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A Marketing Playbook that Disrupts Traditional Models with Megan Carpenter

Marketing is all about connecting with your audience in a way that resonates with them. One of the best ways to do this is by being authentic and vulnerable. People can see through a false persona. They do not want to see or hear perfect marketing, they want to see and hear real people. How can businesses leverage these qualities to connect with their customers in a meaningful way?

In today’s episode, Jack talks with Megan Carpenter, CEO and Co-Founder of FiComm Partners, named to InvestmentNews’ 2020 40 Under 40 List, and a sought-after speaker at a wide range of financial services industry events.

Under Megan’s leadership, FiComm is today a multi-million-dollar business that partners with its wealth management clients to differentiate their businesses and firms through telling meaningful stories. With more than 15 years of financial services experience, she is one of the drivers behind the industry’s conversation around modernizing advisor communications. Megan is recognized for her exceptional accomplishments, leadership, and contributions within the financial services industry.

Megan talks with Jack about how FiComm helps clients grow their businesses, why authenticity, vulnerability, and humanity are important in marketing, and how the concept of “New Skool” challenges the traditional ways of doing things in the finance world.

What Megan has to say

“he best way to have marketing success is to create really authentic content that resonates with the people that you want it to resonate with. So New Skool is about bringing vulnerability and authenticity to an otherwise very old school industry.”

– Megan Carpenter, CEO & Co-Founder, FiComm Partners

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to WealthTech on Deck. Each week we speak with very smart, very creative people around the industry who are intent on disrupting business as usual, while helping financial advisors and their clients enjoy better financial outcomes. Today, I’m very happy to welcome my friend, Megan Carpenter. She is the CEO of FiComm, she’ll tell you some more about who she is and what she does. But she’s a real pro. FiComm is a leading communications firm that helps clients make an impact, and act as an important catalyst for business growth. So Megan, welcome. Thanks for joining us today.

Megan Carpenter: Hi, Jack. Thanks so much for having me here. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Jack Sharry: Great, terrific. So let’s start with the important stuff. Not only is FiComm, thriving from all I read in here and see, but you were able to take some time off recently to have a baby. So tell us about your most recent addition and how you’re doing and how the baby’s doing and your family’s doing.

Megan Carpenter: Oh, thank you for asking, yes, I had baby number three. In September, I had a little girl. Her name is Collins. So we’re recording this in January, she’s about four months old. I also have a five year old son and a two year old daughter. So the Carpenter household is quite full and loud. And there’s not a lot of sleep happening. But it’s it’s a sort of a very wonderful and beautiful chaos. So I felt incredibly fortunate I took three full months off, which as an entrepreneur, you know, there’s sort of different perspectives on that, you know, you’re kind of always working when you’re first baby is your business. But I have such a great team in place today that I really was able to spend those three months with my family. And I appreciated it, I told my colleagues that they gave me the best gift anyone’s ever given me, which is just 100% of my time focused on my family. So we’re doing great, we did not escape COVID As I’m sure many listeners didn’t either, but it’s scary with little kids. COVID does affect kids. But other than that little blip. And the fact that Collins is not yet sleeping very much.

Jack Sharry: Oh, that. Well, thank you for that update, I have to say because we you and I chatted just before you went on maternity leave. And I sort of was watching fight calm to see how we would do without you because you’ve really been a really strong and present leader. And of course, you were able to devote your full time to what’s going on at home. It’s great to see that we’re How do you do that, by the way, I know marriages, these they are far more equal than they ever were. But at the end of the day mom does more than dad with all due respect. So how do you do that? And then have a business on top of and CEO of a thriving communications company. And so how do you do that? Could you explain?

Megan Carpenter: You know, I give myself a lot of grace and forgiveness. You know, that’s sort of the first thing is I used to when I had my first child, I would beat myself up a lot about how much I had to travel or, you know, there was a lot of guilt associated with how much time I spent at work. And I realized that like, I was the only one that felt that way, you know, like my son was fabulous. And we have an amazingly close relationship. And you know, so I give myself a lot of grace and forgiveness today. And my goal is just just really is just to be present wherever I am. So I’m here with you on this podcast and grateful for the opportunity to be here Jack, I’m like 100% Present. And at the end of the day, when I’m done with my last meeting, and I decide, you know, I’m going to go downstairs and be with my family, then I do the best I can to be 100% present there, I don’t look for balance, I just don’t think that that exists. And I also have a ton of help, you know, I’ve got my husband is an incredibly invested and dedicated and supportive husband and dad, he does a lot. We have a full time nanny. Both of our families live nearby, so we call on the grandparents all the time. So I don’t do it alone, I couldn’t do it alone. I’m very privileged to have the people that I have surrounding me. So you know, and I have an amazing team. And I think that that helps, too, because I have a lot of confidence to do what I need to do whenever I need to do it. Because I know that either the house is taken care of or the business is taken care of.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. So I’ve been most impressed with your team before your absence. Are you taking some time off? And certainly during so talk a little bit about Viacom what you do about the team, we’ll get to some really creative stuff. I observe you guys doing that. I’d love to hear more about it. Maybe just sort of set the stage of who is FiComm, what are you about what kind of clients do you serve that just a basic rundown on, well, things like this.

Megan Carpenter: I’m sure we definitely have exceptional people here. So I appreciate the affirmation as a business, our mission is really to extend the impact of financial advice by bringing new school marketing and PR to financial services. And so we work with large global financial institutions are typically working with the wealth man, the US wealth management or advisory divisions, we also work with some of the nation’s leading RIAs, and RIA platforms. But we also work with the individual advisors. So we have this really tremendous opportunity to see across the spectrum of needs within the industry. And we work very well with those businesses, or those advisers that are looking to create really meaningful connections through their communication efforts. So we have three different lines of business that are very distinct. One is for those, you know, larger businesses, the global financial institutions, the large RIAS large ra platforms, we’re really working with those clients to help them concept, their overall strategy. You know, why do you do what you do? Who do you do it for? What’s the change that you’re trying to create, and then once we know what those sorts of truths are, then we build a communication plan around it, we work alongside our clients in that way, from a strategy all the way through to execution and measurement and reporting. And then that’s sort of how those businesses can grow from a corporate level, we also have those businesses sort of grow from the bottom up by helping the advisors that are affiliated with their businesses grow themselves. So we have two additional lines of business. One is called advisor education. The other is called amplify, those are both scalable marketing and PR solutions for advisors who are looking to generate more meaningful growth in their business. We’re teaching them we’re coaching them, we’re giving them access to a community of peers, we’re really allowing them the confidence to be great marketers in their own business so that their business can grow. So we’re sort of focused on, you know, bottom up and top down in the way that we’ve built our offering. And we have great people. So the people that work alongside I’m super, super fortunate to work alongside have tremendous industry experience, many of us have spent, not just decades but like our entire careers working in this space. So we know it very well. And super passionate about what we do.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. So I’ve been hearing the term new school, around FiComm, if you’d explain what that is, and how that fits, especially with the three lines of business that you’ve described, if it works throughout were as part of one or another. But I’d love to hear more about that. And also, I’ve had the opportunity listen to the podcast you all put out, which I think is rather innovative and interesting and worthy of people’s time if you haven’t listened to it, but maybe describe New School and the way you differentiate yourselves in the marketplace.

Megan Carpenter: Sure. Well, new school is really it’s our belief system. It’s our ethos, it’s sort of underlies everything that we do for ourselves and for our clients. And what new school means to us is this really sincere belief that the best way to have marketing success is to create really authentic content that resonates with the people that you want it to resonate with. So new school is about bringing vulnerability and authenticity to an otherwise very old school industries. So new school is really it’s our belief system. It’s also the name of our podcast. So the new school podcast, and we launched the new school podcast about a year and a half ago, we’re just wrapping up season one, I’m gonna move into Season Two. But we’ve used the new school podcast as a way to sort of demonstrate our belief system in action. So we have incredible guests on the new school podcast, who are bringing authenticity and vulnerability and humanity to the way that they connect with people. And it’s an awesome opportunity for us to show to the market that it’s not just us saying, you know, you got to be authentic, but actually being able to demonstrate how that can create really tangible business results that are very meaningful for businesses. So we have guests from inside the industry. We have guests from outside the industry, but we’re talking with people who are very new school and their own belief systems.

Jack Sharry: So it sounds a little bit like Brene Brown, is that she an inspiration here?

Megan Carpenter: That’s a wonderful compliment. Thank you. I mean, yeah, I think anyone I think Brene Brown, I think of you know, Glennon Doyle, I think of people who are just like, very unafraid to be themselves and very clear on their core values and how that aligns across, you know, their personal professional lives. And you know, how it impacts the clients that we serve is that it really gives it opens up this whole new universe of potential when you’ve got alignment with the vision of the business, the values of the business and the content that you’re taking out to the market. The power that comes from alignment is pretty tremendous. And so what we’re seeing in the success that we see with our clients is that when you bring a new school perspective to a traditionally, you know, old school approach, the power that you have in increasing your conversion ratios and increasing your client retention, because it’s just so clear that everything is connected, it’s been really powerful.

Jack Sharry: So I think I have an understanding, but for our audience that may be saying, oh, so let’s this new school stuff and authenticity, but I thought we’re talking about marketing and the future of advice and all that. So explain if you would, either with an enterprise or with a perhaps an RIA, or a firm or an RIA advisor, or independent advisor, what how does that play out? How does that manifest? What does that look like? And sort of the nuts and bolts of promoting or capturing their brand, or their key messages and all that kind of describe if you would a little bit more about how that plays out in reality?

Megan Carpenter: Sure. So you know, it’s really interesting, because we have a lot of conversations with some of the leaders in the independent wealth management space. And we’ve heard some feedback from people that say, like, I’m a little bit scared of new school, you know, like, No, I want to do what you do. And they’re, they’re speaking to us, and we do podcasts, and we’re on video all the time. And, and really, it’s not about mimicking anybody else. New school is really just being authentic and true to who you are, and what your business is. So it looks and feels different for every business. But I’ll give you an example just to help bring it to life a little bit. We work with Capital Group, and they have an RIA that’s part of Capital Group that’s called their private client services. And they’ve got Private Wealth Advisors across the country that are part of this RIA, and Capital Group has tremendous brand recognition and equity. And I think, you know, those of us in the industry, when we think about Capital Group, you know, we sort of affiliated with a luxury premier brand. And they have very established brand voice brand tone brand principles. And that’s consistent across the organization. So you’ve got these Private Wealth Advisors that are part of their private client services team that are working with the end investor, but they represent themselves as Capital Group. And what’s new school about how their marketing is that they the marketing team at Private Client Services is really committed to bringing humanity to each of the Private Wealth Advisors, so that they can connect with people in their local geographies in a way that’s meaningful to them. So if you go and look at some of the videos that you know, Capital Group Private Client Services has created for their advisors, you’ll understand what I mean, because what you do with these videos is it’s no longer sort of a top down jargon filled one way conversation approach. But what they’re doing is they’re allowing these advisors to tell their own personal stories, and to relate to their own markets in ways that are very meaningful for them. There’s one advisor, his name is Coco Archibong, he used to be a professional athlete, he has this really incredible story about his mom and how his mom has sort of shaped you know, how he got into this business. And so even a big brand like Capital Group, I think that their marketing team has a tremendous amount of courage, because they’re applying the new school approach by allowing their Private Wealth Advisors to be very real, and very themselves and how they’re marketing themselves. So that’s just one example. But it’s truthfully about applying sort of the concept of vulnerability, authenticity and humanity in a way that makes sense for each individual brand. And it will therefore look different to everybody.

Jack Sharry: So if I may summarize which I hear you loud and clear, but just for our audience that may be saying, well, that sounds okay. But what you’re you’re not describing his weakness while you’re describing is the real deal is was once called, it made me to step back a moment. For most people on the receiving end of marketing messages. Were listening with a That sounds a BS, and that sounds like Bs, and that’s more BS. I don’t believe what I’m just hearing right. And I’m seeing this as a trend. I’d love to hear your comments. The whole story of the narrative and authentic narrative and social media is all about that inauthentic story line, authentic representation of what value you might bring. So talk a little bit about that, for those that maybe still wondering, like, what’s this authenticity stuff, it’s just about being real, right?

Megan Carpenter: It’s just about being real. And it’s also a direct reflection of what consumers are demanding today. And I think where we exist as citizens of the world is we are bombarded constantly by content. Content is on our mobile device. It’s coming at us from every angle. And so you know, as a consumer, a lot of these amazing brands outside of financial services have really allowed us to have different expectations that you’re going to come to me with hyper relevant, hyper personalized content. When I go onto Instagram, I’m served up with ads that are very different than when my husband goes on to Instagram because they’ve understood our profile. And so what new school allows brands within financial services to do is to create those meaningful connections because you’re We’re no longer trying to be the smartest person in the room, the expert, you know, you’re really trying to connect with people. And the best way to connect with people is by being real and being honest. And so there has been this paradigm shift in how consumers engage with financial services businesses. And so that is directly impacted sort of our world views and what type of marketing works. Because no longer is it going to work to have sort of, you know, stale, stodgy content that’s expected and predictable. Your clients are going to get fatigue if you send them content that’s not relevant to them. And so there’s sort of this challenge, which I also think is an opportunity to create meaningful connections through marketing plans. And so that’s why this to us is very meaningful.

Jack Sharry: I’m sure you feel the same way. But when I’m marketed to, and they don’t get me I’m sort of disturbed. Yeah, annoyed with all that’s out there with everything that needs to be known about me, I’m sure exists somewhere. So can you just talk to me like what I want to get as opposed to what I’m not interested in? So I’m sure you find the same?

Megan Carpenter: Yeah, absolutely. And we just see so many, you know, businesses in our space that are missing that mark, and then they’re putting out content that they think that they should put out. But it’s really not what their audience wants. And we also, I think there’s a lot of marketing professionals in our space that want to make it feel more complicated than it is, I think that marketing is very intuitive, and isn’t really that difficult when you just break it down. So I think that, you know, there is this tremendous opportunity to not annoy and disturb the people that you’re sending content to, I don’t really care so much about the algorithm around when someone’s most likely to read my LinkedIn post, or when the email open rate is going to be the greatest, like, we really care about sending out content that matters. If that’s once a day, awesome. If that’s once a month, great, like, do what works for you. Don’t try to be like everybody else. Don’t try to mimic, you know, the competitor next door. But you’re not alone and feeling you know, annoyed. I hate when I get those LinkedIn messages, you know, Hi, Megan, it looks like we have a lot of people on the same network. I’d love to schedule a meeting with you and why my time is valuable. Why would I give you any of my time now? I’m annoying that I just had to read this from you.

Jack Sharry: It’s so true. Yeah. Well, it’s one of things that, frankly, we found with our podcast, WealthTech on Deck, we’re having an enormous response to it. We have over 3000 listeners, not all at once, for sure. But over time, and what we hear because I asked I’d be It’s hard with Spotify and Apple and all the rest, they don’t tell you who’s listening, and why and so on. So I just do my polling, which I like to do from time to time or like every day. So why do you listen what you get out. And a lot of it’s just the hearing from fellow industry leaders about what they do, and how they do it, what they might get, and also what their competitors are up to. So I think what people want to hear is like, they want to hear stories, they want to hear what worked and what didn’t work, what they achieved, what they didn’t achieve, and what the impediments were and what the challenges were and then what the winds were, because then they could contextualize it in their own experience to their own business or their own, whatever it is that they’re trying to achieve.

Megan Carpenter: Yeah, absolutely. It’s like the first question, you asked me about how I juggle being, you know, an entrepreneur and a business owner and a mom, like, I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that I found balance, because I haven’t I think that’s kind of BS. But I’m going to tell you how it is in my life. If that helps any other, you know, women who are in a similar situation, then that to me, and the great, I don’t need more than that. And, you know, I think that there is the old school mindset of marketing is, you know, one of the things that I disagree with that is very old school is like you have to focus on reach. And we really want the New School is focusing on impact. So I sort of could care less if 1000 of the wrong people are watching a video that I produce, I’d much rather have one of the right person. And so you know, it’s about reach versus impact. It’s about being in conversation with people instead of just broadcasting information. It’s about developing relationships instead of trying to demonstrate credibility. And, you know, those are the kinds of switches that we’re finding to be really powerful and how brands big and small are engaging with our consumers.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. So speaking of impact, tell me a little bit a story be great or two, or however many, what’s been the impact of sure you have some success stories. I’m sure you measure what you’re doing and how it’s working out maybe a story or two about how it’s going. It sounds like it’s spot on, but we’d love to hear more.

Megan Carpenter: Yeah, so we have a client called the First National Bank of Sioux Falls and we work with the wealth management division, and they have a podcast called common sense on the prairie that is posted by a guy named Adam Cox who is the head of their wealth management division, and they just sort of wrapped up some to Sistech just demonstrated, you know how has with a wealth management team done in contrast with other divisions of the bank. And I was so proud to see the email and to read the results, because to me, it was just such a clear demonstration of why, you know, being new school works. And his podcast, Adams podcast, common sense of the Prairie has really evolved since we’ve started working together. And one of his, you know, most popular episodes is when he had his wife on and they talked about how they handle money, yes, our relationship as a couple. And it’s equally heartwarming and hilarious. And, you know, the looks back and forth were priceless. But the wealth management division is outpacing the other divisions in the bank by like, 10x. As far as new customers brought in version and close ratios, they’ve exceeded their revenue goals for the year. So you know, there’s plenty of those types of examples of this working. Yeah, we’re also just saved from fi coms perspective, our business has evolved fairly dramatically in recent years. And you know, Jack, because we’ve had the privilege of working together. And, you know, I think that the reason that we’ve evolved so dramatically is because I finally found the confidence in myself to just really do what I wanted to do, and not worry about what the competition was doing what people expected me to do you know, how people expected me to show up. And so it’s been transformative for our business. And from a marketing perspective, what does that mean? That means that we are getting inbound calls today from global financial institutions that are saying to us, we need to work with you. Because if we don’t, we know that we’re going to be obsolete. Yes. And so we don’t have to sell, we don’t have to do any convincing people are coming to us and saying your reputation speaks for itself. Your brand equity is so high that we know that we can’t go anywhere else. And we now are very competent, and only entertaining the conversations, you know, of the businesses that really truly want to make the transition from old school to new school and who have interesting things to say, and to have, you know, a real commitment to transforming their business through their marketing and PR efforts. So it’s incredibly meaningful. And I understand, you know, it’s sometimes can feel hard to, you know, like, is that real? Does that actually happen? I’m living proof that it does. I have examples of all of our clients, you know, it really, it’s pretty cool to watch.

Jack Sharry: Yep. What are the things that we’re seeing LifeYield trial, from a purely a marketing standpoint, we had the benefit of working with you and your team for a long time. And we learn wherever we go. And increasingly, what we’re finding we’re following a similar playbook. And it starts with, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. It starts with we identified who our audience is, for us, at one time, we’re pursuing individual financial advisors are a maze. And it just as it turns out, the because of technology challenges around the technology, it’s just it was too much. So we only work through enterprises, the large warehouses and the large platforms like Orion and invest in others does. That’s our audience. We know our audience. It’s basically what we refer to as c-suite. And the architect builders, the people that are building the platforms of the future, using financial technology to help investors and advisors get better outcomes, financial outcomes. So we know we’re clear in our audience, we’re clear in what we want to communicate, we have a very clear messaging construct, if you will. And then we would call it omni channel or surround sound, but we then come at it from social and blog, and by lines and all different ways you see it out there. So you kind of can’t miss us. We’re going to show up one way or another, and you’re going to hear our story. My sense is that similar playbook is being played out as we speak about new school and FiComm.

Megan Carpenter: Absolutely. I mean, you hit on two of the really important tenants, which is, you know, who are you? Who do you work for? And then what is a message that resonates? I would say, one thing that we add on to that is, we’re very clear on our why we, why we do what we do, and what brings us into work the next day and every day feeling really excited. So our why is that like, we really have seen that we are never going to be advisors, right? Like we’re never going to be a leading financial institution. But we know that we can get the right services in front of more Americans who need the service through our work, and that’s super meaningful to us. And then we also you know, I have a personal why around creating a work environment for working women that is more empowering and uplifting and encouraging and supportive. So I’ve got sort of two wise. So I would say that we add that into sort of our playbook and then you know, Omni channel Absolutely. You know, most businesses are going to have an omni channel approach to my earlier comment around it’s much more intuitive than many markets. bars will make it out to be, it’s really about, you know, you’ve got a very clear who you figure out where those who are looking for information, doing the research, having those conversations and you show up there. And I don’t mean to make it sound so simple. I’m not trying to devalue the work that we do. But it’s far more intuitive and simpler than what you know, other people will say, you know, you got to look at the algorithms, you got to understand the data, you got it. Like that stuff matters, it’s good to look in arrears and understand, like, what’s worked and what, what hasn’t, but mostly, it’s just figuring out where your who is showing up, and make sure that you’re there with the most authentic content.

Jack Sharry: Couldn’t agree more. So we could keep talking for a while, but we’re gonna try to hit that 30 minute mark, and we’re pushing up against it. So a couple more questions. Just before we say farewell for now, what are three key takeaways you’d like to leave with our audience about what you’re up to?

Megan Carpenter: So I would say three key takeaways for the audience. And then just as if we’re thinking about, you know, who I know, the listeners are for Wealthtech on Deck, I would say, you know, authentic content that is focused on creating really meaningful connections is the biggest takeaway, I would say the second is focus on impact over reach. And the third I would say is be very clear on those things, why you do what you do, who you do it for, and then change that you’re trying to create and use that as like a one page marketing plan. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

Jack Sharry: Couldn’t agree more. Sounds great. So one final question before we part as we do with each of our podcasts. Can you tell us something interesting or unique you do outside of work that people may not know about you? My hunch is you’re probably be we’ve already talked about it, you’re pretty full up. But is there anything else beyond all the stuff that we’ve talked about?

Megan Carpenter: Yeah, family definitely above all else, but I’d say one thing that most people don’t know is that I’m a huge supporter of the American Red Cross, and specifically blood donations. I always tell people I’m type a positive personality is type A, my blood type is a positive and positivity is one of my core values. But I actually had I went through when I was 29 years old, I had a full bone marrow failure, my body stopped producing red blood cells, it was not producing any red blood cells. So you can imagine over time, red blood cells take oxygen to your organs. So I was effectively dying. And I was kept alive through the amazing anonymous blood donations. I think I had 22 transfusions over an eight-week period, and went through a steroid treatment, chemotherapy treatment and an immunosuppressant treatment. But I got through it because of blood donations. And it’s really interesting to talk about this today, because our country is in one of the biggest blood donation shortages that we’ve been in the last decade. And so if I can use this as an opportunity to encourage people to go and donate blood, I would, it’s not always after natural disasters that you need the blood donations, it’s everyday it’s cancer patients. You know, it’s people that really rely on the support and generous donations of people who can get out to blood banks on a regular basis.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. Well, thank you for sharing that and I hope our listeners will take heed, listening audience if you’ve enjoyed our podcasts, please rate review, subscribe and or share what we’re doing here at WealthTech on Deck. We are available wherever you get your podcasts. Megan, thank you. This has been a real pleasure really enjoyed it. As always.

Megan Carpenter: Thank you so much, Jack.