Marketing & Sales

Email Marketing Insider Tips for Financial Advisors

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We talked with James about:

  • Email marketing that works and why it often won’t if it’s done wrong
  • How you should and shouldn’t measure success with email marketing
  • Building an email list through lead magnets
  • Choosing the right lead generators to improve your conversion and close rates

About James Pollard:

James Pollard is a seasoned marketing professional with a passion for personal finance. With nearly two decades of experience in the marketing world, he found his niche assisting financial advisors with their marketing efforts, particularly focusing on email marketing strategies. His journey into this specialized field began when he helped a financial advisor improve their marketing, leading to tangible results and subsequent referrals. This organic growth spurred him to establish his own company, The Advisor Coach, where he initially offered coaching services but later transitioned into an information and publishing model to reach a wider audience of financial advisors. Today, his website,, is one of the leading sources for business-building information in the advisory space. His products and services have helped more than 50,000 financial advisors attract more clients since 2015.

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Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:05):

James, thanks for being here.

James (00:07):

Thank you so much. I always love to talk about email marketing. It's one of my favorite topics, so thank you. And I can't wait to get into this.

Lauren (00:14):

Yeah, me too. So for those of you who don't know James, he is The Advisor Coach, as it says on your sweatshirt right there. You rock.

James (00:22):

Oh, it does actually.

Lauren (00:23):

Yeah. You got it going on. And you know this advisor, wealth management world. Not only do you know it but I feel like you’re also living it. You're the one who's in the data, you're doing the advising, you're talking to people, you're having the tough conversations, and specifically know this email component of it, which we're going to get into in a minute. But before we get into the nitty gritty about email, email marketing, workflows, all that fun stuff, tell us a little bit more about you. How did you get to the seat you're in right now and what kind of wakes you up every day to do what you're doing?

James (00:59):

I do have an absurd amount of data. A lot of that comes from talking with financial advisors every single day for the past, almost seven years now, in and out. The newsletter is in the seventh year. People ask me questions every single day. I'm having conversations about everything from content marketing to social, to referrals, to networking, to you name it. So long story short, I've always been interested in personal finance and marketing, and this is a beautiful way to weave the two together. I've actually been involved in the marketing world for almost two decades now. So I have been, let's just say marketing, marketing, marketing, marketing for 10 years and then marketing with financial advisors for another 10. And it's been a wonderful journey and that is pretty much the long and short of it. I transitioned from marketing into marketing for financial advisors because I helped an advisor with his marketing: surprise. It's so simple.

I don’t have this huge backstory that's super sexy or anything like that; I just helped this person. He got results. Then he gave me a referral, then my name started to get spread around because I mean financial advisors know other financial advisors. And I was like, I should probably charge for this and charge more and take the show on the road. Started a company called The Advisor Coach, which I have on my sweatshirt and still have today. Don't do any coaching, have transitioned into an information or a publishing model. That way I can reach far more financial advisors at scale. And it's from a selfish entrepreneur perspective, it's a far better business model. So that is where I am right now.

Lauren (02:32):

Yeah, I can appreciate that, right? You learn along the way and you're tweaking and you're really wanting to make sure you're constantly adding the best value for what the market's demanding. So okay, let's lean into this email marketing side of things, right? Because not only are you helping advisors with this but you've got a pretty awesome email list that you're also managing on a day to day. Tell us more about that and how you got on this bend of email marketing and a little bit more about what you're helping folks to actually do with email marketing?

James (03:06):

There are a lot of reasons why I love email marketing and the reason why I do email marketing is because it's super effective from a business standpoint. For me personally, it is a great conversion mechanism to get financial advisors to be clients and customers of mine. And the same is true in almost every service industry. It is a relationship business and someone will be working with another person, whether that's an advisor or an accountant. But in my world, advisors, it is very important to build trust, credibility, and rapport before that sale takes place. And email is one of the best ways to do that because you can give people a little bit of trust building, a little bit of rapport building, a little bit of credibility building, and then again and again and again every single day.

Lauren (03:55):

Adding that value.

James (03:56):

Totally. And also there have been so many studies — there's a guy named Robert Clay who did one. If you just google Robert Clay follow-up study, the majority of conversions happen after the fifth follow-up attempt. And with email, that's very easy because that's a week of daily emails. So I started to realize you could get the bulk of your conversions as quickly as possible if you just had a way to follow up and email is that way to follow up. And people don't get upset about it because they're the ones joining your email list. So that is the tip of the iceberg but it's a win-win win from that standpoint alone.

Lauren (04:34):

Right. Okay. So can we talk about that first component of it, right? Because you could buy a huge list, dump it in, start blasting people. It's not easy to build an authentic list of people who actually are opting in. And what carrot are you dangling to get them to opt in? Well, you've got one of the biggest lists for this advisor community. Tell us, how did you even go about that? Building your name, actually giving them something they want that would actually add would be worth their time, right? We're all short on time. So how did that happen?

James (05:09):

Well, that's the secret. If I were to go back in time, I would spend a lot more time working on my lead magnets and I have good lead magnets today. But that is the advice I would give someone. If someone's just starting out, in your mind you're thinking, I'm going to tackle this email marketing strategy, your mind immediately goes to how can I write great emails? And that's valid. That's wonderful. That's a part of the equation, right? It is necessary but it is not sufficient. The lead magnet is so important. If you take your lead magnet and you put it in front of your audience or a potential person, a potential client, and you say, hey, I'm thinking about doing this, this, and this. If they say anything to you except where can I get that it is not good enough to be amazing.

And the reason it has to be amazing is because when you put it in front of people, they're going to have to opt into your email list. That's how you build the list. So ask your audience, put it in front of them, shop it around. If someone tells you — so in the book “Secrets of Closing the Sale” by Zig Ziglar, there's a story where Zig had a prospective client tell him, oh, you're such a good salesperson or you've really got this pitch down. You're nailing this but the person didn't buy. So if someone says, oh, that's really pretty, that's really good for you, that's wonderful — but they don't ask you where to get it — it's not good enough. Get rid of it. I know it's hard to kill your darlings as the writing thing goes but you have to do it. It has to be amazing.

Lauren (06:42):

Yes. Okay. So really listening to your audience, do they actually want it? And they're like, give it to me now, kind of thing. But in what form? Because sometimes we see people who will be like, well, what do you think of as lead funnel? And I'm looking at it, I'm like, okay, the magnet field, it feels off. It could be a great landing page, it can be a great whatever but are you giving away ebooks? What do you even recommend as the league magnet? Is it a webinar? Is it just dependent on the audience?

James (07:09):

So that's actually a really good question. For the longest time I thought PDFs are the way to go, and PDFs are still some of the best performing lead magnets I've seen people put out. But the more I start to interact with advisors and really dig into the data and understand people more, I mean, I thought I understood people years ago but now it's like every day I'm learning something new. I'm starting to realize that perhaps — now I'm not saying this as a sure thing — but perhaps the best lead magnets are the ones that follow the expectations you set. Meaning if you are meeting with your clients over Zoom or you have video chats with them, perhaps delivering a video lead magnet makes more sense. In my case specifically. Now, this may or may not apply to financial advisors. The PDF lead magnets work exceptionally well for me because financial advisors can buy more PDFs from me and I have written content. So I'm attracting readers who will then read more and financial advisors if they have a webinar that's kind of like a meeting, especially a live webinar. So the person who is attracted to a live webinar is likely going to be attracted to meeting with a financial advisor over that same medium. I hope that makes sense.

Lauren (08:24):

Yes, that totally makes sense. So in other words, in basically a nutshell, you have to not only know your audience, know the medium that would make the most sense for them to absorb it but with what they actually want and something that would add value. Okay. So let's say you test it and you can talk a little bit more about the data side once you get it out there. How do you know if your hypothesis was right, if it's a good lead magnet that’s actually working or not? Are there certain KPIs or things you're specifically looking for, they're like, yeah, this is dead on. Is it just people subscribing? What would it be?

James (09:00):

It would be people subscribing. But after that, you basically look at the emails, and the most important thing in my case is appointments set. Open rates are cool, click-through rates. Cool. All of that is nice. But you could have a super high open rate and no appointments. You could have a low open rate and more appointments. One of the things that is really funny, when I see people talk about open rates and high open rates, first of all, to the best of my knowledge, and this may have changed, iPhone counts loads as open.

Yeah, sorry, when someone's loading your email, that doesn't count. It's not real. The second thing is you could have an extremely high open rate with a crazy subject line that doesn't really mean anything and doesn't lead to an appointment. But if I have a subject line that says “Pre-retirees in Georgia, please read this,” it will get a low open rate but the people you want to read it will read that email, highly qualify, and have the opportunity to take action. So I focus on appointments. Now, sometimes I'll get criticism and people say, oh, well, I don't get paid based on appointments. I get paid based on clients. The data answer to that is for most financial advisors, it is hard to gauge statistical significance with clients simply because there is not enough data. So if I can't gauge based on clients, I gauge based on appointments. And in the rare cases where I can't gauge based on appointments, then I try to look at other metrics. But that's rare. That almost never happens.

Lauren (10:32):

So let's assume you got this killer lead magnet. You still have to show up. It takes a lot of effort to be able to figure out the right carrot to dangle. So those, let's just call it five emails, after just a series of emails, I mean, is there a method to the madness? Is it telling a story through the emails? Is it connecting them from one to one? Is it like, what are you talking about? I mean, I'd love to hear a little bit more about that. And then how are you, sorry, a lot of questions but then how are you even validating it? Share a little bit more if you don't mind about that whole, okay, got 'em. They're interested. Let's keep 'em engaged.

James (11:11):

So when someone subscribes to your email list through an opt-in like an ad or through your social or on your website, if you're a financial advisor and you have done your job well, two things for sure they know. You're a financial advisor. So you offer financial advice and financial planning. This is obvious, right? Because they're opting in from a financial advisor's social media or a financial advisor's website. The second thing for sure is they have not set an appointment with you. So now you know they know you're a financial advisor and you have these services and you have a particular niche market or whatever.

But they haven't moved forward. So the goal is to remove those barriers. They're hesitating for some reason. So you are getting them to not hesitate anymore. So many financial advisors think, oh, I'll send more information and more education and more education, and that can help diminish the I don't believe you're knowledgeable objection but it does absolutely nothing to handle the I don't think I have enough money. I don't have enough time. I don't know what your process looks like. I don't know what your initial meeting looks like. I don't know if this is a good fit for me. There are so many other hesitations. If you're a young financial advisor, the hesitation might be you don't have enough experience or you are too young. So in email number two or three or four, you could tell a story about how people think you're too young to help them but it's actually an advantage because you'll be able to work with them for their entire lives, whereas other financial advisors will retire along the way and leave you high and dry.

So that's kind of like the gist of it. I think a lot of financial advisors could be extremely well served if they literally, and I mean this for real, literally sat down with a pen and paper and at the top of the paper wrote reasons why people don't work with me. And reason number one, reason number two, don't have enough time, don't have enough money. I'm intimidated by the financial planning process. That's huge. I mean, I did a whole study on that last year. The number one reason is people are intimidated by the process. So whatever it is. And then the most common reasons make each one of your emails and explain that away because people have those hesitations. People have those objections, and for you to believe they don't, that is naive. And for you to ignore them does nothing to get them closer to an appointment with you.

Lauren (13:31):

So that's an awesome way to think about an outline, right? Things you're addressing, you're addressing fears, concerns or questions they might want to ask and lessons learned you've had. So I'd also be curious, if you're in a sales seat and you're having those initial prospect meetings, would those kinds of questions that may come up, would those also be good to put in there? What is your process like? Things like that? Or are you thinking to hit more of the stuff that's the fear-based stuff, or why they wouldn't work with you to pull them on the other side?

James (14:04):

I'm not sure. And the reason I say that is because when you answer questions people in front of you have asked, so in this case, prospective clients, it could also be clients. One of the most common pieces of content marketing advice is to make content about the questions your clients are asking you. That can be very dangerous. And it's related to the question you're asking because survivorship bias is in it, meaning you are only getting questions from people who have made it to you. So you're kind of jumping over the whole process of what about the people who never sent an appointment in the first place? So I would do it, right? Because I mean, content is content and obviously people are asking questions for a reason but I would never make that all I do simply because of the survivorship bias.

Lauren (14:48):

Super interesting. So I guess in a way, if they're already talking with you, they sort of qualified or hopefully they've qualified if they're somewhat a fit. But then if you're addressing the questions where they could be potentially qualified or they could learn when they would be qualified as you're helping them to sort of navigate them before they even have a conversation with you through these emails. Is that fair?

James (15:09):

Yeah, and I mean studies have been done, I think advisor value propositions by Pershing and BNY. I think that's it. I could be wrong but there was one study that found people search for years of experience, certifications, location, investment philosophy, things like that. The study has already been done. The research has already been done, polls have already been conducted. People say, when I go to an advisor's website or LinkedIn profile, this is what I'm looking for. I want to see these things, so why not put that in your email? Email number one, your welcome email. Hey, I'm John Smith. Hey, I'm Sarah Brown, whatever. I'm a financial advisor. I have this many years of experience. I'm in this location. I serve this niche, and I have this investment philosophy. You're in the very first email checking off each box. And the reason that's so wonderful is because not everybody does it.

And so many advisors say — they don't say this to me explicitly most of the time but they say it implicitly — they say, oh, my clients come directly to me. If there's a referral, they just come directly to me and they don't interact with any other financial advisors. That's a pipe dream. People shop around for financial advisors, they shop around. They're having multiple appointments, they're going to multiple websites. I'm sorry if that burst your bubble but it is reality. It's true. But if you handle all of those things, people will start to think on an unconscious level. You have already fulfilled many of the needs they have, many of the desires they have. And not only is that smart business, it's incredible positioning because now you have people becoming unconsciously attracted to you and they don't know why. That's the evil psychology marketing of it. You have handled everything they want.

Lauren (16:54):

It's honest, and you're helping to address what issues are kind of upfront before perhaps even being asked, which helps you get deeper faster when you actually have a conversation. So super interesting. Okay, so are you delivering these in a written format video? Is it dependent on the list? Maybe I'm answering my own question by talking about your answer you had earlier, which was sort of around the target and how they would absorb the questions. But what's been your learning through the data?

James (17:21):

Plain text, like words.

Lauren (17:23):

Plain text. Okay, that's it. Just plain text. Plain text as if it's coming from an individual or if it's coming from the company?

James (17:30):


Lauren (17:32):

And personalized text like, Hi, John, it was great. Thanks for joining our webinar, whatever it was, lead magnet.

James (17:42):

Oh yeah, that's fine. So sometimes personalization is not necessarily; Hi, John, hope you're doing well. John, insert first name here. I've never seen that work for me. I have seen it work for other people. Full disclaimer. It's just I personally only ask for email and my stuff works just fine. Some of the personalization I like doesn't come from the initial email. Now, this is super advanced but here we go. So the personalization comes from the reply, and I'll explain what I mean by that. I purposefully like to talk about books and movies and TV shows and things I know people on my list are watching or listening to. I know this, I read very esoteric stuff and very niche stuff. I don't have an example with me but if I said, I'm reading right now, I'm reading “Evolutionary Psychology” by Dr. David Buss. No one listening to this show is reading that book. Not a single soul. It is literally a Harvard textbook about evolutionary psychology. If I were to write an email about that, it would be dumb. It would be a big mistake. People wouldn't be able to relate to me. But if I write an email about the game last night and I say, wow, the Steelers really had a blowout last night, didn't they? That was awesome. Oh, by the way, and segue into the email, just that one little sentence.

I will get replies from people saying, oh, yeah, I saw that too. And again, they begin to think, this person is just like me. This person reads the same books. This person watches the same shows. It's all intentional. If you're a financial advisor with a geographic area, someone who serves a geographic area, one of the most effective things you can possibly do is to talk about landmarks in that area. If you're in Miami, talk about Joe's Stone Crab. Talk about what you're doing on South Beach, because now you are going to the same places, eating the same meals. You're running in the same circles as the people who are receiving your emails. And if you want to talk about rapport, compared to like, oh, here's what the stock market did last week, it's unreal how much more effective it is.

Lauren (19:56):

Totally get it. It's funny, we see it in the data too. When we look at just websites, bio pages skyrocket. Of course, homepage is going to be number one but people, they care about people, they're shopping but it's a human to human business, and it's a trust business. So that's part of that, cultivating and building those relationships. Okay, so going back to these emails, are these automated emails that are posted? Are these individual emails automated?

James (20:23):

They can be both. Okay. So when a financial advisor comes to me, and if a financial advisor doesn't know anything about email, and the financial advisor says, James, what should I be doing? My answer would be you should create an automated sequence of between five and 12. Again, because of the data. Most conversions happen after five. They drop off after 12. So automated emails five to 12, you put 'em in there. They handle the objections, they tell stories, they entertain, they build trust, credibility, and rapport, all that good stuff. Then you go live your life, do whatever, come back in six months, look at the data, see which emails do horribly, swap those out and then move on with your life. Now, if you want to write weekly emails, so when I say daily, I mean daily emails. The emails in the sequence get sent out every single day.

So if someone joins your email list on a Tuesday, that person will get an email Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and so on and so forth. But once the person has done that sequence, if you want to continue writing an email every week so the person will exit that sequence and go onto your main list, now you just send an email every week to your main list — more power to you if you want to do that. I don't think you need to. I think the sequence does. I'm an 80/20 guy, so 80% of the results are going to come from 20% of that effort, period. But there are some people out there who want to squeeze every last bit of juice out of everything they have, which I admire. So that would be the way to do it.

Lauren (21:49):

Super interesting. Okay, we're running up on time. I do want to talk about your list. What happens with that list? I do have a question though. I want to swing way back to the beginning of, okay, we've got the magnet. How do you build an audience? What are your tips? Do you recommend paid ads to be able to get the magnet in front of people? Do you recommend commenting on forums? Is it part of, I don't know, a workshop? At the end of the workshop, you're like, okay, everybody sign up for my list. What have you seen that works for advisors to be able to help build up your audience to know that the league magnet is actually there?

James (22:31):

All of the above. Let me answer your question with a question. The average sale revenue Nike gets per customer is $110. How much profit do you think Nike makes on $110?

Lauren (22:50):

Probably a decent amount of money is my guess. So I don't know. I have no idea.

James (22:56):

It's $11, shockingly. But let's say, say we quintuple that, right? $55. Okay, we'll just say a new CEO comes on and makes it amazing, the lifetime value, if you start to think, oh, yeah, it could be high or whatever, forget about all that. We're talking about $11 right now. Think about how much money Nike spends on one sponsorship. Millions, right? Then they do millions more in branding. They do millions more in ads. They are spending so much money to get that $110 sale with $11 profit.

Lauren (23:27):


James (23:28):

Okay. Now, let's compare that to a financial advisor's metrics. How much money do you make per client? How much money do you make per financial plan? You have recurring revenue. You have my dear financial advisor metrics that other companies would salivate over. They see financial advisors metrics. They're like, oh, I wish I had high ticket recurring business. Or high retention; the retention rate is 90+%.

Lauren (23:54):


James (23:56):

And I'm in a subscription business and I work my tail off to get churn down, and I have some of the lowest churn ever, which is so hard. It makes me want to pull what little hair I have left out. It's hard but financial advisors have it relatively easy compared to companies like Apple, Nike, and all these other huge companies. So just think about that financial advisor. Maybe it makes sense to put a little money in your marketing, maybe paid ads. Maybe you could hire someone to help you with social media. Maybe you could hire someone to help you with your content to refine your existing strategy. So many advisors are afraid to put money into marketing when it's just, I don't want to give the impression that it's just super easy because it's absolutely not. It's difficult. It is. I mean, compared to other businesses, come on. You can't be serious. It's amazing compared to other businesses; once you've got that client, you take good care of them, and a lot of clients do stay for a long time.

Lauren (24:48):

Yeah. Super. Okay. Any final thoughts?

James (24:58):

I would say don't be afraid of email marketing, just like your website works for you 24/7, making a good first impression. Hopefully it never gets sick, never takes a day off; neither does your email automation sequence. It continues to work for you all the time. Continues to shake hands, metaphorically speaking, it continues to break those barriers down for you that, again, for sure exist. Why wouldn't you do it? So I love that, and I think it's just something that if an advisor can do it, I think an advisor should do it.

Lauren (25:28):

Okay, so I know you've got, also, speaking of lead magnets and an awesome ebook, I think you said it was like 80 tips, 80 pages or something.

James (25:37):

Yeah, it's 80 pages.

Lauren (25:38):

Yeah, go for it.

James (25:40):

I think advisors, even if you're not interested in getting on my email list and you're like, oh, not another email. I know you get hundreds of emails, right? I get it. If you're the average financial advisor, if for no other reason, you opt in to see what a good lead magnet looks like, you should go to number five, the number seven mt. That's 57 mt, and it stands for 57 marketing tips for financial advisors. It is an 80-plus page PDF with 57 marketing tips for financial advisors. That lead magnet works extremely well for me because it is something financial advisors want. Also, it sets the expectation in the very beginning. If someone listens to my podcast, the Financial Advisor Marketing podcast, they say, I'm interested in marketing. I'm going to listen to this. They opt into the email list, which offers more marketing, then they can graduate and move on and get more marketing. So I actually call this the pepperoni pizza rule. If you have pepperoni pizza, you should offer pepperoni pizza. You should talk about pepperoni pizza, and you should have that in your ads. Don't talk about this secret sauce recipe or how your mom came from the old country. All of this other stuff that doesn't really matter. Give people what they want. And in this case, in my case specifically, financial advisors want marketing tips, so I offer that over

Lauren (27:03):

Awesome. Thanks so much, James. We'll make sure to include that link below as well. Thank you. This was so fun, so many insightful tips. I also just really appreciate not only tips but then we got a little bit more into the nitty gritty, and so I think there's some really good takeaways. Thank you again. Appreciate it.

James (27:18):

My pleasure.

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