Ep 062

How a Financial Advisor Used YouTube to Generate $400M+ of AUM

With

James Conole

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Inside This Episode

Today, I’m talking with James Conole, a financial advisor and the founder of Root Financial Partners, a fast-growing RIA with over $400 million AUM.

Between his Ready for Retirement podcast and James Conole, CFP® YouTube channel, James has generated over 10 million views and listens in the last 12 months alone. That traffic led to over 700 inbound prospects who each had a minimum of $500,000 of investable assets.

In our conversation, James pulls back the curtain on the methods he used to build a leading YouTube channel with over 110,000 subscribers, what his marketing funnel looks like, and how you can leverage YouTube in your own business to increase your audience rapidly.

3 of the biggest insights from James Conole

#1  A step-by-step breakdown of the simple methods James uses to get millions of eyeballs on his content and generate a consistent stream of warm leads in the process.

#2  Why YouTube pays James $120,000 a year to market and grow his business, and how you can start creating your own money-making content today.

#3 How James’ simple yet effective marketing funnel converted prospects into net new assets of roughly $130 million in 2023 using a system like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

KEY TAKEAWAYS: 

  • From podcasting to YouTube
  • The cost and ROI of YouTube
  • How YouTube revenue sharing works
  • Treat the algorithm like your audience
  • 2 critical ingredients of an attention-grabbing video
  • The YouTube guru James learned from
  • How to hook & hold your viewers
  • Most surprising video to win the YouTube lottery
  • Becoming part of your audience’s routine
  • Subtle call-to-action that turns viewers into clients
  • Unique funnel that streamlines the sales process
  • Breakdown of staff and AUM
  • Managing a virtual firm & creating culture
  • Craziest YouTube prospect
  • What DBDL means to James

YOUTUBE STRATEGY TO BUILD TRUST WITH PROSPECTS

HOW MRBEAST TOOK YOUTUBER FROM $40k to $400k/Month

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE: 

PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:

THIS WEEK’S FEATURED REVIEW

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MIC DROP MOMENTS WITH JAMES CONOLE

  • I don’t view YouTube as a gatekeeper. I view YouTube as the Sherpa for my message.’” – James Conole

  • Think of the people you’re talking to and think of how this can be as clear, as simple and straightforward, as easy to digest as possible. Don’t try to think of it as trying to hack some algorithm.” – James Conole

  • “Every time you put a video out there, it’s like buying a lottery ticket and you just don’t know what one’s going to hit. So, buy as many lottery tickets as you can knowing that some are going to hit and they’re not going to be the ones that you always expect.” – James Conole

  • The beauty of YouTube and podcasts goes so far beyond just getting leads. It builds trust to the degree that you can have one 30-minute conversation and people are moving over $3 million, $4 million, $5 million. You can then go through a process and people are already excited about it and know about it, and advisors can know exactly what to expect in doing that.” – James Conole

Brad Johnson: Welcome to another episode of Do Business Do Life. James Conole, welcome to the show.

James Conole: Thanks, Brad, for having me. Excited to chat.

Brad Johnson: Man, I’m excited. This one was serendipitous. We were chatting before we hit record here, and you had actually got put on my radar. One of our Triad members said, “Hey, I think you just got a shout-out on Steve Sanduski’s podcast, and it was the episode that he was interviewing you. And you had mentioned just that an old YouTube clip off my old show, Process Over Product, and how that had shaped some of your thinking as you’d scaled your practice. And then as we were going live here, you’re like, man, I connected with you way back in the day by like 6 or 7 years back on I think it was some give on my prior show, The Elite Advisor Blueprint. So, this is fun to see how much you’ve evolved and how far you’ve come from, from kind of the early stages when you were just building your business.

James Conole: And a long build-up to this conversation. So, excited to jump in and see how the Brad Johnson principles have shaped things.

Brad Johnson: Well, hey, man. I’m going to take no credit for any of your success because you have absolutely blown up on YouTube. The podcast obviously is going well also. But just for context, for those that aren’t familiar with James, between the podcast, between the YouTube channel, over 10 million views and listens and that’s led to over the last 12 months, over 700 prospects reaching out through those I guess we can call marketing funnels, that have had at least 500,000 of investable assets. So, I just wanted to lead with that because there’s a lot of people that have YouTube channels or podcasts but the truth is it’s truly driving your business. So, let’s just dive in. What came first? The podcast? The YouTube channel? How did it all evolve?

James Conole: Yeah. Podcast channel came first. It was I think back in 2018, I was actually talking to another advisor local here. I live in a town called Cardiff in North County, San Diego, and we live five minutes apart. And we were grabbing tacos and I was saying, “Yeah, I hear these podcasts or I’m hearing these advisors doing podcasts,” and it seems to work. And I was, I think, a couple of years into my business and doing fine, doing well but really trying to see what’s that next thing to really accelerate some of the growth. In that conversation, his name is Scott, he was also saying, “Yeah, I’m kind of also thinking about doing a podcast and doing this thing and just trying it out.” So, he said, “Well, let’s do a podcast together,” and really didn’t have a huge strategic plan with that, as much as let’s just get this thing going and see where it goes from there.

So, that was 2018, I believe, and it took us I think we met like every Friday for 20 weeks somehow, just to get like this first five episodes because like, what do you do? How do you set this up? What does it look like? But it was kind of a long ramp-up to actually launching it. But launched that, I think we launched that in 2019, I believe. And it was just a podcast called Google Personal Finance, where no super-targeted message, wasn’t to any specific niche or demographic. It was just let’s get together once a week. Let’s come up with a question that we hear from clients quite a bit, and let’s kind of go back and forth on it. And a lot of these questions, we might see the same and a lot of these questions we might see differently. And it was a cool back and forth. So, I think there’s a really good dynamic between Scott and myself in doing this and it started growing. And so, I said, “Okay, cool. This is kind of validating that idea that a podcast does work. People do listen to it.”

But then COVID hit a year after, and I was kind of more focused on if you want to call it a niche like the retirement market. My podcast with Scott was just all over the place. One week we’d be answering a question from a listener who was 21 years old and in the military and saying, “What do I do with my TSP?” And the next week, we’d be answering a question from a listener that was 70 years old and preparing for required minimum distributions and saying, “Hey, how do I manage this?” And so, it was just very broad and not super targeted. I remember when COVID happened and everything went remote, it was that thing that said, “I really wish I had a way to talk to my target market directly kind of like I have here with Scott, but my podcast with Scott is not to any target market. It’s broad and it’s educational. It’s awesome. But it’s not necessarily leading to a huge amount of inbound requests or anything like that.

So, at that time, this was about a year after I launched with Scott, I launched another podcast called Ready for Retirement, and that was specifically geared as the name indicates to retirees and some of the common planning points that they’re going through. And so, at that time, I was doing the two podcasts, one a week with Scott, then one a week just on my own. And then probably I don’t even remember exactly how long but several months into doing Ready for Retirement, which was just the solo podcast, which was I was like, this is working. And I was seeing, by the way, that the podcast with Scott, the broad one, it was getting a lot more downloads but the one that I was doing by myself that was more targeted was getting a lot more inbound leads just because of how specific the questions were and just being branded to retirees.

Did that for several months. A friend of mine came along and said, “Hey, just record yourself while you’re doing this and put it up on YouTube. That’s where people are really starting to look for content. And in the back of my mind it’s like that’s kind of dumb like who really looks for finance stuff on YouTube? But he’s also a whole lot smarter than I am and kind of in the marketing world. And so, I said, “Okay. I’ll at least just give it a shot.” And I did it and I did five videos and I recorded them all and edited them all and synced the audio and video and just absolutely hated recording day because then I did all the post-production stuff and didn’t know what I was doing, and it took me several hours to do something that should be done in 20 minutes, 30 minutes. And long story short, I just like gave up after five.

Like, I’m putting this on YouTube. No one’s looking at it. It’s taken a huge chunk out of my week to do it. I can’t justify all this time for very little effort. So, I put five videos up. Nothing came of it for maybe six months or seven months or eight months. And all of a sudden, I started legitimately just like forgetting I even had videos on YouTube. I would be in my inbox and I would get a notification saying, “So-and-so commented on your video,” or, “Hey, so-and-so, subscribed to your channel.” And that happened once, and then the next day it happened twice, and then the next day there was three or four of those things, and all of a sudden it was like, “Wait, checking these videos that had two views or five views or ten views. Now, it suddenly have 100 views and then 500 views and then 5,000 views.”

And all of it’s kind of relative but what it was showing me was that unlike podcasts, unlike blogs, unlike social media even, YouTube is taking this message that I’m putting out there and it’s just constantly searching to see who can benefit from this message. Who is this message for? And when it found that, when it clicked with the YouTube algorithm, all of a sudden some of these videos really clicked and really took off. And so, it was at that point that I said, “Okay. There’s something to this. There is something here that’s not worth just kind of experimenting with but probably worth going all in on. And so, late I think it was 2021 so two-and-a-half years ago, it’s like, “Okay. Let’s commit to doing a weekly video on top of the weekly podcast.” And I’ve been doing it since, and it’s been a major driver of a lot of business for us.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Understatement of the day, right? Because that’s insane. Those numbers, and I’ve been fortunate where I’ve worked with some really successful financial advisors over the years but I can quite honestly say I’ve never seen numbers like that from a marketing funnel that wasn’t like paying for a lot of dinner seminars, right? Or maybe a massive radio show that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per year or a TV, but paid TV. And so, let’s maybe start there because, obviously, based on your YouTube channel, you’re producing that really well. I see a lot of similarities with guys like MrBeast that truly have mastered the craft of creating content for YouTube. I look at some of your thumbnails and just the creation and I see some similarities there. How much are you actually investing into not editing these yourselves anymore and the content creation piece? Is it like hundreds of thousands of dollars per year or tens of thousands of dollars per year? Because I think that’ll be really surprising to advisors spending some pretty big marketing numbers across the country.

James Conole: Yeah. So, when I made that decision in 2021 to say, “Okay. I’m going to go all in on this,” I knew that if I tried to do everything that I would give up again no matter how much success there was because I hated doing the post-production. Like, I’m not going to do something I just read every single week and expect that that’s going to be sustainable. So, I did go hire an editor who did the thumbnails, who did the editing that I kind of understood like I’m just going to do it. So, I’m not even going to give this person a whole lot of guidance, just let’s see what happens. And this person, by the way, is I believe lives in Serbia and so like English is a second language. And he speaks really well and communicates really well but it’s not like someone that has any idea what a Roth IRA is or knows what Social Security is or any of these things.

So, it was kind of just trusting in this person to do this. And he did and he did great. And like we’ve continued to grow and kind of refine that. But I would say that we probably spend if you take time out of the equation, obviously, which has a cost to it but if you’re just looking at actual spend, it’s $20,000 a year.

Brad Johnson: Wow.

James Conole: But the cool thing about YouTube, we make $120,000 a year in revenue from YouTube. So, YouTube is literally paying us at this point to market to grow our business. And so, when you look at the cost of client acquisition, again, if you take time out, which you can’t take time out because there is a significant time commitment, but there is literally no cost to what we’re doing in terms of net out-of-pocket costs. If anything, it’s the opposite of the more we do, the more people are watching, the more we’re getting paid without putting more work in. And by paid, I mean just YouTube writing us check once a month to say thank you.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, I mean, it’s kind of a if you look at Joe Rogan, he did his podcast for many years where it was an expense. And then once he got the listenership, I mean, the $100 million deal with Spotify, now he gets paid to do that show. So, I’m assuming you hit certain viewership numbers, subscriber numbers, where now you qualify on YouTube’s platform to for us is a paid advertiser. And is that how you’re monetizing it on that side?

James Conole: Yeah. Once you have over a thousand subscribers on YouTube, they’ll start to do a revenue share with you, where it doesn’t matter if you have zero subscribers or 10 million subscribers. They’re going to put ads on your videos. But once you’ve hit a thousand, build in I forget what it is. I think it’s a 40/60 split where whatever revenue they earn on ads that are played on your videos, they will give you 40% of it. And the cool thing about YouTube is it truly is infinitely scalable. It’s not like a dinner seminar where if one seminar, you get in front of 50 people. If you want 500 people, you got to do 10 seminars. That’s ten times the cost. That’s ten times your time, effort, all that stuff. With YouTube, you can have a video that does a thousand views or it does a million views, and it’s not necessarily more time on your part.

So, it truly is the most scalable thing of you can have one video that blows up and all of a sudden… The revenue is a small part of the equation. Even if we had to pay to be on the platform, we would do it because of what it’s doing in terms of business growth but it’s kind of cool to have a platform that pays you to market your business in a pretty significant way.

Brad Johnson: For sure. Yeah. It sounds like a dream world that most advisors would say, “How do I do that?” So, speaking of, let’s get there. So, let’s go back. And this is a selfish question being a guy that’s podcasted a lot of years. What’s funny is your story is very similar to mine. I recorded my… You do more of a solo show. I do more of an interview style. And so, I started recording just so I could do a better interview so I could see the individual I was talking with and then I just started throwing those videos out on YouTube. And to your point, like some of them started popping and not quite to the level that yours have but I’m curious, what’s the difference of podcast content for you? Which here’s an idea, I know you take a lot of viewer and listener questions and just talk through those in your content. But if I’m looking through, here’s how I would produce good podcast content versus good YouTube content, or repurpose podcast content for YouTube content, what’s the differences in the platforms and what should advisors be thinking about out there?

James Conole: So, there are differences but I wouldn’t say they’re incredibly significant. You know, Joe Rogan, for example, you just mentioned his YouTube content, just his podcasts, now, people taking clips of that and spicing it up. The main difference, I would say, with at least the way we’re doing it is I have a lot more charts and graphs and like visuals on screen or, I mean, like recording myself doing a case study. So, it’s more, visually, I’m given kind of like these props, so to speak, because I’m not just saying something. I’ve got the chart right next to me where it’s illustrating what I’m saying. I’m doing a case study that’s illustrating what I’m saying, which is important. One, this kind of blew me away with YouTube. I saw like a month ago, I was looking at stats and over 50% of the people that watch our YouTube channel are watching it on their TV, not just scrolling on their phone. Like, they’re sitting down and watching it like they would watch the evening news or a sports program or whatever it is.

And so, when they’re doing that, it’s a little bit more conducive to say, “Do you have graphics? Do you have things that make it a better viewing experience?” The message is still the same, but you’re providing visuals to support what you’re saying is the biggest difference. But we also now I still do that same Ready For Retirement podcast and I just record it like this, like the same exact background that you see right here, just me talking like this and we’ll record that. So, on Tuesdays we have a podcast. I just record the podcast, throw it up on YouTube. Saturdays we release the actual YouTube content, which is similar message, similar topics, but it’s done in a much more kind of, I guess, visually appealing way. It’s meant for YouTube because we’re also showing graphics and text and other things to support the message.

Brad Johnson: Got it. So, once a week you’re scheduling podcast recording content and then another time more YouTube video content but you’re also reproducing the podcast on YouTube as well. So, it’s not just an audio-only. You’re also throwing the podcast episodes on YouTube. So, kind of like two drops on YouTube per week. Is that…

James Conole: Correct.

Brad Johnson: Am I catching that right? Okay. And so, if we go to the more what I would call YouTube-focused content that you create, when you’re doing the graphics or the case studies, is it post-production to where you’re kind of talking in front of the screen you’re in front of now, and they’re putting it in after the fact and you’re referencing it, or are you like actually holding the props up on the video? Like, if advisors were thinking through how to do that, how do you pull it off?

James Conole: Yeah. So, a lot of it is the editor. If I’m saying, “Here are the three things you need to know to retire. Step number one, blah, blah, blah. Step number two, blah, blah, blah,” the editor will just take as I’m like walking through step one, he’ll put that step up on the screen. So, just simple things like that. Or if there are certain things I’m saying, he’ll type like that sentence will appear on the screen. So, it’s just reinforcing what you’re seeing. It kind of like a blog post. If you’re reading a blog post and something like they’ll highlight a certain quote or there’ll be a certain visual supporting what you see. So, it’s mostly the editor doing it, unless it’s like I do a lot of case studies of taking a sample client, change some of the details. If I want to illustrate the impact of Roth conversions, for example, I won’t just go on there and say, “Hey, you should do a Roth conversion because it can save you a lot of money in taxes.”

I’ll say, “Hey, here’s Joe and Sally sample, and here’s their situation, here’s their projected required minimum distributions, their tax liability. Here’s what that looks like. But look what happens if we do these Roth conversions.” And this way we’re mindful of these things along the way and then that you can see the software really quantifying, “Oh, this saved them $500,000.” It’s just a lot more powerful for the watcher, the viewer to say, “Oh, okay, that’s connecting more than just a talking head saying, ‘You should do Roth conversions because it’s going to save you money.’” So, when it’s case studies, I’ll have my laptop in front of me and I’ll just do one quick-time screen recording while I’m being recorded. And so, the cameras on me recording me talking, and I’ll be looking at the camera and then I’ll look at the case study while I’m doing it and people can go to the channel and see it so you can just kind of see how it’s done, but all simultaneously.

Brad Johnson: So, basically, you have the real case study in front of you and like a financial planning software. Out of curiosity, which financial planning software are you typically using?

James Conole: Usually, RightCapital and occasionally some other things to illustrate different concepts.

Brad Johnson: Cool. So, you might have that sample case study in RightCapital in front of you on your laptop screen. And then you’re just going to screen capture that while you’re talking through it, throw that to your editor, and now he just throws that overlay right on top of the video.

James Conole: Yeah, exactly.

Brad Johnson: Awesome. Thanks for walking through that. Because some of those little things, those little quirks, it’s like it’s hard to figure out until you know exactly how you’re putting it all together. You had mentioned, James, that you like to think of the algorithm as the audience when it comes to YouTube. Can you explain what that means?

James Conole: Yeah. I think I was talking to an advisor not long ago of marketing and they were just kind of complaining of all the gatekeepers and the algorithm and all this stuff, and they’re suppressing like it’s hard to get content out there. And so, again, in some cases and I think I use this example on the podcast you referenced of, traditionally there have been gatekeepers to things. Like, if you want to write a book, you got to get a publisher. If you want to have a radio program, you’ve got to get a radio station to let you on their program. If you want to, even nowadays, like on Facebook, get your message out like you’ve got to pay ads to get there. I think the beautiful thing about YouTube is I don’t view YouTube as a gatekeeper. I view YouTube as like the Sherpa for my message of it saying, “Hey, give us your message. We’re going to go find who it resonates most with.”

Because they’re incentivized too. The more people that watch your content, the more they’re making. The more people like your content, the better the user experience is, the more those people are going to stay on the YouTube platform. So, YouTube is saying, “Look, whoever you are, wherever you are, if you have something valuable to say, we’re not going to try to gatekeep your content. We’re going to try to get it out there and have as many people as possible see it.” And so, people say, “Oh, well, how do you trick the algorithm? How do you kind of hack the algorithm? Do you have to be super clickbaity? Is it a certain title length? Is it a certain color in the thumbnail?” And just the best feedback I’ve ever gotten, just think of the algorithm as the audience. YouTube is constantly trying to create an incredible audience experience.

So, when you’re making content, don’t try to say, “How do I hack the algorithm with this content?” Say, “How do we make this as insanely valuable to my audience as I possibly can?” Because if you do, and if you communicate it in a clear way, and if it’s something that the audience truly does find valuable, YouTube’s going to take that and maybe put it in front of hundreds of thousands of people or more. So, think of the people you’re talking to and think of how can this be as clear, as simple and straightforward, as easy to digest as possible, and as valuable. Like, don’t make it overly simplistic but as valuable as possible from an audience perspective. And the algorithm’s going to take care of the rest. Don’t try to think of it as the alternative of trying to hack some algorithm.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I’m curious on that front because kind of what I’m picking up here as you go through this is you go through your first five videos up, and then after a little bit of time, it’s like, “Oh, people started searching,” and I just like to think of YouTube. It’s Google search bar with video, right? I mean, I’ve got an espresso maker upstairs. I forget every three months or whenever we have to clean it out, I always forget exactly what buttons I need to push. So, I just go to YouTube and I’m like, “How to clean Breville espresso maker,” and boom, I’m on the video I need. So, as I look through, I’ve got your channel pulled up here and I look at some of your past videos. I mean, you’ve got a video, this is what a real $3.2 million retirement portfolio looks like. It’s you on-screen holding “Manage Your Portfolio Like The Wealthy” up on a piece of paper. And that’s got 124K views and it’s about one month old. Avoid This Portfolio Withdrawal Mistake Most People Make In Retirement.

I see it as the titles are kind of like problems a retiree might search for or questions they might have in their head. And that looks like kind of the concept when you look at how you title your shows and then the visuals are you, and then maybe with like a little diagram with the graph or a little statement, but not too complicated. Can you walk through kind of the thought process on that or what you’ve learned over the years on how to title videos and the accompanying visual that needs to go with it?

James Conole: Yes. The content itself can be the best piece of content in the world, but all viewers are going off when they’re actually clicking the video as what’s the title and what’s the thumbnail. People are just insanely distracted. And so, if you’re scrolling your phone and you’re on YouTube and kids are in the other room screaming and the TV is on, all this stuff is going on, what’s going to make people watch your video? How can you capture their attention? And there’s a few different ways to do that but the thumbnail in the title are probably going to be that first thing. Now, you do have to be careful because if you have a thumbnail that makes these promises or title that makes these promises, and it’s just all clickbaity and there’s nothing of substance in the video, YouTube’s smart. They say, okay, people click it and then they’re off the video on 15 seconds because you didn’t deliver on the promise.

So, I think it does have to say, “What is this video? What are you doing? What’s the promise that we’re making to the viewer in terms of what they’re going to walk away with as a result of watching this video? And then how can we in a clear, punchy way that captures attention show that in a thumbnail or in a title?” And what I’ll tell people is it doesn’t have to be rocket science. Just go look at other YouTube channels and don’t copy them word for word. Now, when I say look at other YouTube channels, I mean, like non-financial YouTube channels. The finance world isn’t really well known for their clever marketing or progressive way of thinking about how to do marketing. So, look at industries that are, look at channels that are, and use the framework for I’ll say health and fitness a lot because there’s a lot of similarities between health and fitness and financial planning or wealth management, just in terms of kind of the principles there.

And so, like health and fitness does tend to be better on the marketing side than financial services does. So, go there, browse channels. Where are the popular channels? How do they structure their thumbnails? How do they structure their titles? You do kind of have to be a student of the game a little bit if you want to really grow. And I would say don’t let that hold you back from getting started but when you do start, you mentioned MrBeast earlier. MrBeast went on Joe Rogan’s podcast and he was talking about this other YouTuber that he was helping and this YouTuber was doing well. I forget what the numbers were but sometimes like he was doing $40,000 per month in revenue from YouTube because if you’re a YouTuber, like the way you’re living is YouTube revenue or brand partnerships or maybe the business on the back end or whatever he was.

But the principles that he shared were so insightful where he was working with this YouTuber and he told Joe Rogan, he said, “Yeah. We did a couple months of work together, and after that work, he went from like 40,000 a month in revenue to 400,000 a month in revenue.” And Joe Rogan’s kind of, “Whoa, what did you do to literally 10X his revenue from that?” And he said, “It wasn’t ten times more work. It was simply, can we make the thumbnail 10% better? Can we get 10% better with the storytelling in the video? Can we get 10% better at the visuals along it?” And so, really becoming a student in the game and like when you’re done, you’re not really done. Can you make the thumbnail better? Can you make the title better? Can you constantly improve? And if you can make all these little subtle improvements across the board, it’s not like, “Okay, cool. That video went from getting 10,000 views to 12,000 views. It’s, well, now 10,000-view videos getting 100,000 views. And have 100,000-view videos getting a million views.

So, there really is an exponential growth potential with this. And so, to answer your question, like, yeah, it doesn’t matter what your thumbnails look like, what your titles look like, but don’t let that be… I think some people say, “Oh, I don’t know what to do for a thumbnail,” so they don’t get started. “Or I don’t know how to title my videos,” so they don’t get started. So, start, just do it, get good at it, and then just commit to getting better and better at it and you’re going to have more and more success as you continue to grow.

Brad Johnson: Love that. I had a mentor share with me when I was just starting the podcast. He’s like, “The beauty of starting is you get to fail when nobody’s listening or watching, in YouTube’s case.” And it’s funny, I went back and I looked at your earliest videos, which on YouTube is about six years ago. I don’t know if you’ve even gone back down memory lane lately, but the first one was kind of you talking to camera of like, “Here’s kind of what our firm does,” and there was like a little bit of editing, not a ton there, but you could just tell it was early on your YouTube journey. And it’s cool to see the evolution as you look at your more recent videos and just what you’ve learned along the way. I’m curious, you mentioned going to other industries for inspiration. Are there channels? Are there YouTube creators that you could list that really influenced your journey on YouTube?

James Conole: It was Paddy Galloway. So, Paddy Galloway is actually a guy in the YouTube industry. He had, I forget what he called it, but like some program like a YouTube accelerator-type program that I went through that was totally overkill for me. I was like, “Oh my gosh. Like, there’s just so much that you could know here that you could learn here.” And the hard part for financial advisors is we’re not professional YouTubers like this isn’t our livelihood. It’s this thing that at least kind of starts on the side and we want to get as good as possible. But to truly get good at YouTube, like I said, you got to be a great storyteller. You want to have great hooks, you want to be engaging, you want to speak well, you want to communicate like there’s all these things you can always get better at. So, it was a little bit just completely overwhelming. Not a little bit. A lot.

But when you start to learn what goes into a good video and I’m in a good video, but the packaging of a good video or thumbnails to look at. So, I think in his course like he provided a lot of great examples of great thumbnails, great titles, the just structure of. I don’t know. Just tell a story. Whatever it is, there are just so many little nuggets and takeaways and examples that I took and like it’s something that even going forward, like I want to become a better and better student of, to be totally honest, is I’m not watching enough YouTube today. I’m not studying enough today because there are other responsibilities within the business that are still things that I’m fully responsible for. So, Paddy Galloway, I mean, I think he’s on Twitter, he’s on YouTube, and his whole thing is, how do you get really good at YouTube? So, you’ll follow one or two people like that and just consume what they put out there.

Brad Johnson: Love it. And that’s Patty, P-A-T-T-Y?

James Conole: P-A-D-D-Y. Paddy Galloway.

Brad Johnson: Paddy. Okay, cool. We’ll throw him in the show notes. He’ll get some love from you, I’m sure. I’m sure there will be some clicks on that link. Let’s go to the actual content. Back to hooks. So, we talked about thumbnails. We talked about the title. Let’s compare it to a dinner seminar. I’ve had many very successful advisors over the years. And if you think about, “Hey, I’ve got a 45-minute, a 60-minute presentation,” well, it’s in-person, and unless it’s like really, really bad and they’re like, “This is so bad, I’m not going to sit here for the free dinner that follows this presentation,” they’re not going to get up and leave their seat and walk out of the room. Now, you go to YouTube, back to what you said earlier. You’re scrolling on your phone most likely. Maybe they’ve got YouTube TV at home but if there’s not some immediate value on the front end, that first 15, 30 seconds, odds are they’ve gone. They’ve scrolled on to the next video.

So, when you think about content creation different from, “Oh, there’s a very linear learning journey and like a dinner seminar that you don’t have to necessarily be rushed,” do you reformat value on a YouTube video to make sure you hook them and they stick around? Or how do you think about it differently for a video?

James Conole: I try to be as concise as possible without sacrificing anything on the value front. So, I know when I first started the first podcast with Scott that I was like, “Oh, we need to be different somehow. Do we need to be funny or do we need to tell cool stories? Or do we need to do something so people feel like they’re in the room?” And he’s just like, “No. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re a great storyteller, tell great stories. If you can have some serious gift, then use that serious gift.” I think I’m not funny on the videos. I do say like storytelling of, yeah, if I’m using an example in a case study kind of presenting the character, what’s the problem or the challenge that character is up against, what do we do to kind of walk them through, and what was the final outcome of all that stuff, just like very basic framework of a story. It’s not like these stories that you can’t get enough of, “No, James is telling this story.”

So, I just try to be as concise as possible without sacrificing anything on the value side. And even then it’s maybe 15, 20-minute videos sometimes but we live in a very distracted world. So, I say don’t try to add fluff, don’t try to add stuff. And I could even be better. I could be more concise. I do tend to kind of talk in circle sometimes and repeat and repeat and repeat. And if I watch videos back, I’m like, “Why do I feel the need to say that three times or four times?” Just say it and move on. But to your point, Brad, you don’t have a captive audience. They’re not stuck in a chair with their steak dinner until you’re down to presentation. I try to structure it as a two to three-sentence hook, and the hook can be pretty simple, but it’s the promise, essentially. What are you going to walk away with from this video?

And then one other thing I learned, and this was actually in the Paddy Galloway course I just mentioned, I used to have a little bit of a hook, and then it went into like a 15-second promo of like the Root, Ready For Retirement, all this stuff, add some cool music, and then transition into it. And Paddy’s point was to get, and he didn’t say this to me specifically, he said it to the whole cohort, “Get rid of that and just add any value.” I see so many videos like, oh, if I watch financial advisor videos sometimes they say, “In this video, you’re going to learn how to save a bunch of money in taxes,” or whatever it is. They’ll say the hook. And then it’s like 15, 20 seconds of music and like some b roll and some stuff. And we like to actually think, “Oh, cool, we’re getting our brand out there.” But the person watching couldn’t care less. Like, just tell me how to save taxes. Just tell me how to do this.

And if you fulfill that promise and show me actually how to do it, then cool, I’m going to subscribe. I’m going to watch a lot more of your content. And if I watch a lot more of your content and one day I need help with my planning, I’m going to go to your website and reach out to you and kind of enter your funnel and all those things. So, I think the best thing is just take out fluff and try to be as clear and concise as possible, while still providing the right amount of value.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I watched a couple of your more recent videos before we hopped on here because I just wanted to get a feel for just kind of how your content had evolved and changed. And a couple of things to that point that I noticed. Number one, you see a lot of YouTube creators say, “Don’t forget, like and subscribe.” And you didn’t have to say it because you had a little just like a lower third across the bottom and it’s just thumbs up, click, like, and then you see the little bell click. And so, basically, you visually showed it without you having to sit there and say it as the guy doing the YouTube video. So, that was one thing I picked up back to conciseness. The other thing, in the one I watched, it was the case study and you basically just got a real-life question. And they said, “Hey, we’ve got this amount of money. We need to retire in like a year.” It was the bucket video. The first bucket video you just dropped.

And I like to think that because you’re willing to just read a question, like, pretty much unfiltered, you didn’t share any personally identifying information on it but I like to think that creates some sort of like two-way conversation, even though it’s just you speaking the video and it’s a real-life retirement problem. So, if they have it, I’m guessing there’s probably some other YouTube viewers that have that as well. Has that been a big piece of what you believe has grown the channel just like it’s very almost like a personal conversation via video?

James Conole: I think a little bit. And that was actually the podcast you’re watching. So, I think the podcasts are more just reading the question. And so, like I know that’s a podcast a viewer wouldn’t actually know, “Hey, this is the podcast,” and then Saturdays is the actual video. But like you wouldn’t have seen any actual graphic supporting what I said other than the like button popping up or whatever. So, yeah, I think so. I think people, we get a lot of questions from people who watch a channel and they say, “Hey, I love the approach. I love that you just take real questions and provide, obviously, not the advice but you provide some context or a framework of how to think about this.” And so, I do think a lot of people do feel like it’s a conversation with them, as opposed to just, I don’t know, just a monologue.

And like there’s more things that we want to build and do to even further that in the future that we’ve got on the roadmap but, yeah, I think that’s a part of it is that not necessarily relatability but that sense of, I don’t know, they’re involved. It’s not just me sitting up here talking down as much as I’m taking what they’re giving me and making content around it.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. It’s like a co-creation of content, really. I mean, like imagine I would like to think if James is on a YouTube channel answering my specific question that I submitted, there’s a pretty high likelihood that individual is going to reach out to you when they watch that video. I’m assuming this has happened a time or two before where you get the question you answered on a YouTube video, and then that individual becomes a client. Is that fair?

James Conole: Yeah. Probably. Like, I stopped taking on clients a little while back and so I actually don’t talk to anyone that’s coming into the pipeline anymore. So, I’m sure that’s definitely the case, to be totally honest, so I don’t know.

Brad Johnson: Okay. Well, hey, we’re going to get to that then too because that’s fun. Let’s go back to just the podcast where you are taking questions. How did those questions get to you? Are they submitted through the YouTube channel? Are they submitted through the website? What’s the kind of information flow there?

James Conole: So, I used to have a separate podcast website that was just ReadyForRetirement.com or .co. And one of the pages was Submit Your Question. And so, the call to action at the end would be, “Hey, if you have a question that you want answered on a future episode, go to ReadyForRetirement.com. Submit your question and we’ll look to answer it in future episodes.” So, it used to be that way. When we rebranded and updated our website and all these things, just to avoid confusion, we stopped having a podcast website and a company website and we have like just a podcast page now on our current website. On that page, there’s I believe a forum for people to submit their question. More often than not, “Oh, people listen to podcasts. A link to our website is in the show notes,” or they just google the website and they’ll find the hello@rootfinancialpartners.com email address somewhere on the website and just email in.

So, not necessarily go through a form. They’re just emailing us. So, it’s a little bit of both. It’s probably part of the funnel I should – not even part of the funnel – but just something I should structure a little bit better. But we get emails and I have an executive assistant just taking the emails that come in that way and organize them in one place where I can go. On recording day, I just have a list of questions and say, “Okay. What one makes sense to answer?” and just several dozen questions I have to choose from.

Brad Johnson: Cool. That has to be really fun where essentially the content is being created for you.

James Conole: The hardest part about starting is what do I talk about. And when you’re in the business, there’s everything to talk about. When there’s everything to talk about, it’s hard to choose like where to even start. And so, yeah, now that it’s specific questions with nuanced answers, it does make it easier to create some content around that.

Brad Johnson: What’s the most surprising video that popped where you like dropped it and you’re like, “Wow. I did not see that one coming?”

James Conole: I forget exactly what it’s called. I think it’s something along the lines of Five Things You Need To Know Before You Retire or You’ll Wish You Knew Before You Retired or something, and it was a video where it was just a crazy hack kind of at work and I was running behind on like the production schedule and just tons of meetings and all stuff. I was like, “I need to do a video.” And so, I literally just like googled it where I saw that title somewhere and said, “Okay, cool.” I’m just going like this is going to be a throwaway episode just because I need to fill this week’s episode. I don’t have the time to put a ton of effort into it though. So, I just used that title and then threw some things up. To be totally honest, I don’t even think we’re like that significant. Almost like insultingly obvious.

Like, “I wish I had, I don’t know, planned better. I wish I had just brought…” like things that you wouldn’t expect to be, “Oh, wow, that was amazing.” And I just recorded the episode. And at the time, I think it was my highest-viewed video like it got 250,000 views or something and I was just blown away. I was like, “Wow. That took me 30 minutes to record and create because I literally didn’t have time to do it.” And it just goes to show that there’s been other videos like I thought this is going to be a no-brainer. This one’s going to go crazy. And no one viewed it. And then sometimes I thought, “This video just kind of sucks,” and I just have to do something because I’m running behind a production schedule and people like it. And so, I heard someone say one time, every time you put a video out there, it’s like buying a lottery ticket and you just don’t know what one’s going to hit. So, buy as many lottery tickets as you can knowing that some are going to hit and they’re not going to be the ones that you always expect.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I mean, it’s a great lesson in putting in the reps consistently. I had in my early podcasting career somebody said, “Don’t do your first episode if you don’t plan to do your 100th.” And I think that applies to podcasting. I think it definitely applies to YouTube as well, just based on, you’re like, I had to get one out this week. So, what I hear you saying is I committed there will be a consistent cadence on the podcast and on the YouTube channel that my audience can depend on me to put something out for them.

James Conole: Right. Yeah, exactly.

Brad Johnson: How important do you think that piece of the pie is? It’s just the consistency of content.

James Conole: I think it’s really important in part, like, I don’t know how many people are sitting there eagerly waiting for the next video to come out or the next podcasting to come but a lot of the questions that come in, it’s honestly just kind of weird to me at first, like, hey, we can’t wait for your podcast to come out because I think the most recent episode, the question, the answer, they said, “My wife and I, we listened to it over dinner and then go on a walk to discuss together.” I’m like, “That’s weird.” That was my first thought like people will be like and, Brad, it sounds so weird, but they’re like, you know, like my wife and I, we’re watching The Office right now. Just like let’s watch this. This will wind you down and like kind of fall asleep to it some nights. And people will literally say that same thing with, “Hey, we kind of fall asleep to your videos on,” and it feels weird.

It’s like, okay, I guess people are expecting these at certain times, and they are knowing when they come out and they have you as part of their life in a weird kind of cool way but it just becomes part of people’s routines. And so, I don’t know what would happen if you missed a week or two weeks or four weeks but I kind of don’t want to know at the same time. I just want to keep doing it.

Brad Johnson: I think you just nailed the word. It’s routine. Like, if you actually become part of their routine, think about the influence that that creates where and I also think there’s a form of trust. It’s like James is consistent and he’s dropping a video every Friday or whenever they drop. There’s a form of trust created by that because you’re just showing up consistently over and over and over. And so, I think there has to be some psychology in that of like if I can trust him to add value in my life once a week through a YouTube video, I can trust him with my savings too or his team. Right?

James Conole: Yeah.

Brad Johnson: Okay. So, let’s keep going down the path. We’ve hit a ton on content. So, thanks for just like, first off, like playing all out and just sharing openly. I really appreciate that. Anything before we move to what I would say further down the sales or the marketing funnel of YouTube, anything else on creation videos? Just the actual content out on YouTube that’s worth mentioning before we move on to how they actually now go into getting into your office.

James Conole: No. I mean, nothing that needs to be touched upon.

Brad Johnson: Okay. So, you mentioned COVID earlier and I think COVID obviously was not great for a lot of people’s lives but when it comes to finance and being able to run a virtual practice, I mean, everybody had to become very familiar with Zoom. And so, now it took what typically historically has been a face-to-face appointment process. And people got comfortable with doing it just like we’re recording this interview right now, virtually. So, with that, what are the funnels of like I watch a YouTube video that James is on or I listen to the podcast, what’s the call to action that takes them from that to I’m now interacting with you or your team or taking the first step to an appointment?

James Conole: It’s actually fairly subtle. I know I think a lot of marketers would say, “Don’t make it as subtle,” but YouTube really prioritizes the viewer experience on YouTube. So, I’m not trying to redirect people away from YouTube. I’m actually trying to keep them there. But at the end of every single video, there’s just a standardized clip that just says something along the lines of, “If you want to know how we can help you get the most out of life with your money, visit us at www.RootFinancialPartners.com.” And then it moves on to the next video. So, that’s it. And so, if someone’s watched the full 15 minutes or 20 minutes then they see that and then I think in the description of each video we probably have a, “Want to know more? Visit us at RootFinancialPartners.com.” So, it’s not any super clever call to actions or anything. It’s really actually prioritizing, keeping people on YouTube, not trying to redirect them to the website.

And then from there, they go to our website and they click on a Start Here button, and they go through a filter to essentially book a call. And that’s probably the process that has to evolve the most with podcasting YouTube as it’s really started to grow pretty significantly, is in the past, I would take every single new prospect call. And at first, it was me taking on every single new prospect. And then it was, “Okay. I’m taking the call but I’m kind of saying you’re not going to work with me. You’re going to work with this other member of the team.” And that was just kind of plunked. It’s like, “Oh, I’m out. I’m actually talking to James. Great. So excited. I love your YouTube.” And I said, “Well, actually, Brad, you’re going to be working with this advisor.” And then it was kind of like, they felt a little letdown on that. So, they say, “Okay. Well, let’s just switch to…” They book directly with the advisor.

So, they go to the Start Here button on our website and there’s a questionnaire that people go through. And it essentially lets them know like it screens out for essentially assets. Like, right now, there’s a minimum asset level that we hope to drive down. Just because of all the demand coming through, we have to kind of filter in some of the people that are coming in. So, it filters that way. It filters just saying we don’t do hourly or project to work. So, people say, “No, I’m looking for hourly or project work,” and just kind of redirect some to a screen that says, “Hey, we don’t have the capacity off this right now. Here’s a referral to…” I don’t know, like XY Planning Networking or Garrett Planning Network or something like that where people can find that.

And so, if they get through the questionnaire, they would then be redirected to the actual advice. Like, any advisor, it was just we use Calendly and there’s Round Robin and whatever advisor happens to be available, they book with them. And then the advisor would have an intro call and say, “Okay. What are you looking for? Okay, cool.” Then there’d be a second meeting, which was a proposal meeting. And after the proposal meeting, there’s a check-in meeting. And it was just we had so many leads coming in that we’re looking at advisor calendars. 20% of our week was just these new prospect calls or proposal meetings, or chasing down statements or trying to get the next call scheduled. And I know I mentioned at the beginning you said, in the podcast where I kind of shouted you out, I said it was naming the process that was really helpful.

But the other thing that you talked about in a separate podcast was having a separate marketing system, sales system, kind of, I forget what you call everything else but fulfillment culture, like the five pillars, I think you call it, of something or other. But we reworked all that to say this is just taking a lot of time, advisor time. And maybe the coolest thing about YouTube and podcast is I remember a new prospect, right? I’ll come back to this. A new prospect a couple of years ago came on board and I had the intro call with them. I then did like the full discovery meeting, and I did the full proposal meeting, and I did like the check-in to say, “Do you want to come on board?” And when I finally asked for their business, they said, “James, we already knew we wanted to hire you. We just wanted to kind of see is there a reason not to. But we’ve been watching your videos and your podcast for the last 18 months. Yeah, we want to get going.”

And I was like, “Oh my gosh. We’re doing a lot of work upfront when they’re like, ‘We’re ready to go.’” And that’s the beauty of YouTube and podcasts, is they really start to develop this relationship with you before you actually even get to know them. And so, in the last three or four months, we’ve revamped our entire sales process, where now everyone goes to the website. They book an explore meeting with our VP, Ari Taublieb, and essentially he has a 30-minute call with them and closes after that one call. So, it’s do you want to work with us or not work with us after going through our process? And so, it used to be this thing of prospects would go meet with an advisor or go through a few meetings, and we calculated. That’s probably 7 to 10 hours of time that the advisor and the associate is spending on plan proposals, meeting, back and forth, all this stuff. So, now it’s 30 minutes of time. The close rate’s gone way up and now it’s people reach out. They have that call and then they’re kind of paired with whatever advisor we think would be the best fit for them or whatever advisor has availability this month to work with them.

Brad Johnson: Okay. So, let’s go into that. So, you said it’s a VP on your team, which makes it sound like one person is doing all of these 30-minute intro calls. Is that correct?

James Conole: Correct.

Brad Johnson: In that 30-minute intro call, it sounds like it’s more of the philosophy of is it the Sequoia system? I think that’s the name of your financial planning process. Correct? So, is it kind of an overview of, “Hey, here’s philosophically how we think about holistic financial planning,” walking through that. And if that aligns, okay, it makes sense to proceed. Or like if you can deconstruct that a little bit, I’m just curious. Now, because I’ve never seen a system like that or heard of one.

James Conole: Yeah. They schedule the call. And I’m sorry, Ari could probably walk you through this better than I could but he essentially is like, “What hurts? Why are you reaching out? What prompted you?” And they’re, “Hey, I’m about to retire. I’m terrified of making big mistakes or my current advisor doesn’t do what you guys do. I love it.” Whatever it is. So, they spend maybe ten minutes talking about just very high level, what prompted you to reach out? What are some of the pain points you have? He then says, “Great. Is it okay if I walk you through our Sequoia system and show you how Root might be a good fit to help?” They say, “Sure.” So, he kind of walks them through step by step, kind of relating how certain parts of that would address the pain points that they have.

Then essentially wraps up by going over and making sure you understand how we charge, making sure you understand what it looks like to work with Root. And then he essentially says, “You’re going to work with Chris. You’re going to work with JT. You’re going to work with Carly,” and books what we call the kickoff meeting where their end, they’re saying, “Yeah. We want to do this. We want to move forward,” and a week later, two weeks later, whatever it is, they’re having the kick off meeting with their advisor where they’re actually starting to go through that Sequoia system.

Brad Johnson: Wow.

James Conole: So, it’s really streamlined that up front process.

Brad Johnson: Really cool. And so, when they get assigned to an advisor, is it more like your standard… If I look at like kind of the very standard, this is obviously being very simplistic. It’s like typically the discovery meeting is the first meeting where it’s kind of a fact find. The second meeting is maybe high-level rough draft of the plan where if that makes sense, maybe there’s an ACap that happens there to engage. Maybe there’s pay-a-fee depending on the firm, but it’s now, “Okay. We’re moving forward.” And then the third meeting might be the allocation meeting, which is okay, here’s where everything goes. Are you saying basically that first 30 minute there is really acting as that, “Hey, commitment.” And then now you’re going straight into that meeting with the assigned advisor where it’s like, “Okay. Let’s get the lay of the land. Let’s figure out how all this works.” And then they’re essentially committing like, are they paying fee to you or are they moving assets to engage you, guys? Like where does that happen in the process?

James Conole: Yeah. So, after the initial conversation with Ari, reschedule the kickoff meeting. They actually sign the advisory agreement before they meet with the buyers. Like, they’re saying, “Yeah. We’re committed.”

Brad Johnson: After that first 30 minute?

James Conole: After the first 30 minute, they’re signing the advisor. Now, they haven’t moved assets, they haven’t paid a fee or anything but it’s essentially saying because we’re going to jump in planning and so we need to make sure like that agreement is signed. And like the out we give them and say, “Look, if you have that first kickoff meeting, which is like that discovery meeting, if you’re not totally in line with how that’s going or feel like I don’t really resonate with this advisor,” like you don’t have to transfer asset. I mean, we could part ways at that point. You haven’t really committed your life or savings or anything at that point. But 90%, 97% of people do move forward at that point. So, after that kickoff meeting, that’s a discovery meeting. We call that the purpose aspect of Sequoia System. What are we actually planning for? Let us understand more about what success looks like to you and really connect with that vision you have for your retirement or for your future, for the things that you want to do.

After that, we go to what we call the income meeting of just, “Can you retire?” This is RightCapital projections, financial projections between the kickoff meeting, which others may call the discovery meeting and the income meeting, so meetings one and two with the actual advisor, assets are transferring over in between that. And then at the income meeting. Then after the income meeting, they had the investment meeting. After the investment meeting, there’s the tax. So, like there really is a structure. They know exactly what the meetings are going to be. And they have that first meeting with the advisor before they actually commit to transferring anything but it is happening after that.

Brad Johnson: Cool. Hey, that’s awesome. That’s unique too. I can honestly say in almost two decades of doing this and looking at hundreds of advisors, I have not seen anything like that. So, that’s why I love doing this podcast is I’m learning. So, you do this kind of upfront like, “Here’s our philosophy.” If it makes sense to move forward, there’s kind of a high-level discovery with their assigned advisor. And then basically the next steps from there or your purpose meeting, as you call it, are walking through the rest of your plan, income, investments, taxes. And then I believe the last world is security, as you call it.

James Conole: Which estate planning and insurances.

Brad Johnson: Okay. Cool. So, basically, each following meeting is one of those worlds. And so, is it for following that or do you combine any of those together?

James Conole: It’s typically 4 to 5-minute kind of like a little sprint of, “Hey, you’re going to come on board.” And so, the hard thing I think for most advisors, this is where I don’t want to guess too off on a tangent but I think a lot of people think, “Oh, you cracked the YouTube code and like everything is set.” I was like, well, no, that’s a big part of it. That gets the inbound leads coming in through the top of funnel but then it really forces you to standardize the sales process, the fulfillment process, even the team, and like culture. How do you make sure the team is being trained and developed? And one of the coolest things about the YouTube channel and podcast is a lot of advisors are watching. And so, when we’re putting out job postings or when we’re looking for to add roles, I’m just blown away by the quality of people that are reaching out to say, “Hey, we want to be part of this.”

And so, now we’re building just such an amazing team and that podcasting YouTube channel kind of serves like training. And we’re consolidating it and we’re creating Root University internally of how do you run a kickoff meeting? How do you run an income meeting? How do you run…? So, it helps us to really standardize these things, provide a ton of resources because you do want that really just that consistency of philosophy, that consistency of approach. We don’t want ten incredible advisors that all think differently when it comes to investments and planning and even the way they speak about certain topics. So, the beauty of YouTube and podcasts goes so far beyond just getting leads. It builds trust to the degree that you can have one 30-minute conversation and people are moving over $3 million, $4 million, $5 million. You can then go through a process and people are already excited about it and know about it, and advisors can know exactly what to expect in doing that.

So, it creates challenges in terms, okay, we now like really need to create these things, but when you do create them and build them in a more systematic way, it like really becomes a pretty incredible thing all the way around. It’s not just the lead generation. That’s the cool part of it.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. And for context, I’m looking at some notes you submitted before we hopped on here. So, approximately 11 on your team now at the firm.

James Conole: We will have our 16th team members joined in two weeks, and then we’ll probably add two or three not too long after.

Brad Johnson: Okay. So, 16 now. You’re sitting in around 355 million of AUM currently. I’m sure it’s grown a little bit probably since you submitted this, but is that about right?

James Conole: Just over 400 today.

Brad Johnson: Oh, over 400. Okay. Well, we might have pulled from a website that was a little old then.

James Conole: No. I mean, I think that’s probably the form I spent before this maybe a month and a half, two months ago but that’s just to give perspective. I mentioned RIAs doing full-time sales calls. He has probably 100 calls a month with people with 200 million or north in assets. And so, it’s like the growth potential is pretty significant. And it’s more just we need to make sure that we’re doing thankfully, like I said, it’s really wonderful advisors reaching out to join what we’re doing. We just don’t have the capacity to onboard everyone that’s reaching out right now. So, we’re pushing some of that out.

Brad Johnson: I mean good problem to have. And then for context, over the last 12 months, you said 700 prospects but about 120 million of new AUM has onboarded in approximately the last year or so.

James Conole: Yeah. Net new assets for 2023 was around 130 million. And that includes like any clients that left. So, new assets that came on board is probably 135, 136. And then a little bit of attrition. So, 130 for 2023.

Brad Johnson: Cool. So, if we look at that, where my head goes and looking at the last three years of Triad, like I feel fortunate, like we’ve grown pretty quickly as well, which creates other breaking points within a business. So, how long ago did you transition out of, “Hey, at this point, James can’t see any more individual clients. I have to start focusing on growing the business and leading the business?” How long ago did that transition happen?

James Conole: August of last year, I took on my last client, and I still have client. Like, I still do have a good number of clients, and I’m in the process of either kind of like either fully transitioning or at least bringing on another lead advisor, the relationships that I made a little bit redundant and can be part of the relationships that I think I love all of them, like truly love, like I’m close with them even beyond just like a client. So, that’s the process that we’re going through right now to actually do that with current clients.

Brad Johnson: Cool. And what sort of model do you have? I know there’s all kinds of different models out there as far as here’s the relationship or the salesperson. Here’s the service advisor. Here’s the planner. What does like an advisor pod look like for you guys currently?

James Conole: A pod or a team looks like and we’re like building this house. It’s not perfectly structured within a day just as team members are coming on. But one senior advisor and three pods and a pod is one lead advisor to one associate or support advisor. So, we want to build very much that coaching mindset within the firm of senior advisors like a player-coach, where none of the advisors have business development responsibilities but they absolutely have mentorship and development responsibilities of the seniors making sure that leads are continually being developed and grown and just being the best advisors they can. The lead advisors making sure that their associate advisor is being developed and grown and mentored to ultimately become a lead advisor.

So, the structure is one senior advisor on a team and then three lead advisors on a team and then one associate to every lead to make sure that they’re in every single meeting there that gives direct mentorship responsibilities to that lead advisor to say, “Your associate, one of your responsibilities is coaching them and developing them and making sure that they’re really growing in a way to ultimately become a lead here at Root when they’re ready.”

Brad Johnson: Yeah. How has your firm evolved like the early days pre-YouTube, pre-podcast? I mean, I assume it was very similar to a lot of brick-and-mortar firms where it’s like, hey, we do some local marketing. They come into the office for an appointment. We sit across the conference room table. I have to think now, with so many leads coming in virtually, the vast majority of those aren’t even in California. How has your kind of client environment or the interactions, how has that had to evolve as YouTube has grown?

James Conole: Yeah. We’re a virtual team. There are two of us today in San Diego, another one coming on board in San Diego shortly, but it’s San Diego, it’s LA, it’s Texas, it’s Arizona, it’s Nebraska, it’s Virginia. I’m missing a couple but, yeah, the whole team is virtual. We’re putting a lot of work into how do we, like culture is the next big thing. So, we have all these amazing prospective clients come in. That’s happening. It’s now how do we create something that nobody wants to leave? Like, how do we create something that every advisor feels like this is just the absolute best place to work? Every team member feels like this is the absolute best place to work. Everyone in the industry says, “Hey, I want my career to, like I want to go to Root.” Like, how do we create that so it becomes just a really fun place for the best and the brightest, the most engaged people? And then when you attract amazing people and you attract amazing prospects, there’s going to be a good combination of things that happen at that point.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Very cool. I didn’t know you had a virtual team. I guess it’s called senior advisors. How many senior advisors now do you have on the team that would be kind of like the leads?

James Conole: So, it’s kind of like a hybrid. We were at seven people four months ago and we’ll be, like I said, at 16 in a little bit. So, like so much of this happened so quickly that it’s like we have the org chart of what we want to look like. And it’s now really doing a lot of work on career paths so people know what’s available and give them the tools needed to get to where they want to go and also see, like, who wants to be like lead advisor. And they’re just incredibly relational, like maybe manage a bunch of client relationships and that’s what they love. Others are more of that coach a mentor and they said, “No, I want to develop others.” And even a senior advisor is still an advisor, but it’s more of like that player-coach role where they’re also developing others. So, we’ve got the structure and we’ve got awesome people and now it’s just, “Hey, who wants to do what?” And go at it.

Brad Johnson: Very cool. Well, that’s fun. I mean, our team doubled last year at Triad. Sounds like you’re going through that exact same thing right now. So, I’m happy for you and good luck all through the same time because one of the things I found as an entrepreneur, as you grow, just things break. It’s part of it. And leaning in and battling through the storms is part of being an entrepreneur. So, as we wrap here, we’re getting really close to the end, just sheer curiosity, what has been the craziest YouTube prospect that has come through, whether it was like some crazy amount of assets that just, “Hey, James, I saw your YouTube video. Love to work with you guys.” Or just a crazy story that, obviously, don’t share any personal information but love to hear like the craziest one that’s happened to this point.

James Conole: Craziest thing? This isn’t crazy or just kind of, I mean, in terms of assets, a couple few clients in the 12 to 14 million-ish range from that, which is I would never think on YouTube people significant net worth is like but, yeah, I mean, it’s people across the board who just YouTube is becoming that. A crazy story I would say that the funniest thing is people, it feels weird even saying, like, they look at you like a celebrity. Like, I’m not taking on clients, but sometimes clients will come on and they’ll just really love the videos and stuff. And so, I’ll pop into their first meeting and they’ll just feel stupid. And then they’re like starstruck and it’s so weird and it’s just like… But that’s the cool thing is like people really start to resonate and connect with you. And it’s not like a dinner seminar where like it means you’re doing 50 conversations with them to get to that point. They’ve just watched 50 videos that took no more time to produce than you otherwise would have.

So, it does lead to this weird element of celebrity. I shouldn’t even say weird. Like, it’s cool. It’s like, I don’t know, if you’re listening to Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey or whatever. Like, you take it, it’s cool for you to get to meet them. And so, it’s kind of just the same element, obviously, with lesser scale though.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Cool. Well, it’s deserved, man. I mean, the truth is a lot of people want the end results but they’re not willing to do the work to get there. And it’s the old saying the overnight success that was ten years in the making. And the truth is I go back like anybody listening to this, go back to James’s YouTube channel and go to the early ones and you’ll just see the evolution. Go back to the podcasts. Go back to the early ones. You’ll see that evolution. And I love that you just have continued to put in the reps, be curious, grow and build something that deserve to be built, obviously, because a lot of people, it’s resonating with them.

Well, as we wrap here, there is also a personal side of James we haven’t gotten a ton into. But you’re married. You have a daughter. Right in your background, you’re actually a rugby player. So, as a football player, that’s not too far off. But I would love to hear your definition. This is the Do Business Do Life podcast. What does doing business and doing life mean to James?

James Conole: I know Michael Hyatt and you are close and he’s just on the team. I’m a big Michael Hyatt fan and one of the books I recommend most often to people is the book, Living Forward. And it’s kind of that sense of, yeah, you’re an entrepreneur and you’re building a business, but how do you take that mindset to your life? Like, how do you think of yourself as an entrepreneur of your life if you can construct and create whatever you want to create, which is going to look different at different seasons of life? Right now, I’ve got a young daughter, I got another one on the way, got a young family. It’s just things happening. So, it’s not one thing but it’s more of in the same way, I want to craft an ideal outcome for the business and what things need to happen for that to be the case. Well, I also want to craft an ideal outcome for my life, and the two are obviously very intertwined.

So, it’s not one thing in specific as much as it is very much, you know, Michael Hyatt’s whole thing in that Living Forward book is how do you imagine yourself at your funeral? And like, who are the people that are speaking? What do they say about you? And okay, cool. What can I do today to work towards that? And so, like this changes all the time. What can I do today to be a better husband? And obviously fail a whole bunch but keep trying. And what can I do today to grow a better business? What can I do today to be a better team member and all those things? And so, I think doing business, doing life is just that integration of every single day, what are you doing to build not the business that you want but like the life that you want and the business is absolutely key component of that, that supports that and is a hugely enjoyable part of that.

Brad Johnson: Love it. Well put, James. And, yeah, as Michael Hyatt calls it, the double win, you know, winning in business, winning in life. And obviously, he’s been a huge influence on me as well. So, thanks for hopping on here and just sharing so openly. I love the abundance mindset that you obviously live and embrace. And I’m excited for you, man. I feel like this is just like Chapter 1 or 2. Can’t wait to see the continued big things you keep doing.

James Conole: Yeah. Thanks, Brad. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on.

Brad Johnson: All right, man. Until next time.

Disclosure

These conversations are intended to provide financial advisors with ideas, strategies, concepts and tools that could be incorporated into the advisory practice, advisors are responsible for ensuring implementation of anything discussed is in accordance with any and all regulatory and compliance responsibilities and obligations.

Copyright 2024 Triad Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

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