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The Intersection of Digital Marketing and Financial Advice with Robert Sofia

There are many things that go into a successful financial planning firm. One of the most important is marketing. Financial planners are good at connecting with people and helping them achieve their financial goals, but they’re usually not great at marketing themselves. When marketing becomes a barrier to growing a financial advisory business, how can financial planners stand out, gain more clients, and scale their companies?

In today’s episode, Jack talks with Robert Sofia, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Snappy Kraken, a company that helps financial advisors personalize, automate, and track marketing campaigns and business processes.

During the past decade, Robert has supported thousands of companies across the spectrum of financial services. At Snappy Kraken, he is responsible for the company’s overall strategic direction.

Robert talks with Jack about the key factors that drive growth, how to build a brand that stands out in the marketplace, and what financial advisors really need to build meaningful relationships and grow their businesses.

What Robert has to say

“Branding is very powerful. When you get to the point where you are known and identified for something and recognized as a leader, it starts to have a compounding effect. It really attracts all kinds of opportunities to you.”

– Robert Sofia, Chairman & CEO, Snappy Kraken

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Everyone, welcome to WealthTech on Deck. Thanks for joining us. Typically on our podcast we explore FinTech wealth tech tools, platform strategies and execution. Today’s a departure I think you’ll find illuminating, we’re going to be hearing from someone who’s very mindful of all the disruption that is being caused by technology and the clear advantages and changes that are underway in the wealth management world. His focus is how to communicate value around the advice that is being offered and rendered. Robert Sofia is the CEO of Snappy Kraken. Robert is an expert on the leading edge of financial services marketing, and knows what it takes to differentiate and grow a business. So welcome, Robert. Thanks for joining us today.

Robert Sofia: Thank you, Jack, I am thrilled to be here.

Jack Sharry: So Robert, let’s start with you talking about your firm what you do, and how this all got started. So why don’t you give us that backstory as a as a starting point.

Robert Sofia: Actually, Jack, you know, I’ve been a marketer for 20 years, that’s all I’ve done. And my entire career has been focused on helping people market I used to help the businesses, I worked for market. And then I started working for an RIA in 2005. And that was early in my career still, but I helped that RAA market and grow a ton. And I realized that the financial advice industry was really behind on marketing. And that financial advisors, they’re amazing at connecting with people, they’re amazing at all the financial planning components, but they’re usually not great at marketing. And so it gave me a great opportunity to help them and help an industry that does such a valuable thing for people, I think, access to financial planning and, and financial services is something that more people need. And so my passion for marketing that has grown from helping an individual firm to starting a actual consulting and services marketing services firm, which I sold in 2016, and then starting a technology marketing company, which is Snappy Kraken that I have now. And it’s been my biggest and most fun adventure so far.

Jack Sharry: So talk a little bit about Snappy Kraken. And I should, by the way, mentioned, Robert, way back when, when I first started in this business, I was a wholesaler. And actually what I used to sell our product, frankly, wasn’t as competitive as I might have liked. I used to sell marketing seminars in particular. And I would talk to an advisor and say, so tell me about your business, and who do you serve, and so on. And so if I’d get a sort of a quick profile on who they wanted to talk to, and then I would ask the key question, I’d say, so how do you market yourself? And I’d always get I, well, I, you know, I get some referrals. And I some people for the longest time, and I go back way, way beyond, you’re starting this business, but advisors have not always been good at that. So clearly, you figured that out and talk a little bit more if you would about snappy crack? And what can you do specifically, who do you serve? How does that work? Talk a little bit about the company that you know, the

Robert Sofia: Yeah, thank you. So our clients are a mix of enterprises that support advisors, and individual advisors. And whether your goal is to help scale a large group of advisors and aid them in all becoming more successful, or you’re an individual advisor trying to grow your business, the principles are the same. And a lot of people talk about digital marketing tactics and strategies. And I don’t think that’s what advisors need to hear. I don’t think that’s what the enterprises that support advisors need to talk about. I think what advisors really need is they need help scaling meaningful relationships. So when you look at what digital marketing, or online marketing or traditional marketing is supposed to do, really, if you boil it down, it’s just about how do you create more great relationships? How do you do it faster? How do you do bigger? How do you do it at scale? And if you look at what we do, which is very much at the intersection of digital marketing and financial advice, it’s really the same thing as a traditional relationship. We’re just using a different method. So what do you have to do? First, you have to get noticed, then you have to exchange contact information, then you have to build a relationship and grow credibility and earn trust, and then you have a chance to maybe make a sale. And then you take that relationship and you broaden it, and you deepen it until you can generate referrals. And that starts all over again. Well, to me, digital marketing that we do it Snappy Kraken is just helping advisors do all that automatically. Do it faster, do it more scalable, helping the enterprises that support advisors implement things, so that they can ensure that hundreds or 1000s of their advisors are all actively establishing new relationships, expanding those relationships, expanding share of wallet and becoming more successful and that’s what it’s really all about.

Jack Sharry: So give me examples maybe tactical detail around so what do you tell an advisor, how do you have them create these relationships? What do you have them Do maybe just some examples to give our audience a sense of the kind of advice or suggestions that you make to your to your audience.

Robert Sofia: Okay, so let’s say that there’s this whole process that people have to go through before they become a client. Where does it start? The very first step, they have to know you exist. That’s where it all begins, you have to get found you have to be identified. So that means there’s a lot of other things have to happen to But before any of that other stuff can happen, you got to get noticed. So how do you get noticed? What are all the possible channels, you can do it on Facebook, you can do it on LinkedIn, you can do it on Twitter, you can do it on Instagram, you can do it with ads, you can do it with organic content you can do with images, you can do it with video, you can do it with creative copywriting, you can look at all these options that are available to you. You can do it with a billboard in your town, you can do it on a placemat at a diner, you can I mean, I could go on and on Jack, it doesn’t matter. The point is, the first step is to get noticed. So what are all the ways we can help advisors get noticed on autopilot get noticed at scale create literally hundreds of 1000s of impressions of their name and brand in their market. So people start to connect this service provider with this need, and they create mindshare for themselves. Now, that’s tactical, that’s just one step in the process. But there’s a myriad of ways to do it. And that’s where marketing comes in.

Jack Sharry: Robert, thanks for that. You’ve talked about your background a little bit. And you’ve talked about what snappy cracking is about You’ve also written a book. And the book title is blend out from ordinary to irresistible how advisors can market like the greatest brands in the world. And I’m sure that also applies to firms that have advisors. So talk a little bit about the book. But the lessons that you share, just give our audience a perspective on how to take what you’ve talked about so far, and how to implement that because I know the book addresses so many of the things that you talk about each and every day with your clients.

Robert Sofia: Yeah, those are first principles of marketing. And it doesn’t matter who you are. When we say market, like the greatest brands in the world, those brands largely are not financial services companies. And so this applies to every type of business. And it absolutely applies to firms that are trying to attract advisors and recruit them and retain them. Because branding is very, very powerful. And when you get to a point where you are known and identified for something and recognized as a leader it, it starts to have a compounding effect, it really attracts all kinds of opportunities to so the book blend out is designed to be the opposite of blending in. And when you look at the financial services industry, especially you see that there’s a lot of copycatting, there’s a lot of traditional conservative marketing that just does not blend out. And a lot of firms really look the same. Even the imagery, the symbolism, the font choices, there’s the color choices, there’s so much that’s very similar. But because all of that tends to run together, even the value props and the messaging, when a brand will go to a point where maybe they’re even a little bit uncomfortable, where they’re willing to push the envelope go outside of what’s normal, what’s typical, what’s comfortable, and do something unique. They attract a lot more attention. They want a lot more eyeballs. And even just the basics of human nature is such that when we see something that we’ve already seen before, it doesn’t interest us, we don’t stop at it. Because we’ve already we’ve already been there done that. But when we see something that’s new, that’s novel that’s different. We curiosity is evoked, we stop, we explore it. So the book is about helping companies and individuals do that for themselves for their personal brands, for their company brands so that they can attract more of the right opportunities to themselves.

Jack Sharry: So I have a hunch, and I know the answer already, but Snappy Kraken and is an example of blending out. So explain where you came up with the name. Why you came up with it seems like it fits with what you just described.

Robert Sofia: It does, we absolutely practice what we preach. And if I were to take a slide, and put up all the logos of all the financial advisor marketing companies together with ours, when you looked at that slide, first glance, ours is the one you would see that’s the one you would notice, and a bunch of them would look very similar. And that was the point of snappy cracking. When I branded firms, I actually have branded hundreds of firms and I still do some side branding projects. The goals that I have, there are several facets. It has to be completely unique. It can’t sound like somebody else can look like somebody else. It can’t have been done before. If I am going to do this, I want every single social handle every single URL. I don’t want to put some F P on the end of it dash f p because it’s like other people I want to own that real estate. That’s just one thing. Also, it has to be interesting. I want people when they see it to go Uh huh, what’s that? That is the the single most powerful ally you have when you go out to market. If you’re at a conference exhibiting for example, you won’t be able to stop and go, Hey, wait a second, what do you do? So you want to evoke curiosity. I also knew that, in our case, because we are a marketing company, we can have a little more fun than not sure, a broker dealer or insurance company. But that allowed us the more latitude to make it fun to say, make it so that people would, it would roll off the tongue, we actually use like the double consonant sounds, the strong K, all those things, make it sticky, Snappy Kraken, and it’s fun, you know, and those are the types of things that there’s a whole bunch of other things in the rubric. But those are the type of things that make a brand interesting. And once you say snappy, cracking, you’ll never forget it, you’ll always remember it. And that’s the other thing you want your brand to be really memorable.

Jack Sharry: So is there anything behind Snappy Kracken? Or is it just something to get people’s attention?

Robert Sofia: Actually it is. So our platform is API based, we have a lot of enterprises that will take our API and build their own marketing tools on top of it. And that API is symbolic because you have this central junction, connecting other things to it. So when we were brainstorming the name, we ended up with tentacles, octopus, squid, Kraken. And of course, what we do makes everything faster, simpler and more fun. So it’s Snappy, Kraken. 

Jack Sharry: That’s great. I love it. Having been through too many branding exercises over the course of my career, so many of the times not all of which, by the way, in financial services, the typical response and I had a conversation earlier today with a senior exec at a leading wealth management firm who gave me all the reasons why not on something because of compliance and regulatory and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, fear of getting their name in the press in a bad way. Basically, she was saying to me, while all the reasons why they couldn’t promote what they have, which happens to be an industry leading capability, but they aren’t promoting it. So it’s sort of fascinating to me that here we go, I’ve been running all these branding exercises, when I hear snappy cracking, you know, it’s not too many RIAS or broker dealers, or individual advisors that are branding themselves as anything like a snappy cracking, but it like you said it’s memorable, it actually has some meaning, which is, I think, also important, because so glad to hear you done that as well. But the point of all that is that you really do want to stand out. So talk a little bit more about the standing out thing, because we are in an industry, which is quite literal, in terms of how it tends to operate, quite logical left quite left brain, you know, not not terribly creative, to be honest, to be fair, or unfair, depending how you look at it. So how do you get people to do things? How do you get people to go along with this craziness? And to how do you then keep them so they are distinct, because you have a big client list, you work with lots of different kinds of individuals as well as firms. So how do you address those two elements?

Robert Sofia: Yeah, well, two things I’ll first say, to be bold to stand out does not mean you have to be gaudy does not mean you have to be irreverent does not mean you have to be edgy, really, it means you have to be different in context. Yep. Now, that gives you a lot more comfort, probably if you’re a financial firm that knows you need to be conservative, and toe a line that is very different from what a marketing company can do. Sure, but difference is what matters. So one of the things that we we help advisors do is draw a line between their personal brand and their marketing. Now, some would say, well, brand is everything. It includes my marketing. But that’s not always true. Because for example, if you record a video to send out to your audience, and it’s on a page, and it has your logo on it, and it’s a white page with a little bit of text, what is the thing about that video, that’s going to make it interesting. It’s your presentation style. It’s your personal quality that comes through. So the idea of being authentic, true to yourself in the right context. And in videos on your website. We know when you send emails out to people, there’s a certain thing that really needs to be tied closely to your actual brand and persona, and business. But when you’re doing marketing, especially to cold audiences, because they don’t have a connection with your brand, yet. They don’t like you trust you or respect you. Yeah, you’re just a stranger. Your job is a little different. You have to get their attention, you have to demand attention. So you have to be more creative. And you have to be out there a little bit more when you’re dealing with cold audiences and advertising because people are just scrolling all the time. And there’s they’re so distracted. They’ve seen it all. And so the combination, the winning combination is really to have a little fun go a little edgier go a little bold on these lower risk marketing initiatives. And then once you get people in the funnel, you can approach it a little bit more conservative Really, because now you’re focusing more on the relationship building, it’s akin to, you know, your dating, the first thing that happens, you notice somebody, they might be wearing a flamboyant outfit. You know, it’s like the, you know, the stereotypical woman in the red dress with the red lipstick and the red high heels and you go, Wow, you notice, but that’s not the woman you marry. That takes substance that takes getting to know that’s now she’s not going to dress like that every day. So this is the, this is kind of the idea. We try to help advisors say, look, let’s go bold, let’s go big in the right places. And you can still be yourself, you can still be authentic, you can still be who you are. And maybe we can get you to change in that blue Navy jacket with the gold buttons for something a little bit more fun. So that you can spice up your own personality as well. And anybody who might be listening to this with skepticism, I just want to recommend, there’s a book by the creative director of Adobe. And if you don’t know, Adobe, Adobe makes creative software for all different types of things, video production and whatnot. As name is Adam, forget the last name. But he wrote a book called sorry, Spock, emotions drive business. Sorry, Spock, emotions drive business, amazing book, because what he did is after years of dealing with people who are extremely analytical and always said, Well, what’s the ROI? He finally wrote a book about the ROI of creativity. And he demonstrated how creativity drives business, it drives revenue. And I think it’s really important for anybody who struggles with this to read that book, it will teach you a lot.

Jack Sharry: You know, you remind me as I, as we all do, we are scrolling, whether it’s your phone, or iPad, or screen on a computer, or whatever, we’re always looking, and I’m sure you do the same. I think most people do the same. I’m just kind of getting through it all, do what see what pops up, that is going to get my attention that’s consistent with my interests, right? I mean, that’s what there’s too much to pay attention to do too much. In fact, I have this conversation with colleagues in the industry, that when they send me stuff with it with a sort of dense type of lots of information, all of which is beautifully written, compelling, and so on. But if it doesn’t stand out, in some way, I’m just moving on, I don’t have the time to figure out what part of that block of content I should be paying attention to. And I’ve actually done that where I’ve written back and say, Send me back the key points you want me to pay attention to, and I’ll pay attention. But otherwise, I’m just I have too much on my plate. That’s right. We’re all that way. Essentially, what you’re doing then is you’re taking that reality, that is how people are living their lives, just look at any. Whereas I was looking at somebody recently, I think it might have been a, it was something that was commercial or something live. But it was a group of people, all of whom didn’t know each other. But standing near each other might have been that air party kit, I can’t remember exactly. Every one of them was on their phone, scrolling, you know, all looking at different stuff, having different conversations, different notions. So to what you’re saying, I’d love to hear more about this is you’re trying to get people to wake up and pay attention and consistent with what it is they might be looking for. So how do you in working with a firm or working with an individual advisor? How do you advise them? To stand out give me some if you have some more particulars about how you stand out? I’m sure you’re not telling them to wear a red dress. But you’re in some ways trying to stand out consistent with the seriousness with which they intend to operate over time. What does that look like? How do you help people figure out what’s true to them as well as noteworthy and worthy of somebody’s paying attention to them?

Robert Sofia: There’s an exercise that I like to help companies do when they are struggling with this. And it is a struggle in such a commoditized business. And Financial Services has been largely commoditized there was a time where you could say something like my technology stack is a huge differentiator. And I know you sell technology jack, so do I. But if we’re real about it, make your life easier as it might make your solutions better. But the consumer themselves is not going to say Oh, I’m glad you have this feature that this other person didn’t have. So I was looking for me.

Jack Sharry: So looking for some good technology stacks. What are those?

Robert Sofia: Yeah, exactly, exactly. You get it? And so the exercise is, it’s three columns. It’s what’s the same? What’s different? What should I change? And if you start to take everything in your business, that’s the same. And you start really like lining it up and being honest about it. You’re just gonna be a big it’s gonna be a lot in that column. Yeah, what’s different? It’s going to be harder to find those things, but I guarantee you they exist, they always do. Then, after you get all those, what’s the same, what’s different, you got to look and say, what am I marketing? What am I putting out there? What am I talking about in my PR strategy? In the articles I write in the speeches I give, what am I talking about? What you want to do is you want to try to shift as much of the things from the what’s the same column out and as much as the things from what’s different column in and then over in the what can I change? Call and that’s where you go back to the things that are what’s the same, and see how you can modify them to get them to move over to be different by changing the vernacular, by changing the order by changing the positioning by. So even in our own business, we’ve done that, where, when we first launched this company in 2016, we came out talking about why marketing campaigns were so important. Nobody was using campaigns, everybody’s talking about content. While it was fresh, nobody’s heard that approach before, we got a lot of traction, pretty soon our competitors started talking about campaigns. Well, now we talk about the cold to gold framework. The point is, you’ve got to look for ways to just do and say and present and approach everything differently, that alone will make you stand out. And when people are comparing you with other solutions, if you can sell them on those things about you that are different. If even if you sell them on a few of those things, when they start comparing you, they’re gonna go wait a second, they don’t have these competitors don’t have this stuff, this company is different, that’s gonna make you the more likely choice. And anybody can do that.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. It’s very clear, by the way, and to our audience. One of things we try to do on this podcast, is talk about how to grow one’s business. And you don’t grow by saying we do the same thing everybody else does only we do it better. That’s what I think you would agree, Robert, that’s insufficient. Talk a little bit about how you advise people to grow, you know, it’s every wants to grow their business, right, whatever the business might be. And far easier said than done. But I love what you’re saying about what’s the same, what’s different, what should I change? How do I make it better? So I’m assuming that’s part and parcel of what you would advise firms and individual advisors in terms of how to grow their business. But what are sort of the keys to success, if you will, around growth? How do you advise people to grow? What is it? What is it that you convey to your clients, growth doesn’t happen?

Robert Sofia: Usually, from doing one thing, there are exceptions where some company will do one particular things so well, and so differently, that it just drives all their growth. But especially for businesses like ours in financial services, where there are competitors that do a lot of the same things. That’s not the case. Because we’re not Well, none of us are that innovative. So sorry, to insult anybody on your listening, that is really innovative. We didn’t invent the first touchscreen device. Okay, so. So knowing that, you’ve got to remember that there’s several key things that drive growth. So we talked about one earlier, we talked about getting noticed, right? So that’s amplification, how many eyeballs can I get on my brand, get on my product? Where can I create the most awareness, you need processes and systems for that. But then that’s not enough. So people can notice you all day long, but, but you have to actually get them in your pipeline. So now what’s needed, you need offers, you need irresistible offers, whatever, those are reasons for them to take the next step to engage with your brand and give you their contact information. So how do you craft irresistible offers, that people will opt into to take the next step with you. And oh, by the way, there’s been a ton of junk offers out there for a long time. So people won’t always opt in. And if they do, it doesn’t mean they’ll even engage with you. So now, once they’re opted in, you better use that opportunity, right, which means you need systems for building credibility and trust, and moving them further into the relationship deeper. And so and it goes on, because after that, then you’ve got to actually find a way to start the real dialogue with them, where they start opening up about what their needs are, and how do you help me fill those needs, you know, Mr. Company, and then you have to have the sales processes, that you’re tracking and measuring the performance indicators of all that, through that process, how many people are actually converting and, and so then your sales literature has to be looked at, and your terminology has to be looked at. And it doesn’t end because then you have a relationship? And if you don’t handle it, right, it’s gonna blow up or go away. So you got to keep it in and you want to expand that relationship. So what are your ongoing processes? So I know I’m covering like, what should be a two hour presentation in two minutes. But But here’s the point. If you really want to grow, you don’t ignore all those steps. You take all those things into consideration. How do you get noticed? How do you earn opt ins? How do you build credibility? How do you start conversations? How do you run your sales processes? And how do you deepen and expand the relationships over time, and you automate and systemize that you delegate that you get the right people in place to run that? And then growth really starts to happen? Completely, almost in spite of you. You’ll just see the growth continuing in your business.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. That’s terrific. Very well put. So we’re going to start to wind things down here. And this has been the most illuminating conversation as I expected and hoped and you fulfilled for sure, Robert? So what are three key takeaways you’d like to leave with our audience around all Other things you’ve covered, you’ve covered quite a bit of ground. But what are three key takeaways?

Robert Sofia: You know, people usually ask me for one, Jack. So this is a tall order. So number one, if you really want to get results from your marketing, start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. If it makes you really comfortable, it’s probably not good enough, it’s probably not bold enough, it’s probably not edgy enough, it’s probably not going to work. So get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Number two, I would say, find a good creative or two that you can really trust. And trust them. Don’t run over them. Listen to them, give them room, give them space. Let them expand your creativity, if you’re not the creative yourself, that’s happened for me over the years in a large way by my team, and I thank them for that. And then the third thing I would say is, make sure you apply the same rigor to all those areas of your business that we just talked about, that you would apply to building a new relationship, or improving your product. Because it doesn’t matter how great your product is, doesn’t matter how great your relationships are, those things need fuel. And the fuel comes from all those other activities of getting noticed earning more relationships, building those relationships. And so the entire process and sequence needs that type of rigor and focus and attention if you are really serious about driving growth. That’s excellent.

Jack Sharry: So I really appreciate it. That is a terrific. So the one last question I have before we part for now. And this is my favorite question I asked each week as we talked to different folks around our industry. What do you do outside of your day to day work that people might find interesting or surprising that you’re particularly passionate about? Are you really enjoy doing so share? Share with us, if you will, what you do that’s not work related? That’s kind of fun to different.

Robert Sofia: Yeah, you know, I grew up as a son of a manual laborer, my dad would take me to work with him in the summer, and I hated it jacked. I resented it, because my friends were playing my friends were playing video games, when I was out in the sun with my dad building things. But when I was about 35, a switch flipped. I used to pay everybody to do everything for me. I did a few small projects myself, it got in my blood. And all that training my dad gave me when I was a teenager it came back and now I’m a I’m a hardcore do it yourselfer. So I just think I am now building like right now I’m building a garden house that will be ready for the spring with raised beds and 1212 pitch roof and it’s gonna be real nice for my wife to go in there and do her gardening and recently I built a compost bin and you know, I’m just I’m into projects, I build a pergola and a water feature out behind my house. I’m gonna do it yourself or two. I’m a I’m a little bit of a construction worker at heart, I guess.

Jack Sharry: I appreciate your sharing that that’s that’s great fun. So, Robert, for those who might like to learn more about your work, and how to how to reach you, what’s the best way to do that?

Robert Sofia: A few ways:,, or on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Jack Sharry: Cool. Thanks for that. So for our audience, if you’ve enjoyed our podcast, please rate review, subscribe, and or share what we’re doing here on WealthTech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Robert, thanks again. This was real pleasure. I thought it’d be great. It’s better than that. So thanks so much and appreciate the conversation.

Robert Sofia: It was my pleasure. Thank you, Jack.