Building Your Online Brand to Attract Your Ideal Clients with Tim Slatter [Ep69]

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Welcome to episode 69 of The Innovating Advice Show. 

I’m joined once again by Tim Slatter of Slatter Communications in South Africa, who specializes in working with financial advisors around the world on online communication and online branding. 

Tim was first on the show on episode 26 where we talked about why and how advisors should communicate online.

In this episode, we’re discussing two key topics that I’ve been hearing from you. How do you attract your ideal client and how do you overcome those internal barriers that prevent you from creating and sharing content that will attract your ideal client.

And listen until the end where Tim shares a cool new feature on LinkedIn where you can highlight your personality and value in just ten seconds.


Guest Bio

Tim Slatter is the Founder of Slatter Communications where he leads a team that helps financial advisors have better conversations with their clients - online.

They write brand stories and create logos, write weekly blogs, build websites, design and distribute monthly email campaigns and offer training to help financial advisors. Their goal is to help advisors optimally use their online brand and communication strategy to stay in touch with clients. 

Many people are really good at what they do, and know how to help their clients - but they struggle to have conversations that will instil confidence and build client relationships. That's where Tim comes in.


00:30 - Introducing Tim Slatter

04:26 - A recap: Why do you want to communicate?

04:54 - Who do you want to communicate to?

05:33 - Building a digital brand

11:00 - Coming up with the “who”

14:34 - How do we create value? How do we get people to engage with us?

18:25 - Helping people get over their lack of confidence about how to communicate

2:25 - The importance of being authentic

27:09 - How to handle the branding messaging if what you want to say may alienate some clients?

28:43 - Firing clients

30:29 - Being featured in the media and building a community

34:56 - Facebook pages and the Facebook algorithm

39:07 - LinkedIn’s 10-second elevator pitch

42:27 - Some final thoughts: be true to yourself


Kate: Welcome back to the show, Tim.

Tim: Thanks for having me, Kate. It's great to be here with you.

Kate: So it's awesome to have you. You were first on the show back in late April, which is shockingly six wild months ago, but it was one of our most popular episodes. And so I was like, all right, we've got to have you back on the show because there are so many conversations happening around building your online brand and attracting your ideal client and having confidence for what you should be putting out there in your online brand. So lots to dive into.

Tim: Yeah.

Kate: I mean, how have things been going on your end throughout these six months and with this continued adoption of needing to have that digital brand?

Tim: For us,  it's just been a continuous upscaling and getting more and more inquiries, having more and more conversations. it's been a great time for us from a business perspective. We've, we've had quite a few clients who through their clients have obviously experienced quite a bit of  the backlash from economic downturns. but to a large extent, most of the planners we work with have really weathered it well. 

Tim: Honestly thought we'd see a lot more struggle coming through, but I think as you know, we are fortunate to work with a lot of advisors who think in terms of this new style of doing financial planning, where there's the bigger conversation happening. And because our guys all have a good online brand or at least they're building towards that, they've had a lot of scope to explore what they're creating online, engage more with their content, a lot more training around how guys will actually leverage their online content properly.

Tim: It's been, I think for so many years, this perception that just having an online space is enough, but you know, some of the key things that we find in the emerging digital culture and the online communication culture is that people are looking for engagements. They're not just looking for a poster or a billboard or a digital brochure. You know, we were talking about earlier about the transition from non-digital strategies to digital strategies. And it's not just about digitizing what we used to do before. It's about understanding the new way that people perceive value and want to  engage in that value. So, so it's been, I think a really, good time for almost I'd use the word inner growth. I think a lot has been happening behind the scenes. A lot has been happening internally, which, which is very encouraging to see.

Kate: It is. And we are going to be diving pretty deep into some of that inner growth here in a minute, but I want to start with a quick recap of the strategy that you outlined on the last episode. And we started with, why do you want to communicate?

Kate: And I think for purposes of this, as I mentioned,  one of the biggest themes coming through as I'm talking with advisors and planners everywhere is attracting their ideal client. So for purposes of this episode, why do you want to communicate, let's assume it's to attract their ideal client, which then brings us into, you talked about who do you want to communicate to. And that seems to be where some of the challenge is happening cause everyone is saying, well, I want to attract my ideal client and I'm asking, okay, so who is your ideal client and time And again, what they're saying is not matching what I would ever guess by looking at their online brand. So what's going on there?

Tim: So I think  when we look at strategy, it's quite cool that you use the words why and who, and, and for me, the third is the what. Those form the first part of how you create a digital strategy. And I think where a lot of people, not just financial advisors, but a lot of professionals,  as we're building this digital brand, we struggle with this because we almost see it as a sequential  journey. And I don't think it is sequential. I think it's cyclical. And instead of kind of going, well, this is what I want to say. This is who I want to say, and this is why I want to say it, we go, but now maybe I should start with the why, and then we go, okay, so why, what and who, and okay, wait, maybe what needs to go later. So I'll go. Why, who what And then I think...

Kate: I feel like you're doing a magic trick, Tim.

Tim: I wish it was that fancy. and, and it really, it becomes quite frustrating. And so people then kind of, I think they recline almost into something that's more comfortable. and they go back to their traditional conversations that the industry has been peddling and supporting.

Tim: But I think if we're a little bit kind of to ourselves and we say, it's a journey that my ideal clients will start to be shaped and molded by the type of message I want to put out there, which will then be shaped with why I'm trying to put that message out there, which will then attract a client, which will then change what I want to say to match that client's a little bit more. and so when we create a website and we say it, right, this is it. it's done.  there's a great Winston Churchill quote that says, that success is not final and failure is not fatal, but you know, what really counts is the courage to keep going.

Tim: And when it comes to online brand, we've got to keep going. And, and there's no such thing as I've arrived. And I've got a great digital brand. I've got a great  client base and ideal client model. And I've got a great communication platform because they're going to keep changing. And so a lot of, as I said when I alluded to guys doing a little bit of an internal journey over the last few months, a lot of our advisers are starting to say the brand that we've been creating online, we're feeling a little disconnected from it. And we're starting to understand why, and we can then go on a journey of reassessing their strategy and looking at how we create an online digital platform that is not a disconnected avatar of us, that there's this digital space.

Tim: And there's this in real life space that the two are really inextricably linked. They are connected. And I believe, and I do a lot of work internationally. So there will always be clients that I will never meet face to face. So this experience has been very raw to us and very real to us, as I'm sure it is to you, but for a lot of advisors, even locally who are now not able to move as easily as geographically anymore, whether it's due to lockdown, or whether they've just realized the cost of travel, the risk of travel is too high. They are wanting to explore the digital platform far more. And they're realizing that it's, it's not about, I've got a digital spot and, an in real life spot and, and the two can be disjointed. They have to be very well connected. And that starts to come through in the starting of our strategy, and understanding the why the who, and the, what we need to say to identify ideal clients, to identify our core message.

Tim: And I think one of  the other struggles that advisors have is articulating the value proposition because they get stuck in this conversation of the products I sell or the services I deliver. And our experience of helping advisors do this is that their value proposition is really very much tied into who they are in, around their approach, their philosophy, the way they deliver, the way they create an experience, the way they engage with their clients. It's incredibly personal. And ultimately if you building a longterm wealth strategy for a client, you need to build a long-term relationship with the clients and inside of a long-term relationship, it becomes very close. It becomes very intimate and you can't just have one or two, five, six touch points over a 30 year period and expect to do the client justice. You've gotta be far more present. and so your strategy then as you look into the other, you've got, what was it, it's why, who, what, and then you've got, where, when and how, is that's when you start to look at the platforms, the frequency of communication.

Kate: So with all that lots to go back and touch on. So again, thinking about people that are in this digital space now, who knows how long lockdowns gonna last or when you can meet in person, but it does seem like people are struggling with that 'Who' and you were talking about how it can kind of go in all these different variations of, do you start with, why do you start with, who do you start with What. So again, if we assume the why is to attract your ideal client, how do you come up with that Who and why does there seem to be this disconnect in the clients that people are attracting versus who they want to attract? How do you create that Who do you want to communicate to?

Tim: So that's a very good question. And  our journey and our experience with advisers starts with who the advisor is themselves and who they enjoy working with. And I think there are many different models that you can approach to this, but fundamentally everyone's got those clients that they go, Oh, I hate those clients. And my first thought is, well, then maybe you need to encourage them to find someone who's a better fit. Maybe you need to release those clients. and then they've got these guys, Oh I could just talk all day to these clients. I could spend all my time with them. and so our conversation goes, well what are you talking about where are you adding value And so inside of a value proposition, I've always kind of liked to use the words. What difference do you make for your clients?

Tim: Because it's the difference that you make that is the value you create. And so if you're able to start to articulate what type of client you can make a difference to that helps you narrow down who you should be speaking to. Yeah. So if you identify with the teachers, for example, or doctors as kind of the two easiest to pull out, but if you're married to a teacher, your parents were teachers, you almost became a teacher. There's probably a good rapport there. And trust is built on relationship. Trust is built on the sustaining and, and the maintaining of rapport. And if you're going to pick up your phone and you're going to phone a client, who's that first client you want to kind of think of, if you are in a tough spot and you want to phone someone, what are the characteristics about that person that draw you to them?

Tim: And you'll probably find that it's either something you give off yourself or it's something you're wanting to reflect or emulate. and so when you can start to go down into those deep characteristics of, of potential clients, you don't need to sell more and have loads more clients. You really just need a very small concentrated group of people who love to hear what you have to say, because that makes content creation and all the rest of it so much easier, but you get more fulfillment and your clients are going to get more fulfillment. And when they are more fulfilled, they're going to speak to people who incidentally are very similar to them. And so by nailing down your current clients you like, and then exploring their networks and who they're connected to, which you can do really well and strategically through social media, you can start to build a slightly larger network of ideal clients.

Kate: And I liked that, and I really liked that you touch on characteristics. Cause that was always my thing. You know, I, when I started my last business, I was like, I'm going to work with people in their twenties and thirties. And then I pretty quickly realized I was like, actually my focus is on working with people that I just enjoy working with. And on my homepage, I said Hey, if you are the type of person that, I honestly said this on my homepage, that doesn't flush the toilet and a public restroom, we're not a good fit. Like if you see somebody that needs help and you don't hold the door for them, we're not a good fit. You know So I was like, I was more interested in working with people that I can feed off their really good energy and are positive and you know, want to live a great life.

Kate: And I liked that you talked about getting rid of the clients that aren't a good fit because I think that drains our energy more than we ever realize until they're actually gone. Right. So as you're thinking about who is my ideal client it's probably somewhere in the back of our heads of like, well, we don't want to alienate clients because we've got these other clients.  There's nothing wrong with alienating some of your clients and just cause they're not a good fit for you doesn't mean they're not a great fit for someone else.

Tim: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Kate: I want to dive into, because that third part is, WHAT are you saying to them? And before we actually look at the 'what' we talked a little bit earlier about the other big theme I'm seeing coming through is around this lack of confidence. So I think people can come up with the 'what' they're saying, but we'll talk about it, but maybe it's more of the HOW are they saying it. And just in the last couple of days, I'm seeing lots of comments and having conversations around people thinking Hey, it has to be absolutely perfect. And so I never get to posting that social media post or writing that blog or doing that video and thinking Oh, who do people think they are Like, they don't have enough experience in the profession or how do you, how do you get over some of that Because those are really big roadblocks to being able to build that online brand that is that extension of yourself?

Tim: Absolutely. I think you've asked me quite a few things there. I'll try to touch on as many of them as I can remember. But when it comes to maybe when you think about the what I want to say,  you have those moments when you're talking to someone, you go, Oh, you know what I need to write that down. or you, you kind of think to yourself, Oh, I'm going to Google that when I get home. Those are the kind of conversations that we want to engage with online. For me, it's how do we create value. And how do we get people to engage with us. It's when we write blogs, I say to our advisors, these are conversation sparkers. The blog is not there to replace you online. It's there to reinforce you online. Your social media presence and how you post that and how you say what you want to say online it's to lead to a bigger, broader conversation.

Tim: And so some of that will be, and I'll use the word weeding out the people we don't want to talk to.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely.

Tim: But it's also focusing. So I'd much rather have a post on social media that six people engage with and I have maybe two or three back and forth comments with them because also that's all I can manage from an energy perspective.

Kate: Right.

Tim: You know, if I send out a blog in an email campaign, I'd, I'd like maybe a handful of people. I don't want 500 people replying to me in an email. And you know, we're also not going to be able to say one thing that appeals to everyone all the time. And we better remember that our message will be kind of fairly broad based, even if we are marrying into our ideal client, because most of us, the older we get and the more experienced we get, we do have a lot of areas where we can assist our clients and add value to them.

Tim: And that is why consistent, regular posting, emailing, blogs are so valuable because allows you to touch on different topics here and there and trying to find one, this is what I want to say. One big message is, is almost impossible because even that is going to change. And so we say if, if you had the new, LinkedIn little name pronunciation tool -

Kate: Yeah. I want to chat about that in a minute.

Tim: Cool, it's a wonderful example of how do you get an elevator pitch in just 10 seconds.

Kate: Yeah.

Tim: And you know, if you had to quickly in a nutshell, say, what do I do? How do I add value to you as a client? You can start to create this  overarching what I want to say with the understanding that I'm going to break it down and I'm going to explore it more and more deeply and unpack it. The more we get to know each other, the longer we're engaged and the more value we can bring.

Kate: Thinking about all the people that I've been chatting with lately that are like, yes, I think I know what I want to say, but when I sit down to write that blog, I'm terrified or I write it and then I read it back and I'm like, that's not good enough. It's not perfect. I'm never going to hit post. How do you help people get past that?

Tim: So one of our strategies is to revisit old content that you have created potentially,  if you've got that, and pull little snippets out of that.  Another strategy is to be present in conversations that other people are posting. And that speaks to the current culture of people want engagement. They don't, they don't just want to be connected to you on social and that's it. They actually want conversation. And so as we start to follow people on social media and it doesn't have to be other financial advisors, in fact, it shouldn't be, if you're a financial advisor and you're targeting, and I'm going to go back to the example we used just now with teachers or doctors start connecting to some of your ideal clients and start to connect to some of the opinion leaders in their industry and see the conversations they're having. So you understand their needs.

Tim: Because for most people, whilst we all say money is important, I don't want to talk about it all the time.

Kate: No.

Tim: And so I need a broader perspective. So maybe I want to talk about the latest procedures in my profession. Maybe I want to talk about, different ways to manage my day. maybe I struggle with   context switching, which is something I struggle with. and, and I want to look at ways to optimize my day and my time. And so now, as, as a person in their network, you can start to engage with them. With that question. You can start to have a conversation online. And from that, in my experience, you can start things will start going off in your head saying, you know what I've got 11 other clients who think like this, I have this conversation almost on a weekly basis.

Tim: I should do a blog on this. And  again,  you and I were talking about this earlier, is not to put too much into one blog. Whenever I've helped advisors write their own blogs, they're come with like 20 points to nail down your next 40 years and I'll say, right, can we make, you've got 20 blogs here. Let's just focus on the first point and keep it short. So people also think that perhaps they've got to write 600 words, a thousand words, 1,500 words. Most people just want what we call a microblog, which is like a max 350 words. So you kind of get it out there. it's almost like a long post on LinkedIn.

Tim: And you can also, if you've got a little bit of a confidence issue, something I don't personally, is if you're sharing something is to say, this has been my experience, I'd love to hear what your experience is.

Kate: Which gives that engagement.

Tim: Which gets that engagement. Absolutely. But then it stops people from heckling you and going you're you don't know what you're talking about. Cause they'll go, I see what you're saying. We found that this really works well for our database, or for our, whatever it is, our approach to financial planning, our approach to an industry where we work in. And, and that again, spurs the conversation.

Kate: Yeah. And I really liked what you were saying around connecting with your ideal clients. So once you figured out who they actually are and trying to connect with them and listening to those conversations, because that is a great way to say, Hey, what is the content that they're all wanting? What are they talking about? What are the challenges that they're having? And then hopefully that brings confidence because you're not saying, Oh, I wonder if anybody cares about this. You're actually getting that from them, whether they know it or not, and they're going, that is what I'm looking for.

Tim: Yep. Absolutely.

Kate: And what about the importance of being authentic? We were chatting about this earlier and you mentioned masks we wear and how we change who we are and just what the industry tells us we should look like or talk like or sound like.

Tim: So the digital meeting environments and culture that we've really experienced a boost in  over the last six kind or seven months due to  lockdown has allowed us to be a little bit more authentic. I think it's allowed people into our homes. It's allowed people into times where we typically maybe wouldn't work. I've had so many meetings with guys who've just finished runs. you know, people who've just come in from sorting out kids in school and that's been happening five feet away on the kitchen counter. So, so I think that's been really great because for me, authenticity has always been at the heart of your value proposition and being able to now start to bring that into your digital avatar space and allow people to see more of the real you a little bit more of that essence. And again, now this speaks to the inner kind of growth that's been happening because then you need to ask myself where, who is the real me?

Tim: You know, we're not gonna go there today. but these are questions that will spark and it's powerful because your clients are going to be having those same questions. And if you can start to grapple with that and take that on board, you can start a journey alongside them. And I firmly believe that financial planning is moving into a place where coaching and planning are becoming closer and closer. And even that third one that I heard about on  one of your podcasts was financial therapy and bringing in the therapeutic side of people who've been hurt. People who've been injured by poor decision-making. And the consequences that that has brought about, we cannot just wear one hat anymore. We cannot just bring one conversation to the table and you know, conversation is, they say, you've got one mouth and two ears.

Tim: And if we're going to have a conversation, we have to listen to what the people are saying, who we want to talk to, because if I don't listen to you, why are you going to want to listen to me?

Kate: Yeah.

Tim: And so that starts to kind of stretch into a space where I have to start being authentic because I can't be disingenuous in those conversations. If I'm trying to put on a facade, I'm going to slip up somewhere. And you know, there's a whole lot of people who want you just to be you. And it's very easy  to try and impress the people who want me to be like them, but it's far easier just to relax and be with the people who are happy with who I am right now. And that again comes back to well, who's my ideal clients? And helps me identify with that niche.

Kate: Did you see that LinkedIn post, it was a month or so ago of a woman, I don't remember what her profession was, but she changed her LinkedIn profile from a professional headshot to one where she like, had just gotten up and gotten her kids ready for school in the morning. And her hair was not perfectly done. And she didn't really have much makeup on and she had like a hoodie and it got millions and millions of likes and thousands of comments within the first 24 hours. I mean, the response to that was incredible. And that was all about being authentic and that's what her post was all about.

Tim: Absolutely. I actually did see that, and I could be wrong, but I think she was in marketing.

Kate: Probably, yeah.

Tim: So I think, yeah. I know, I love that. I gave that a heart. it, it just speaks really to  the authenticity. It doesn't only come in the establishment of your brand, but it comes through the continuous conversation.

Tim: I always say to clients, when you're doing branding strategies, that your brand is not about a logo or a website, it's about the continuous conversation that you're having with your clients, and you cannot sustain a facade for that long amount of time. There has to be deep  engagement and authenticity in the communication, in the conversation for people to know that I'm going to get value in this conversation.

Kate: Otherwise it is kind of more of a transactional situation than an actual true relationship, because you can only have that deeper relationship if it's with your authentic self.

Tim: Absolutely.

Kate: Interesting. So as we're still thinking about attracting your ideal clients and thinking about the WHAT you're saying, what would you say to people who have those clients, they've got some of their non-ideal clients, how do you handle the branding and messaging if what you want to say might alienate some of your existing clients.

Tim: I think you kind of answered that a bit earlier when you said it's not such a bad thing if you alienate them. And absolutely, there's a friend of mine who's a coach in the UK on LinkedIn. And he often writes these posts that I think are so profound and so simple. And he says, today, I give you permission to - whatever it is. And maybe at this point, we need to give our listeners permission to alienate a few clients.

Kate: Yes.

Tim: Because I think a lot of the business model structures that are out there for financial planners speak to volume of clients and they don't speak enough to quality of clients. And you need to know that it's OK to not have the biggest business, that the value you bring to your clients is measured by their experience of you. And if your 60 clients are super-stoked with who you are and what you do, what else do you need?  You don't need 500 people who can pretty much point you in a lineup. And I'm sure that's my financial advisor.

Kate: I love that.

Tim: Is that fulfillment? Is that what we're actually looking for?

Kate: Yeah, that's great.

Kate: And I will give anyone permission. I've I have long said pick one time during the year, whether it's the new year, it's your birthday, it's your work anniversary, whatever it is, but just pick one time in a year and fire at least one client. And when you get to a year where you're really like, I love my clients. Fantastic. You know, then you can stop, but I can almost guarantee that you can fire one client a year or just say, Hey, the relationship has come to a natural conclusion and it is amazing,  the energy and the weight that that lifts off your shoulders.

Tim: Absolutely. And you know, what, if, if you've been following, a brand journey and a communication journey, that's in a  direction that you know is going to be in conflict with this person. They will have seen it coming.

Kate: Yeah.

Tim: And if they haven't themselves said, you know what we got in a different direction, they'll be totally okay. It won't be like, Oh my gosh, what are you doing. They'll understand they're in a different space, you're in a different space.

Tim: And it's important to in your newsletter. So the newsletters are a space in your digital branding strategy to be a little bit more personal with your clients on a bulk setting. you can use words like we're moving in a new direction. we're exploring some new opportunities, those types of things, and people, I know you can call it a corporate speak. You can call it what you want end of the day. It's a very nice tactful way of getting a message across.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. It's not alienating in  like, Hey, we want people to feel bad. That's not what we're getting at. So yeah, definitely just embrace  the right direction for you. Communicate that appropriately. Make a recommendation to an advisor that might be a better fit. Handle it in a good way, but in a way that benefits everyone.

Kate: And circling back, I wanted your thoughts on one thing. One of the ways that I really built my last financial planning business and targeting my ideal clients was on being in the media and thinking about what's your digital brand, what's your digital presence, getting quoted in the media or featured the media where your target client is.