it for all the wrong reasons.  I called my dad because I needed money.  I needed a better financially supportive career.  So, all the wrong reasons as I put.  I get into it, I love it.  I trained underneath him.  He taught me everything A to Z.  I shadowed him, he was my guru.  We had a great father/son business relationship, which I know doesn’t always happen.

Ben Jones – Which is rare.

J.D. Carlson – Which is rare.  We had a perfect one.  He basically gave me the keys to the car on day one when I knew nothing, and said I’m going to teach you how I do it, but then you’re going to figure out how to do it better.  So, kudos to him.  He’s a great father and was a great business man.  But yeah, so I went into it for all the wrong reasons, but I absolutely love it now.  I love being an entrepreneur.  I love trying to push to new levels in sales and branding and marketing.  I just love everything about running a business.

Ben Jones – And what are the similarities that you’ve found in working in retirement services and action sports.

J.D. Carlson – Not a lot at first, because you have to understand, when I first came into it, financial services was very, very button up.  And so, I had to learn to dot my I’s and cross my T’s and be very responsible and professional and all that kind of stuff.  Where action sports, you know, you show up to the offices of your sponsor and there’s a skateboard ramp in the office.  It’s okay for everyone to take off for the afternoon and surf.  Or you might find a beer at a CFO’s desk.  So, it’s a very different environment.  I don’t think I took a lot of action sports into financial services to start.  I think I learned financial services, and I got as good as I could be in that space.  Then it was later in my career where I started to try to be more myself.  I started to bring back my old ways into my financial services, which you’ll see now in a lot of our branding and marketing.  So, I did it later, where I brought it in.

Ben Jones – So, we’re here to talk a little bit about modern marketing.  I have to say, like, we’ve done a couple of these shows, we’ve got a couple more releasing.  We’ve done one on podcast with Rick Unser.  We’ve got one coming up on blogs and writing a book.  You have chosen the medium of video, and specifically YouTube.

J.D. Carlson – Right.

Ben Jones – I want to talk a lot about just how the idea came about because, to your point, it seems like you took a lot of the creativity you had in your previous career and brought that into the world of finance.  But, tell me a little bit about the moment when you thought up this idea.

J.D. Carlson –  Yeah, kind of the genesis of it all.  Well, we had been doing normal types of marketing, like any financial services company.

Ben Jones – People in white linen.

J.D. Carlson – Seminars, webinars, you know, that type of stuff, right?  Lunch and learns at the steakhouse, all that type of jazz, and webinars were a big part of it too.  I just felt like we needed to do something more, and I really thought that video seemed like something I’d seen out there and was a great medium, okay.  I wasn’t sure how we were going to do it, but I was always kicking it around in the back of my head.  Well, I have a sales team, and back in the day, at the end of the week, I would spend time with my sales team, say in our conference room.  And yeah, we might have opened a cold beer, but we would talk about the week before.  We would talk about a prospect.  We would talk about an advisor we were working with.  We’d talk about new tool from a record keeper that had come out.  We’d have these great conversations.  Sometimes we’d debate, sometimes we’d argue, sometimes we jump up on the white board to prove our point.  And it was just this great unscripted very authentic conversations we were having.  And that’s when it dawned on me.  If an advisor or a client, a plan sponsor, was a fly on the wall to this, they would eat this up.  They would love this.  Not only would they learn from it, they would see how passionate we were.  They would see that we knew our stuff, that we were experts in our filed.  And that’s when I was like we need to put this on video, that was the genesis.

Ben Jones – J.D.’s weekly meeting with Chad, Mark, and Justin, his sales team, turned into the inspiration for content to market their firm.  So I wanted to ask J.D. how they went from the idea to filming their very first episode. You get this idea.  You decided, boy, it would be really nice if this was a video we could just blast out to our clients and prospects.  Tell me, like, how did you take this to execution?  How did you think through compliance, and all of the other aspects that I’m sure many people in our audience are saying, yeah, that’s great, but.

J.D. Carlson – Yeah, and I probably won’t have a great answer for the advisors in the audience on that, because, as a TPA, I don’t have to deal with compliance, right?  So I don’t have to send my videos through compliance or anything like that, so I didn’t have to worry about that.  I will tell you that, and I think I touched on this earlier, I really did just dive into it.  I didn’t sit and measure three times before cutting.  I said, let’s just dive into it and get it done and then work through it that way.  I think that that is great advice.

Ben Jones – School of hard knocks, right?

J.D. Carlson – Yeah.  You just get in there and do it.  You’re going to learn a lot more than sitting there twiddling your thumbs trying to figure out what your strategy is going to be.  I see a lot of that in marketing, especially with the advisors that we partner with.  Everyone wants to talk about great ideas and strategies and things that they’re going to do, but never come to fruition.  And so I would challenge them just to dive in and get it done to start, and then you’ll figure it out.  However, for the advisor audience, I think a video is no different than a podcast in terms of compliance.  And you mentioned Rick Unser earlier, and there’s tons of podcasts out there these days.  You can still do these types of things and send them through compliance.  Compliance is there to make sure that you’re not making false promises and that you’re not doing some things that are so off the company’s image that it would be bad for them.  So I don’t think that compliance stops you from doing what you’re doing.  Even our show, as sophomoric as it may seem the reality is that if you watch our episodes, I think they’d go through compliance.  We’re talking about real subject matter.  We’re talking about real 401(k) issues, and technical terms.  There’s nothing in there that I don’t think compliance wouldn’t approve.

Ben Jones – Yeah, I’ve been relatively — I found, we worked with our compliance department, who had initial reservations about the idea.  And then, after one or two run through the process and kind of working out some of the kinks.  Now it just kind of moves through like any other piece of marketing material.

J.D. Carlson – I definitely think it’s doable.  Obviously with compliance, you’re going to have to set a little more of that architecture and that planning.  But, why not?  And I would also argue that times are changing, too, and I think compliance, broker/dealers, financial services industry as a whole is going to have to accept social media and these types of marketing, so it’s going to get a little different.

Ben Jones – You’ve recorded your first episode.  Did you show it to folks at the office first, or did you just hit post?

J.D. Carlson – No, we put it out on YouTube, and I’m pretty sure we blasted a link of it to everyone within our e-mail list.  And, yeah, just sent it out there.

Ben Jones – And so, what was the initial reaction, like from clients and prospects?

J.D. Carlson – I think it was, to be honest with you, I think it was fairly quite in the sense that — I remember like, looking at it and thinking that 100 people had viewed it, and that was like some big deal.  Remember, I’m comparing it to seminars and webinars, so it was very quiet off the beginning.  So if I could give anything to the audience, those are things that you have to stick with, right?  It’s a building, it’s a snowball type of process.  You just focus on the next episode, get it done.  Focus on the next one, and you build your audience through repetition.  So it was slow off the start.

Ben Jones – Yeah, you know, it’s funny.  Rick talked about this a little bit when we had him on the show, where you put it out there and then it’s just crickets.

J.D. Carlson – Yeah.

Ben Jones – And so you have these like grandiose visions that the whole world is going to come knocking down your door, and then you realize, wow, this is just the first step as we climb the mountain, to use his terms.

J.D. Carlson – I think we had the same experience as Rick.

Ben Jones – Yeah.  I think it’s a really good point though for advisors that are out there that think they’re going to record a video or a podcast or write a blog or whatever.  Whatever you choose when it comes to content marketing, you have to market the marketing.  You have to direct people to where they can consume that content, because there’s just too much noise out there for them to find it on their own.

J.D. Carlson – And I think you have to be consistent with it.  I also think that there is a tough balance because nobody wants to get hit over the head with advertisements.  I surely don’t.  So it has to come more in the theme of giving people something for nothing.  Giving them content that’s valuable to them, and that’s how it should be wrapped and branded is hey, here, this is for you, check this out, this is valuable.  You can learn this here and you can learn that there, and then people go to it as opposed to saying, hey, we’re the Retireholi(k)s and we’re super cool, check out our thing.  No, that’s not what it’s about.  You’re always fixated on giving them stuff that’s valuable for them.

Ben Jones – Now, you guys have really incorporated adult beverages as kind of a key part of the show.

J.D. Carlson – Yeah.

Ben Jones – To use some food lingo, it’s kind of become like 401(k) beer fusion a little bit.

J.D. Carlson – Yeah.  Definitely.

Ben Jones – There’s some educational stuff about beer and 401(k)s.  How have you found that that lightens the mood with your audience?

J.D. Carlson – Yeah, well, it is by design.  I would say the beer is definitely by design.  One, we wanted the format of the show to be a relaxed one.  And I don’t just mean the guys on the couch being relaxed, although that’s a great by-product of the beer.  But we wanted the audience to feel that it was a relaxed environment they were watching, so the beer does a good job of doing that.  Two, I think it was important to add a non-401(k) element to the show, just to give people watching something a little different.  A little bit of variety.  So, every show we have what’s called the beer of the episode, which is nothing more than us introducing a new beer that was recommended from our audience and tasting it and drinking it throughout the show and letting people know how we feel about the beer and the quality of it and the taste of it.  Where it comes from, the story behind the brewery, etc, etc.  We do that for every show.  Like I said, it’s to relax the whole vibe, and it’s also to add an outside elements that’s non-401(k) and lets people connect with it.

Ben Jones – So, walk me through the show’s format.  How do you think up the topics and the guests and how has the format of the show evolved?

J.D. Carlson – So, the format of the show has evolved, but in the beginning we basically started with, as you mentioned, a beer in the episode.  We’d showcase a beer, and then we’d dive into some subject matter that we had pre-determined.  I’d send out an e-mail to the entire cast saying hey, these are the two or three things that we’re going to discuss on the show.  And I’d give them study materials.  I’d send them to links and articles and different things for them to prep for the show.  And, as I’m talking about that, I can’t help but share this with you.  It’s a great training tool.  So, here’s my sales team of three guys that have to do a lot of homework before these shows to make sure that they can speak intelligently about the subject matter.  It’s awesome training for them, because if you’re going to get on camera and talk about a subject, you’re going to have to get very confident in that subject matter, which just bodes well for them when they’re meeting with advisors and this and that.  So, the agenda is —

Ben Jones – That’s a great outcome.

J.D. Carlson – Yeah, I know, it’s really cool.  So I send out the subject matter, they study up.  We don’t dress rehearse it.  We like to have it just be organic and just happen as it happens.  But we know the basic map of the spots we’re going to hit, beginning, middle, and end of a show.

Ben Jones – And so, I’ve got to ask this question.  How much editing and cutting goes into the show.

J.D. Carlson – Well, I will tell you this, sometimes shows aren’t so great.  And, the entire show hits the editing room floor.  Other times, our editor does magic, and if we head down a rabbit hole with a certain subject and the show goes too long or there was no value in that — video’s neat in that way, because he can just take it out and flip — he does all kind of things.  So editing really, really helps with video.  It’s a great part of getting rid of the bad stuff.

Ben Jones – So, now you’ve got the idea, it’s rolling.  How much time to do you dedicate each week to kind of recording, producing, managing the show itself.

J.D. Carlson – So, here we go again.  We have to pay homage to Brandon, the editor, because he’s putting in lots of late nights of editing the video and putting the audio together.  But, as a team, those e-mails are going out.  We’re studying.  By the way, the Retireholi(k)s, the cast is — some are in southern California and some are in northern California.  So we literally fly to a mutual point to film these things.  Whether it’s at our corporate office, or whether it’s at an industry event.  So, there’s a fair amount —

Ben Jones – Recently at your house.

J.D. Carlson – Recently at my — we’ve done some at my house.

Ben Jones – Yeah.

J.D. Carlson – We’ll touch on this, but we’ve done some in Chicago, and we’re going to Portland.  In Las Vegas we’ve done show.  Lots of time, I guess is the answer to the question.  Lots of time and energy has gone into it.  But, you know what?  It’s part of the job to be honest with you.  It’s the same as planning a seminar or planning a webinar or whatever you’re doing.  It’s part of the job.  It’s part of our marketing strategy, so, it’s not that it’s distracting us from our day to day, it literally is part of the gig.

Ben Jones – So I know there’s a lot of advisors out there that are saying, yeah, but they’ve got a budget and they’ve got an editor and they’ve got — this is part of their marketing strategy.  They’re a real company, I’m a one-man show.  Or I’m a two or three man small RIA.  What kind of budget is really required to get going.

J.D. Carlson – So, our first show, the budget was, we needed to buy the beer.  We borrowed a camera from Chad’s wife.  We did grab some lighting stuff.  We spent a couple hundred bucks on lighting, and we had a GoPro camera there that Justin already had.  So, look at there.  Again, remember, episode one wasn’t all that great.

Ben Jones – Yeah.

J.D. Carlson – But —

Ben Jones – What was in episode two?

J.D. Carlson – The entry cost wasn’t a whole lot is my point.

Ben Jones – Okay.

J.D. Carlson – And yes, I’m not going to lie to you, as we’ve moved on — you’re here, you can see it.  There’s lots of equipment and there’s lots of cameras. There’s lots of stuff going on and lighting and mics and boom mics and things. But we’ve gradually added those as we’ve seen success and kind of gone on with it all.

Ben Jones – So, you can start with a fairly modest budget.

J.D. Carlson – Oh, yeah. So, can I give you an example?

Ben Jones – Yeah.

J.D. Carlson – I see advisors out there today that are literally just filming themselves kind of in selfie mode with the video, their phone or what have you, and putting out little, short content clips on LinkedIn and whatnot that I think are phenomenal. And the cost there is zero in terms of actual money. There’s some great stuff out there.

Ben Jones – Yeah, no, I think that’s one thing that we had Tim Reid on the show and he walks a lot of people through an exercise when they’re concerned about their ability to generate content. He says just write down the 10 questions you get asked most often, turn your phone around and answer them.

J.D. Carlson – And answer them.

Ben Jones – It’s actually some really good advice to just dive in and get going.

J.D. Carlson – And like Retireholi(k)s episode one, you might totally suck at it to start. But get through that one, and then you’ll get a little bit better; you get a little bit better. But I think the barrier of entry in terms of cost doesn’t have to be anything at all with video these days. We’re lucky to live in that age.

Emily Larsen – Just get started. Or as J.D. says, get her done. It’s something J.D. emphasized over and over during the conversation, and something lots of our guests like Tim Reid have focused on as well. The magic is really in the execution of the idea, not the idea itself. Now that you have a little back history on how they got started, how much time it takes, and how the show’s format has evolved. Let’s explore how this effort has benefited their business and how they measure success.

Ben Jones – When you came up with this idea, did you have a way that you were going to define it as successful? In other words, you get a year into this, were you going to kill it if you didn’t hit X or if it didn’t do Y?

J.D. Carlson – So, here I go again back to the analogy of I was doing webinars, I was doing seminars. So what was my scoreboard there? Well my scoreboard for this was going to be the same thing. It was literally trying to replace those things and/or supplement them. So my scoreboard is new sales, right, are we selling more plans, are we getting more business, are we — is our network of advisors growing. So that was the scoreboard. I did not go into this going oh, I want 100 views of 5,000 views or 10,000 views, or we’re going to dominate that YouTube market. I had none of those types of things. I was just focusing on the task at hand and getting better, those classic clichés, living in the moment, working hard at it, and letting the results kind of come.

Ben Jones – How long were you doing Retireholi(k)s before you knew it was working?

J.D. Carlson – And it’s hard to — what’s the barometer? Because you start off and you do three episodes, four episodes, and then you go to a meeting and an advisor says they watched one and they give you positive feedback and you feel like oh, well that’s a success, right? You start to hit a certain point, and I can’t tell you exactly when that was, but I would argue maybe more like 18 months in where if you looked at my inbox these days I get messages, multiple messages every day about nothing more than the Retireholi(k)s show and my social media, people wanting to get to know me, people thanking me, people saying oh, this is so cool. So once you start getting those every day and phone calls from people that want to talk to you, and especially once you start vetting those people out, like gee, should I call this guy in Texas, I don’t know. Then you know you’re on to something. And now you mentioned we’ll show up to conferences and my wife, if she goes with us, shakes her head at me and rolls her eyes when five people come up to meet me because we’re on the show. And she says you’ve got to be kidding me, you think you’re some kind of celebrity or something? What is this. Then you know you’re on to something.

Ben Jones – So you had this moment about 18 months in, you started to get positive messages. Did you ever get negative messages?

J.D. Carlson – We have not had a lot of negative feedback, very few that I can think of. First of all, on social, I don’t see a lot of trolls or people, that’s what they call them these days, that are — like to comment negative things, or I don’t like your show. You don’t see any of that. It’s all very positive stuff. And I think that’s just due to the financial services and stuff. We’re not talking about pop culture; they’re not going to chime in and try to tear you down. However, I have gone to like conferences and I’ve had people come up to me and I can feel the vibe off them of like what are you doing, why are you doing this, what’s the point. They seem very skeptical and almost upset about it or something. And again, look at me; I don’t necessarily fit in at the conference either. The conversations I’ve had with those people, once they understand what they’re doing and once they get to know me, a lot of them have come full circle and been like oh, I get it, and actually reached out to me at later dates. We had one e-mail blast I sent out where an advisor wrote back and said I think this is wrong, you shouldn’t do this. I tried to reach back out to that guy and like tell me — cause I think you kill them with kindness, like I want to know, I want to learn, what’s your viewpoint. I couldn’t get any further feedback from him. But if you look at that, I got isolated e-mail, a couple people at conferences, and I’ve had hundreds, I mean maybe thousand plus just on their own volition reached out to me to say way to go, I love this, this is cool, I’m so glad I found this, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Ben Jones – Fantastic. Now, tell me a little bit about the impact the podcast has had on Plan Design Consultants.

J.D. Carlson – So this to me is the tricky part, and this is — I’m probably learning right now, okay. How about I go to a conference, people tell me how much they love Retireholi(k)s, but they don’t even know Plan Design Consultants exists. I’ve had that happen on countless occasions. So that’s a mistake I made. I didn’t — and I’ve taken the concept that I didn’t want to shove Plan Design Consultants down the viewers’ throats. I didn’t want it to be this kind of sponsored branding type of thing. So we’ve kind of let Plan Design stay in the shadows. Obviously, if you watch the show you can put two and two together and figure it out, but we haven’t really been promoting it. I’d like to say it’s all by design, I don’t really know. I know where I started, I don’t really know where I’m finishing, but I feel like eventually Plan Design will start to kind of come into the picture a little more with the show, we’ll see. But right now they’re almost kind of two different entities. They Venn diagram all the time. So that’s a tough question for me to answer. And they Venn diagram in a positive and a negative. On a positive, my sales guys can go to meetings with advisors and it’s a cold call, they’re walking in to meet the person for the first time, and the first words out of the advisor’s mouth are you’re the guy from the Retireholi(k)s. That’s a great ice breaker. And they usually end up having a great relationship like that. On the other hand, we’ve had competitors that have tried to tell prospects have you seen this crazy video these guys are doing, you don’t want to hire them. So yeah, the last thing I want is for a plan sponsor or an advisor to look at it, I used the sophomoric before, and kind of label us, because I think when you watch it you come away going no, no, no, no, no, I know there’s beer drinking, I know there’s some fun and there’s some hijinks and stuff, but these are four guys that love what they do, know everything there is to know about 401(k), and are super passionate about delivering this value to advisors to help them improve their business. We put advisors before anything else. So I think once they see that, people’s kind of impression of the show changes quite a bit.

Ben Jones – Have you felt like any of the impact has helped you there with brand credibility more or has there actually been lead generation?

J.D. Carlson – Of there for sure — first of all, there’s for sure lead generation because, like I’ve mentioned, I get contacted on the daily and usually I’m trying to divvy that off to my sales team. So I’m taking guys that are reaching out, I’m having conversation with them, and then I’m putting them in to my sales people. I’ll give you this, which is really neat, and this has happened on multiple occasions. In the past, we’d go around and knock on doors for financial advisors to meet them and tell them about our company. And they would interview us, in a sense, tell me about your history, tell me about the quality of your work, tell me about your staff, tell me about your bandwidth, tell me about fees. Basically grilling you to see whether they want to think about working with you. Now, because of the show, people call us and e-mail us and go how do I work with you, I want to work with you guys. Without all the — they want to know how can they work with us.

Ben Jones – So it speeds up the procurement process.

J.D. Carlson – You know why? This is a great thing about video.  Video, when you do it in an authentic way, when you put yourself out there and act yourself and be yourself and provide value and talk about yourself people get to know you. They feel like they’re a friend of — they know who you are, you’re a friend of them. They like you, and then that breaks down all kinds of barriers. And that’s a good thing. That’s not a sales tactic, that’s just a good thing to use something like that, like video, to connect with people in a way that you couldn’t otherwise connect with them and have that work for business is awesome.

Ben Jones – I like how J.D. pointed out the hidden returns on investment that he didn’t realize would happen until after the show had started. The obvious goal of the show is to educate their consumers, which leads to a boost in sales and their brand image. Not so obvious, J.D. learned that studying up for the videos made his sales team even more knowledgeable and that getting together to shoot the videos created a great team building activity. And finally, that people watching the show really felt like they knew the company and the cast just by watching their videos online.

Emily Larsen – We asked J.D. about action items that advisors could take if they want to start creating content via a modern marketing technique. You can probably guess what his first piece of advice was.

J.D. Carlson – Well, you’ve probably heard it ad nauseam, but I firmly believe in get her done as one actionable item. Don’t sit and plan and wait like — just dive in, get something moving in the right direction. I think that’s very, very important. Second, I hate to sound cliché, but be yourself, because that’s a key element to putting something out there that’s going to be successful and valuable to your audience. Be yourself. You don’t — for a lot of people out there, it may not be beer and growing a beard and growing your hair long and going — that’s not you. So you’ve got to find what’s you and that’s going to — that’s a huge key to your success, I feel like. Get it done, make sure it’s authentically you. And then last, sorry, have fun. Have some fun with it, because you’re not just — because I’m a surfer hippy here and I want you to enjoy your day and have fun. If you’re having fun with what you’re doing, it’s going to transcend to your audience in a huge way. Like whether that’s talking with someone at a conference or sending an e-mail to someone or doing a video, if you’re having fun, they’re going to pick up on it, and that’s going to very, very attractive to them.

Ben Jones – And if you were to summarize our entire conversation today in two sentences or less, what would you say?

J.D. Carlson – I’m going to steal from someone else because I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Sheri Fitts of ShoeFitts Marketing, and she focuses in this financial services —

Ben Jones – We’ve had her on the show.

J.D. Carlson – She says — again, this is hers — big target, big money. And what that means is, and I’ve thought a lot about this, big target means when you put yourself out there. When you write that blog post, you make that video content, and how nervous you might be that people are going to judge you or have comments or think positively or negatively about what you do. So it’s really hard to put yourself out there like that. But she says if you’re that big target, you’re going to have big money. And what that to me means, you’re going to have big success. And I think that’s the big takeaway for what we’ve talked about today is I have clearly put myself out there in a big way, right? And risked people laughing at me, people making fun of me, people not liking what I do. But if you have the courage to do that, the rewards are huge in a multitude of ways.

Ben Jones – Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining the show today, J.D.

J.D. Carlson – Happy to be here.

Ben Jones – And for hosting me here at your beautiful house.

J.D. Carlson – Yeah, thanks for coming to San Diego.

Ben Jones – In addition to J.D.’s great advice here, there’s one other secret ingredient that you may want to consider as you embark on your journey to leverage modern marketing for your practice, be different. For J.D. and the Retireholi(k)s, they were intentionally irreverent in their format. Or, as J.D. says, sophomoric. This has allowed them to stand out in a very crowded space. And then once you’re there, showcase their knowledge as experts, which delivers real value to the viewers in each and every episode.

Emily Larsen – So, to recap: Start now, be authentic. Be different and have fun. As you can tell, J.D. is a pretty thoughtful guy and had a tremendous amount of wisdom to share, too much to fit into this episode. So in collaboration with J.D. and Plan Design Consultants, we’re going to make the entire interview available for you to watch on video. You can click on the link in our show notes page at BMOGAM.com/betterconversations to be taken straight to the video. We hope you’ll check it out.

 Ben Jones – Thanks for listening to Better conversations. Better outcomes.  This podcast is presented by BMO Global Asset Management.  To learn more about what BMO can do for you, visit us at www.bmogam.com/betterconversations.

Emily Larsen – We value listener feedback and would love to hear what you thought about today’s episode, or if you’re willing to share your own experiences or insights related to today’s topic, please e-mail us at betterconversations@bmo.com.  And of course, the greatest compliment of all is if you tell your friends and co-workers to subscribe to the show.  You can subscribe to our show on iTunes, Google Play, the Stitcher app, or your favorite podcast platform.  Until next time, I’m Emily Larson.

Ben Jones – And I’m Ben Jones.  From all of us at BMO Global Asset Management, hoping you have a productive and wonderful week.

Emily Larsen – This show and resources are supported by a talented team of dedicated professionals at BMO, including Pat Bordak, Gayle Gipson, Matt Perry, and Derek Devereaux.  This show is edited and produced by Jonah Geil-Neufeld and Annie Fassler of Puddle Creative.

Disclosure – The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates, or subsidiaries. This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry, or security. This presentation may contain forward-looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements, as actual results could vary. This presentation is for general information purposes only and does not constitute investment advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product or service. Individual investors should consult with an investment professional about their personal situation. Past performance is not indicative of future results. BMO Asset Management Corp is the investment advisor to the BMO funds. BMO Investment Distributors LLC is the distributor. Member FINRA/SIPC. BMO Asset Management Corp and BMO Investment Distributors are affiliated companies. Further information can be found at www.bmo.com.

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