19th April, 2023 - Webinar replay

Debunking 10 myths and misconceptions about newsletters

Phil Bray  00:00

Good morning everybody, and welcome to today’s webinar, our monthly outing. As you can see we’ve got more Yardstick people than you can shake a stick at today joining in as we debunk 10 myths and misconceptions about newsletters. So, welcome to the call everybody. Today is all about proving that newsletters aren’t just a tick box exercise. and it’s not a case of once you’ve built a newsletter, you can wash your hands of it, or once you’ve signed up to a newsletter, you can wash your hands of it. and I guess to put it another way, a bit like websites, not all newsletters are equal. So just because got a newsletter label on it might be very good, might be alright. So as I say, we’re going to be debunking these myths and misconceptions. On your way into the webinar, you will have seen the poll, and 86% of people have voted on the poll. So if you’ve not yet, put your vote up there, would you mind doing so? that’d be great. and I’ll reveal the results of the poll in a minute as we’re going through the content today. In the meantime, I’m gonna hand you over to Dan, most of you know Dan by now, to do a bit of housekeeping if that’s allright Dan?

Dan Campbell  01:20

Yeah, sure thing, thank you. Let’s do some housekeeping. So as Phil correctly says, I’m Dan. I’m the head of branding and design here at The Yardstick agency, and my job as always, is to make sure everything’s running smoothly, and keep us on track and on time. So I’ll be keeping an eye on any technical issues that might arise and also any questions that you ask. And looking at the attendees, we’ve got plenty of familiar faces in the crowd today, so you’ll know how these sessions work, and you’ll know that they work best with plenty of input. So we’re going to be debunking 10 myths and misconceptions around newsletters today. So if you do want to add to that list, don’t be shy, let’s hear what you’ve got to say. Ask questions, share your experiences of what has, and hasn’t worked, tell us if we’re speaking sense or speaking the opposite. and as usual, there are two ways you can do that. So the chat function and the Q&A box are your best friends here. I’ll be monitoring both and reading them out at natural breaks along the way. And time permitting, there’s always a period at the end where if we can, we’ll sweep up any final ones that we’ve got. and in a Yardstick webinar first, today, we’ll be joined by Nick Parkhouse, our Head of Content, who will be joining Phil in conversations around all things newsletters. And a follow up email with a recording of this session will land in your inbox later on, along with any links and resources that we mention, and of course, we’ve got Abi to thank for that, who’s working tirelessly behind the scenes, as always. So without further ado, over to Nick and Phil to put their berets on, get their welding torches out and bust some myths.

Phil Bray  03:00

Cheers Dan, thanks for that. Didn’t realise it was fancy dress today. Um, so what are we going to talk about? We’re going to talk about the 10 myths and misconceptions about newsletters, we’re going to have a, in another Yardstick first, we’re going to have a little commercial break in the middle, it’ll only take 30 seconds, but I thought we really shouldn’t be here talking about newsletters, unless we absolutely take the opportunity just to explain our opposition to you, and at the end, we’re going to do a couple of updates: next webinar, a couple of new things we’ve put in the shop, and something exciting coming out this Friday in our weekly newsletter. So, that’s what we’re talking about today. As Dan says, do ask questions, do give us feedback, we only make these presentations better by learning from people who are on the call. So ask questions, give your feedback and share your experience as well. If you think we’re talking absolute rubbish about something, then please do shout out. okay, so myth number one, my clients don’t or won’t read a newsletter. For us, you’ve got a couple of options here, you can believe that myth or that misconception which is sitting in your head, or, you can base the decision on data. And the beauty of newsletters, assuming it’s not sent through the post, because at that point, you’ve got no clue what happens to it. You don’t know if someone read it cover to cover, if it went straight from the doormat into the recycling or the bloody dog ate it. You’ve got no idea what happened to it. But, with an email newsletter, electronic newsletter, you absolutely do. You know exactly what proportion of your database opened it, what proportion of your database read it, what proportion of your database clicked. You even know on a really granular level, that Mrs. Jones read this article, Mr. Smith read this article, and that creates really actionable follow up information for advisers. Especially with prospects, if you put prospects onto your newsletter database, as you absolutely should, and we’ll come to in a minute, that’s really useful follow up information. The prospect came in six months ago, didn’t immediately sign up, and therefore you monitor their activity on your newsletter, you see that they’ve opened three out of four of the last newsletters, they’re starting to engage, probably worth another call, or an email to see if now is the right time for them to engage with you. But just at a really basic level, as I say, you’ve got two choices here. You believe that myth in your head if it happens to be there, or you base your experience on data. And our data shows, when newsletters are going out to a database, that is predominantly built of existing clients, that between 70% and 80% of clients will open their financial adviser or planner’s newsletter. So myth, my clients won’t read it, reality, 70% to 80% open them. I suggest we believe that rather than that, and the data just doesn’t lie. And it helps you to understand engagement. and it also helps you make evidence based decisions about what should go in your newsletter, and not. So myth number one, debunk that, bust that one, just look at the data. We’ve got lots of data, happy to share it with you. Nick, Would you add anything to that?

Nick Parkhouse  06:39

No, I would just reinforce what you’ve said, which is that obviously we do a lot of newsletters, and we see a lot of newsletters and the open rates are generally very high. So, people absolutely do read them.

Phil Bray  06:51

Thank you. Dan, I’ve just seen something in the chat. Is there anything that we need to deal with right now?

Dan Campbell  06:57

No, just Betty saying that they’re going to have their bot take meeting notes with a link, offering to send through the meeting notes to anyone that wants them. So you’ve got two follow up emails by the sounds of it Abi’s and Betty’s so the bots are among us people.

Phil Bray  07:13

Fantastic, thanks. okay, number two, I’m bombarding people, if I send a monthly newsletter. Now on the subject of monthly newsletters, versus quarterly newsletters, this is where I tend to get on my soapbox. In fact, I might stack a few soap boxes on top of each other and climb up. Because this is something we believe passionately about. and let’s have a look at the poll results. So the question was, how often do you send a newsletter to your clients. So 93% of people have completed the poll, thank you very much. 2% say they send a weekly newsletter 47% Send a monthly newsletter, 23% say quarterly, 7% said a different frequency. So if you answered a different frequency, it will be good for you to put something in the chat actually be really interested to understand what that different frequency is, and 20% (one in five)  don’t send a newsletter. So I’d be interested for those people who don’t send a newsletter right now, i’d be interested to know what the reasons are. Is it because you’ve not got around to it? you don’t see the value? cost? is there another reason there? so be really interested to understand that. So at the moment, we have a say about 50% of the audience today that are sending newsletters on a monthly basis. And for me, that is absolutely the right frequency to be sending a newsletter. And it’s very simple really, just really basic maths. Rishi Sunak has been talking quite a lot about maths this week hasn’t he? Really basic maths, your newsletter should add value, should position you as a go-to expert when it comes to your clients and professional connections. and a go back to expert for prospects, prospective clients who haven’t actually yet signed on the dotted line. And if it does add value and position you as an expert and provides that valuable touch point with your brand, if you do it monthly, you’re doing it 12 times a year. If you’re doing it quarterly you’re only doing it 4. So if we assume that adding value, giving them a light touch with your brand, and positioning yourself as an expert, is a good thing to do, why would you not want to do it 12 times a year instead of 4. The other thing that is worth looking at, is looking at the evidence here about open rates. So we had a really interesting case study with a client of ours. We took them over in the middle of last year may 2022 from an existing agency. And that existing agency was sending quarterly newsletters, and at the start of 2022, the first newsletters they did in 2022, the open rates were 48.99% and 43.57%, respectively. They came to us, we move them to monthly newsletters, we did a few other things as well, but we moved them to monthly newsletters, and the open rates were 76% 76% 72% and 70%. That shows, that actually, there is no reduction in sending monthly newsletters, we are not bombarding clients with monthly newsletters, we are actually adding value to them. So again, it’s another example of where the myth is I’m bombarding people if I send it monthly, the reality is, actually not the case. And there’s a bunch of other reasons for sending it monthly as well. It does a better job of nurturing prospects, as we’ll see in a bit, prospects should absolutely be added to your newsletter database. And the newsletters are the central plank of your nurturing. Because these people, you’ve got two choices with a prospect who doesn’t immediately become a client, you ignore them do nothing with them. That’s the wrong choice, because you’ve wasted the time and money you’ve spent on generating that enquiry. Or, the right choice, is you nurture them. And one of the best ways to nurture them is that monthly newsletter that monthly touch point, the monthly added value. And if you do it monthly, you’re doing it 12 times a year rather than 4. As an adviser said to me last week, the the onboarding process with new clients can these days take a protracted amount of time, 3, 4, 5, 6 months, because as I understand it, providers are really quite slow these days. So during that period, there might be times when actually there’s not a lot of communication with the new client. So your monthly newsletter again, makes sure that they get a valuable touch point with your business each month or they’re guaranteed to get at least one valuable touch point each month. The other thing with monthly newsletters, the other two reasons, the consistency of sending them out, breeds confidence that you are reliable. So I can think of a couple of advisers, planners, coaches, so Graham at GroWiser 11am, every Friday morning, his newsletter lands in my inbox. Just so happens it’s the time we start our parish meeting with everybody getting together at Yardstick. But I know, at 11am Every Friday morning, I hear from Graham, to the point that if it didn’t land in my inbox, I would actually send Graham an email to say you alright mate, has anything gone wrong? Andrew Nelligan at Nelligan Financial down in Devon 9am, Saturday morning, it does the same thing. And if I’m a prospective client of Graham or Andrew’s, I’m just going to feel really confident that they are reliable people. I’m getting their newsletter at the same time each week. and both of those interestingly, do weekly emails. And then lastly, you can communicate news with monthly newsletters in a timely way. So if something changes, if there is something you need to react to, and your next newsletter is not due out for another 12 weeks, yes, you could do an interim newsletter, but actually, you can communicate far more timely with monthly newsletters. And we wrote a blog about this a couple of weeks ago a definitive guide as to why you should send newsletters each month, and we’ll put a link to that in the follow up notes. But again, busting this myth people, you are absolutely not bombarding clients, prospects, professional connections, by sending a monthly newsletter. Nick, anything you would add to that before you take Myth number three and bus that for us?

Nick Parkhouse  14:14

Yes I would just add one thing Phil which is, I’ve had conversations with clients who have been sending monthly newsletters for whatever reason they’ve stopped, I think, well, you know, one decided to go to quarterly and one just decided that they didn’t see the value and stop them. and the next thing that happened is that they were just they received loads of calls from clients saying where is it? where’s my newsletter? and then immediately both of them kind of undid their pausing and went back to doing what they were doing before, because people just rang the office and said what happened, my newsletter has not arrived, where is it? So the opposite of what you say, you’re not bombarding them. People want it and expect it and then when it doesn’t arrive, they just call your office and start harassing somebody in your team for it.

Phil Bray  14:57

I might, one Friday, not send the Yardstick newsletter and see what happens. Yeah, because we go every Friday at 7:30am, anyway. so that’s myth number two well and truly busted. Nick, do you want to take number three?

Nick Parkhouse  15:09

Yeah so, lots of clients come to us and say, oh, we need to send regular investment updates. and by regular they mean, monthly or even more frequently than that. So, one of the things that when I’m talking to financial planners, and we’re agreeing, what we’re going to write about for newsletters and stuff, one of most common threads I hear from people is that we want clients to take a long term view, we want clients just to not panic, stick to the plan, talk to us, and just, you know, leave their essentially leave their portfolio alone for us to deal with. To me, sending a regular investment update says the exact opposite of that is encouraging people to look at the performance of their portfolio or to review how markets have gone and stuff. So you might want to send one out, we have some clients send one out quarterly, six monthly and annual one, something like that, which seems to me a relatively reasonable time, the clients for whom we send the quarterly have a general macro-economic update with a ‘this is what has happened in the markets’ you know, the last one was talking about the Silicon Valley Bank budget, that sort of thing. Just general, global, economic issues tend to be quite popular with clients. So they are something to consider. But sending out a regular investment update just strikes me as the exact opposite of what you’re trying to encourage clients to do when they work with you. Which is, if you send out a regular update, you’re encouraging short term thinking, you’re encouraging people to worry, if you like, encouraging, and basically saying it’s sort of anti the message that the value was in the planning, not in the performance of the portfolio, or the specific investments. Open rates on investment updates are generally not as high as client newsletters either, so people are not engaging with them in quite the same way. But I would, if you want to do that, I would put it as an article on a quarterly, or six monthly basis among the normal other newsletter articles that you will be sending your clients. Your alternative is, and it’s something we did in the first COVID lockdown, and something we did after the invasion of Ukraine was to send out sort of, a markets are volatile right now, reassuring, don’t panic message. So they are okay occasionally, I mean, if you start sending one of them out every two weeks, that would also look a little bit odd that, you know, everything was a panic. So occasional, reassuring messaging, when there are blackswan events like the COVID lockdown, like the war in Ukraine, then again, they can be useful and help clients know that you’re there and that you care and that you can reassure them with that kind of messaging. But sending out a weekly or monthly, ‘here’s what’s going on in the markets’ to me, just seems counterintuitive.

Phil Bray  18:09

Thank you Nick. Dan, I think there’s a question in from Lauren, that maybe goes back to myth number two.

Dan Campbell  18:16

Yeah, this certainly is so Lauren asked two questions, one about the previous point, and one about this point. So we’ll do this point first. Lauren said “sorry, I missed that point, was that to not send investment updates monthly? We thought that if a client has money invested, it was key to keep them updated monthly.”

Phil Bray  18:37

I think for me, I agree with Nick, but it depends on your proposition. So we work a lot with financial planners, who peg their value to the plan and helping clients achieve their goal. And generally talk a lot less about therefore that investment performance. and I completely agree with Nick, and if you are then giving a weekly, monthly investment update, there is a mixed message there. So for me, personal opinion, I would agree with Nick, I wouldn’t send investment updates monthly. And I was on the phone, this is an anecdote, not evidence, but I was on the phone with a client earlier on in the week, and they’ve just added, we do three articles to them, and they’ve just added an investment update as the fourth article. And it’s a macro-economic update written by their model portfolio provider. In the first three months that they’ve done it, it’s been the least well-read article out of all four. People don’t tend to be interested in it, and look at our client survey results. When you ask the client about what elements of your service they really value, Investment Management is generally the sixth or seventh most popular answer. But again, I would say be led by the evidence, look at your data. And if you sending your investment updates via MailChimp, or Dotdigital or HubSpot, or whatever, you’ll be able to get data. You’ll be able to look at open rates, you’ll be able to look at click to open rates, and follow that evidence. Sorry, that was a rambling answer Dan.

Dan Campbell  20:42

Thank you for that. So going back to Lauren’s first question, this was about the previous point. Lauren asks, “Do you recommend therefore, having a set time and day to send the newsletters, rather than as and when they’re done? We send a quarterly one. But this isn’t set to a specific day or time.”

Phil Bray  21:00

My view and I’ll get Nick’s in a second, my view is yes, you absolutely do. Try and send your newsletter at a set time. So whether that, take Andrew Nelligan, 9am, Saturday morning, Graham at GroWiser 11 on a Friday, Yardstick 7:30am on a Friday, because that pattern of consistency is really, really important. And what I would say is, I don’t know whether you would build up that pattern of consistency quite as well on quarterly newsletters, I have a sense that each quarterly newsletter maybe comes as a bit of a surprise. And it’s harder, much harder to build up that pattern of sending. Carl Richards, for example, most of us will know Carl Richards on this call, I get his email at 3pm on a Thursday, and I actually get quite a from the states at 3pm on a Thursday, I’m not quite sure what that translates to in US time, but it’s just consistent. They come in on a regular basis. So yes, I would send on a regular basis, I just think that the impact of doing that is less on a quarterly newsletter, which is another reason to send it monthly. Nick, would you add anything to that?

Nick Parkhouse  22:14

Only just to say exactly that, that when we’re working with clients who send monthly newsletters, my team have a fairly fixed date, we work to a target of the penultimate Saturday of every month so that the newsletter goes out at exactly the same time. The last but one Saturday of the month, every single month. Quarterly newsletters, we don’t have that same sort of target because I don’t think it matters if it’s a fortnight apart three months from each other. The clients not expecting it, and doesn’t really matter. You don’t have to set a target to send it on such a day, every quarter because I don’t think anybody’s really expecting it anyway. So monthly ones I would say absolutely, yes, send them at the same day, same time, every month.

Phil Bray  22:59

Dan, couple more questions,one from Guy and one from Isabelle?

Dan Campbell  23:02

Well we’ve actually got three, we’ve got one from Alex, one from Guy and one from Isabelle, but I feel they may be covered a little bit later on. So let’s push on, and we can flag them up a little bit later on if we don’t.

Phil Bray  23:11

Yeah, cool okay. all right. Let’s do number four, shall we, myth number four: I will not add prospective clients to my newsletter database, I won’t have prospects to my newsletter database. Now, this I struggle to get my head around, but let’s give it a go. There are three types of people in our view, in Yardstick’s view who should receive your newsletter, clients, professional connections, and prospective clients. And the reason for that is, as I say, prospective clients fall into one of three boxes, they immediately sign up, don’t touch the sides, all is good. The opposite end, they’re probably never going to be clients, they’re probably never going to be right for you, or you’re probably never going to be right for them, you never know, things might change. Then you’ve got this middle group, and this middle group are people who you absolutely want to be a client, you know, you can add huge value to them, but for whatever reason, they don’t immediately decide to proceed. As I said earlier, you’ve got two choices for these people. You ignore them, do nothing to nurture them, which is the wrong choice, because it means the time and money you’ve spent generating them into a prospect is wasted. So, the right option, is to nurture them. And the central plank of your nurturing is a monthly newsletter. I’ve lost count of the number of times a financial planner has come to me and said we’ve had this prospect come back to us first came in a year ago, they’ve been getting our newsletter every month, and now they’re ready to proceed. It positions you as the go-back-to experts when the prospect is ready to proceed, and it means their follow up is more likely to come back to you, rather than asking somebody else or recommendation, heading off to unbiased, to Google. Yeah, you’ve demonstrated knowledge, you’ve added value, you have shown consistency, and that’s increased their confidence in you, why would they go anywhere else when they’re ready to engage? So if you add prospects, to your newsletter database, you add prospects, your newsletter database, you are going to increase your conversion rate, and increase the return on investment you get from your marketing. So for me, it is a hill, I will happily die on, that you should be adding prospects to your newsletter database. From a GDPR perspective, which I think one of the questions was about Dan, there is a myth that you need to have consent to send prospects, newsletters. That a myth that’s often perpetuated by a compliance department. There is a myth that the six legal bases of processing data under GDPR are hierarchical. They’re not, they’re all equally valid. So go and google legitimate interest, ICO. And that’ll bring you a page up from the ICO that talks about the legal basis of legitimate interest for processing somebody’s data. And in my experience, there is no pushback whatsoever from prospects being added to a newsletter database. You put the unsubscribe link in there, they can unsubscribe if they want to. But of course, the other thing that this does, is it does start providing you with actionable information. So if you send your newsletter out, or we do it for you, and look at who’s opened it each month, look at who’s clicked which articles, compare that to your new enquiry spreadsheet, which shows prospects, and it will flag up prospects who are opening and engaging with your newsletter. They are worth a telephone call or an email, saying seeing you’ve been interested in the newsletter is now the time to continue our conversation? And that’s a great example of where we are using data from newsletters proactively to try and increase conversion rates. So as I say, a hill I will die on, really important that prospective clients prospects are added into the newsletter database. Nick, would you add anything to that?

Nick Parkhouse  27:41

I think the only thing I would say is just that we sent around about four and a half million emails last year, and people can unsubscribe from them if they want to. I don’t think we had, well, I’m sure we have not had any complaints about anybody being added to a newsletter against their will, or data protection or anything like that. In the four years that I’ve been here, which is going to be 10 + million emails sent.

Phil Bray  28:07

It’s something that sits in here for some advisors and some people in compliance, but actually in reality is not a problem. So Dan, I think that answers one of those questions that came in. Hope that’s okay.

Dan Campbell  28:20

Yeah, that’s perfect, thank you. Just on that subject, we’ve got two more questions. So Jade says, based on what you’ve said, do prospects not need to sign marketing declarations to be added to a newsletter?

Phil Bray  28:34

If you have legitimate interest in your privacy policy, and you can prove legitimate interest if ever challenged, and I absolutely think you can if you’re sending it to people who’ve made an enquiry, then no, you do not need them to sign a consent to receive the newsletter.

Dan Campbell  28:49

Perfect and on the subject of prospective clients, Jade says, “We send a monthly newsletter to clients and then another monthly one to prospects where the content is different, should they be different? Or is it perfectly fine to have the same content?”

Phil Bray  29:06

Um I’d like to see a couple of examples. I can’t think of, and one of the things we’re going to talk about on myth number five is the relevancy of of content actually, in the context of professional connections. But I can’t immediately think, bit on the spot, but I can’t immediately think of a reason why you would need to send different content out. I’d be interested in in the logic for that, and I’d be interested in Jade. And if it’s the Jade I think it is, we might have a call later on in the week, so maybe you can share that with me. But I can’t immediately think of a reason to have different content there, Nick can you?

Nick Parkhouse  29:52

Only if you were fundamentally saying something different to each audience, which I think we will come to momentarily, but I don’t, again, I can’t really see any reason why the content would be different. If you’re talking about what happened in the budget, for example, that’s surely appropriate for everyone.

Phil Bray  30:11

Yeah, I’d agree. And that takes us nicely on to myth five, that: professional connections such should get the same newsletter content as clients. and I absolutely do not think that they should. and that’s simply because of one word, relevance. The things that you send to your clients and prospects are aimed at helping them improve their personal financial situation or aimed at them. The content that you send out to professional connections, whether it be accountants or solicitors should be aimed at how you can help their clients, how their clients, can be helped. So for me, I would be breaking down professional connections content, and B2C client content into two separate categories. I might even go further and break it down between accountants and solicitors because the issues affecting the clients of accountants could be very different to the issues affecting the clients of solicitors. Accountant’s, clients tend to be personal tax or business owners, solicitor’s clients could cover a much wider range of, you know, people where corporate protection is involved, divorce is involved, property purchase that sort of stuff. and I might even go a bit further and break solicitors down. Because the content that you send to a solicitor who specialises in divorce and separation would be different to the content that you send to a solicitor who specialises in corporate protection work. So to me the relevancy, relevancy is the key word here, and I just feel it’s a bit of a cop out to send professional connections the same newsletter content as you send to your clients. And that’s because of that one word of relevancy. Nick, what would you add there?

Nick Parkhouse  32:11

No, I would just say exactly the same. I mean, sometimes we find that there is an overlap. So if like the budget, for example, you know, your financial planning clients need an update on what has happened, but also professional connections need an update, because they might need to relay some of that information to their own clients if they ask them. So I think there can be an overlap, but the focus needs to be, as Phil rightly says, totally different. Because they are dealing with different issues, or they are one removed from the client, if you like, rather than talking to them directly.

Phil Bray  32:43

Yeah, another another example that I can think of. We’ve got financial planning clients, where their client base is split. So I can think of a couple of firms where they have traditional consumers, people at retirement, near retirement, and in the active phase of retirement, so, traditional consumers. and then they’ve got another segment of their client bank, that might be professional sports people, often footballers, might be tech entrepreneurs, might be younger accumulators, and they need different types of content. So we’ve got a few clients where we do a newsletter for traditional consumers, and a separate newsletter goes out to the sports people. So again, it’s all about relevancy. All about relevancy. Right, so that’s myth number five well and truly busted, I hope. Now I just want to spend one minute, just talking about the Yardstick membership proposition before Nick talks about myth number six. And Yardstick. Membership is our newsletter and blogging service, we offer two options, one is syndicated content and one is bespoke. So syndicated content means  we write 22 articles each month, and Yardstick membership members who take the syndicated content, get to choose which six articles they want out of the 22. With bespoke, we allocate a content writer to you. All our content writers are employed and UK based, and that means you develop a relationship with them. They get to know you, you get to know them, and they get to know your audience. and on that route, we write three long form articles a month, and those are exclusive to you, to not be used anywhere else. Part of the membership package, we then add those articles to your website and send out in an electronic newsletter. We don’t use PDFs, and we might come to that in a bit, and I think that was a question Dan that came into the chat that we’ll deal with. Also as part of the membership, there is a monthly guide that comes out. So, April’s guide I think Nick, was a guide to financial wellbeing that was in connection with Chris Budd. Earlier on in the year we’ve done guide to ISAs, Tax year end planning, and those guides are put into your brand, added onto your website, and put into your newsletter. So Yardstick members over time, on their website, they get a really valuable resources section built up, and a blog section built up. We provide detailed management information to show headline open rates, engagement levels, but also, what Mr. Smith read, Mrs. Jones read. And we do a budget update, so lord knows how many budget updates we did back in March, but I think it was over 150. We do the budget update on the day of the budget, it’s no good sending it two weeks later, the ship has sailed. So we do the budget update on that day, that’s included in there, and then we do discounts on ad hoc updates, and our online shop as well. So if anybody wants to know more about Yardstick membership, Abi, if you could just put a link in the chat, that will be great, and we’ll cover that off in the follow up as well. That’s the end of the commercial break. Nick, myth number six, this one is for you to bust and take.

Nick Parkhouse  36:15

Yes, so, when we’re writing content for clients, I think a lot of clients when we meet for the first time, assume that we’re going to be focusing on quite serious, like, sort of money financial related articles. So, for somebody that says that, that is absolutely the right thing to do. Myth number six, my clients don’t want to hear about my business or read lifestyle articles. So, let’s take want to hear about my business first. I can sit here and assure you, they absolutely do want to hear about your business. People buy people, and your clients, you will have developed a personal relationship with them and they will have a personal relationship with you and the people in your business. So, we do, a lot of clients embrace this, and we do updates. If you’re a very big business, you can do this every month, there’s tonnes going on. If you’re a small practice, you might want to do it once a quarter just to keep all the things that have been going on in and around the business, and include it in a quarterly update. But people really do want to know, they want to know what charity work you’ve been doing, what awards you’ve won, whether you’ve been in the local press, they want to know if you’ve been to the local school to do a presentation to kids, they want to know if somebody’s run a marathon, they want to know if somebody’s had a baby or someone’s got married or engaged all that sort of thing they absolutely buy into you as a planner, as a business, and they want to hear what is going on. They are consistently amongst the most read articles in the newsletter, often they will be the most popular article in any given month with the readership. Lifestyle articles similarly, so one of the things, what are we trying to do with the newsletter? we’re trying to engage with people, we’re trying to get people to open a newsletter, click through go to your website, read something that interests them, engage with your brand. They might not be interested in inheritance Tax or pension planning, they might have already retired, they might not be interested in how to build up a nest egg for children, they might not have children or grandchildren, they might not be interested in that. So, what you’ve got to try and do with newsletters is give them variety, you’ve got to give them options and something that actually, I’m not interested in reading that, but I will read this article about retirement bucket list holidays I can go on, or how to keep your mind active in retirement, or what are the best dog breeds to have if you’ve already retired and you just want the sort of straightforward dog to look after, and all that sort of thing. You’ve got a lot you know, financial planning is based on goals. It’s based on what people want to do with their life. So why wouldn’t you include articles about the things that people want to do with their life, which is travel, it’s being well, it’s getting a better sleep, it is to reduce the stress of owning their own business and to get a better work life balance. It is about popular culture, here’s 10 autobiographies you should read that are coming out this year that whatever. I’ve written articles about books that every entrepreneur should read, films that are coming out this year, films about money. So there are loads of options that you can take here that will provide your clients with some variety. The best newsletters we send, for me, are the ones that we include one topical financial planning article about something that will affect your demographic of clients, one that’s got something about what is going on in your business, and one lifestyle article about something that clients might be interested in from a travel or health or wellness perspective. The open rates are great because you will read one of those things. If a business you work with sent you that newsletter, there would be something in there you would be interested in reading. So I always feel a bit sad when a client says no, we don’t want lifestyle articles, we just want straight financial planning, because you think, well some people are going to read that, but a lot of people want something a little bit different and a little bit more engaging, perhaps, from time to time to read.

Phil Bray  40:17

Yeah, I completely agree, as you’ve said before, numerous times, just because someone’s got a financial planner doesn’t mean they’re interested in money, the opposite could be true. And therefore, if you can provide them something else to read in the newsletter, that has to be a good thing. Thank you Nick, for that one. So, number seven, don’t want to resend it to non-openers. So, this takes a little bit of explaining. However, what we do here at Yardstick is, we send your newsletter out, well, on behalf of the clients that we work with, and that newsletter, let’s say it goes on the penultimate Saturday at 8, 9, 10am in the morning. Four days later, we resend it to people who haven’t already opened it. It’s a little nudge, a little reminder, that the newsletter is there for them to read, and it increases open rates by 15-20%. It’s free, and it doesn’t increase the unsubscribe rate. So, unsubscribe rate stays flat, open rate rises, and it’s free. So it feels to me like a bit of a no brainer to do it. But some advice firms, in the minority, but some advisers/planners, for whatever reason, don’t like it, and it’s in their head. So, let’s bust this myth. It doesn’t increase the unsubscribe rate, it does increase the open rate, and is free. Why wouldn’t you do it? So, myth number seven, I don’t want to resend non-openers, you absolutely should be doing that. Number eight, there’s no value in newsletters if clients don’t read the articles. Now, of course, we want as many people to open, and then read the articles as possible. But life gets in the way. There might not be despite putting in a personal finance article, an article about the business and a lifestyle article, there might not be something to read that month. But there’s still value in the newsletter going out, for two reasons. First, is it’s a touch point with your brand. It reminds clients that you’re there for them. It continues to position you as the go-back-to expert with prospective clients, and the same with professional connections, who might be recommending people to you. Second reason, by sending it consistently each month on the penultimate Saturday at 10am, or in the case of Graham and Andrew, weekly. By sending it on a regular basis, so it lands when people expect it to, it breeds that consistency and confidence in your reliability. So even if someone doesn’t read the newsletter, doesn’t click on any links, there is still value from sending the newsletter to them. Nick, would you add anything to that?

Nick Parkhouse  43:32

No. I mean, if you look at the data, there’s always more people open the email, then click the stuff to read the articles. I think you have to accept that that’s absolutely going to be the case. But no, I agree with Phil. Most people 70%, 80% of clients will open a newsletter. This is what I’m saying about variety, you increase the chances of them reading the article if you give them something interesting and some variety to read. But even if they don’t, they’ve opened it, they’ve expected it, it has arrived on time, Oh, here’s my newsletter, they’ve opened it, read it, maybe not engaged with it that month, but that doesn’t mean they won’t again in the future.

Phil Bray  44:10

Dan do you want to do a couple of questions before Nick talks about coming up with topics and ideas to write about?

Dan Campbell  44:15

Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve got plenty of questions in, let’s do some easy ones first. So Claire asks, do your 22 articles include lifestyle ones, and this goes back to our syndicated proposition.

Phil Bray  44:30

That’s one for Nick.

Nick Parkhouse  44:32

They absolutely do, yes. So they are a mixture of financial planning, mortgage and property related content, and lifestyle articles. So I know for a fact that May’s lifestyle articles are about 10 video games and big screen adaptations you should watch and look out for, they are about national vegetarian week, which is in May, they are about places you can visit that were featured in the David Attenborough Wild Isles documentary if you want to actually go and see those places, there’s an article about where you can find them. So that sort of thing. So yes, absolutely.

Dan Campbell  45:12

Brilliant, thank you Nick. Great question in from Danny, who asks, do you change the subject line on a resend?

Phil Bray  45:20

Nick do you want to take that or do you want me to take that?

Nick Parkhouse  45:26

Well my simple answer to that would be no, we don’t. But yours (Phil) by all means.

Phil Bray  45:34

Yeah, I was gonna to answer that, and give the same answer. No, we don’t right now change the subject line on a resend, it’s something we could look at, but no, we haven’t done that in the past.

Dan Campbell  45:49

Now, a few people have asked this question. Isabelle has asked it, and I believe Lauren has asked it too. Do you think that attaching the newsletter is more beneficial than embedding it in an email?

Phil Bray  46:01

So, I assume by that we mean, attaching as a PDF? and I’ll answer this question on the basis that it does mean, attaching as a PDF. If Lauren and Isabelle didn’t mean that, or meant something different, can you let me know?

Dan Campbell  46:17

Both questions read as yes, so let’s, let’s assume it’s either a PDF or some kind of image or Word document or something like that.

Phil Bray  46:24

But the answer 100% is no PDFs are the devil’s work when it comes to newsletters, a few reasons. First, they’re more likely to get caught by spam filters. Second, try reading a newsletter PDF on your phone, you’re pinching out, you’re pinching in, spiralling around etc. that, from user experience, is not great. But, third reason, and perhaps the biggest for me, because I tend to be led by data, is that you can see – thank you, Isabel. Yes, PDF – so you can see the open rate on the email, assuming you’re not sending it through Outlook. So I mean, if you’re sending a PDF through Outlook, all bets are off, you’ve got no data whatsoever. But if you’re sending a PDF attachment through MailChimp, or HubSpot, or something like that, you can see the open rate, but that’s where your data collection stops. You haven’t got a clue whether somebody read articles number 1, 3 and 5, you haven’t got a clue whether they read 0 articles. You also don’t have the data about average read time. So your MailChimp or Dotdigital or HubSpot, and Yardstick members get data on open rates, click to open rates, and other engagement metrics. Your Google Analytics will show you the average read time on content. So show the average read time on blog A versus blog B. So you get a whole load of data that allows you to take evidence-lead decisions, you get none of that with PDFs. So PDFs, get caught by spam filters more, harder to read, get no MI (management information) I can’t think of a reason to use them. Very happy to answer to more, so yes, Isabelle, I am saying you link out to the articles on your website. That’s exactly how we do it, put the articles on the website, link from the newsletter to the articles. That’s the way to do it. Your website is, or should be responsive to the screen size someone’s looking at it on, you have less of an issue with spam filters, and you can just the data is immense and it’s actual data you can do something with. So I’m gonna shut up because I could use the next 11 minutes on why PDFs are the devil’s work. So I’m gonna come back to you now.

Dan Campbell  48:44

No, that’s brill, I’ve got a couple of reasons myself, but let’s put the soapbox away, and let’s move on from it. Because like you say we could be here forever. So Isabelle says, so you’re saying link to the articles hosted on our website? And absolutely, yes.

Phil Bray  48:59

Alex’s point about a landing page. That’s effectively what it is Alex, the blog page. So if you’ve got three articles in your bespoke Yardstick newsletter, each of them will link to a separate page on the website, and that page could be called a blog page, an article page, landing page, but it’s where they read the article.

Dan Campbell  49:19

Right, let’s do one more question. Now this is from Helina, who asks, we were using MailChimp to send our monthly newsletters, but were informed by a lot of clients that the emails were going straight into their junk. So they weren’t seeing them. Is there any way to stop this happening, or any other service to use that doesn’t do it as much?

Phil Bray  49:41

Well, let me think about another service Helina you can be using. So I’m not saying we’re any better, but if you look at the open rates, we get our newsletters 70% to 80% are when it’s going to clients. That would indicate that the vast, vast majority are not going into spam, because it’s unlikely someone’s gone into spam and then opened. So first thing there, consider us sending your newsletter for you. Second thing, I think there’s certain words that you can avoid using in subject lines that might trigger spam filters. Third, you could try and get your client to add the email address that you send newsletters from to their safe-send list, their trusted sender list, and that should help as well. And then I’d go and look at the data, because in my experience, and I’m not saying this is the case here Helina, but in my experience, when an adviser says all our emails are going into spam, I’ve then gone and looked at the open rate, and the open rate is like 75%, 80%, I’m thinking the two things don’t compute. So sometimes I wonder if it’s the number of clients saying it’s gone into spam is actually relatively small, but the effect feels relatively large. Nick would you add anything to that?

Nick Parkhouse  51:02

No, I think there is absolutely no way you can stop every single newsletter you send. Sorry, lets do it the other way around, there’s no way you can guarantee that every newsletter you ever send will end up in a client’s inbox and not in spam from time to time, there’s just no way you can do that. But as Phil rightly says, safe-senders list, using, avoiding, if you personalise the emails, for example, so if you make them so they say, Dear Rachel or Dear Sarah, or something like that, that is less likely to go into spam than something that just says hello, for example. Because it, so there’s little things you can do to do it, but you won’t be able to eliminate it 100% of the time.

Phil Bray  51:50

Yeah, partly because you don’t know what the spam filter settings, the recipient has got it set at as well.

Nick Parkhouse  51:54


Phil Bray  51:55

Let’s do myths nine and ten for the next two or three minutes, and then Dan will do some questions so we finish at 11:00am.

Dan Campbell  52:00

Yeah, that sounds good.

Phil Bray  52:01

So myth number nine. As Head of content, Nick, it feels sensible that you take this one.

Nick Parkhouse  52:09

Yeah, so it’s hard to come up with topics to write about. So if you are sitting there thinking, I’ve got a newsletter to write and I’ve got to write three articles about financial planning and oh I’ve got to send it in a month and I don’t really know what to write about. I’m gonna sit here and tell you right now that you absolutely do, we write as a business, probably 250 articles a month, something like that. So if you find it hard to come up with three articles, we’ve got to write 200 and something so there are, I assure you, topics you can write about. Now, I appreciate I do this for a living, but if I’m sitting there pottering around, having a cup of tea, you know, I read something on the, Telegraph, or on the Guardian, or on the Daily Mail website, and I think oh that’s interesting, I will just send the article to me, I will just share it and I will just email it to myself. And when I come to sit there, at the start of every month, I think, right, what are we going to write for clients? What are we going to talk about? There will be a massive list of ideas of things that we can talk about. My team and I have a meeting, it was yesterday in fact, where we sit down all the writers on the team and we basically throw around ideas and come up with literally hundreds of ideas of stuff that we have seen. Standard life have released a press release saying that this is a great one from Aviva yesterday, they asked people what is the, if you were to name a financial adviser, what name would you give them? And 91% of people gave a man’s name, right? This is something we came up with, so, most people assume a financial adviser is a man, for example. So we’re like, well, we’ll use that with professional connections, we can use that with female financial planning clients, just you know, an absolute no brainer type of article. There are always places you can go for research, sign up for FT adviser’s, money marketing’s, money week, money ages, daily news updates, they will spam your inbox three times a day with tonnes of news topics and stuff to write about. What your clients asking you? Is there something that your clients are particularly interested in? Have you had a case study of somebody there’s got a really interesting scenario in their life that you think, actually, this will be relevant for more clients? You know, you can anonymize it. But you know, I talked to a client the other day, and they’re asking me about X, Y and Z. Write about that. Write about what’s going on in the business, write lifestyle articles, write, I had a client who told me that they were going to retire next Thursday and the first thing that we’re going to do was to go on the Orient Express, so here it got me thinking about other train trips you could take when you retire, so here are some of them. There are, listen to your clients, listen to the news, and I guarantee you that you will find tonnes of stuff that you can write about. It doesn’t even have to be financially related, it’s the 50th anniversary this year of Queen, the band Queen’s first album, and we have written at least, I’ve seen at least two articles where we bring, right you know, what Queen’s greatest hits can teach you about financial planning, you know, financial planner and you’re my best friend. The compound interest it’s a kind of magic. So there are tangential things, you can get an article idea of almost anything so just write notes to yourself, send emails to yourself, or however best you work, add it to a to-do list. And then when you come and sit down to write your articles of the month, there’ll be an absolute font of stuff there, that you can use.

Phil Bray  55:47

Thank you Nick, that’s myth number nine well and truly busted. Number ten, number ten. And we’ll do a bit of the Yardstick news, and then a few questions. So, number ten: it doesn’t matter if I miss an edition of my newsletter. It bloody well does. You are breaking that chain of consistency, you are showing a lack of reliability, and you are missing an opportunity to add value to clients. There’s just loads of reasons there that it does matter if you miss an edition, and therefore it does need to be prioritised and seen as client work. And if you can’t commit to getting it out each month, then find a way of doing it. Nick, while I just sort my computer out, my battery’s running low, just add something to that for me if you would.

Nick Parkhouse  56:42

Yeah, it goes back to what I was saying before, about, we’ve had instances where clients for whatever reason, have decided to pause or to cancel their newsletter, and people just rang the office, people have just, you know, called in and dealt with, you know, office manager or somebody and said, where’s my unewsletter gone? So it really does matter if you miss it, because people over time, clients and prospects or whatever will come to expect it. As Phil was saying earlier, and if it doesn’t arrive, then they just think you’re flaking or that you can’t be bothered, or that you know, you just haven’t got round to it and all that sort of thing. So I actually, my writers, some of the guys that you might have worked with and you might know, will tell you that I’m a bit of a dragon when it comes to this because there is a fixed date in the calendar where I want newsletters to go every single month, and it is for this reason that people get a consistent newsletter from their financial planner at the same time every month.

Phil Bray  57:40

So yeah, consistency breeds confidence in your reliability. So important. Thank you, Nick, I thought we’re gonna have to vamp for a little bit longer there, as I sorted out my computer. Right, we’re going to do some questions in two tics. A couple of things, those are the ten myths that hopefully we have busted and hopefully that’s been useful. A couple of other dates for the diary, a couple of other things that we’re doing. So, next webinar, Wednesday, the 24th of May, how to write an effective marketing strategy for your business. Abi will put the link there into the chat, and put it into the follow up email. So how to write an effective marketing strategy for your business. We will be talking about that on Wednesday, the 24th of May. Talking of content, a couple of new things that we’ve got out on the Yardstick shop. So A complete guide to managing your finances as a business owner. That’s an E-Zine, that, by definition, the E-Zine is available in electronic format. And if you have business owner clients, that’s something that has been very popular with advisers who service that community. So Abi will put a link in the chat. And financial wellbeing, Chris Bud’s written his second guide for us, four steps to creating a financial wellbeing plan. Chris Bud, founder of the Institute, now, for financial wellbeing, great to have such a high profile expert on that topic. So that’s a that’s a guide, that guide is, if you’re a Yardstick member, that’s free as part of your membership, if you’re not, then it can be bought online. And lastly, this Friday, 7:30am because that’s the time we send our newsletter out, we are launching our 2023 referral and recommendation survey. and referrals and recommendations from existing clients, the best type of new enquiry, we want to understand a bit more about how advisers and planners approach the topic. So there’s 10 questions, that will take you five minutes to complete. I’d be really grateful if you could do that. So, if you could look out for that on Friday and complete it, we would be eternally grateful. So Dan, let’s do some questions. I’m happy to hang around and answer any questions. and let’s see what we’ve got Dan.

Dan Campbell  59:56

Certainly, so let’s start with a question from Giles, who asks, can you work with our existing email sending software such as mail-first, and our websites and blogs for article’s links? Or do we need to use your own systems?

Phil Bray  1:00:11

The short answer is yes, we can absolutely work with yours, there are sometimes reasons to work with an adviser or planner’s existing software, clearly we’re going to work with your existing website, there’s sometimes reasons to use the existing software that an adviser or planner is using, sometimes there’s reasons to use our software, we use DotDigital. and you debate the pros and cons of each and make a decision. But the short answer is yes, we can.

Dan Campbell  1:00:42

Perfect. Thank you. So let’s do a question from Richard next, who asks, is there an optimum time of day and day to send?

Phil Bray  1:00:52

Nick do you wan to start with this and then I’ll add my two pennies.

Nick Parkhouse  1:00:54

Yes. So the simple answer to that question is, it depends who you’re sending the email to. So my advice, over years of trying this out different times of day in different times and stuff for clients, we know, we routinely send on a Saturday at 10:00 in the morning, the open rates, we get for emails sort of justifies that, proves that that is a good time. Then for professional connections, emails, we tend to send them on a business day for a B2B communication. and that means either 10am or 3pm, generally, Tuesday or Thursday, for those so that’s just our experience. That’s what we’ve learned over the years of doing it.

Phil Bray  1:01:39

Cheers Nick

Dan Campbell  1:01:41

Brill, and did you want to add your two pennies worth Phil?

Phil Bray  1:01:44

Oh, yeah, sure. Sorry, Nick gave a really good answer there. I would agree wholeheartedly with everything Nick said. The other thing I’d say is, we just watch it. You look at the evidence, you look at the data, try a few things. Marketing is all about experimenting. and there’s never a perfect answer that is set in stone,  unless it’s about PDFs and monthly newsletters. But there’s rarely an answer that’s set in stone, so test, iterate, try different things. But I agree with everything Nick said.

Dan Campbell  1:02:13

Brill, so we’ve got two questions left, a quick one from Alex, which we’ll do first, and who asks, can you email me pricing for your membership packages? Of course we can. Alex, we’ll get those over to you.

Phil Bray  1:02:25

Alex, if you just pop your, Sorry Dan, Alex, if you just pop your email address in the chat if that’s okay and Abi, just send it to me if that’s okay, and I’ll make sure that pricing comes across.

Dan Campbell  1:02:40

And then one final question, unless anyone’s got any more to add in in the meantime is from Ravensca, who asks, we sent a monthly newsletter with open rates around 60%, but click to open rates are below 15%. Do you have any tips or advice on how to increase click to open rates?

Phil Bray  1:03:03

So I think that’s about relevancy of content. It’s about subject lines and trying and different subject lines out. It’s about trying different send times and personalisation of emails, adding the resend in, there’s all sorts of different things you could be could be doing there. I’ve seen a number of articles being in there. So I’ve seen one advice firm, who I think I counted over 20 links that people could click, they did quarterly newsletters, so they had crammed everything in, and actually more equaled less. Because the more articles they put in there, the more links, people just didn’t know what to click, so therefore clicked nothing. So I’d be thinking about the number of opportunities to click the link, and of course, some newsletters, you’re going to have a low click through rate, because all the information is there as well. Look at Yardstick’s newsletter on a Friday, most of the information is absolutely in the email. So there’s no need to click something if someone doesn’t want to. So I think it’s all those things for them to go, and if you want to send me some examples of your newsletters, really happy to have a look at those, and provide you some specific examples. But there are some of the things I would mention.

Nick Parkhouse  1:04:33

I would just add to that, that one of the things that we’ve tried to do in recent months. So, lots of people open the email, I think is the question here but you want to get people to click on a link and go through to the website is to make the title of the article as engaging as you possibly can. There’s a reason that BuzzFeed is so successful that you click on 33 movie stars from the 90s you didn’t realise we’re married. There is a reason you read that, it is because it is engaging, it makes you think, Oh, that’s interesting. So we don’t quite go that far, generally speaking. But there are techniques you can use that will improve the engagement of the title. So when somebody reads the title of an article, they think, Oh that sounds great, so saying, Here’s a budget update, is okay, some people might read it. But if you say, here are five really important takeaways from the budget, you need to know, people will go, oh, God, I must read that. So they’re more likely to click on the link, it’s just a case of you know, you’ve got to sort of ‘jushe up’ the titles a little bit. So people think, oh, okay, well that sounds really interesting, I must read that.

Phil Bray  1:05:36

Biggest takeaway from today, jushe-ing the title, I like that. Dan, what else we got?

Dan Campbell  1:05:42

Have we got time for one more? Yeah, go for it. Okay, so let’s make Maxi’s question the final one, then. And it’s a good one to end on. So Maxi asks, when you change the day or time of your newsletters to see when was best to send them, did you notify clients so they knew when to then expect them?

Phil Bray  1:06:01

Not to my knowledge, no. It’s a good question, but not to my knowledge, no. There we go!

Dan Campbell  1:06:10

Brill yeah, that brings us to the very end of the questions. So thanks for being such an engaging crowd guys, there’s some great questions come through there.

Phil Bray  1:06:18

Yeah, thanks to everybody, that was really enjoyable for the four of us on here. Thanks to Nick, for joining us, much appreciated. Everybody else, again, thank you for joining us. I hope you got a lot of value out of today. Recording out later on, referral and recommendation survey out on Friday. See you soon everybody. Bye. Bye.

Dan Campbell  1:06:39

Thanks guys. Bye.

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"We have felt like collaborators, rather than customers, and feel like Phil and his team has a vested interest in our marketing success that far exceeds his fee.”

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Financial Planner, IQ Financial

We were lucky to be referred to Yardstick last year. We are delighted we hired them. They have specialist knowledge designed specially to help Financial Planning businesses like ours.

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Head of Marketing, Ellis Bates Financial Advisers

Phil's style is informed, humorous and collaborative. The content is punchy, relevant, a go-to guide on how to create more recommendations and prompts action with no exceptions. Great workshop.

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Financial Planner and Founder, Delaunay Wealth

I am absolutely delighted with all the work the Yardstick team has done for us and am very excited about how this will drive our new business/client acquisition in future. I would highly recommend them to any financial planning firm that takes their business seriously.

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Director and Financial Planner, Insight Wealth

Great to work with a good professional outfit that had provided us direction and clear thinking in marketing our business effectively to obtain quality new clients.

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Director & Financial Planner, Citygate Financial Planning

A thorough and excellent service. Phil and his team know exactly what to do, how to do it and when to do it. We very much look forward to working together more in the future.

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