Russ Haworth: How content marketing can shape your career in a niche industry

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Notes

Russ Haworth joins Chris to share his own journey in content marketing through The Family Business Podcast.

Russ shares how he recognised his behaviour as a consumer online and used that knowledge to start his podcast to help clients in his industry.

Chris and Russ discuss how content marketing has opened incredible opportunities for Russ, why he chose to deliver to a very specific niche in his market and what challenges he has faced and overcome along the way.

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Transcription

Chris:
Well. Good Morning Russ. Thanks very much for joining me on the Content Marketing Academy podcast. So, how are you?

Russ:
I am very good, thank you Chris. How are you?

Chris:
I’m good, thanks. Yeah, I’m really, really good. I’m so pleased that you’ve joined me today, I’m really looking forward to just discussing a little bit about your journey and where content marketing has played a role. But first of all, I think it’s important that the audience get a little bit of an understanding and context about your business, so what do you do?

Russ:
So what do I do? I am a financial planner and also more recently I have moved into consultancy work for family-owned businesses, which has kind of been a result of the content marketing journey I’ve been on as well. So, be interesting to cover that a little bit later on. But yeah, it’s a dual role, financial planning primarily and family business consultancy as an additional service now.

Chris:
Brilliant. I love what you’re doing and obviously, with Cara being in a family business as well, we’re pretty close to all the stuff that goes on and family businesses. I don’t know exactly why you’ve chosen that marketplace, but we’ll get into that. Yeah, so type of position you’re in, where did Content Marketing start become a thing for you? Like when you think back, when was that moment when you were like, “This is something that I really want to get into, it’s something I really want to do.”

Russ:
So predominantly my financial planning career has been within accountancy practices that have a marketing department but also have quite a steady stream of introductions. And so the need for doing a huge amount of marketing in those organizations is not massive because there’s a line of introductions there for you. But four or so years ago I moved to a much smaller financial planning organization, which has four employees and was about 85, 90 miles from my home. So I was working in a town where the business had not been heard of and it was a relatively small business. So from that perspective, the need for me to shift into looking at the marketing side was quite apparent and that was kind of the reason I was brought on, is somebody who could raise awareness of the business, what it is that we did and try and drive that forward.

I had then been watching other financial planners who had been doing it particularly well and thought actually that this is something that I need to start looking into, start embracing and getting involved in. So that’s where it started really, four years ago. When I joined the firm, I decided to write a book. I thought that was a good idea. And during that process I interviewed a load of people for the book and then realized that actually the book, it was okay, it’s fine, it’s still ready, it’s not been published yet. But actually the likelihood of that book going out and being reached by or read by more than 20 or 30 people is probably relatively low because it wasn’t really a book. It was more of a calling card rather than anything else. And so I thought actually the interviews I’ve done for the book have much more value in them. And so I do a weekly podcast and that’s where my podcast was born, was out of the concept of those interviews. So it’s almost by accident as well.

Chris:
So there’s this clearly this contrast between working in a larger company to working in a smaller company, and that need to have marketing as part of it. I’m right in saying that you sort of took that role on, is that right?

Russ:
Yeah, that’s right. And that was where I started to look into what this marketing thing was. And in particular, that’s when I came across yourself and Content Marketing by Pete Matthew, who obviously has a very successful content marketing journey himself and started to delve a lot more into it. And it just made perfect sense. The type of work that we do with financial planning can be quite mysterious in some ways in that we’re not very good at communicating what it is we actually do. And I think a lot of the people in my profession try to make themselves look really clever by doing content as aimed at their peers rather than their actual clients or potential clients. And that was an opportunity that I saw as something that we could do differently as well.

Chris:
Yeah, I love that. That’s such a key fundamental lesson and practice in content marketing. We see all the time people that are trying to appeal to their peers because they want to be industry leaders, but they’re not attracting all of that time and effort they put into their content isn’t actually going to attract their actual paying clients, which in some ways doesn’t really make much sense. So I think a lot of people that have done really well with content marketing the right way is they’ve appealed to their main core client audience and build up the reputation and they’ve actually got to the place they wanted to get to but going in a different path, which is awesome.

So for you then, and you said you dropped at the end there, which was, it started to make sense. What is it that makes sense to you about the way that you go to market now? So why does content marketing make sense to you? If that makes sense.

Russ:
Yeah. So take my personal experience of looking and researching any good or service that I’m going to purchase. I have questions so I don’t want to feel stupid going into a car dealership or, I don’t know, a stereo shop or whatever it is I’m looking to buy. So I will do my research before I go into the shop or make that decision to actually finally buy that product. And so if I’m looking for answers to those questions about the things I’m buying then why wouldn’t my potential clients be doing the same? And when you think of it like that it’s so obvious that you think, “Well yeah, of course. Surely everyone is doing it then.” But I think the point is that, as I said, a lot of the content is not being created to answer the questions or the perceived barriers that exist in terms of the people that would be looking to utilize our services.

So by being able to do that, if you’re looking online for, I don’t know, what is financial planning versus what is financial advice or what is family business consulting, then I want to be the person that they find and be the person that answers that question. Now, whether they use me or not is up to them, but the fact that I’m answering those questions means I’m doing a good job because it’s adding value to that person whether or not they’re then going to use me or not.

And it seems really obvious because it’s how I do things. I go to Google and I type in blah, blah, blah, and do some research on it and then it helps make my mind up as to who I’m going to use or which service I’m going to buy or which products I’m going to buy. So why wouldn’t I create content that helps my potential clients to do that as well?

Chris:
Yeah, I think it’s obvious when you … The thing is, I think Russ, the challenge sometimes is that it’s so simple, you think, “How could it possibly be the answer that we’re looking for?” But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there that just look at your own behavior when it comes to making a buying decision, it’s the same. It doesn’t matter. I mean, we’ve done interviews, Russ, with B2B companies, B2C companies. It doesn’t matter, it’s all the same thing. People want to do the research, they want to feel like they have got that confidence before the …

Especially, I mean you could argue that in terms of when someone’s looking for a financial advisor or a consultant, you could argue that they’ve got very little trust to start with because they’ve had bad experiences or they know people who’ve had bad experiences in the past. Eventually, when it comes to financial advice, how much do people trust people in finance these days, you know? So I think we want to be creating that content that builds that trust, absolutely.

So let’s talk a little bit about your podcast actually. I think it’d be good to know a little bit about what kind of content you’re creating at the moment. Do you want to give us a little insight into what content work you’re doing just know?

Russ:
Yeah, so I host a weekly-ish podcast is. I’ve been doing it for just under two years and I’m at episode 58 so it shows you how weekly it is that I’ve only 58 in that time.

Chris:
Every other week.

Russ:
Yeah, kind of. But effectively what I’m looking at is different trends and challenges that family-owned businesses face, and either talking about it myself or getting a leading world expert on the subject to come onto the show to talk about it and give their views on it. The overall aim of the podcast is to provide a huge amount of resource for family businesses to be able to thrive off the back of the content as there. It effectively looks at all the various different dynamics that happen within a family business and tries to answer those questions and challenges.

Because one of the bits of feedback that I received from family-owned businesses is that they feel like they’re alone, they feel like they’re the only one with that family. But the challenges that they face are broadly similar. So by focusing on the challenges that they face in then interviewing family business owners that have been through that, again, it’s trying to get the message out that you’re not alone, that there is help out there, that there is support out there. And hopefully, the content that is being created is being very useful to those families. And I’ve had feedback from families that have used it to say it has been. So it’s been positive from that perspective as well.

Chris:
How’s the podcast shaping your career?

Russ:
It’s having a big influence on my career. So if we rewind back to the time I decided to do the podcast, as a financial planner I looked at the market and there’s 22,000 odd financial planners in the UK, and there was probably a handful of financial planning podcasts. So there’s Andy Hart, there was Pete Matthew obviously who’s a hugely successful one in that market. There were a few others that were coming into it and I thought actually, Do I want to join that and become part of that noise or do I want to speak directly to the type of clients that I want to work with,” which is family businesses. So I looked at family business podcasts and there were none.

So I thought, well that’s where the opportunity lies, is speaking directly to my customers. Because a lot of the financial planning podcasts get picked up by other financial planners rather than by potential clients. I know there are successful ones out there that are doing that, but I thought if I want to speak to my clients, call it a family business podcast, don’t focus on the fact that its financial planning.

But as a result, I’ve gone on this huge learning journey. So I’ve got probably 60 hours with the world’s leading experts in family business and I’m asking them the questions that I think my audience want answered. So I’m learning the answers as well. So it’s like a double benefit for me and I’m gaining a huge amount of diverse experience and knowledge around all these different subject matters that will only help me become a better financial planner. And it has led to me moving into family business consultancy over the last year to 18 months.

So it’s shifted me away from just focusing on financial planning, broadening the skillset and offering that I’m able to to give to family businesses to include consultancy. And that’s been a massive shift and it just wouldn’t have happened had I not started this content journey because it’s … well, it just wouldn’t have happened. I’d been writing blog posts to other financial advisors to show how clever I am.

Chris:
Yeah. I think here your journey is leading you to broaden your skill set, but by broadening your skill set, what’s happened is it’s allowed you to niche actually into that space, which is really interesting to me that you’ve made that conscious choice, conscious decision, however difficult it was to say, “I’m not going to go in and be generally just talk about financial advice. I want to get really specific here and talk directly to family business owners.” And I think that there’s a lesson in there for everybody as well as to look at the marketplace. Where is everybody else? Where’s being underserved? Where could I go that’s not just being underserved, but where I could serve well, and be first to work.

I mean, I just spoke to Pete Matthew, who’s on the same volume of interviews as yourself for us, which is just a coincidence to be honest. But he mentioned the same thing, when he was starting off in 2009 there was nobody else doing it. He was first or very early to market. And there’s something to be said for choosing that as the place to start as likes to say, “There’s a market that’s been underserved, I’m going to go serve it.” And then you become known for that. And I think that’s what’s happening to you just know. I mean, there’s a lot of … We’ve been in touch recently and you were telling me that you’re starting to become known as the family business guy, right?

Russ:
Yeah. It’s been kind of a strange thing, because one of the key things I thought about when creating the content as well is that it’s not really about me. I don’t want it to be the Russ Haworth podcast. I want it to be the family business podcast because the focus needs to be on the family business. But as a result of consistently being able to create content over two or three years. My voice got recognized at a conference I was at, which is bizarre because normally people will see your face and go, “I recognize you from somewhere,” but somebody said, “I recognize your voice from somewhere.” And when I said I hosted a podcast, they’re like, “Yes, that’s it.” And I mean they were from Columbia.

And it’s crazy in that sense that I record the podcast at home or at the office and it’s listened to throughout the world. And the family business academic and advice spaces is relatively small. It’s still relatively new as well. It’s only really been going 30 years, which in terms of how old family businesses are, isn’t very long at all. And I think because of that, and it’s generally occupied by people who are more senior in age shall we say, they don’t embrace the opportunity that is out there to just hit record on a laptop and publish a podcast. It’s relatively straightforward to do, but because other people weren’t doing it, it created a huge opportunity for me and now I’m starting to get known and recognized in that space, which is great.

Chris:
Yeah, it’s so good to see this couple of years of hard work you’re putting in shifting your attention really into a different marketplace and then being recognized for it. And I know that you’re getting opportunities all over the world now to turn up and people are wanting your advice and they want to be associated with you and they want you associated with them as well. And those opportunities are now becoming your next big challenge, right? It’s like how do we … What’s next, how do we take this forward?

Russ:
Yeah. And I think that the lesson there as well is that it does take time. I mean, I was looking back at the stats on the podcast for example, on day one, I think there were 19 downloads and most of those were me trying to check that the download counter was working. I think now, I mean it’s still relatively small numbers certainly in comparison to Pete, but the downloads now are 500 odd a day on a good day. And so it’s creating that consistency and process to allow you to do that. That if you stick by it and it’s, I mean, I’m not saying it’s the best podcast in the world, but it’s the best podcast I think in the family business space and it is growing. It is gaining momentum as a result of that. And that’s been really important to me is not be put off by the fact that in the first few weeks it didn’t do much.

Chris:
Yeah. I think that is important. I mean we’ve had, again, it’s a fairly common theme around people’s journeys with content marketing is that, this is maybe something that you could speak about is that how do you get … like in the first few days you’ve got this… you’re highly passionate, you’re highly emotional, highly motivated to do this podcast, and then you get to put it out the world and then you get 19 downloads. And you can see Russ, how people listening has been through that probably or about to go through that and they could be disheartened by it. What was it that kept you going? Like what was it that kept you turning up?

Russ:
I think a part of it was I went along … Having spoken to Pete about content marketing, he obviously introduced me to the Content Marketing Academy. Yourself and I came along to CMA Live 2017 I think it was with Mark Schaefer and listened to his talk and his book knowing Pete’s in that. And it’s the mindset of, I don’t see the podcast as work as such, it’s a passion of mine. It is something that I want to give back anyway. And so I want to create that content and resource for people to utilize. And if it helps one person then great.

The key to it for me was knowing that it needs to be a long-term strategy. You can’t do three bits of content and think like, That’s it, I’m done.” And irrespective of how good they are, they will have a limited shelf life in terms of, if you do three blogs and it’s three years ago, people go into your site and thinking, “Well, that’s a great blog but it’s three years since they did anything.” It’s not sending the right message out. So by being consistent and keeping yourself accountable, it just gathers momentum.

Russ:
And from a podcast perspective, it is simply a numbers game. I’ve got 60 odd episodes now, so every time somebody subscribes, even if they download half of those or whatever their podcast player does, that’s 30 downloads. Whereas if I had one subscriber on, I had three podcast episodes, they’re only going to download … It’s a simple numbers game that consistency builds momentum around it. They share it amongst other people, they share it amongst their family members hopefully, and it grows through that as well. So I think the consistency and understanding that it’s a longterm project was something that I was advised very early on by yourself and by Pete, that it’s don’t expect the results to be next week. And I think that’s really key.

I’ve heard some of the interviews you’ve done already, one of the challenges is this buy-in from the people within your now … I don’t want to cast aspersions over my previous employers, but the buy-in around content marketing just wouldn’t have been there. I know it would have been like talking to a wall about it. Whereas the business I’m in now and said, “Yeah, okay, I get it. I understand this is going to be a long term thing. We’re going to have to commit to this for a long time for it to be something that’s going to generate what we want it to generate.” And I’ve been fortunate in that sense. But that’s also key for making sure you’re doing it within the right organization as well. If it’s your own business, you’ve got no excuses.

Chris:
There’s always an excuse.

Russ:
You can’t say you haven’t got permission.

Chris:
There’s always an excuse. It’s trying to unpack, it’s trying to get people to catch the vision. I mean, you’re saying this long term perspective. I mean, I remember Mark Schaefer’s talk. I unpacked the whole thing just to connect, pack out all the lessons and the story is he shared, it was proof. Proof, it was a 30-month mindset is what he talked about, right?

Russ:
Yes. Completely.

Chris:
Yeah, exactly. So it’s like, you will get results throughout that process, but your best results are going to come in time in that two to three … somewhere between the two and the three-year mark you’re going to start to really see traction through consistently turning up. And we’re talking about marketing here. Marketing is about consistency and frequency and commitment. And I mean, if you’re not doing it, then what are you doing to get customers and to grow your business.

I love the way that you’re career shaping. I know that there’s a transformation happening for you. And I know that you’re in the middle of it, which is really interesting to me, to see what happens as you move through this journey. What opportunities are going to come your way through becoming known in the family business and being early to market. It’s like you’ve got a lot of the right factors or the right choices you made and you’ve got them in place now. So it’s just a matter of continuing to turn up and continuing to make the right choices, I think is going to shape the rest of your career, which is awesome.

Russ:
Yeah. And the big thing as well for me is trusting the process if you like. So it took a lot of faith in myself to think, “Okay, I’ve got to take this long term mindset.” Because there are bumps in the road, there are days you think, “Why the heck am I doing this?” But it’s having that courage of conviction to say, “Okay, this is the area I want to be in and I’m going to dedicate the next two, three years to making sure that I do the best possible job in creating that content.” And that to me is, the results are starting to come to fruition. And I look back and go, “Yeah, I should have perhaps had more faith in myself at that time.”

But trust it. And again, in terms of a kind of a tip, is the accountability side. If you’re in a business, a small business or a business on your own, having peers that can hold you accountable, I’m part of an accountability group within the Content Marketing Academy. And that’s been hugely influential on me because they do kind of check in with you every week to make sure you’re doing what you say you’re going to be doing, which is a big plus, particularly when you’re … it can be quite lonely.

Chris:
Yeah. And even if you are in a larger organization and you’re the sort of person leading the content marketing, it still can be lonely because a lot of people don’t truly understand what it takes and they don’t see it from your perspective. So I think having that accountability and haven’t just generally, like you said, having people around you that understand it from the way that you understand it and understand the challenges you’re going to go through, is super important.

Russ:
Yeah.

Chris:
Because you need that push, someone that pushes you through. To tell you you’re being stupid or tell you that … to sort of reignite your faith sometimes in what you’re trying to achieve.

Russ:
Yeah, absolutely.

Chris:
Russ, it’s been absolutely amazing speaking to you. Thanks very much for taking the time out today.

Russ:
Thank you.

Chris:
Like I said, I really am impressed with the work that you’re doing and I’m just excited for you about the opportunities that are coming up for you and the work that you’ve done and how you’re becoming known in your space and how you’re … I think ultimately what’s going to happen is that you’re starting to dictate what is potentially going to happen in that space. You’re saying about how long a family business has been going for. It’s only been the last 30 years or so there’s been any sort of consultancy effort, it’s very early days. And it could be that you’re the one that shapes the next 30 to 40 years or what happens in this space.

Russ:
Yeah, that’s the plan.

Chris:
Yeah, that’s exciting stuff.

Russ:
Excellent.

Chris:
Yeah. Thanks very much for taking the time and if people want to pick your brain and ask you a question about anything that we’ve talked about today, where’s the best place for them to find you and reach out to you?

Russ:
Probably Twitter or LinkedIn. My Twitter handle is @RussHaworth. I’m Russ Haworth on LinkedIn. They can also find … The podcast is @fambizpodcast, but I tend to use the personal account more than that one. And any questions, I’m happy to help.

Chris:
Awesome. We’ll chuck those links into the show notes for everybody so you can go on to connect with you, Russ. Thanks so much for taking the time out. Have an amazing day and I’ll speak to you soon.

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