Why write a book on financial planning?
Is it worth writing a book around financial planning to attract potential clients? Justin King, managing director of Dorset-based MFP Wealth management, has just co-written and published a book with Martin Bamford of Informed Choice on the challenges and opportunities facing the baby boomer generation. Rob Kingsbury spoke to him about the process he went through and whether it was worth it
The idea for the retirement planning book Ready, Steady, Retire! sprang from ideas around how MFP Wealth Management could engage with the clients it best served and that it most wanted to deal with in the future, says Justin King.
“To some extent it was marketing led,” he says. “We had been looking at the kind of client that we really wanted to attract; those we were best positioned to serve and those we most wanted to work with as clients. The population of Christchurch (Dorset) is 30% retired, compared with the national average of 10%, so we’d been working with a lot of retirees. It was a niche but also the group of people we felt we were going to deliver the greatest value to and who we enjoyed working with. So I started to look into writing an eBook that people could download about successful retirement and all the issues we’d been coming across when serving this defined group of people.”
It was while King was gathering the background information for the eBook that Martin Bamford, MD at Informed Choice, started talking about filming a documentary on baby boomers.
“I’d already interviewed quite a few people in different jobs by then – care home directors, funeral directors, estate agents and so on – about the different issues that retirees may have to deal with and that we’d been dealing with for years as financial planners,” King says. “So I picked up the phone to Martin and it was from that point that the collaboration began.”
They quickly realised that writing a physical book and issuing it alongside the documentary would be complementary, as the film was going to highlight the issues baby boomers faced but would not have the scope to provide the solutions. The book, on the other hand, could talk about the solutions to those issues. “So we decided to collaborate on a book that provided solutions for people and allowed them to do a certain amount of forward planning themselves or at least have the conversation and consider the issues,” King says.
Practical issues of book writing
King had the initial idea for the eBook in May 2014 and the final physical books were delivered from the printers on Thursday 27 November, the day before the official launch of the film and the book on Friday 28 November. However, overall the process went quite smoothly, King says.
On a practical level, he and Martin worked out the chapter structures and then decided the ones they most wanted to write on. “Then there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, editing and rewriting. I’d get Martin’s chapters and he’d get mine and we’d thrash them around and discuss who we were trying to reach with a particular chapter and what we were trying to address and we’d have another go. It helped that Martin was already published; he was the master editor and his experience was very useful.”
Key to the book was finding expert witnesses as well as case studies to illustrate the subject matter of the chapters. “It was important that they were real life case studies and we’d talk about which would be best and where they should sit within the book,” Justin says. “Also, it was important that when you were quoting people the quotes were totally accurate; so at times we went back to people to check they did mean to say what they had said.”
There were elements of the filmed documentary also that didn’t make the final cut which were then incorporated into the book.
King says that initially the thought of staring at a blank piece of paper was “quite frightening. “I’d taped all the interviews and accumulated a wealth of information but it was getting it down on paper that seemed daunting. Then Martin suggested I get the tapes transcribed and when I’d got everything on paper, the content was there to see and in essence what I had to do was edit it.”
King also drew on his years of experience dealing with this particular market. “I’d think about what I’d put in suitability letters, the advice that I actually gave and the conversations that I have had with clients facing the retirement challenges. So the content of the book was always coming from real experience.”
While he allocated time during the working week to writing the book, other work would often spill over into that time, he admits. “It was a struggle and it took commitment, particularly when it moved on from being an eBook to something much more than that.”
Publishing the book
The book was designed and self-published using a website called Lulu.com, while freelancers found on PeoplePerHour.com designed the cover – “we had some awful stuff come forward initially which we had to reject,” he says. MFP’s practice manager Kathy Roe worked on the project and they hired in a graduate from nearby Bournemouth University as well. This included reading and editing the book several times. “Not from the point of view of the validity of the financial advice but whether it would be understandable to the layperson,” King says.
“Then there were all the things you just hadn’t considered, like getting an ISBN number, formatting and reformatting the book, changing colours to fit with distributors needs, and so on.”
The title of the book also changed towards the end of the process, King says. It was all going to be about boomers. Then I started to do talks to rotary groups and community groups to try to garner awareness of the book and the documentary. The feedback that we got was ‘we may be boomers but we don’t like being called boomers’. That was an eye opener.”
Consequently, a new title was devised, Ready, Steady, Retire! which was the result of conversations with friends and family and comes from a TV show in the late sixties called Ready, Steady, Go! The four people on the cover walking on the zebra crossing Beatles Abbey Road style are getting progressively older, walking into retirement. “The idea was that the cover would be easily identifiable by the people in the target market,” Justin explains.
Marketing is going to be the key issue now for the book and the film. The book has a foreword by Sunday Times columnist Jill Insley; leading pensions commentator Ros Altmann has a copy of the book to review and has already tweeted about it. Combining the film and the book in a launch screening also has helped to raise the book’s profile. It is available on Lulu, and on the writers’ respective websites as well as on Amazon via Kindle.
Want to write a financial advice book?
So what is King’s advice to any adviser thinking of writing a book?
“Pick your niche area and do it,” he says. “My biggest insight from this whole process is that I should have defined my marketplace much earlier? If you can define the group of people you serve well and who you want to work with then a book can offer value to that audience, real practical guidance and insights.
“Some of our clients came to the film showing and said they’d told other people to see the film and read the book because everyone should have planner. Obviously, financial planning isn’t going to be right for everyone but if the book helps people better plan for their financial future that’s got to be a good thing.”
Also, by writing a book advisers can create a greater authority for themselves and their firm in the market, King suggests. “And it allows people to buy a little bit of you without taking the big leap,” he adds. “Marketing books will tell you that a customer will have had seven to eight touchpoints with you or your company before they will buy off you. If you think about it, for a client, going to get financial planning – baring their personal information and financial and lifestyle goals to a planner – is a big commitment, particularly as the adviser will often be someone they have never met before. So if as an adviser you can allow a client to test you out a little bit without too much of a commitment, for example, £7 for a book that resonates with them, helps them and delivers value to them, then there is more chance that the person is going to pick up the phone.”
But, he adds: “There is much more to it all than just writing the book, so having help is invaluable. Without it, my baby boomer book might still be sitting as a word processing document.”
Visit the Ready, Steady, Retire! website
Visit the Lulu website
Visit People per Hour website
See book on Amazon