Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us on this edition of well tech on deck. I have the pleasure of speaking with executives from all over our industry about what they’ve done and what they plan to do around the confluence of human and digital financial advice. Today, we’re gonna speak with someone I’ve known for a long time as a good friend in the business and has taught me a great deal about how to communicate what we do day in and day out, which I think is as important as what we do. This week. We’re speaking with Meghan McCartan. Meghan is the Chief Marketing Officer at Hightower advisors and one of the leading RIA firms in our industry. Meghan, welcome to WealthTech on deck, so nice to have you on the show.
Meghan McCartan: Thanks for having me, Jack. And I think I’ve probably learned as much from you. So it’s a mutual admiration society.
Jack Sharry: You know, I like it that way. Thank you so much for saying that. But a little back history. Meghan was the first marketing firm we heard at LifeYield, when we had no idea what we were saying. We knew we’re doing we just didn’t know how to talk about it. Meghan has taught us so much both she and Kirsten Ly.
Meghan McCartan: Yep. And you know, it’s I think one of the things as we jump into this and part of storytelling, which is I know what we’re going to hit on is making sure you’ve got the right people around you. Maybe it’s also people that appreciate your stories and who you can count on Kirsten is someone that I have known and worked with for, I’m going to say over 20 years because it’s a real number makes me look older than dirt. So it’s someone to bounce stories off of and validate stories off of. So having people like that in your corner is always a giant plus.
Jack Sharry: You’re talking about who’s your partner in the work we did early on. And I had the same going with a few different partners here at LifeYield. People like Steve Zuschin, who actually introduced us and Matt Nollman is producing the show and Harry Bartle and many others at LifeYield. We are storytellers that’s at the heart of it all. And we need friends and colleagues the check is to see if the stories make sense that are appropriate and valid, and advance the cause. So talk a little bit about that. Because I know you have a knack for surrounding yourself with really good people.
Meghan McCartan: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s people that we’re talking a lot actually at Hightower, right now about active listening. And it’s people that do listen, they will, you know, look at you while you’re talking. And we’ll call you also on nonsense. I mean, that’s simple. As you know, you’re you’re multitasking, or that’s actually a boldface lie or not, maybe that but more like, Hey, you’re getting in too far into a rabbit hole here. And so that’s just kind of going through the day to day having people that are that foil against you. But I think it’s also people that kind of can share some common ground. Because why I think storytelling is becoming even more important now is because we’re all really looking more and more for connections after you know, after what we just went through. It’s interesting, I feel like it’s hard to have like just a phone call now, right? You want to do it on Zoom, because you want to be able to look at people as you’re having those conversations, I think just the more and more we look for connections, it’s kind of warmer for all of us.
Jack Sharry: But as you know, because we follow one another on social media, and primarily social media, I guess, I talked a good bit about listening and understanding what the other is trying to achieve and helping them get there. And storytelling comes off of that. I’d love to hear your perspective on that. I’m a fierce advocate, as you well know, on that topic, but talking about the listing piece, and how that translates into the storytelling.
Meghan McCartan: Yeah, and you know, I think probably my best training there is I’m a mom of four. So I have four daughters. And as you can imagine, they talk all the time. So it’s, it’s listening to what they’re saying. But it’s also listening to what they’re wanting to say, and using what they’re afraid to say and kind of getting those cues. And I’ve learned to be, we’ve kind of the four or the five of us have gone through a lot together. So I’ve learned to be probably a far better listener with them a far more patient listener, also getting from them, they don’t care half the time about, you know, maybe some of what I have to say. So it’s not just talking to talk, it’s, you know, how can I engage with them? And I think that’s been like a really good training ground. Because if you can engage with teenagers, then arguably, you could maybe toddlers are the hardest next step, but in being able to engage with them and have really solid conversations. That has been a good listening training for me, if you will.
Jack Sharry: Sure. So I have a good friend who was a CMO of a fortune 500 company is now retired. We talk about this kind of stuff. It’s sort of fun. When we see one another. We live in the same town up in Vermont when we’re up there together. And his comment is that marketing is listening, that if you’re going to be good at marketing, you got to be a good listener. And I know you’re a good listener, and you’re an excellent marketer. So talk about how you translate that listening into marketing, how you’ve applied it specifically at Hightower.
Meghan McCartan: Well, if you’re not a good listener, then it’s just sales because you’re just spewing something out and somebody may not care and they may not want to receive it and you’ll know right away if they’re not receiving it, and then what’s the point Because to me, sales is a little bit more hit or miss just kind of throwing out there, what something will stick, right. And there’s a place for that, as I look at marketing and what we’re doing, it’s much more about making connections. When I talk to advisors about marketing, oh, I don’t want to do marketing, because they think of it as sales. And we talk about it as building connections through content that’s not really investments, building connections through talking about your kids talking about a gardening, talking about whatever it is. And when you have those connections, and you hear more about people, then they’re going to talk to a friend about you. So that’s, to me, like it’s just the basics of, of marketing is knowing what you want to talk about. Because then you’ll be more genuine when you are talking about it. And being able to tell that story and why you care about that story. And that’s where you make connections. So for me, storytelling, equals connections. That’s my secret sauce.
Jack Sharry: Yep. Yep, I’m with you. So we’ve kind of jumped into the deep end, just as we get started here talking about this. We’ll come back to it. I’m curious, how did you get started this whole thing? How did you get into this marketing thing? Maybe a little bit of a Wayback Machine here.
Meghan McCartan: Yeah, so my dad was in advertising, like Mad Men, like worked for McCann, like a really big agency. And everyday would call and be like, I hate this, you should never work for me never go into advertising. But this was sort of what I wanted to do. And my dad’s Irish so like that storytelling isn’t I feel like it’s in my blood. But so I went off to college at this so relates to story time. Read Laura Ingalls Wilder, all the Little House books like those were my favorites. I read them over and over and over and over. So visited William and Mary, which is in Colonial Williamsburg. And I was like, how amazing to live in Colonial Williamsburg. It’s not as much when you’re anxious, great place to visit. But I found myself at William and Mary. I was politics history major. And so then when I graduated, I went to go work in Washington for a candidate running for governor. Because now exciting politics will be so much fun. So glamorous, spoiler it’s not right. She she lost. That’s a whole different story. But I just remember sitting there crying, because here I have no jobs through no fault of my own out of politics. So my parents thought that potentially that was the right choice. But also having a job is a good choice. So I worked in restaurants for a year. And you know, those are stories, right? That you’ll there’s plenty, plenty a story there. And after I did that, I knew I didn’t want to do it forever. Although I firmly believe that everyone should work in restaurants for a little bit of time. Absolutely just imperative. My twins, as an aside, are working in restaurants right now. And the stories they come home with are hysterical. But fast forward. I went off to grad school, and I said, you know, I got an MBA in marketing. So the one thing I know I don’t want to do is work in finance, because, you know, boring snooze, snooze. So I went and got a job at I wanted to work in fashion. So it was working for Bloomingdale’s, which is potentially even less glamorous than politics is, you know, setting up chairs for fashion shows or whatever. Although I do have a little story about that. I would be on the local cable TV here and they’re talking about stuff. I interviewed Lord Wedgwood, from Wedgwood, China at one point. And another point, they wanted me to talk about Mother’s Day gifts. And I was I was never nervous about doing these cable interviews, because no one’s watching this stuff. So I’m going on to talk about Mother’s Day gifts. And they start asking me about the spring styles, what’s going to be in fashion for spring? And I didn’t know because I didn’t prep for this. And I’m thinking that a friend over the weekend had said great pink is the new gray. So I said, very authoritatively. Well, you know, pink is the new gray. So that’s what you have to just keep in mind, and come to find out that, in fact, many people watch the local cable channel there because I was in Westchester right outside in New York City. So I didn’t want to watch the New York City News with all you know, New York City mayhem, they were watching this, so we’re sticking for goodness sakes. Now all of Westeros is gonna be wearing pink is a good idea or not. So I did that for a year and then figured that while finance might be boring, there’s also money there. So I started at Royal Alliance, and I didn’t probably the first six months I was there. I was like, What is this place? Well, I don’t even understand why this exists. But I got to do a lot of amazing things and work with some great people. So I was royal Lyons advisory group went on to MetLife. And then I did consulting for three under three. So I was doing consulting, I was basically working full time for companies. I did TD Ameritrade. I did all bridge, I launched a conference, two different conference series, one around financial services. I also launched one for moms returning to work. So kind of having three under three was not enough. I had to make sure that I kept myself busy and out of trouble.
Jack Sharry: My goodness. So I follow you in the news and see the great things that are happening at Hightower and you guys are prominent in terms of what you have to say and Stories you have to share. So Phil said, What is going on there? It seems that you get your management team on board with singing at the high tower song and talking about what you’re up to. So tell us more.
Meghan McCartan: For sure. And Bob Orosa is chairman and CEO of Hightower. And I joke to him all the time. Whenever we’re in meetings, people say, Well, how many people are in your marketing team? And I’m like, 22, Well, Bob, so maybe a half and bobble seven give me a quarter. But all kidding aside, he’s a giant marketing fan and a great collaborator. So he’s given me a lot of runway, which is amazing. We rebranded and our rebrand was wel-th rebalanced, and it’s W E, L – th. And at first, it was kind of hard to get people behind it. And we have really come great strides in getting people to back it and what it means that wealth is more than money. And it’s your well-being. It’s your mental health, all of these pieces come in together. And we’ve told that a number of ways we’ve told it through quick videos of people talking about what wealth means to them, how their money lessons from when they’re small, effective. Now, we’re doing Tiktok, kind of talking about financial literacy and how that ties into wealth, how all generations need to be able to know about it, we’ve got some interesting partnerships coming up, that are going to kind of further that story. But it’s been really fun to be able to use this concept of wealth, and people are plugging into it more and more. Again, if you’re an advisor, you’re not going to set yourself apart, talking about financials only. I mean, I think that that’s really the rare person that can do that successfully. So that’s where we’re really trying to talk about a much more I hate that word holistic because it’s overused, but a much more complete story. And there’s a lot of different ways to connect.
Jack Sharry: So I see what you do on behalf of Hightower with your execs and the high tower sort of brand story kind of thing. How does that translate down because I tower advisors are pretty independent. I know they are connected, integrated with the mothership. But how do you translate that to individual viruses because Steve, our friend Steve legend says if you’ve met one financial advisor, you’ve met one financial advisor, they’re all very different all have their own way of doing it has that story, has that story translate?
Meghan McCartan: Yeah, and at Hightower to your point, some of our advisors use the Hightower name. And some of them use a completely different name, don’t even mention Hightower, we are very agnostic. So we don’t have a preference, whatever works for the team. But that means that we can’t put down here is our you know, our mantra for our newsletter for the week that everybody could use, it doesn’t work that way. So we try to, like I said, use the wealth overview to be able to have different kinds of modular pieces that people can tap into as it relates to them, you know, and having value added content that isn’t, that can be white labeled, that can be told in our own way to have a chunk of content that an advisor can take, and we their own take around. And we talk a lot about how to do that, and how to build a marketing plan around a storyline thinking from start to finish, you know, know where you want to be able to get to so that we build the blocks in between, we actually, this was pretty impactful. One of the things we talk about a lot is being genuine, and you know, it comes through quite clearly when you are not, and also being a little bit vulnerable. And I think people are a lot more willing to do so now than they may have been. So we had our Advisor Summit, it’s the first time we have been able to be back live for a few years. And we had a group there called Dear World. And it’s ver really interesting you they go through an exercise with you and you kind of think of some words that inspire you, then you kind of bring it down to an event. And then you kind of write a little quick story around it. And you can see people at the beginning of this exercise. So a big portion of our advisors, very successful advisors, kind of a little bit at the beginning thinking maybe this is a little bit hokey. But then Bob got up on stage to talk to tell his story. And he talks about he has a daughter that deals with severe anxiety. And he shared that made himself very vulnerable, but very honest, did I mean one of the women in the room, she told me later, she’s like, I was sobbing, listening to him just sobbing. And she said it you know, the man next to me sort of awkwardly patted me and he was like, it’s gonna be okay. But the point being like, when you really let down your guard a little bit, you can do those connections. So we kind of did this little exercise and then at cocktail hour that night, they do a thing where you can write in some of this is on the Hightower website, if you if you want to, because they’re really cool. You write kind of what your mantra they call your brain tattoo, write it on your arm. And it’s kind of like the summary of your story like Bob’s was. I picked her up at 10 o’clock, and he told the story was about set the groundwork with his daughter. She had gone on a school trip and she made it and he was there in the parking lot to pick her up at 10 o’clock. So people kind of did this and we had these gorgeous black and white pictures of kind of their mantras and then we had three people I was one of them get up to kind of tell a personal story The next day we worked through how do you Tell that story, how do you keep it really tight? You know, what do you want to get? Like, you have one headline in your head, but is that what you really want the listener to be able to get? So I mean, the fundamentals of storytelling, and I would tell you, every single person there came away from it being like, I thought it was great. I thought it was crazy. All this stuff at first, I love it, by the end, love it. So I think just that and that’s kind of a big group, but a big group that active listening, you know, focused in on a person, because that person is allowing themselves to, to be vulnerable. So yeah, yeah, really cool.
Jack Sharry: What’s the name of the group that facilitate?
Meghan McCartan: It’s called Dear World, Dear World, and you could definitely look them up their site. I mean, it’s one of the more impactful, I’m actually not very into that woo woo stuff that my sister does it for a living all this coaching and training. I don’t like that stuff. But this was one of the more impactful experiences I have ever been thrown out.
Jack Sharry: Did you find that where this idea come from the sun, so bomb really interesting.
Meghan McCartan: I’ve had seen them a while ago. That’s what I said. He definitely like he’s thinking, I think, variant in touch with, you know, far more than that. He’s very in touch leader in touch with what we’re doing. And like I said, a believer, a believer in making those connections.
Jack Sharry: Really cool. I’m impressed. I’ve known Bob a long time and did not know that Jack said he knows you.
Meghan McCartan: And you’re no prune never would have thought that.
Jack Sharry: But you know, he’s ever thought he’s a bit more of a traditionalist, but I love it. We’re kindred spirits in that regard. So as you know, I talk a good bit about listening and, and authenticity. And they go hand in hand, in my view, if you listen, well. In fact, I wrote a book about it, if you listened well, that’s what people are trying to achieve with, they’re committed to what matters to them. And they have the experience of being heard, you have a connection that’s much tighter than you’d have otherwise. And then frankly, the stuff of what we do, it’s really matter. Just fit, you know, we got plenty of products, pretty, or in our industry I’m referring to, we’ve got plenty of stuff to help people get where they’re going. But if you really understand what matters to them what their priorities are, because you often don’t get to the level you just described in terms of Bob talking about his daughter. That’s the important stuff. Because Absolutely, that’s the most important thing. Don’t want to speak for Bob by any means, but quite sure that his daughter is his most important financial priority, I got 100%. So if you understand that, and what it takes to help her get what she needs and support that she needs, and so on, then then he’s a happy guy. And he’ll figure out what you know, the other pieces, you know, what you MMA or what annuity or what you know, whatever it is that might be and how you put it all together, and how you save on taxes. And we’ll do the second we, we spend most frankly, too much of our time, I would argue, but it’s the heart, you get to the heart of the matter makes the big difference.
Meghan McCartan: And the value of what you can do, right, like so maybe you’ve got a client, this is a lot of what we talk about. And we’re trying to do more resources here, a client who’s got you know, you’re managing their portfolio you’ve done so for many years, they’re doing very well, but you can tell something’s up? Well, their son is really struggling with mental health issues, you don’t know necessarily what to say, but you know, who to send them to. And you can understand that it’s not like I have listened to you. And I have known you for this long to know that something’s up. So let’s make sure this is all part of wealth and what we can do together. So I think that that’s, that’s really the goal is is again, making those connections.
Jack Sharry: So take me through how this plays out, because we had Scott Holsopple on who’s the chief growth officer or chief revenue officer,
Meghan McCartan: Chief growth officer at Hightower.
Jack Sharry: And he was talking about how you support the teams that you work with. So how does this play out in terms of wanting to have a conference or a gathering of some kind of fun training, like you described? But how do you do this on an ongoing basis? In other words, how do you, I would imagine, you have to keep reminding people that this stuff is important, because they’re more than likely to go back to their old habit. Exactly. How do you keep it alive?
Meghan McCartan: I mean, I think it’s definitely not just something that I’m preaching from the top, I have this team that this is the playbook that we’re all singing from. Right. And they, you know, Scott has a team of engagement folks as well. We’re singing from this playbook. This is what we think this is the way we’re doing this approach at high tower with wealth means building these connections. And I think so as we work with adviser teams kind of being able to show areas of success, you know, explaining how some of this work. Some of them are very good storytellers to begin with, how do we package that but not package you know, how do we build this for consistency? How do we help others and I think it’s, it’s interesting because in some ways as we get more and more next generation advisors in their potential able to connect a little bit better with this, because they’re trying to build a base and there may be more open to connection. So it’s not just the whole thing of I’ve got people pouring in in droves, I have to figure out something that does make me a little bit different in a way to connect that’s a little bit different.
Jack Sharry: Interesting, interesting.
Meghan McCartan: Think it resonates.
Jack Sharry: And so is the marketing team, but they weren’t not sure what the structure is, but so how Does this get conveyed? Is it through your team through Scott’s are one of the same, I’m just maybe talking about the mechanics of it, if you will.
Meghan McCartan: My team kind of leading the charge on this. And we put out, you know, webinars, the approach we take when we develop content and material is this sort of storytelling approach and, and you can use this webcast, here’s the way you can use it, put it into a newsletter this way, throw it, put it in your blog here, connect with people this way, you’re not just forwarding a brochure, you’re putting together your thoughts around a piece of value added content about aging caregivers, or aging parents and caregivers, taking care of them about about mental health, about getting into college about beating seasonal depression, like so we’re putting sort of value added content out there in a way that people can leverage it however they want to, and feeling like that’s a lot more value than if we said, here’s a 401k guide. Here’s your tax prep, and we have those resources, but we want to be able to enable connection at a much higher level.
Jack Sharry: Wow, I’m impressed. I pay attention to this stuff. I don’t know that anyone else doing the same thing?
Meghan McCartan: No, only I, Jack only I have this? No, I don’t think so. And I think maybe folks are advisors doing on their own the resources, we’re providing this complete value added content and you know, access to these experts. I don’t think other I don’t see other people doing it. Here’s an interesting one, that we had an advisor who her client owned, bought all the intellectual property for this woman named Susie Zuzek, who was an artist for the old Lilly Pulitzer brand. It is a long story, that can be a whole different podcast, but she died penniless. But she had been an artist she did over 1000 prints. These are absolutely gorgeous prints. Becky, the client had bought all the intellectual property. There’s a whole story of how the money had been taken from Lilly and then to Suzy and then what is your legacy actually going to be? So we kind of brought it up to another source? So here’s this beautiful story of prints, and this amazing artist, but what did she actually want? And was her legacy just to be in Key West with her kids? And maybe that was her happy zone? And what do you want your legacy to be? So we pulled this the prints together? And then put an event together of having people have conversations about it and kind of think through? What do you want to go? What does legacy mean to you? And people wrote it out on postcards, Legacy means to me that I’m there for my husband when he needs me, you know, Legacy means for me that I can travel with my daughter wherever I want to go. So kind of taking the time, like, here’s the story and how does that story relate to you?
Jack Sharry: Very cool. So where are you taking this? Where’s this go from here? It sounds like you’ve got a good runway going on this more authentic kind of approach and how to connect and communicate and, and really build authentic relationships, deeper relationships. So it sounds like I mentioned it’s going to continue on. But where do you see the world going and the work that you’re doing at Hightower,
Meghan McCartan: I think we really, we want to be able to make this wealth concept, you take it a little bit more national, right? To your point, we work a lot to help our brands or teams at cross melt market themselves. We don’t want to have a big heavy, you know, the high tower stadium, it wouldn’t be anything like that. But we do want to kind of have a little bit more of a national recognition of this wealth concept of this, you know, kind of well being concept. Because then again, our advisory teams can tap into that and kind of the warm glow there. We’ve got a partnership coming up that it’s secret still, but I’m excited for it that’s going to be able to kind of get it out a little bit more. And again, the financial literacy piece, again, are approved Bob, he ended up being on a what’s it called the live whatever, Instagram Live, he was on a board for really cool, cool organization that helps students struggling with homelessness. And so this woman, Joe Franco was also on the board, they did an Instagram live together. And she talks a lot about financial literacy. She’s a lifelong learner. So she like talks about learning languages, all of these things. Fast forward, they connect fast forward, we got Joe to come work with us on this is what it’s like to work with a financial advisor. I’m 26 years old, you know, Portuguese, I’m not like the typical advisory client is but here’s what the experience is like, here’s how to think of this. So and we’re telling that story through video. So kind of it’s cool to think of different ways to reach people where they are different ways to kind of tell that story. You know, it did say to Bob afterwards, I was like, Are your kids so proud that you’re an Instagram like an influencer now and he’s like, they’re hugely embarrassed and my great reach here.
Jack Sharry: That’s fascinating. Actually, we had another guest on our podcast Ben hunky from Morgan Stanley and I asked afterwards it’s good to hear cool now he goes no, they were completely embarrassed. Yeah. Instagram so I actually
Meghan McCartan: I did one of those Well, stories with the Dear World and I talked through i i had gone through a very difficult divorce and I really don’t talk about it and I kind of told quickly the story there and how my girls are so strong, and whoever talked about that publicly, so that was kind of like a big thing for me to be able to get up and I did share the share that But the girls, folks were crying. And yeah, they were like, this is really true. Like you kind of use poetic license in certain parts or whatever. And I was like, nevermind.
Jack Sharry: It’s Irish storytelling,
Meghan McCartan: Storytelling, and what’s the best part of kids? They keep it real? They’re gonna keep you humble.
Jack Sharry: Yeah, yep, totally, totally. Well, this has been great. So, as we do at this point in our show, I’d love to hear what are three key takeaways you’d like to make sure our audience is left with as a result of our conversation.
Meghan McCartan: I betcha they may be obvious as I go through them and be very genuine, you know, I don’t really have a filter, I sometimes try a little bit harder, but be genuine because it comes through and you know, know who you are, and be genuine. Think beyond money, you know, people, like there’s a lot of different things that people want to talk about. But get to the heart of what’s to your point, Jack, what you’re saying that’s what’s really important. And I think be willing to share, you know, as you make your cell phone where you don’t need to give every detail, but a little bit of vulnerability just drives connection.
Jack Sharry: So yeah, I couldn’t agree more. So my other favorite question as we bring the show to a close each week is, what’s something outside of work that you are excited or passionate about, and that people might find interesting or surprising?
Meghan McCartan: Well, I grew up sailing. And one of the reasons I moved from New Jersey, to Connecticut is I wanted my girls to be sailing. And my eldest ended up taking to it and loving sailing, but I am trying to do more and more of it. I took my girls last summer to the Virgin Islands. I chartered a sailboat, it was the five of us, and we got down there. And as mentioned, active listening is important. Sometimes people around here don’t listen to me. We get down there. And Juliette says, the little one is crying. And she says, You know, I can’t get on this boat. There’s no captain, I didn’t know you were gonna be the captain. And I said, Well, I was real clear about this all the way through, but ended up she got on the boat. We sailed. And we spent a week in the Virgin Islands all by ourselves. I look back and think that that was crazy. I’m glad I survived. And I don’t know if I would do it again. But it’s an experience that we all had together. So trying to kind of indulge more in sailing and kind of conquering fears, I guess.
Jack Sharry: Yes. So, Meghan, my friend, this has been wonderful. I expected great things. You’ve exceeded my expectations, but more than illuminate much more than our business. I learned a bunch so I appreciate it.
Meghan McCartan: Thanks, Jack. Always love having convos with my pal jack. So thanks for including me here. Cool.
Jack Sharry: Cool. So for our audience. If you’ve enjoyed our podcasts, please rate review, subscribe and share what we’re doing here at WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Meghan, Thank you and until next time, I look forward to it when that time occurs.
Meghan McCartan: Thanks, Jack.