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Elevating Trust and Credibility with Mike Saunders

In today’s competitive business landscape, it feels daunting and nearly impossible to gain the attention of prospects. Everyone is selling something, and potential clients are inundated with marketing messaging that all blurs together. It’s no longer enough to have a website, write a blog post, or have a social media presence. How can you stand out in the sea of sameness?

Mike Saunders, President and CEO of Marketing Huddle is committed to positioning his clients as authorities in the financial services industry to gain their trust and credibility organically. Far too often, salespeople push too hard for a sale and end up losing prospects in the process. By becoming an educator and advocate in your target audience’s industry, you establish authority with your clients and stand out against your competitors.

In this episode, Mike talks to Jack about how to amplify your marketing message, elevate trust, and gain credibility with advisor clients.

What Mike has to say

“It takes five to seven to 10 times more money to get a new client than to maintain your current clients. So with all of this marketing and authority positioning and increased trust, don’t forget your clients that you currently have because those clients already gave you their level of trust at a certain time. You have to maintain that.”

– Mike Saunders, President and CEO of Marketing Huddle

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Everyone, thanks for joining us on this week’s edition of WealthTech. On Deck, our regular listeners know we look at the confluence of digital and human device from many different angles. Today, we’re going to look at it from the perspective of someone who works with advisors and firms to help them differentiate themselves and stand out from the rest. I’ve always found it interesting that across our industry, whether it’s big firms or small, we suffer from what a good friend of mine calls a sea of sameness. Our guest today is Mike Saunders. Mike is the CEO of Marketing Huddle, as he will share it Mike is an authority on marketing strategy that helps financial advisors position themselves to become the authority on retirement in their marketplace. Mike, welcome to WealthTech on Deck. Great, thank you, Jack, appreciate you having me. So Mike, let’s start by describing who you serve and what you do on behalf of your advisor clients.

Mike Saunders: So in the financial services industry, I serve whether the individual all the way up to the firm, because the recurring theme here is, like you said, standing out, and I don’t serve my clients to say start doing this, stop doing that as far as marketing strategy, it’s really a foundational truth, you need to be perceived and seen and recognized as that trusted advisor and that authority. So when I’m serving my firms and the individual producers with that, or teams, it’s all about getting their message out to their target audience but being received through the lens of being trusted and credible.

Jack Sharry: So talk about that. How do you go about that? How do you work with firms? How do you help them get that message out? How do you help them differentiate themselves?

Mike Saunders: Well, you know, you think of all the nuances of your marketing message, and we could do case studies and go to someone’s website and go look, they should have used this word or that word. And that tends to get a little bit, you know, in the weeds, I feel, but it’s that mindset of, you know, the old speakers trick of, Hey, What’s everyone’s favorite radio station, and people start yelling out radio station is like, Nope, it’s wi I fm, what’s in it for me. And when we know that our prospects, our clients are looking at our marketing material through the lens of what’s in it for them, we have to speak to that. And so it can’t be our firm is the best because and it’s got to be, you know, we believe that you deserve and we know you’re looking for. And so you need to speak to that. So some of the ways, you know, hopefully, I don’t get into the copywriting or the nuances of creating that messaging. But what’s that messaging is in place where, you know, the advisor, or the firm is distinctly clearly articulating how they transform and can take their clients and prospects to, you know, the journey of, you know, where they ultimately want to be, I like to call it dumb, you know, the, you know, you want to speak about the trance formation and not get into the weeds of the trans portation. You know, we want to talk about, you know, hey, in retirement, you will enjoy. And you’ve already told us that you need to feel this way. So what we do is we, and so they don’t care about stocks, bonds, mutual funds, you know, that point, they want to get that message out to the market so that they can resonate with that. So the way that I do that is I help them deliver done for you assets of authority positioning on podcasting, and publicity and publishing. And so really, it’s if you think about a firm that has, you know, already complaints approved material, we just amplify that and get it out there on platforms that people really recognize. And it’s interesting, I’m an educator as well, I teach marketing for a few universities, and you can’t ever just say, here’s this, you have to back it up with because, you know, you have to say, here’s some research and the methodology behind it, you know, with citations and things. So one of the things that I do in my workshops, I point to a 1960s, media strategist named Marshall McLuhan out of Canada. And he wrote a book named the medium is the message. And one of the takeaways is when you’re communicating your platforms where your message is perceived and consumed, gives as much value if not more value than the actual content. So you may have the perfect roadmap to retirement and put it in a three page PDF with nice graphics. But that kind of falls on deaf ears. And then you think, Well, let me put it in a white paper. Let me put it on my website linked all those places, and all those places you need to be because Google needs to see those breadcrumb trails. But in reality, your target audience and your clients and your prospects, they need to consume that on platforms that they sit up and take notice, you know, if it’s just that PDF or blog posts, they know that anyone can hit File, Save As on a Word doc and go PDF or posted on your, you know, website. And that’s like, that’s just information. But if they got this communication that their financial person at the firm that they work for, and they’re like, oh, he or she is emailing me and they were just interviewed on this podcast talking about. And there’s this really finely tuned bullet point of this, you know, this, you know, really like an emotional need, like not just how to plan for retirement, but something really detailed in there. They sit up and take notice, because it’s like, oh, you’re on Spotify. Oh, and so I think that right there brings it full circle to say, the message should be dialed in. Of course, if it’s really, really concise, that’s when you win, because when you confuse you lose. And then you have to project that and broadcast that out to platforms that people will set up and take notice and respect.

Jack Sharry: So going a little bit deeper. Give me an example of a firm that not by name, of course, but firm you work with where you take that the medium is the message. I know you do a lot of work with clients around podcasting. So talk a little bit about what does that look like? If I’m an RIA firm? And I’m looking to extend my message? What does that look like?

Mike Saunders: Yeah, so what I say is, you know, like, all the things that I mentioned, we know you have to do videos, and blog posts, and social. And those are the things that are common, you have to do those, but when you can amplify them. And so I’ll give you an example. In academia, and marketing, there’s this thing called the buyers journey. And so some prospect or a client, really, they went through certain questions in their mind or research them online before making the decision to choose your firm, no matter what the name is, how big or small, they went through certain decisions, like, Oh, can I trust them? Or let’s look them up online? Or did I get a good recommendation, you know, social proof. So let’s think about you know, if we were to go through like a 30 or 40 minute exercise, probably it would take to create those really Zinger points of content that are drawing people do the buyers journey that go beyond the surface, you know, the frequently asked questions. Yeah, those are easy, but what are the should ask questions, the questions that they should be asking, but they don’t even know to ask quite yet. Those are the really, they move the lever. So once you have 5678 of those, now you get on that podcast interview, and like what we’re doing here, you pull it out, you suss it out to amplify that, not all nine or 10 point because now people feel like, you know, drinking out of a firehose, but you really go deep on that one point, and you define it and you say, what are the misconceptions? And hey, here’s the pros and cons. Here’s what happens if you do it, right. Here’s what happens if you do it wrong. And here’s a case study, here’s an example, all around that one point. So that that becomes a really vibrant piece of content. Think of it like a LinkedIn post or a blog post. Well, it can sit static on the page, or they can hear and see that conversation. And the really beautiful thing is, you know, a lot of us, we open up our email or go on social media, and we see these companies saying you must go live on video, you must do video, and video is wonderful. But one nuance that you gain from being interviewed is, when you’re doing a video, you’re promoting you. And there’s nothing wrong with that we have to do it. But when you’re interviewed on a podcast, you’re the subject matter expert. And so here’s your target audience listening in or watching in the depending on the media. And they’re really curious about that one point that we’re talking about, and we’re going really deep on it. But they’re hearing you being interviewed for your opinion. And you’re able to say, oh, you know what, that’s a really good point. You know, a lot of times people misunderstand and what they do. And now it’s this fly on the wall conversation, almost like a mastermind fireside chat, all surrounding this one point. And it becomes an educational piece of content that sells without selling because you’re not saying buy now and visit us before the deadline ends. You’re just educating. And when we become an educator and an advocate for our target audience, trust is increased because they see you as that expert, not as some pushy salesperson. So if I can take, you know that first bullet point, and we do a wonderful vibrant podcast interview around that. And I do this package where I do a bundle of three. So we do three interviews, we pick three really relevant points. And for each of those interviews, write up a multimedia press release, send it to a compliance approval, because we have to make sure all of that is said, I’ve never had a compliance department deny anything. It’s always been every once in a while. They’ll say hey, changes one word, and that’s fine. But we write up that press release, it gets into guaranteed syndication with some top by ABC, NBC News affiliates online, and Google starts indexing the interview. The press releases as they go, they interlink together. And so now here’s this vibrant marketing package of interviews, press releases, and then I build all these assets around that from audio grams to QR codes to social media posts, all handed to you on a silver platter. Well, now your content marketing department says Wow, you’ve done all the heavy lifting, we now can swipe and deploy copy paste. And so that helps to take that message and amplify it out through those platforms because like I was saying earlier if you were to send your clients or prospects, hey, I was recently interviewed on this podcast talking about check it out and let me know what you think. And they see the Spotify link or they see iTunes or an audible They’re like, wow, that’s better than just some mp3 link you sent me, you’re on Audible, you’re on Spotify, and then you can easily little ninja trick is to put in their APS, feel free to forward this to a couple of your friends that you know might appreciate as well. So now it gives them something to talk about, you know, like probably if all of your clients were pulled instantaneously, would you refer? You know, Jack Jerry, they would say yes, of course. But how often do they do it? Well, who knows, because they get busy. And but if you give them something to talk about, hey, my financial guy was just interviewed on he was really had a great talk, they had some really good points, you might want to check it out. Here’s the link. Well, now that’s easy to hit forward to a couple three people, not every person, you know, in your email address book, but just a couple, three. But if that little pop of amplification there helps spread the word out. It really is something where if I were to say, join my 12 week mastermind and learn all this stuff, and then go do it, no one would. But if I say take 20 minutes for each one of these audio interviews, and let me amplify it with these authority positioning assets that are done for you, that makes it really, really easy.

Jack Sharry: A couple of words, I keep hearing in your comments just now. And then also in reading on your website, is the term authority and retirement. So talk about that, it seems like what I’m hearing is you’re establishing you’re helping the adviser establish themselves or their firm, as the authority and certainly retirement is central to what we do day in and day out. So talk a little bit more about that, if you would.

Mike Saunders: Well, you know, I was reading a book just last night, called the Partnership Economy talking about how to align with strategically with partners and you know, bring value to your marketplace. And they were citing a research study that these days as recently as 2021, they were serving people and trust is diminishing, and trusted diminishing for a lot of reasons, you know, maybe they’re getting distracted with shiny object syndrome and all that. But trust is diminishing. Well, if trust is diminishing in this wasn’t in any certain industry, but just overall. But in financial services, you need the utmost amount of trust, because you’re talking about a very sensitive topic, their life savings and their future. And so you almost become a life coach, you know, talking about retirement, you know, it’s one thing to say, let’s put money into this and that, but you’re saying, Hey, tell me about what does retirement look like to you? What does it feel like and, and you’re, you’re really giving guidance in that respect. So you must have your trust, elevated your credibility, elevated your competence. And the way you do that is not being a pushy salesperson, people like to buy, but they don’t like to be sold. And so when you can teach and educate and bring, you know, not contrarian views, but bring pros and cons so that people feel like they’re the one making the decision. Because you never are going to push someone into a certain product or service, you’re going to give them options and say, Well, this one might fit because and now you mentioned this. So when you are perceived as that expert and authority because of how you’re educating and empathy you’re showing and the guiding you that you’re giving, that is leading them to make wise decisions to work with you so that their retirement is set. And you know, you know how it is where it’s like, wow, as soon as I made that set of goals for the year, and I said, here’s what I need to be next month in the next month so that at the end of the year I achieve this, it’s almost like you take that sigh of relief. And it’s like, okay, I can do that. Because this week, I need to do these things. That’s easy. Well, when you set that retirement blueprint, and they feel like okay, I can actually achieve that, because you backed it up to you know, begin with the end in mind, and you’ve backed it up to every month or every quarter, we need to be doing this that’s attainable. And so I think that guides people so that they know where they’re headed, you’re doing it in such a way that they believe you and trust you. And so now when all of those factors are in place, you win, because you’re not pushing people, you’re not buying a list of leads, and you know, you got to close X percentage of them to recoup your investment. You’re building relationships.

Jack Sharry: Talk a little bit about how you work with advisors and firms in terms of teaching what you’re talking about, I gather you have courses, if you will, that help advisors embrace this, and include this as part of their, their process to gather new clients and new assets.

Mike Saunders: Yeah, you know, when I worked with larger firms that were maybe team leads, they want their producers and their production to increase. So what we put together is a way to introduce this methodology of, hey, look, we know you gotta sell we, you know, nothing happens until a sale is made. And then you want to retain that client. So what I do is I work with them to say, what if we implement this authority positioning concept and methodology, and we say, you know, as soon as a team or a producers level hits this, then that’s going to trigger the company to say, Okay, now we’re going to do this package for you. Well, now all of a sudden, you is this package is not me going to send me a referral. This package is me saying, What if we can align and embed ourselves together to help that production ramp up, and when it ramps up? You’ve got that production already, you know, in the books, and because they hit that tear, you’re gonna say, Okay, well Like, come out there and now do that package for them and throw grease on the fire and really make it go better and better and better. So I’ve got several packages, you know, like the podcasting package, and we put together some licensed book publication package where we just, you know, license the book copyright to that producer. But the whole point is when a producer can be seen and perceived as that expert authority. And they are trained and taught on how to use that in their everyday marketing and communication. It’s not a whole new set of things to now start doing it is just, oh, well, don’t you have an appointment next week with someone, and don’t you send an email saying, looking forward to meeting with you, and here’s the directions to our office, or here’s the Zoom link, of course. But now maybe if you put PS, hey, in advance of meeting you for the first time next week, and we’re not going to sell you anything, just kind of get to know you, I’m just thought you might like to listen to this podcast interview where I was interviewed, talking about our philosophy of business, have a nice day. Well, now if you know if it was a lead buying or referral lead, you know, they’re comparing you, like you said, like sea of sameness. They’re comparing you to everyone else out there. But now, when you’re calm, and you’re going, I’m looking forward to meeting with you. And they can listen to that podcast interview, and they get your voice inflection and your approach to business. Boy, they come to that meeting, viewing you as that trusted adviser, not as some salesperson. So being able to kind of show advisors and firms were building that authority, which should be your number one priority, but where it can be layered into what you’re already doing, not disrupting and creating new workflows, but just already what you’re doing. Boy, that makes it really simple. Because, you know, back in the old days, you’d go to a seminar and go make 100 cold calls a day to get this many clients and just go go go, nobody does that. But if you could be layering in some of these authority, positioning assets that take very little time to do, because it’s being done for you. But if you can put it in here and add it into this and put it in your literature, your PDFs. Now all of a sudden, people are viewing you as that trusted authority.

Jack Sharry: So I’m fascinated by this process, which I get the tactical elements of getting in front of folks amplifying the message, establishing oneself as the authority, etc, etc. I want to go back to something you mentioned a while ago, and you and I had been around the block a few times we know fundamentally that getting the sale getting relationship getting a client is fundamentally about trust. That’s the cornerstone piece. How do you talk about that? How do you teach that? How do you train that? How do you encourage that? How do you help, the adviser become that trusted adviser?

Mike Saunders: It’s from not being that pushy salesperson, it’s like, you know, push marketing versus pull marketing, push marketing is buy my thing by this time and get this discount. And there’s limited quantities that might work for, you know, I don’t know, products. In relationships like this, you want pull marketing, you want to educate and teach. So what I teach my clients is okay, when we’re going to do this interview, it’s not just gonna say, Hi, who are you? And what’s your best product? And how do you, you know, deliver to your clients, it’s, it’s when you can teach throughout that conversation. And when you can show clients, you know what, for some people, this certain product we’re talking about here, it might not work because of this, but for some people they really appreciate. And so when I can show them how to teach and be that educator, and that advocate, the trust level increases, and I teach them how to turn the tables, you know, and why FM, you know, what’s in it for not that, you know, firm or the adviser, but what’s in it for your prospect and your client. And we have to remember something, it takes 5 to 7 to 10 times more money to get a new client than to maintain your current clients. So with all of this marketing and authority positioning and increased trust, don’t forget your clients that you currently have, whether it’s AUM or current client base, because those clients already gave you their level of trust at a certain time, you have to maintain that. Because if you don’t you ignore them, and you don’t continue teaching them and elevating your trust and credibility. It’s easy just to jump ship these days, your competitors are tapping them on the shoulder all the time. So as we’re saying, build your authority and teach and increase trust and credibility to get new clients. Boy, you better have that same level of content, same level of trust building to your current clients to kind of build that moat around them to maintain the relationship with them.

Jack Sharry: So as we look to wind down our conversation, this has been fascinating. Talk a little bit, if you will, about where you see the world going from a sales marketing standpoint, you you mentioned earlier, both of us grew up at a time when there was cold you did you dialed for dollars. And you did all that. That’s, as you rightly point out that’s the that’s long gone, thank goodness. And now you’re using a very sophisticated approach to reaching out to folks and then earning that trust and delivering on what comes with that trust. Where do you see the world going? Where do you see the industry going as he gets better at reaching out to folks, what’s your crystal ball as to where we all go?

Mike Saunders: In my opinion is digital and online and virtual and automation and chat GPT and AI and the list goes on is happening gonna happen gonna keep happening, and you better keep up with it, but I put this pin in it right there and say, But if that’s all you rely on, that is not building a relationship. And that’s going to be flash in the pan, you might get a client or two, and go, yay, you know, I went to that seminar, and they showed how to build this thing. And here’s this automation, you’re gonna lose them as fast as you get them, you’re gonna make that front-end commission and then lose them. So use these technology things as a way to, you know, just keep the plates spinning in the air, so to speak, or if you’re spinning the basketball and your finger, just kind of tapping it, but develop the relationship. And you know, it’s been said, like, oh, how much business did you close, and we think about closing the deal. But in reality, it’s opening a relationship. So use the digital use the technology, and AI and all these things, to enhance what you’re doing with relationship building, don’t ever, you know, literally, and so here, right here at my desk is handwritten note cards, where I grab that and I hand write a card and drop it in the mail. And so even though I use technology, and digital, and all of these things, you need to continue to stay in touch with your current clients and prospects and strategic alliances with a multitude of touch points. So maybe a digital here, maybe a text, maybe an email, but maybe it’s a phone call, maybe it’s a handwritten note, maybe it’s an actual package that arrives in the mail that they can open up and go, ooh, that’s really nice. So that is where things are headed, because they’re there right now. But I would just caution people, don’t rely on that as a full on, you know, have that is a vibrant, you know, get involved and understand it. But make sure you insert yourself in the process to humanize that relationship building.

Jack Sharry: Thank you, Mike, this has been a great conversation, really appreciate it. So as we look to wrap up, what are three key takeaways you’d like to share with our audience.

Mike Saunders: So I would say that number one, I kind of use this as a little mantra for me building your authority is your number one priority. So we’ve talked about building authority, and number two, because when you build that authority, it enhances the trust and the credibility that you have with your audience, and whether it’s your prospects or your clients. And then number three, when you have that trust and credibility, you’re able to stand out from the crowd? Well, the way you’re doing that is you need to the third piece is to build that content, that teaching educational content on authoritative platforms that stand out from the rest. So you need to stand out, but you need to have your content stand out as well. And don’t rely on just email, text, blog posts and social media posts. You need to have some of these authority positioning assets that are elevating your brand above the rest.

Jack Sharry: So this has been great, Mike, really enjoy the conversation, as we do on each of our podcasts. My favorite question now, as we look to close our session today, what’s something you do outside of work that you’re particularly excited or passionate about, that people might find interesting or surprising?

Mike Saunders: I don’t know if surprising. But maybe the interesting thing is, you know, I’ve got a wife and four kids and we’re in Colorado, so we love the outdoors. So we enjoy going up to the mountains, and we hike and we’ve got an ATV and we love going out on that in a kayak. And so we enjoy getting out in the outdoors. And so now, you know, when you think about even in the cold weather or the warm weather, there’s always something outdoors to do. So we’ve got a whole list of activities that we love to get out and unplug. And from a business standpoint, isn’t it true that some of your best business, you know, epiphanies come when you’re out in the middle of nowhere doing something fun, and you’re looking for the pad and pen going, Okay, I’ve relaxed I wasn’t trying to solve that problem or come up with that thing. But okay, there’s that great idea. So, you know, it’s really great to get out and relax and we love doing that out in nature.

Jack Sharry: That is terrific. That’s wonderful. So Mike, thank you for joining our conversation very much for our audience. If you’ve enjoyed our podcast, please rate review, subscribe, and share what we’re doing here on WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Mike again, thanks. It’s been a real pleasure.

Mike Saunders: Thank you, Jack. Appreciate it.