This post originally appeared on the Wired Advisor eMarketing Blog
I've had the privilege of knowing Brian Brode for over 15 years now. He was once a mentor to me during my early days as a financial advisor at a major wirehouse firm, and he's always had a passion for leading and coaching others. After all, he was a Captain in the United States Army prior to beginning his 21 year career as a financial advisor!
Brian Brode is the voice behind the blog “Triboomer“, a father of four, a 4x Ironman triathlete for charity, an ultra-marathoner, a blogger, AND a financial advisor. Brian has worked for a major wirehouse firm for his entire 21 years in financial services. When you visit Brian's blog, you won't find anything about where he works and what he does for a living. He does not mix personal with business online (nor is he allowed to), but he's found a way to use this to his advantage and play to his strengths!
It was no surprise to me that Brian was an early adopter of blogging and social media, and that he had figured out a way to creatively combine his leadership skills, triathlon training and experiences, and charitable endeavors to build a substantial online niche community. He's amassed over 5000 blog subscribers, 3000+ followers on Twitter, and his bi-monthly podcast gets about 10,000 downloads per episode!
More importantly, Brian's combined efforts in building his community have helped him raise over $400,000 to fight cancer. WOW!!! Wait, there's more; the ancillary benefits of Brian's commitment to a greater cause? His efforts have helped him deepen existing client relationships and develop new ones.
Brian says, “writing about a personal passion is similar to volunteering for something you are passionate about. You go in with a commitment to help others and help the organization, not with any self-interest or self-promotion. If you do it correctly, not only do you contribute your time and resources to a cause that means something to you personally, but you expand your social contacts and open doors for business as well.”
I wrote my first blog post in 2005 and it started as a personal journey. I had literally gone from the couch to competing in my first Ironman. However, I soon realized that even though I had cleaned up my diet and become extremely fit that something was missing. That missing piece was community. I was motivated to raise money to help fight cancer and I knew that there were many other triathletes out there training to compete who might also be motivated to raise money for charity with their efforts, and that's when “Triboomer” was born.
How important was discovering and defining your niche in this process?
The niche is key, and is the pathway to success. You want to be known as a personal brand in your community. When I first did my research in the blogosphere, there was plenty out there about training for a triathlon, but very little about triathlon training and charity. This particular niche also fulfilled a personal goal of developing a team and a purpose around my training.
In the age of social media, it is easier than ever to find your niche, discover who is in the niche, and connect with the people in the niche. For example, let's say you are an avid fisherman. Is there a magazine for avid fishermen, and do they have a Facebook Page or Twitter account? If so, see who is following and start friending and following those people. Identify who the influencers are. Who is blogging that you could potentially connect with? Who is getting lots of Retweets and visibility?
Have your client relationships been affected at all by your efforts?
My client relationships have grown stronger as a result. When clients know you are doing something for the greater good, they will want to get involved. I tell my clients that I'm competing in a marathon or a triathlon and dedicating it to people who have cancer and I ask them if they have a relative or if anyone they know has been affected. Then I ask them if it's okay to put that person's name down on a piece of paper and carry it with me during the race. I also mention that I've been doing this for awhile and I'm trying to raise money for a particular charity. When I finish my race, I send a personal note thanking them for allowing me to carry the memory of that relative during my marathon or triathlon. Ultimately by connecting around a human element, clients become more interested in you personally rather than always having an interest in their accounts, the markets, etc.
How have your efforts helped you in building new relationships
Talking about something you're passionate about and building a following around that provides an entree to any face to face meeting, regardless of where my blog readers live. Your blog readers know you even if you don't know them. At races, expos, and meet-ups, they know the blog and they know who TriBoomer is. I have a vast advantage because I've had this amazing opportunity through my blog to build rapport with people who share the same passion. When we're face to face, the trust is already there. Face to face is still critical and always will be. All roads lead to being asked “what do you do for a living”? It's critical to have your elevator speech down.
What role does social media play in your efforts?
Again this goes back to the niche and both defining and discovering who is in the niche. What's great about social media is that it allows you to connect and communicate through multiple channels, just as the traditional media communicates through a variety of mediums such as tv, print, and radio. With the power of self-publishing through blogging, podcasting and video, you have many opportunities to reach and build influence within your niche. All of the pieces can work together to help you build your community and connect with influential people.
What is your best advice for financial advisors looking to emulate your success?
If you can connect your blogging efforts with your passion in order to build a following, you can be tremendously successful. It takes time and dedication, but the relationships you can build will enrich your life both personally and professionally. Once you build your community there are many opportunities to get face to face through either groups and events that you create or events that already exist. You don't have to be a great writer. Simply write what you think and have someone proof for clarity and grammar. Have a family member read it aloud. Most successful bloggers are amateurs writing about a passion!
Does this story inspire you to connect your passion with building a community? Have you thought about growing your personal brand in this way? Share your feedback with us!