Neil Rhein is the founder of Bull’s-eye Financial Communications in Mansfield, Massachusetts. He has a long history working in the financial services field as a writer, editor, and content marketer.
Like many people I have met in the past few years, Neil and I became acquainted via social media. Neil writes for his blog and develops content for asset managers, broker dealers, and financial advisory firms.
In this interview I ask Neil to share with my readers some pointers about niche marketing, writing styles, and how to be a better writer.
[Suzanne] I am always fascinated with businesses that have a distinct niche market. How did you get into this business and why the specialization in financial services?
[Neil] The idea for the business sprang from my frustration while working as an editor at Fidelity Investments. We frequently hired freelance writers to help write the stories for our quarterly magazine, and I became frustrated by how difficult it was to find qualified writers who could deliver solid copy. Eventually it occurred to me that other financial services companies were probably facing the same challenges. So in 2005 I left Fidelity and launched Bull’s-eye Financial Communications to meet the unique needs of the financial services industry.
I specialize in financial communications simply because it’s the subject I know best. I started my career as an operations clerk at Dean Witter in the mid-1980s and worked as a Series 7 registered sales assistant at Smith Barney before joining Fidelity in 1990. I worked in many different areas of the business and that experience has enabled me to serve clients in a variety of sub-sectors, such as advisors and wealth managers, broker dealers and asset managers, retirement plan administrators, custodians, and others. In this business, you really need to understand the subject matter and speak the language to be effective. You can’t fake it.
[Suzanne] I have noticed that many advisors have a “dry” writing style. How can advisors ensure that their “voice” comes across in their writing so that they come across as genuine?
[Neil] I think that advisors and wealth managers, like most people, often experience anxiety when it’s time to write something for a public audience. So, just as they may have done back in high school, they write in an overly formal style. I believe the easiest way to avoid writing in “corporate speak” is to simply write in the same style that you speak. Pretend you’re trying to explain a concept or idea to a friend over lunch. Keep it simple and conversational. Avoid jargon. Write short sentences. Once you have a first draft down, you can always (and should) review it and make improvements. I find that reading the draft aloud is a great way to catch redundancies, awkward phrasing, and typos.
[Suzanne] I follow many financial blogs because I enjoy reading financial content and I like to see what advisors are writing about. What amazes me is that so few financial advisors utilize blogging and inbound marketing to attract their ideal clients. Why do you think this is the case and will this ever change?
[Neil] I think for most advisors, the primary challenge is a lack of time. Blogging and content marketing requires an ongoing commitment of time and effort. It’s not something you can do well in the brief periods when you’re not dealing with clients and prospects. It requires you to block off chunks of time to brainstorm ideas, develop an editorial calendar, write, and publish. For advisors who are decent writers, it really comes down to a matter of prioritization.
For those who just don’t have the skills or interest, outsourcing is a good way to go. In my work with advisors, I try to make the process as painless as possible. I can typically schedule a 20-minute call to get an advisor’s views on a particular topic and then write a brief article, letter, email, or blog post.
While technology has certainly made it easier for advisors to publish content, unfortunately, I think many will continue to stay on the sidelines due to the challenges and costs associated with creating high quality content. Of course, I believe that’s a shortsighted approach, but I don’t anticipate it will change anytime soon.
[Suzanne] What’s your advice for financial advisors who don’t have the budget for professional writing and editing?
[Neil] Depending on the size of your firm, consider rotating responsibility for a monthly blog post or e-newsletter article. Reach out to colleges in your area to see if any students might be interested in serving as freelance contributors. Consider asking people in related industries to write a guest post for your blog. You can also “curate” content by sharing links to useful articles written by others. The only downside here is that you are driving clients and prospects to other organizations’ websites and not your own.
[Suzanne] What is one thing you advise your clients to do to be more successful writers in the coming year?
[Neil] If you’re doing your own writing, I suggest keeping it conversational. Write as you speak, avoid jargon, and ask someone else to proofread your work before you publish it. If you don’t have the skills or time to create high quality content, I believe that hiring a professional writer is a worthwhile investment.
You can learn more about Neil Rhein and his firm here.