How Podcasting Helps Financial Advisors Compete in the Expertise Economy

This article takes a different turn in the Institute’s new interview series with Virtual Engagement Leaders. Being “virtual” can take you down many different paths as we are exploring, but podcasting is a whole other realm of engagement opportunity. Podcasting has been exploding in its size, scope and its popularity is only being further fueled by our current pandemic and the world’s need for knowledge, guidance, and reassurance. 

Here are some podcasting statistics: 

According to the Listen Notes podcast search engine and database, there are 1,494,824 podcasts and 78,639,019 episodes in the world right now. New podcast creation started jumping in 2017 with 125,162 new podcasts followed by 192,374 in 2018, 304,346 in 2019 and 2020 YTD of 512,452 worldwide. The leading podcast topics are in descending order: Society & Culture, Education, Religion & Spirituality, Business, Arts, and Comedy.

Podcast Insights - the industry-leading podcast education site - highlights the rapid growth of podcasting pointing to numerous sources that verify that the total number of podcasts was in the 500,000 range in 2018 and there is well over 1 million today. As well, 75% of the U.S. population is now familiar with the term “podcasting,” up from 60% in 2017; while 55% of the U.S. population has listened to at least one podcast, up from 40% in 2017. Monthly podcast consumers recently crested over 100 million Americans for the first time. Statistics show that podcast listeners are affluent, educated, and loyal as they listen to an average of seven shows per week.

To get a practical understanding of how podcasting works and can be an invaluable tool for advisors wanting to add to their virtual reach, the Institute was introduced to Kirk Lowe, co-founder of Top Advisor Marketing (TAM) – a provider of managed expertise marketing services that act as influence and relationship accelerators for financial professionals and firms. Everything TAM does is built around the power of podcasting and helping people who compete in the expertise economy to own their specific expertise, with their specific audience, in their specific region.] 

Hortz: With the huge growth happening in podcasting, are there still opportunities for advisors to benefit from the current podcast landscape?

Lowe: Podcasting is growing with a notable surge in the number of podcasts and listeners but with substantial room still available for new participants. For a more apples-to-apples comparison, there are close to 2 billion websites and 2 billion new blog posts published each year to over 600 billion blogs. Podcasting is not even close to being over-saturated, although I do get asked if it is.

Hortz: What are the statistics telling you about the growth of this market?

Lowe: Americans cannot get enough of business and finance podcasts. Downloads and streams of business and finance podcasts are up 78% week-over-week since the COVID-19 pandemic began, iHeartMedia reports. I do not think there has been a better time for an advisor to start a podcast. As a medium, it is only going to become more influential and more accepted as the stats indicate. It is also an engaging medium and that has to get advisors excited because one of advisors’ greatest challenges in marketing is engagement –– helping their ideal audience experience their wisdom and insights. Advisors need to find better ways to communicate and, most importantly, connect with their audience.

A demographic statistic to address comes from Infinite Dial 2020 podcast stats that indicate 12-34yo (48%) and 35-54yo (32%) are the largest listener age groups. However, I do not think this stat should keep advisors with ideal audiences ages 55+ from using a podcast to communicate. The feedback I regularly receive from advisors who have introduced podcasts to people over the age of 55 is that this age group is grateful for the introduction to this medium. It is a whole new world of media for some of them. And once people get hooked on podcasts, they tend to listen often and thoroughly (over 80% listen to all or most of each podcast episode).

Hortz: Why should podcasting be considered as a key virtual engagement strategy for financial advisors? What are some core benefits for a financial firm?

Lowe: There are many reasons for advisors to start podcasting: 1) instant, deep credibility that resonates with your ideal audience; 2) top-of-mind awareness without interrupting your audience; 3) more referrals from clients, prospects and centers-of-Influence; 4) significantly increases your search engine results with original content; 5) expansion of your digital network – even while you sleep; 6) enhances your focus on what you do best and how you create value; 7) attracts clients who you enjoy working with most; 8) positions you as the trusted expert; 9) significantly increases the synergy of your marketing to enhance your ROE (return on effort); and 10) it’s fun.

Hortz: Can you explain what you mean when you say that podcasting can position advisors as a “micro-Influencer” in their regional community?

Lowe: When I first started approaching advisors with the concept of starting their own podcast, many of them immediately jumped to the idea of becoming an “influencer” in their mind. Most advisors were overwhelmed with the thought of becoming an influencer and being compared to famous financial personalities. This either seemed too lofty or not the business model they desired. That is why we invented the concept of “micro-influence” –– to help advisors see the practical side of podcasting and the more relevant outcomes to the business they most desire. 

A micro-influencer is an expert or firm who owns a specific expertise, for a specific audience, in a specific region. This definition positions podcasting as a more relevant and practical pursuit for advisors. Micro-influence is meant to build the business you want, with the people you best serve, and in a region that makes sense for each advisor or firm. Local advisors offer distinct advantages for investors and this plays right into positioning them as the local expert. Can there be anything more powerful for an advisor who wants to scale their credibility and become an authority in their region for their audience? 

Hortz: Besides as a virtual engagement tool, can podcasting or content marketing also be looked at as an asset that can grow its value?

Lowe: Yes, your podcast can be purposely developed into a tangible asset since there are three ways to monetize podcasting: 1) use the podcast to develop relationships with clients, prospects and Centers of Influence who will do business with you, and 2) your audience itself becomes an asset that attracts community sponsors , and 3) create quality content where, with each new episode and shared wisdom, the digital asset itself develops quantifiable valuable (i.e. can be sold). 

Most marketing tactics after completion, are not intrinsically worth anything, nor do they continue to promote your thought-leadership and business. Podcasting on the other hand, episode by episode, is a library of content that adds to your credibility every day, builds an audience, and creates an asset. A good podcast will present opportunities for paid guest appearances, re-publishing as content with media partners, in-podcast advertising, and sponsorship. I call this Momentum Marketing versus Traditional Marketing tactics that advisors typically employ. Podcasting opens up a whole new world of opportunity and how advisors approach and potentially pay for marketing.

Hortz: What steps do you take with advisors to help them launch and maintain a podcast show?

Lowe: There are a number of key steps in launching a podcast:

Goals and expectations - first, we want to understand and help the advisor with their goals and expectations. Like any good plan or strategy, you need to understand the purpose and expected outcomes of podcasting. In some instances, we work with advisors to re-align their expectations. 

Establish the podcast brand - once the name, style and description of the show are developed, we create the cover art, build the podcast channel, and hire a professional voice-over artist to introduce their show. This stage is when the podcast starts coming together, including the format, episode topics, tone of podcast. 

Production of the podcast - The advisor is now ready to receive their podcast starter kit, which includes their microphone, filter, stand, headphones. There are many podcast formats: positioning the advisor as a niche financial expert, interview-style guest (COI), lifestyle, local business’ and heroes' stories, and client hobbyist episodes. The most common format is positioning the advisor as the niche expert. Advisors have the option of solo-casting or professional co-host. However, 90% of our clients choose to work with one of our co-hosts, who have decades of financial and broadcasting experience. The co-hosts add an impressive layer of professionalism that helps advisors quickly get comfortable and start sounding like a pro. 

Topic and show development - Most advisors worry about coming up with topics and creating an outline for their episode recordings, but we quickly alleviate this concern by extracting their first six - twelve episode topics during our discovery call. Plus, we teach advisors how to come up with topics during their workweek and we offer access to a database of 115+ financial topics with key talking points.  

Hortz: What kind of supporting marketing needs to be done to develop awareness and build an audience of listeners?

Lowe: A podcast’s success lies in the value it adds to your audiences’ lives, as well as, how it is marketed and distributed. Few advisors will achieve influencer status organically. The goal is for the advisor is to establish niche expertise with an audience in a specific region and then market with those criteria in mind. Digital marketing allows advisors to efficiently and effectively achieve this goal. When done consistently with value and clarity, it can build authority momentum that most advisors may have not experienced. 

There are three steps to scaling an advisor’s credibility: 1) multiply; 2) share; and 3) boost. 

Multiplication can be achieved by taking an audio file (podcast episode), transcribing it, editing it for accuracy, and selecting key talking points. Next, we create what we call “content snippets.” These snippets represent bite-sized content that we can share digitally for engagement. These include audio clips, quote memes and a text-motion video. Not everyone is prepared to listen to an entire podcast episode so we multiply an advisor’s single episode into many snippets that we can now distribute every day through social media. 

This is what mega-influencers do well; they multiply a single piece of content (e.g. podcast or video file) into digital sound bites. Now they are in a position to share their thought leadership with greater frequency without having to create organic content every day. This may be one of the biggest advantages of podcasting –– having the ability to multiply content easily. It is an incredible advantage for Micro-Influencers to position them to become the local authority. 

Sharing is using this new source of regular content with the audience you already have which usually happens through social media and email. It is critical to have good social media copy that gives the snippet context and includes a strong call-to-action.  We write advisors’ social media posts with the mandate of being as helpful as possible and making it easy for people to experience the advisor’s expertise and share it with their network. 

Boosting is about gaining exposure beyond your existing network to increase exposure and expand your audience. This is essential to expediting the impact of your podcast - growing your podcast audience and exposure. LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, Instagram and Twitter all offer the ability to fine-tune your audience. Equally powerful is using a public relations service or getting a podcast published on a web portal that the advisor’s audience frequents.  

Hortz: From your experience, what have you seen as traits and/or best practices for podcast hosts in being successful in engaging their audience and building a following?

Lowe: A good podcast host meets several important criteria: Hosts need to 1) be themselves; 2) have a clear and niche expertise; 3) have an outline versus a script; 4) be a good listener when interviewing; 5) have clear and repeating sound bites (i.e. brand); 6) know their ideal audience, 7) make it fun; 8) constantly build hype about their podcast; and 9) make it highly valuable by being prepared and sharing generously. 

Hortz: Any final recommendations or advice you can offer advisors on why podcasting should be viewed as a major tool or approach to use as part of their growth and engagement strategies for their business?          

Lowe: Podcasting and its accompanying tactics play very well together, creating marketing efficiencies and effectiveness that most advisors have not experienced in their marketing prior –– and the cost to do so is not as much of an obstacle for advisors as you’d think. Especially as the podcast can eventually pay for itself or create a valuable asset as we discussed previously.

Additionally, I think the traditional mindset that pursued lead generation has evolved into relationship engagement. Consumers are savvy, they expect you to make it easy for them to make informed decisions, and podcasting is a perfect core tactic every advisor can achieve and build on. There has never been a better way for advisors to scale their credibility in such engaging ways. 

Related: The Necessary Human Element Needed in Advanced Analytics